Carl Edwards won Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 after a dramatic finish at Richmond International Raceway and the end to the regular season, as the 12-driver field for the Sprint Cup Series' championship Chase has been determined.
Kurt Busch, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. are in the Chase. Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, a four-time Cup champion, and Brad Keselowski, who won the title last year, did not qualify.
Keselowski led the most laps with 142, but a caution in the closing laps hurt his chances of winning the race and clinching a Chase spot for the third consecutive year. The Penske Racing driver finished 17th and concluded the regular season 16th in the standings, 31 points behind his teammate, Logano.
"That is just the way our cars have been this year," Keselowski said. "They haven't been good enough, and we haven't executed as well as we needed to. We have work to do. At the end of the day, the thing about points is it is the best measuring stick in sports. You know who deserves to be where because the results speak for themselves. We didn't have enough results to get where we needed to be."
Clint Bowyer forced the fifth and final caution with eight laps to go when he spun around on the frontstretch. Bowyer, who had led 72 laps earlier in the race, was running right behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. when his incident occurred.
"I think we had something going wrong," Bowyer said. "I went from a car capable of winning the race but then went straight backwards. It was extremely tight. The 88 (Earnhardt Jr.) got up underneath of me. I had so much wheel that by the time I got to the gas he was underneath me. I spun out."
After the race had concluded, Bowyer dismissed any conspiracy theories that he intentionally spun out to help Truex, his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate, get into the Chase.
"I don't look at that," Bowyer said. "He's in, and the other two (Gordon and Newman) are out. You know what I mean? I guess I've got one friend and two that hate me."
Edwards grabbed the lead during a round of pit stops under caution late in the race. But Newman chased down Edwards and took the top spot away from him two laps before Bowyer spun. A victory for Newman at Richmond would have secured him at least a wild card. He won at Indianapolis in July.
When the front runners pitted during the final caution, Paul Menard came out of the pits first, followed by Edwards, while Newman exited in fifth. Edwards pulled ahead of Menard following the restart and then held off Kurt Busch at the finish by 0.7 seconds for the win.
Newman ended up finishing third, but he lost out on the final wild card in a points tiebreaker with Truex, who placed eighth.
"Winning would have changed everything, and that last caution definitely hurt us," said Newman, who is in his last season driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. "We got killed on pit road. There's no doubt about that. Carl and those guys beat us on four tires. The guys that took two were just doing some strategy, but we should have been able to come off of pit road first if we were a championship-contending team. We needed a championship-contending pit crew, and we didn't have that tonight."
Truex had one win this season as well (Sonoma), but scored more top-10 finishes than Truex to earn the wild card.
"I'm speechless; I don't even know what to say," an emotional Truex said after the race. "We were terrible tonight. I mean, just terrible, terrible on long runs, and we fought and we fought like we did last week (at Atlanta)."