Carl Edwards backflipped his way into the #1 seed in the Race for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
Edwards stormed to the front of the pack late in the race, benefiting from a final caution that halted a red-hot Ryan Newman, desperate to win to make the Chase field, getting the edge for good with three laps left on the final restart. The #99 Ford begins the Chase three points ahead of five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who had another rough night, and Kyle Busch.
Johnson waxed poetic about the week and his performance. His not being able to practice before the race was due to an important reason: the birth of his daughter. Johnson took his wife and baby home from the hospital Saturday morning and flew to Richmond for the race Saturday afternoon.
"The five-time (champion) thing is awfully cool, but two-time (father), I'm much more proud of being two-time than anything," Johnson said with a smile. His 40th place finish on the track bodes no positives for a reversal of fortunes as the final ten races begin next weekend in Chicago.
Into the Chase are Edwards, Johnson, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, and Joey Logano, who outpointed Jeff Gordon 751-750 for the final spot. Gordon's inability to win a race killed his shot at a Wild Card slot, those going to Kasey Kahne (two wins), who finished 14th in the race, and Martin Truex, Jr., with one win and a tiebreaker over Ryan Newman. Newman was flying to the front in the final laps, but a Bowyer spinout on Lap 394 caused the Chase field to really be set in the pits, where Newman's team fell about 1.5 seconds too long. Newman led when the caution flag hit; he left pit road in 5th.
Being that Truex and Bowyer are teammates, the inevitable question was asked in the Media Center after the race.
"It doesn't matter. If that was the case (planned spinout), I'll find out one way or the other. At the same time, we still had the opportunity to make our own destiny and win it on pit road, and we didn't," Newman pointed out, very disappointed and frustrated.
More than a few thought the final start by Edwards may have been a little too good, but no penalties came, and the Frosted Flakes Ford headed to Gatorade Victory Lane.
The race itself, and the setting of the Chase field, went to the final milliseconds here at the Action Track. If tonight's race doesn't sell tickets for 2014 for Richmond International Raceway, we're not sure what will.