Bowyer Wins Richmond Race; 2012 NASCAR Chase Field Set

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

As summer is reduced to a matter of a few weeks, we are confronted with the realization that, for many, pleasure goes the way of serious work. The 26th race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2012 season, the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway is a situation where an entire season of efforts can prove very rewarding or very costly. A 0.75-mile, so-called “drivers race track”, Richmond International Raceway’s placement is seen as perfect to align the 12 drivers who will participate in the 2012 stock car racing playoff. While many drivers in the top-10 were locked into the Chase, the presence of Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards relied on their results in the Federated Auto Parts 400.

In qualifying for the Richmond International Raceway‘s Saturday night affair, Chevrolet Impalas soared to supremacy taking four of the top five spots on the 43-car grid. The #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr earned the privilege of his first pole of the year. A race scheduled for 7:44pm, the 300-lap Federated Auto Parts 400 was delayed by rain for over an hour. When the rain stopped falling and the track dried, Earnhardt Jr led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field to green for the night. For the first 58 laps of the Federated Auto Parts 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr delighted his sizable fan base by leading often giving up the lead only to allow Jeff Gordon to lead two laps and later Michael McDowell led for a lap under caution when leaders pitted during the race’s competition caution on lap 48.

 

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The first challenger to Dale Earnhardt Jr came from Denny Hamlin and the #11 Fed-Ex Toyota. A two-time race winner of the late summer Richmond International Raceway event, Hamlin was hunting for a third-straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory as he passed the #88 car on 59 laps. The lead changed hands between Dale Earnhardt Jr and Denny Hamlin several times over the course of the next 100 laps.

Rain once again interfered with the pivotal NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on lap 155 forcing competitors back to pit lane and the race to be red flagged. While no work was allowed on the stock cars as they sit idle under the rain delay, it would be obvious some drivers and teams were able to plan strategy to better their performances. After over 51 minutes under the red flag, the race resumed and there would immediately be some changes on track compared to the race fans were used to seeing prior to the latest bout of rain showers.

While Dale Earnhardt Jr grabbed the lead of the Federated Auto Parts 400 on lap 156, the #88 Chevrolet piloted by NASCAR’s most popular driver would be passed once again by Denny Hamlin a few laps later. After the short-lived leading stint was over for Earnhardt Jr, he began to backslide from the top of the field at Richmond. Earnhardt Jr and the #88 Hendrick Motorsports team would be fighting to reclaim handling for the rest of Saturday night NASCAR race. Ultimately, the race’s pole-sitter would only muster a 14th place finish.

As the race crossed halfway distance, Denny Hamlin would continue to lead often at Richmond International Speedway foregoing the lead for only a handful of laps between lap 159 to lap 284. Leading a total of 202 of the race’s 400 laps, Hamlin would not be the winner of the Federated Auto Parts 400. Due to a necessary pit stop in the late laps of the event, the #11 Toyota fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing came across the line an unceremonious 18th after a night’s hard work.

Surging from 28th place on the starting grid, the #14 Chevrolet piloted by driver/owner Tony Stewart took the lead on lap 285 away from Denny Hamlin. Stewart was only to hold to the race lead for 15 laps before teammate Ryan Newman took possession of the race’s top spot at lap 300. Without a single yellow flag in after lap 282, the Federated Auto Parts 400 turned into a strategy affair with only 100 laps remaining.

On lap 313, the Michael Waltrip Racing-owned #15 Toyota of Clint Bowyer emerged to take the lead at Richmond International Raceway. With fuel economy called into question through the late stage of the event, Bowyer had just the right amount of Sunoco race fuel in his car to motor to a second NASCAR Sprint Cup win in the 2012 season. Clint Bowyer overcame a spinout earlier in the race to comfortably align himself as well with the 2012 NASCAR Chase thanks to his victory at Richmond.

Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

With the top-10 in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers championship locked in the 10-race Chase, the two wild card spots went to drivers who have won races and/or highest in points. Hendrick Motorsport cars of Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon secured both wild card spots. By three points, Gordon bested Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch for the final Chase spot.

After three straight weekends of night races, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts the Chase with a Sunday afternoon 400-mile event at the Chicagoland Speedway on September 16th.

 

NASCAR Sprint Cup

Federated Auto Parts 400

Richmond International Raceway

Race Results

 

Pos #Car #DriverSponsor/ Car Make
115Clint Bowyer5-hour Energy Toyota
224Jeff GordonDrive to End Hunger Chevrolet
355Mark MartinAaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
414Tony StewartOffice Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
517Matt KensethBest Buy Ford
631Jeff BurtonCaterpillar Chevrolet
72Brad KeselowskiMiller Lite Dodge
839Ryan NewmanQuicken Loans Chevrolet
916Greg Biffle3M/Owens & Minor Ford
1029Kevin HarvickBudweiser Chevrolet
1122Sam Hornish Jr.Shell Pennzoil Dodge
125Kasey KahneQuaker State Chevrolet
1348Jimmie JohnsonLowe’s Chevrolet
1488Dale Earnhardt Jr.Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet
159Marcos AmbroseMAC Tools Ford
1618Kyle BuschM&M’s Toyota
1799Carl EdwardsKellogg’s Ford
1811Denny HamlinFedEx Express Toyota
1983Landon CassillBurger King Toyota
2042Juan Pablo MontoyaTarget Chevrolet
2156Martin Truex Jr.NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
221Jamie McMurrayBass Pro Shops/Allstate Chevrolet
2327Paul MenardMenards/Moen Chevrolet
2478Regan SmithFurniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet
2547Bobby LabonteBush’s Beans Toyota
2643Aric AlmirolaSmithfield Ford
2793Travis KvapilBurger King/Dr. Pepper Toyota
2851Kurt BuschPhoenix Construction Chevrolet
2913Casey MearsGEICO Ford
3020Joey LoganoThe Home Depot Toyota
3138David GillilandMossy Oak/Pursuit Channel Ford
3234David RaganTaco Bell Ford
3336Dave BlaneyTommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
3410David ReutimannNo.10 Inc. [email protected] 6-peat Chevrolet
3532Ken SchraderFederated Auto Parts Ford
3633Stephen LeichtSpecial Ops OPSEC Chevrolet
3730David StremmeInception Motorsports Chevrolet
3887Joe NemechekAM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota
3923Scott RiggsNorth Texas Pipe Chevrolet
4019Mike BlissPlinker Tactical Toyota
4198Michael McDowellPhil Parsons Racing Ford
4226Josh WiseMDS Transport Ford
4391Reed SorensonPlinker Tactical Chevrolet

 

2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Contenders

Pos #DriverPoints
1Denny Hamlin2012
2Jimmie Johnson2009
3Tony Stewart2009
4Brad Keselowski2009
5Greg Biffle2006
6Clint Bowyer2006
7Dale Earnhardt Jr.2003
8Matt Kenseth2003
9Kevin Harvick2000
10Martin Truex Jr.2000
11Kasey Kahne2000
12Jeff Gordon2000

 

 

About The Author

Admiring automobiles ever since childhood viewership of the TV show Knight Rider, Chris Nagy grew as an enthusiast enroute to become an automotive and motorsport writer. Drawn to the rich world of motoring, Chris discovers charm everywhere in the industry from supercars like the Bugatti Veyron to a Kia Soul. Car design, engineering, performance and the passion itself fuels his daily existence.

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