201220Richmond220Clint20Bowyer20Celebrates20In20Victory20Lane John Harrelson Getty Images for NASCAR

Bowyer Wins Richmond Race; 2012 NASCAR Chase Field Set

201220Richmond220Clint20Bowyer20Celebrates20In20Victory20Lane John Harrelson Getty Images for NASCAR
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.


dale earnhardt jr leads richmond 2012 Chris Graythen Getty Images
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.

201220Richmond220Clint20Bowyer20In20Victory20Lane Patrick Smith Getty Images for NASCAR
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 # Driver Sponsor/ Car Make
1 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota
2 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
3 55 Mark Martin Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
4 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
5 17 Matt Kenseth Best Buy Ford
6 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
7 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
8 39 Ryan Newman Quicken Loans Chevrolet
9 16 Greg Biffle 3M/Owens & Minor Ford
10 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
11 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Shell Pennzoil Dodge
12 5 Kasey Kahne Quaker State Chevrolet
13 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s Chevrolet
14 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet
15 9 Marcos Ambrose MAC Tools Ford
16 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Toyota
17 99 Carl Edwards Kellogg’s Ford
18 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
19 83 Landon Cassill Burger King Toyota
20 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
21 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
22 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Allstate Chevrolet
23 27 Paul Menard Menards/Moen Chevrolet
24 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet
25 47 Bobby Labonte Bush’s Beans Toyota
26 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford
27 93 Travis Kvapil Burger King/Dr. Pepper Toyota
28 51 Kurt Busch Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
29 13 Casey Mears GEICO Ford
30 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota
31 38 David Gilliland Mossy Oak/Pursuit Channel Ford
32 34 David Ragan Taco Bell Ford
33 36 Dave Blaney Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
34 10 David Reutimann No.10 Inc. 5000-@TMone 6-peat Chevrolet
35 32 Ken Schrader Federated Auto Parts Ford
36 33 Stephen Leicht Special Ops OPSEC Chevrolet
37 30 David Stremme Inception Motorsports Chevrolet
38 87 Joe Nemechek AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota
39 23 Scott Riggs North Texas Pipe Chevrolet
40 19 Mike Bliss Plinker Tactical Toyota
41 98 Michael McDowell Phil Parsons Racing Ford
42 26 Josh Wise MDS Transport Ford
43 91 Reed Sorenson Plinker Tactical Chevrolet


2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Contenders

Pos # Driver Points
1 Denny Hamlin 2012
2 Jimmie Johnson 2009
3 Tony Stewart 2009
4 Brad Keselowski 2009
5 Greg Biffle 2006
6 Clint Bowyer 2006
7 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2003
8 Matt Kenseth 2003
9 Kevin Harvick 2000
10 Martin Truex Jr. 2000
11 Kasey Kahne 2000
12 Jeff Gordon 2000