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Clint Bowyer wins race, Jeff Gordon enters Chase

Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, Sep. 09, 2012

Clint Bowyer won the race and Jeff Gordon won an improbable race into the NASCAR Chase.

Bowyer stretched his gas and held off Gordon to win the Federated Auto Parts 400 which ended early Sunday morning at Richmond International Raceway after three rain delays.

The win is Bowyer's second of the season. Gordon's second-place finish combined with Kyle Busch's 16th-place finish allowed Gordon to claim the second of two wild card spots in the Chase.

Ten of the 12 spots in the Chase were already spoken for prior to Saturday night's race.

Denny Hamlin will start the Chase next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway with the No. 1 seed. Others in the Chase are Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

Kahne and Busch locked up the two wild card spots, which go to drivers 11th to 20th in points with the most wins. They will start the Chase as the 11th and 12th seeds, respectively.

The start of the race was delayed by approximately an hour and a half because of rain.

Once the racing began, Earnhardt took early control, leading 64 of the first 100 laps.

A caution was displayed for rain on Lap 138 and NASCAR was set to return to green-flag racing on Lap 150 when rain showers picked up in intensity and the start was called off.

Finally, on Lap 152, NASCAR threw the red-flag for the persistent rain showers.

Hamlin was leading when the race was called. He was followed by Earnhardt Jr., Bowyer, Johnson and Kahne.

"We we're trying something a little different with our car tonight," Hamlin said during the break. "I feel like the line I was running was a real advantage for me."

When the race restarted on Lap 157, Earnhardt quickly made his way around Hamlin for the lead.

Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya made contact on Lap 235 which left Bowyer spinning out on the frontstretch. On the restart on Lap 240, Hamlin continued to lead followed by Kahne and Truex.

Five laps later, Truex made his way around Hamlin to take the lead for the first time.

Hamlin retook the lead on Lap 249 and was still out front when rain again brought out a caution on Lap 277.

Several lead-lap cars immediately pitted for tires and fuel but several stayed out initially thinking the rain would last and the race would be called. However, the rain dissipated and NASCAR restarted the race on Lap 283 with Kahne in the lead followed by Truex and Johnson. Hamlin restarted in 16th.

Stewart made his way into the lead on Lap 285 and his teammate Ryan Newman passed him for the top spot on Lap 300.

Twelve laps later, Bowyer, who was involved in a spin on Lap 235, claimed the lead for the first time in the race.

Several of the teams that pitted early on the last caution began green-flag stops around Lap 330. Busch hit pit road for tires and fuel and had a long pit stop due to a loose lug nut.

With 50 laps remaining, Bowyer continued to lead the way.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter

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