Hamlin Wins Richmond, Vickers Powers Into Chase
Denny Hamlin won Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway but that was just a small part of the story Saturday night.
The field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship was set by the final results of the race and the major stories in that were:
* Kyle Busch, winner of four races this season, finished fifth at Richmond but failed to make the Chase.
After coming up just short, Busch exhibited class and grace as he talked about his night and season.
“We didn’t have the best of years,” Busch said. “Vickers put up a whale of a fight out there.”
His plan for the final 10 races, he said, is “To go out and win some more (races). We need to work on our consistency.
* Brian Vickers finished sixth and edged Busch for the 12th and final berth in the Chase by eight points.
* Matt Kenseth, who started the race in 12th place, dropped to 14th by finishing 25th.
“Honestly, we did approach it like any other race,” Kenseth said. “This is about how we ran the last four Richmond races. We just haven’t been competitive, so, really since California it’s been a downhill slide for us. We’ve slowly fell back in the points every week, so I can’t say I’m very surprised we didn’t make it, but we’ve been working on it hard, we’re just weak in a few areas. We need to figure out why because none of our cars really run the way they should. I wish we weren’t in this spot, but we did the best we could and we’ll try again next week.”
* Mark Martin, who finished fourth Saturday night, will start the Chase as the top seed as a result of his Chasers-leading four victories on the season.
* Tony Stewart, who has led the point standings throughout the summer, finished 17th at Richmond, blunting hopes to start the Chase with momentum.
“The system I think is a good system,” Stewart said. “You know, it’s not devastating to leave here and be second in the points after leading for so long. I mean, we all knew what the system is going in. It’s a fair system. It’s an exciting system.
“So, you know, we are not leaving here with our heads down because we are now second in the points by any means. We are right there in striking distance and if we can put together 10 great weeks, then we will be the champion. If we don’t, then we didn’t deserve it.”
* Greg Biffle, who started the race 11th in points, slipped to 12th but hung on to make the Chase anyway.
“I’m certainly excited,” Biffle said. “I’m with Brian (Vickers), it’s been a stressful eight or 10 weeks leading up to this. I know I’m gonna sleep good tonight and re-focus for the chase and go to Loudon.”
Kurt Busch finished the race second while Jeff Gordon was third.
Hamlin led 298 of the 400 laps at the .75-mile track. It was his second victory of the season and his first at the place he calls his home track.
“It’s a good run for our team,” Hamlin said. “It’s how we have run the last few times here and just haven’t got the win. You know, today everything just came together. We had good pit stops and didn’t make any mistakes, so we just kind of paced ourselves at the beginning. The 24 (Gordon) was really good there at the beginning and had some good racing with him. Just kind of sizing him up, seeing what he had in case I had to race him towards the end.”
The Chase points leaders:
Mark Martin, 5040
Tony Stewart, 5030
Jimmie Johnson, 5030
Denny Hamlin, 5020
Kasey Kahne, 5020
Jeff Grodon, 5010
Kurt Busch, 5010
Brian Vickers, 5010
Carl Edwards, 5000
Ryan Newman, 5000
Juan Pablo Montoya, 5000
Greg Biffle, 5000No Comment