Few surprises at halfway in final Chase qualifier at Richmond; Keselowski in command


There’s been few surprises at the halfway mark of Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

The final race for drivers to qualify for the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup has not had the road rage-like driving many expected, given the significance of the making the expanded 16-driver Chase.

Thus far, pole-sitter Brad Keselowski has been in command, leading 183 of the first 200 laps. The only other driver who has been at the front of the field is Kevin Harvick, who has led 17 laps.

Keselowski and outside pole-sitter Jeff Gordon started strong, but Gordon eventually yielded to Harvick.

Harvick took the lead from Keselowski on Lap 43 and held on during the competition caution called by NASCAR on Lap 50 of the 400-lap event.

Keselowski had a great pit stop and came back onto the racetrack in the lead as the green flag fell again on Lap 58. He was able to keep Harvick at bay and began to stretch out his margin.

Gordon eventually regained the second spot and was in that position at the halfway mark, with Harvick third.

Clint Bowyer, who has to race his way into the Chase with either a win or strong finish over top rivals Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle, is having one of his best runs thus far of the season, sitting in fourth place at halfway.

Another driver who needs to get in with a win is Jamie McMurray, who is running sixth at the halfway mark.

Other notables include:

* Dale Earnhardt Jr. is up to 10th place.

* Rookie Kyle Larson is running 11th.

* Tony Stewart, who also must win to make the Chase, is running 12th.

* Danica Patrick, who earned her Sprint Cup career-best finish (sixth) last Sunday at Atlanta, is running 16th.

Friday night’s Nationwide Series race winner, Kyle Busch, is running 13th.

Matt Kenseth, who has already clinched a spot in the Chase on points, brushed the wall and had to spend more than 60 laps in the garage while repairs were made, most notably to the suspension, which appeared to suffer the most damage.

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