One single caution period has made for a quick first half of tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the final race that will determine the field for NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Pole sitter Jeff Gordon led the first 49 laps before Brad Keselowski, who needs a victory tonight and some help to make the Chase, took the point. The reigning Cup champion would hold the lead until Lap 66, when Kurt Busch cleared him coming off Turn 2.
Pit stops for the Chase hopefuls began at Lap 90 with Joey Logano, who had a poor opening stint that saw him fall as far as 25th in the running. Busch gave up the lead for service on Lap 95, and came out third behind Keselowski and Matt Kenseth when the cycle ended.
“The Outlaw” quickly charged back up the pylon, whipping past Kenseth for the lead at Lap 110. But under caution at Lap 137, Busch’s much-maligned pit crew had a slow stop and their man fell from first to sixth coming out – prompting an angry Busch to drop several expletives over his team radio.
Jamie McMurray came away as the new leader for the restart at Lap 143, but Keselowski once again took P1 after a brief skirmish with the Earnhardt Ganassi driver. However, Busch has managed another climb toward the front after his problems on pit road, going to second place at Lap 180.
At the Lap 200 halfway mark, Keselowski led Busch by eight-tenths of a second, followed by McMurray in third, Clint Bowyer in fourth, and Jeff Burton in fifth.