RICHMOND, VA (WWBT/AP) - Brad Keselowski routed the field Saturday night for his fourth win of the season, a victory that gives him the top seed in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Keselowski led all but 17 of the 400 laps at Richmond International Raceway, where the last race of the regular season never shaped up to be the thriller NASCAR hoped.
A new win-and-in format this year could have created a dramatic final push for a driver to make the Chase, but nobody had anything for Keselowski.
"What a night. I pulled into Victory lane and I pinched myself once to make sure I wasn't dreaming," said Keselowski, the 2012 champion. "These are nights you don't forget as a driver and you live for."
Keselowski came to Richmond a year ago needing a strong finish to make the Chase field, but failed and was not eligible to defend his title. Now he'll try to give Team Penske a season sweep -- Will Power gave the organization the IndyCar championship a week ago.
"I think last year was a bit of a kick in the butt," Keselowski said. "It was enough to really push us all and find another level. We did a great job in 2012, but in the sports world you've got to keep progressing. Everyone else progressed and we didn't."
There were two spots up for grab in the 16-driver Chase field, but Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle pretty much entered the race in control of their own fate. Newman never left anything to chance with a strong ninth-place finish, and Biffle slid into the final spot with a 19-place finish.
"When you are that far off, it is the hardest thing in the world to drive," Biffle said. "This is the toughest thing I've ever done in my life, drive and try to stay in the top 20."
jeff Gordon, the points leader for much of the regular season, finished second. Clint Bowyer, who needed to win to guarantee his Chase berth, was a disappointing third.
"I knew coming in here, it was a long shot at best," Bowyer said. "We put it all out there. I raced as hard as we could. At our very best, we were a third-place race car tonight at my very best race track."