Matt Kenseth closed out NASCAR’s regular season with a victory Saturday in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Now it’s on to the playoffs.
Kenseth’s triumph – his fourth of the year – helped set the field for the 16-team, 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The Chase concludes Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Kenseth finished ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. Joey Logano, who started on the pole, finished third. Aric Almirola, who needed a victory to qualify for the Chase, was fourth.
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There was no movement of drivers either moving into or out of the Chase grid. Jamie McMurray clinched his spot in the postseason just by starting the race. Clint Bowyer, who finished 10th, stayed in the 16th spot behind Paul Menard, who struggled and was 26th.
It was a dominant evening for Gibbs drivers. Denny Hamlin, racing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, was sixth. Carl Edwards was 11th. The team’s drivers have won nine of the last 15 races – beginning with Edwards’ victory at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. Since then, Busch went on a four-wins-in-five races streak and Kenseth won two-of-three at one point. Edwards won the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway last week.
“This is a good way to go into the Chase,” said Kenseth. “We were really superb in the long runs, but had to work on short runs. But it feels good to come here and do everything right.”
Although it rained for several hours during the day, the bad weather had stopped by the time the green flag was to drop at 7:44 p.m. Still, the race was postponed by about 15 minutes while work crews worked to dry off a portion of pit road.
The race was relatively accident free. After 18 cautions at Darlington (a track record), there were just six yellow flags at Richmond.
The final yellow came out for debris on Lap 372. It provided Almirola, who finished 17th and one spot out of the Chase, with a chance at the win. He was fourth at the time and came out of the pits in third. But he was unable to make up any ground on Kenseth, Logano and Busch.
Kenseth led for long stretches – including 56 laps at one point and 62 at another.