Carl Edwards wins at Richmond; Chase field set

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After taking the lead from Ryan Newman on the final pit stop of the race, Carl Edwards went on to claim his second victory of the season in tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

But with Edwards already in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the bigger drama unfolded behind him as drivers jockeyed for every position they could get in the final laps as they desperately tried to move into the post-season.

Newman needed to win tonight to clinch a Wild Card spot, and with ten laps to go, he roared past Edwards on the outside to take the lead.

But a spin involving Clint Bowyer with seven laps to go brought out the yellow, and when the leaders went to pit road for service before the final shootout to the checkered flag, Newman fell from first to fifth.

On the restart with three laps left, Edwards and Kurt Busch were able to move past Paul Menard for first and second, with Edwards then able to pull away for the win. Newman was able to get up to third, but with his Wild Card rival, Martin Truex Jr., finishing seventh, the two drivers ended up tied in points – and Truex earned the tiebreaker for the final Wild Card that was up for grabs.

With both his night and title hopes ruined, Newman went on a tear.

“We got killed on pit road – there’s no doubt about that,” he said to ESPN. “Carl and those guys beat us with four tires. The guys that took two were just doing some strategy, but we should’ve been able to come on pit road first and come off pit road first.

“If we’re a championship-contending team, we need a championship-contending pit crew and we didn’t have that tonight.”

Meanwhile, Truex couldn’t believe that he was able to hold off Jeff Gordon in the final laps to maintain his grip on the Wild Card spot.

“My tires were shot, it wouldn’t turn, I couldn’t touch the gas,” a shocked Truex said. “It felt like I had oil on my tires…I don’t know how I kept him behind me. I just tried to run where he was running, try not to make mistakes. Somebody was riding with me tonight.”

Newman’s loss also enabled Joey Logano to hang on to the 10th and final automatic bid in the Chase; had Newman won, he would’ve grabbed the Wild Card and knocked Logano out of the post-season altogether.

Logano had a poor night at Richmond, finishing 22nd and one lap down. But he was able to best Jeff Gordon by one point for that 10th position in the standings.

Also clinching Top-10 bids were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, and Greg Biffle. For Busch, his Chase berth for himself and Furniture Row Racing marks the first time that a single-car operation has made NASCAR’s post-season.

“To make the Chase with these guys is an unbelievable feeling,” an emotional Busch said. “It’s been an 18-month work in progress. I’ve been through a lot and learned a lot, and I feel like I’m better ready for the Chase and life in general.”

More to come from a very big night in Virginia…

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.