September 13 – – Jeff Gordon will enter the chase for the championship trailing Mark Martin by 30 points. Gordon didn’t score the victory in the Chevy 400 at Richmond International Raceway, but he led laps and ran with the leader nearly all night before late race contact hindered his efforts.
Gordon started 7th and passed Brian Vickers for 6th on the second lap. Scott Speed’s spin on lap 5 brought out the caution, with the leaders opting to stay on the track. On the restart, Gordon battled side-by-side with Kasey Kahne before taking the 5th position. Gordon moved to the inside of Jimmie Johnson and took 4th on lap 16. His forward march continued with a pass on Martin Truex for 3rd on lap 24. The second caution came on lap 45 when Tony Stewart spun coming off turn four and collected Reed Sorensen. Gordon came to pit road for tires and departed in 2nd place, as he benefited from an opening in front due to John Andretti having been lapped.
Gordon took the lead from Hamlin on lap 67 with an inside pass entering turn one. He held the lead through a caution period on lap 107, but battled a tight handling condition in traffic. Hamlin re-assumed the top spot on lap 150, but relinquished the lead to Gordon during pit stops on lap 180. The duo swapped the lead three times over the next 15 laps, with Hamlin taking the lead on lap 195. Hamlin led lap 200 — the halfway lap — but Gordon came back to take the lead on lap 203. Regan Smith’s blown tire on lap 204 brought out the caution. Hamlin won the race off pit road to re-take the lead, which he held thru caution flag pit stops on lap 281. Jeff Burton’s cut tire with 80 laps to go slowed the field and resulted in pit stops.
On the restart with 74 laps to go, Gordon was tapped by Clint Bowyer — who made an ill-advised run into the corner and locked up his tires — exiting turn two. Gordon was forced up the track and dropped back to 6th before the caution waved one lap later. Brian Vickers took 6th from Gordon with 65 laps to go as his hopes for a victory all but evaporated. He passed Kyle Busch with 58 to go to move back into the 6th position. Brad Keselowski’s blown engine with 20 laps to go brought the leaders to pit road for the last time. Gordon exited in 4th for the restart with 14 laps to go. He pulled to the inside of Mark Martin with 9 laps to go and moved up to 3rd place. However, he was distantly behind race winner Denny Hamlin and runner-up Kurt Busch.
In the final chase spot, Brian Vickers edged Kyle Busch by four points to qualify for the 12th and final transfer spot. Martin will have the points lead heading to Loudon, New Hampshire for the first chase race next weekend.
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Post Race Comments
“We were fighting hard for the 10 bonus points. It was a great effort, we had a great car. This was the best one I’ve had (at Richmond) in a long time. We know we have some points to make up, but I think this team is ready to do that. I don’t like giving up points to anybody. You don’t want to allow anyone to have an edge. We know we’re going to have to go out and win some races.”