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Hamlin wins race at Richmond, Vickers edges two others for final Chase spot

Vickers had a career-best finish at Richmond International Raceway, beating out Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch for the final Chase spot.

September 13, 2009|Associated Press

RICHMOND, VA. — Denny Hamlin finally grabbed a coveted win at his home track in a bittersweet night for Joe Gibbs Racing. As he celebrated in Victory Lane, teammate Kyle Busch was shut out of the Chase for the championship.

It was a compelling Saturday night of racing at Richmond International Raceway, where 11 drivers vied for the final eight available spots in NASCAR's title-deciding Chase.

On the bubble was Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth, who started the race in the 12th and final qualifying spot, with hard-charging Brian Vickers and Busch, owner of four wins this season, right on his bumper.

Kenseth struggled from the drop of the green flag and fell out of contention early. But Busch and Vickers swapped the final spot multiple times during the 400 laps, setting up a final 14-lap sprint to the finish.

Busch used a flawless final pit stop to beat Vickers off of pit road, but he restarted the race sixth and could only gain one spot on the track. He finished fifth.

Vickers, meanwhile, finished a career-high seventh at Richmond to grab the final Chase spot by eight points, the slimmest margin since the format began in 2004.

"We'll live to see another day, we'll go on and race the rest of the year," Busch said. "It's not just one night. It's a slew of bad races."

Busch and Vickers, one-time teammates who feuded last month, showed no ill will toward each other after the finish. Busch extended a handshake and said, "Good job," as Vickers entered the post-race news conference.

Vickers, on a frantic 11-race push with upstart Red Bull Racing, promised a long night of celebrating his first Chase berth.

"We picked a good night to figure this place out," Vickers said.

Kenseth, winner of the first two races this season, was shut out of the Chase for the first time since it started in 2004.

"Third race of the year, Las Vegas, we finished last and it's been downhill from there," Kenseth said. "The way we're running right now, even if we made it, we wouldn't have a shot at the championship."

Aside from Hamlin and Vickers, the rest of the Chase field is: Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Juan Pablo Montoya and Greg Biffle.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The Drivers

The 12 drivers that qualified for the Chase for the championship:

DRIVER: Mark Martin, Hendrick Motorsports

AGE: 50. CAR: No. 5 Kellogg's/Carquest Chevy

CREW CHIEF: Alan Gustafson

BEST CHAMP. FINISH: 2nd (1990, '94, '98, 2002)

DRIVER: Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas

AGE: 38. CAR: No. 14 Old Spice Chevy

CREW CHIEF: Darian Grubb

BEST CHAMP. FINISH: 1st (2002, '05)

DRIVER: Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports

AGE: 33. CAR: No. 48 Lowe's Chevy

CREW CHIEF: Chad Knaus

BEST CHAMP. FINISH: 1st (2006, '07, '08)

DRIVER: Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs

AGE: 28. CAR: No. 11 FedEx Chevy

CREW CHIEF: Mike Ford

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 3rd (2006)

DRIVER: Kasey Kahne, Richard Petty Motorsports

AGE: 29. CAR: No. 9 Budweiser Dodge

CREW CHIEF: Kenny Francis

BEST CHAMP. FINISH: 8th (2006)

DRIVER: Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports

AGE: 38. CAR: No. 24 DuPont Chevy

CREW CHIEF: Steve Letarte

BEST CHAMP. FINISH: 1st (1995, '97, '98, 2001)

DRIVER: Kurt Busch, Penske Racing

AGE: 30. CAR: No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge

CREW CHIEF: Pat Tryson

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP: 1st (2004)

DRIVER: Brian Vickers, Red Bull

AGE: 25. CAR: No. 83 Red Bull Toyota

CREW CHIEF: Ryan Pemberton

BEST CHAMP. FINISH: 15th (2006)

DRIVER: Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway

AGE: 29. CAR: No. 99 Aflac Ford

CREW CHIEF: Bob Osborne

BEST CHAMP. FINISH: 2nd (2008)

DRIVER: Juan Pablo Montoya, Earnhardt Ganassi

AGE: 33. CAR: No. 42 Target Chevy

CREW CHIEF: Brian Pattie

BEST CHAMP. FINISH: 20th (2007)

DRIVER: Ryan Newman, Stewart-Haas Racing

AGE: 31. CAR: No. 39 Army Chevy

CREW CHIEF: Tony Gibson

BEST CHAMP. FINISH: 6th (2002, '03, '05)

DRIVER: Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway

AGE: 39. CAR: No. 16 3M Ford

CREW CHIEF: Greg Erwin

BEST CHAMP. FINISH: 2nd (2005)

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