NASCAR: Brad Keselowski wins, claims top seed in Chase

Brad Keselowski won the race and claimed the No. 1 seed in this season’s Chase.

Keselowski dominated Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway and cruised to his fourth Sprint Cup Series victory of the season – the most of any driver.

“It feels great, there’s a lot of hard work that’s been put in,” said Keselowski’s crew chief, Paul Wolfe. “We just got to get focused on next week.”

Jeff Gordon finished second, Clint Bowyer third, Jamie McMurray fourth and Kevin Harvick fifth.

Joining Keselowski in this season’s Chase are Gordon, Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, A.J. Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle.

With no new winner Saturday night, Kenseth, Newman and Biffle clinched spots in the 16-driver Chase field based on points.

The first race of the 10-race playoff to determine the series champion is next Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

“I drove so hard and we just missed the setup,” Biffle said. “It was clear that our whole company did – Carl, Ricky and myself were way off tonight, which is frustrating because five Top-10s in a row put us in this position, but tonight was not pretty. I drove as hard as I could and it was enough to get us in. I knew I needed to be in the Top 20 and, like I said, it was all I could do.”

Keselowski, who started from the pole, wasted no time in taking command of the race, leading the first 42 laps.

After a long green-flag run, Harvick got around Keselowski for the lead on Lap 43.

NASCAR called a competition caution on Lap 51 to allow teams to check tire wear after rain washed the track earlier in the day. Everyone pitted for fuel and tires with Keselowski retaking the lead on the restart on Lap 58 followed by Clint Bowyer and Harvick.

After 100 laps, Keselowski maintained his lead followed by Harvick and Bowyer.

Following another green-flag run, Harvick again got around Keselowski for the lead on Lap 120.

Debris on the track brought out the second caution of the race on Lap 125. After pit stops, Keselowski once again retook the lead on the restart on Lap 132 followed by Gordon and Harvick.

After 200 laps, Keselowski remained the leader followed by Gordon, Harvick, Bowyer and Jamie McMurray.

A round of green-flag pit stops began on Lap 219. Once the cycle was completed on Lap 233, Keselowski continued to hold a sizable lead followed by Harvick, Bowyer, Gordon and Logano.

Debris on the backstretch brought out the third caution of the race on Lap 262. After pit stops Keselowski again was the first car off pit road and assumed the lead on the restart on Lap 271 followed by Harvick and Bowyer.

With 100 laps remaining, Keselowski retained a big lead followed by Bowyer, Gordon, Harvick and McMurray.

NASCAR called the fourth caution of the race on Lap 330 when a race fan climbed the Turn 4 catchfence. He was quickly apprehended by track security.

All of the lead-lap cars pit for fuel and tires with Keselowski once again holding the lead on the restart on Lap 337, followed by Gordon, Bowyer, McMurray and Harvick.

Keselowski maintained a large lead with 10 laps remaining.

“What a night,” Keselowski said. “Part of me, when I pulled into Victory Lane I pinched myself once to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

“These are nights you don’t forget as a driver and you live for. The Miller Lite Ford Fusion was just flying. I couldn’t ask for a better way to enter the Chase than to come in with a win and take the first seed and we’re ready. We want to run for another Cup.”

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