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article imageNASCAR: The field is set, let 'The Chase' begin

By John Duarte     Sep 8, 2013 in Sports
Richmond - Carl Edwards won the race Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, but perhaps more important is the fact that the list of drivers vying for the 2013 NASCAR championship is complete.
Edwards jumped to the lead on the final restart of the evening and outraced Kurt Busch for three laps of the Federated Auto Parts 400 to win by a blink over half a second. Ryan Newman finished in third place.
The win didn't come without controversy though. On the final round of pit stops, Paul Menard appeared to beat Edwards to the end of pit lane, thus putting him in the lead of the race. But, upon further review, NASCAR officials saw that Edwards had clearly beat Menard to the line at the end of pit road and was the leader of the race.
“I knew he (Menard) was going to be at a big disadvantage with grip,” Edwards said, commenting on the fact Menard had only replaced two tires during the pit stop, adding, “He took off. As we were going, his car actually touched my door. I think it surprised him a little bit or something. I heard his engine speed up. He spun the tires.”
Edwards said his decision was clear, “I had a choice to either lift off the throttle and wait for him to try to gather it up or go and hope NASCAR understood that he spun his tires. In this case, they did.”
That bit of drama had been set up by Clint Bowyer's spin, with seven laps to go in the race. While Bowyer's mishap put Federated Auto Parts 400 under yellow-flag conditions, which in turn led to the final restart of the evening and the outcome of the race, the incident also impacted overall race for the NASCAR drivers' championship.
Among the drivers benefiting from the spin and ensuing caution period was Bowyer's teammate Martin Truex Jr., who made into the field of 12 making the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup by winning the tiebreaker over Newman, who was out in front before the caution-flag came out. A win by Newman would have been his second of the season and enough to secure his spot in The Chase. Bowyer was quick to dismiss speculation he had initiated the spin on purpose for the good of his team.
“I know it's a lot of fun for you guys to write a lot of wacky things. Go ahead, if you want to. Get creative. But don't look too much into it,” he said. “I think we had something go wrong. I had so much wheel. By the time I got on the gas, he (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) was underneath me (on the race track). I spun out.”
The field is now set for 2013's Chase for the Sprint Cup. The points accumulated during the 26 races to this point have been reset and it's a whole new ballgame for the 12 drivers in the hunt for the top-level NASCAR championship. After resetting the points and awarding bonus points under the Chase format, the 12 drivers vying for the Sprint Cup this year are: Matt Kenseth (2,015 points); Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch (2,012); Kevin Harvick and Edwards (2,006); Joey Logano and Greg Biffle (2,003); Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Bush, Kasey Kahne and Truex Jr. (2,000). Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski will not get a chance to defend his title.
With the field reseeded, The Chase gets underway with the Geico 400, on Sept. 15, at Chicagoland Speedway and comes to a conclusion in Homestead (Fla.), on Nov. 17.
The 12 drivers involved in the 2013 “Chase for the Sprint Cup” are (from left to right  back row...
The 12 drivers involved in the 2013 “Chase for the Sprint Cup” are (from left to right, back row) Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., (front row) Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer. NASCAR's 10-race championship shootout begins at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 15 and ends at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 17.
Jerry Markland/Getty Images
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