Happiness & Despair As 2013 Chase Field Set
RICHMOND, Va. – A caution changed everything.
With a spot in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup on the line, Ryan Newman had raced his way to the lead of Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 with 11 laps left. As long as everything stayed the same, Newman was going to clinch a Wild Card spot in the Chase and bump out Martin Truex Jr. (Click Here For The Race Report).
But it was not to be.
As Newman looked on his way to victory and a spot in the Chase, Truex’s Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Clint Bowyer suddenly spun at the exit of turn four to bring out a caution flag.
It was that moment that will be talked about in the days and weeks to come.
Did Bowyer, already locked into the Chase and not a threat for the victory, spin himself out on purpose to allow his MWR teammate one final chance to make the Chase?
“We had a flat tire or something,” said Bowyer when asked about the spin. “We went from leading the race and got back there and they were driving off from us. I got down in there and it kept getting tighter and tighter and tighter. Then the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) got in there and by the time I got back to the gas he got into me and I had so much wheel in it that it snapped around.”
Truex, racing with a broken right wrist, initially thought he had missed the Chase. He climbed from his race car and lowered his head to his hands on the roof of his Toyota, but was soon notified that he had in fact got into the Chase.
Much to Truex’s surprise, he had actually tied with Newman in the championship standings. That meant the position would go to the driver with the most second-place finishes in 2013, giving Truex a spot in the Chase.
“I’m speechless, I don’t even know what to say,” Truex said. “I’m just so proud of Chad (Norris, crew chief) and my guys. We were terrible tonight. I mean, just terrible, terrible on the long runs and we fought and we fought and we fought just like we did last week.
“Tonight, I don’t even know how that happened. The good Lord was on our side tonight,” Truex added.
It will likely never be known for sure if Bowyer intentionally spun his Toyota Camry in the closing laps of Saturday’s race. Newman admitted that it would not have mattered had his team had a better pit stop during the final caution period.
“I told Matt (Borland, crew chief) when we came into this race that if we couldn’t make up everything we’d missed in the first 25 (races) that winning would have changed everything,” Newman said. “That last caution definitely hurt us. We got killed on pit road, there is no doubt about that.
“Carl and those guys beat us on four tires. The guys that took two were just doing some strategy. We should have been able to come on pit road first and come off pit road first. If we were a championship contending team we need a championship contending pit crew and we didn’t have that tonight,” Newman said.
Newman wasn’t the only driver that lost a spot in the Chase after the final caution period. Jeff Gordon, who was in the Chase before the caution flag, ended up missing the Chase by a single point as Joey Logano secured his first Chase berth.
“It feels really good after having such a rough night,” Logano said after finding out he was in the Chase. “Man, the car was just struggling all night. I kept asking Todd (Gordon, crew chief) where we were, are we good, are we bad. He didn’t really answer me and I didn’t think that was good. Thank God for that last caution I guess, because I think we were out before that.”