Richmond, VA (WWBT)- 14 drivers hit the track at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night with a mathematical shot at making the Chase for the Sprint Cup. In an action-packed race, Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag, the hometown favorite earned a berth in the Chase and a feud continued between two of the sport's best drivers.
After Jeff Gordon took the lead from Harvick with 22 laps to go, all cars had to pit after a caution with 16 laps remaining. Harvick re-took the lead with 12 laps to go off the re-start and held on for the victory. He finished the night tied atop the point standings with Kyle Busch and will enter the Chase with a slight advantage over the rest of the field. Tonight's checkered flag marked Harvick's fourth win of the season.
Denny Hamlin entered to race clinging to the final wild card spot to make the Chase and did sustain some car damage, but was able to make a run and finish ninth, punching his ticket to chase the championship. The damage was suffered on an eighth lap wreck involving a number of cars, but the number eleven's team took advantage of 34 caution laps early in the race to take multiple pit stops and get the car back in race form. Hamlin has finished in the top ten in eight of his 12 starts at Richmond.
Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch continued their well-documented feud. Busch would make contact with the number 48 on the 186th lap, and Johnson would return the favor a short time later. Busch would get the last laugh, finishing fifth, while Johnson crossed the line 31st.
Harvick and Busch are tied atop the standings heading into the final ten races, with Gordon in third, three points behind. Matt Kenseth is in the fourth position heading into the Chase, six points back, with Carl Edwards, Johnson, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman all beginning the Chase nine points behind the leaders. Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Hamlin will begin the event 12 points back. The Chase for the Sprint Cup opens up next Sunday at 2:00 pm in Chicago.