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Keselowski, Gordon, Newman all had chances to make the Chase

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, Sep. 08, 2013

Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman had chances to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup through their performances in Saturday night’s final qualifying race.

Each fell short, with Keselowski’s fall perhaps the most dramatic.

Keselowski becomes the second reigning series champion since the Chase format was adopted in 2004 to fail to qualify to defend his title the following season. Tony Stewart won the 2005 Chase and failed to make the championship field in 2006.

“I don’t really have any emotions right now. We weren’t good enough to make it and we didn’t. That is the reality,” Keselowski said after the race at Richmond International Raceway.

“We were pretty good at the start and led a lot of laps. I think we led the most laps but we just weren’t strong enough to really stay up there.”

Keselowski did lead the most laps in the race (142). He was running second with 100 of the 400 laps remaining but pit under green just before a caution came out on Lap 345 and fell out of contention.

Gordon and Newman’s fortunes turned more on the final caution of the race, caused by Clint Bowyer’s controversial spin on Lap 393.

Newman was leading at the time and a win was the chance he had at making the Chase. When all the lead-lap cars pit, he came out third among the teams that took four tires. With only three laps remaining, there was little time for Newman to make up the lost ground.

“We did everything we needed to with the exception of the pit stop. I’m not sure what happened with (Bowyer) on that caution,” Newman said.

“Obviously we were in a position to take that second wild card with two wins. Nevertheless, I still feel like we lost it on pit road. It’s disappointing.”

Gordon was running eighth when the final caution came out. He finished eighth but the caution allowed Joey Logano to pick up a couple positions on the track, which ultimately left Logano in the Top 10 in points – and in the Chase – and Gordon on the outside.

“It wasn’t pretty but we were getting it done until that caution came out, and you know, we still could have made it in,” he said. “The restart just didn’t go the way we needed.”

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