With threatening skies over the Richmond International Raceway throughout the evening, racing the entire 400 laps was doubtful at best.
That was much like the fuel situation for Clint Bowyer at the end of the race who stretched his fuel over 100 laps to the checkered flag to win the Federated Auto Parts 400.
“Unbelievable. To win tonight, the way we won it, we got the left rear knocked down, that ultimately ended up winning us the race.,” said Bowyer post-race.
“It’s the same old thing. When you start backing up and saving gas, you go faster. They’re screaming at you, Slower. It’s like, I am going slower.
“Anything bad that could happen last week did happen last week. To be able to bounce back from that and get a win, get that momentum, heading into this Chase is exactly what we needed to.”
Here’s a look at the results of the drama-filled race from RIR to decide the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
1: Clint Bowyer- Starting the race strong, it looked to be a smooth and consistent night for Bowyer. A spin after contact from Juan Pablo Montoya changed the dynamic of his race for the better, allowing his team to play the strategy card and win the race on fuel mileage.
2: Jeff Gordon- When the race started, the night looked disastrous for the No.24 team’s Chase hopes after struggling with the cars handling. Once the team got the car dialed in, there was no denying the will power of Gordon who drove his way through the field on multiple occasions to claim the second wildcard spot in the Chase.
3: Mark Martin- You never heard much noise from the No.55 team throughout the night, but that’s the way they like it. Martin was able to keep his Toyota inside the top-20 seemingly all night long. In economy run to the end, Martin advanced from his top-10 position to running as high as second before Gordon passed him with 7 laps to go.
4: Tony Stewart- After starting 28th, it looked to be a long night for Stewart and crew. That wasn’t the case though as the No.14 slowly but surely made his way through the pack, taking the lead before lap 300. A stop for fuel at the end of the race gave Stewart fresh tires to make his drive to fourth.
5: Matt Kenseth- Much like Martin, you never heard much from Kenseth all night. Running consistent as he has throughout his Cup career, Kenseth kept the fenders on his Ford, and found himself in the top-five when the checkered flag flew.
6: Jeff Burton- After struggling for much of the 2012 season, a top-10 run Saturday night at Richmond is a welcome sign to Burton. Running as high as third on the night, Burton was the highest finishing of the Richard Childress cars on the night. It’s also his best finish of 2012.
7: Brad Keselowski- A somewhat quiet night for Keselowski at Richmond. Able to break into the top-five, Keselowski’s car was never really able contend with Hamlin or Bowyer on the night. This is his best career finish at RIR in seven starts at the track.
8: Ryan Newman- Needing a win and some help to get in the Chase, Newman and his No.39 did all they could to get into the Chase. Struggling with the handling early, Newman drove to the lead at lap 300. During the late race strategy, Newman was able to use fresh tires to make his way through the pack.
9: Greg Biffle- If not for looking at the final rundown, you may wonder if Greg Biffle was even in Saturday night’s race. Staying within the top-15 for the entire race, Biffle pitted late for fuel in order to secure a top-10 finish after the marathon night in Richmond.
10: Kevin Harvick- The improvement with the No.29 team over recent weeks continued at Richmond. Running in the top-10 most of the night, Harvick’s car was much better than his result indicates, running in the top-five after the mid-race point. Late race fuel strategy dropped the team in the running order.
11: Sam Hornish Jr.- It was another strong run for Hornish Jr. as he continues to show is improved skill in the Sprint Cup Series while driving the No.22. At one point in the race, Hornish Jr. was challenging for a top-five position but slowly the handling faded on the car and the No.22 finished just outside the top-10.
12: Kasey Kahne- There was a time in the race where Kahne looked to have the strongest car after climbing to second position and chasing down then leader Denny Hamlin. However, like so many other drivers, Kahne was forced to pit for fuel and was never able to make up the track position.
13: Jimmie Johnson- A rare off night for the No.48 team, Johnson had a car that looked to be capable of finishing in the top-five. That was before a mid-race pit stop cost the team valuable track position. When he fell back in the pack, the handle went away on the five-time champion’s Chevrolet.
14: Dale Earnhardt Jr.- Leading the race five times for 61 laps, Earnhardt Jr. looked to be unstoppable during the race’s early stages. However after the race was red flagged, the No.88 never seemed to be the same, slipping back eight positions shortly after the race resumed.
15: Marcos Ambrose- Never quite in contention all night long, Ambrose fell a lap down early in the race. Slowly improving throughout the night, the No.9 was never able to make a dent in the top-10, ending all shot at any Chase hopes for the Australian in 2012.
16: Kyle Busch- Needing his best race of the season, Busch maybe had the exact opposite of that Saturday. The handling was never quite right on the No.18 from the drop of the green flag. A mistake by crew chief Dave Rogers late in the race dialed out the handling on the No.18, ruining his Chase chances.
17: Carl Edwards- The only shot the No.99 team had at making the Chase was winning the race, leading the most laps and hoping the 18 and 24 had issues. What the team didn’t need was handling issues of their own. Trying to charge through the pack, Edwards’ night was hampered by the performance of his Ford, failing to make the Chase.
18: Denny Hamlin- Having the dominant car on the night, a pit stop after a brief rain shower mired the No.11 deep in the running order. Advancing to second near the end, Hamlin was forced to pit for fuel after leading 202 laps on the night.
19: Landon Cassill- The No.83 car of Cassill never was a factor for a win or a top-10 at that. But, Cassill did the job he needed to do in order to get the best finish possible for his BK Racing team by keeping the car clean and out of trouble all night, finishing one lap off the pace.
20: Juan Pablo Montoya- For finishing 20th, Montoya had a bigger say in the outcome of the race than most thought. After contact with Bowyer on lap 236, Bowyer stretched his fuel to win. Slowly but surely, this Earnhardt Ganassi team is improving with yet another top-20 finish.
21: Martin Truex Jr.- The driver of the No.56 looked poised for his first win since 2007 after taking the lead from Hamlin on the lap 239 restart. Like many others, Truex Jr. fell victim to the race’s long, green flag run at the end which forced him to come into the pits for fuel.
22: Jamie McMurray- Unlike his teammate, McMurray had little outcome to how the race would play out. In fact, you never heard much of him as his No.1 Chevrolet ran from 15th-25th on the night. Fighting the same “lack of grip” issue many drivers fought on the night, McMurray finished two laps down.
23: Paul Menard- The lowest placing of the RCR cars on the night, Menard’s chances for making his first Chase never materialized after falling a lap down early. Menard’s night never had a chance for strategy to play out either with the long, race ending green flag run.
24: Regan Smith- After a strong qualifying effort of third, Smith kept his No.78 inside the top-10 for the first 100 laps of the race. When the red flag for rain came out, Smith’s car was never the same, finishing two laps down.
25: Bobby Labonte- The No.47 was never quite able to get the handle on the car that Labonte wanted. Complaining of a loose condition, the crew wound up making the car tighter for the 2000 Cup champ, finishing two laps down.
26: Aric Almirola- Struggling throughout the night, the new father was never able to find the speed in his Ford. On a lap 237 pit stop, the team changed the right front shock on the car. Just a small indication on how rough the night was for the No.43 team.
27: Travis Kvapil- It was a rough night to say the least for Kvapil. On just about every pit stop, the team adjusted the track bar and wedge on the No.93 Toyota to help off the corner. Needless to say, it didn’t work.
28: Kurt Busch- If Kurt Busch didn’t have bad luck, he’d had no luck. Needing a caution multiple times throughout the night, the breaks never fell the way of the No.51 team who struggled with keeping the rear of the car under Busch.
29: Casey Mears- Although the No.13 made progress on the car all night for Mears, starting the race back in 42nd was too big of a hole to climb out of as the team ended the night four laps down.
30: Joey Logano- Needing a win and some help to get into the Chase, Logano and his No.20 crew struggled to find the setup all night long at Richmond. Falling four laps down, Logano was never in position to make a run at the top-10 and failed to make the Chase.
31: David Gilliland- It wasn’t an ideal night for the No.38 team. After starting the night 35th, the team never seemed to get the handle on their Ford, falling five laps down by the end of the night.
32: David Ragan- An early race spin by Ragan on the front stretch brought out the second caution of the night. That spin caused damage to the suspension of the car. From there, the team finished five laps off the pace.
33: Dave Blaney- Richmond is normally a strong track for Blaney. That wasn’t the case on Saturday for the No.36 team, finishing the night five laps down.
34: David Reutimann- Much like his Tommy Baldwin Racing teammate, Reutimann was never much of a factor in the 400 lap event. With a fully sponsored entry for the race, the No.10 finished 7 laps down.
35: Ken Schrader- With the sponsor of the No.32 being the title sponsor of the race, a better performance was expected out of the FAS Lane Racing Ford. However, that never played out as Schrader struggled throughout the night, finishing 7 laps down.
36: Stephen Leicht- Getting the rare chance to run the entire distance in the race thanks to sponsorship from Special Ops OPSEC, Leicht was able to bring the No.33 back with minimal damage, 10 laps down.
37: David Stremme- The trials and tribulations from the Inception Motorsports team continue. Without enough sponsorship to complete the night, Stremme parked the car after 127 laps.
38: Joe Nemechek- After a great run in the Nationwide race the previous night, the Cup race was a struggle for Nemechek who parked his Toyota after 90 with brake failure.
39: Scott Riggs- Retiring for the night on lap 78, the No.23 suffered issues with their brakes after starting the night in 38th position.
40: Mike Bliss- Starting the night in 40th, the No.19 team wasn’t able to improve from there after wheel issues forced the team out after 70 laps.
41: Michael McDowell- After a strong qualifying effort which started the No.98 in 19th on the night, the team was only able to complete 63 laps after brake failure.
42: Josh Wise- Having a lack of brakes at any track is never a good thing, much less at a short track. The No.26 was forced to part after 57 laps with brake failure.
43: Reed Sorenson- The No.91 team finished the night where they started after only completing 57 of the 400 laps due to engine issues.