NASCAR will have a new champion at the end of the season. For now, it has yet another conspiracy.
Reigning champion Brad Keselowski failed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship Saturday night when an ill-timed caution ruined his run at Richmond International Raceway in Virginia. Same thing happened to Ryan Newman, who used a pass on eventual winner Carl Edwards with 10 laps to go to take the lead for what should have been enough to get him into the Chase.
Then Clint Bowyer spun three laps later to bring out a caution that ruined Newman’s race. The benefactor? Martin Truex Jr., Bowyer’s teammate at Michael Waltrip Racing, who struggled the entire race.
Vancouver, Wash., native Greg Biffle secured a spot in the Chase by finishing 12th Saturday. Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne, who finished 14th, had already clinched the first of two wild cards in the 12-driver Chase field.
Newman and Truex were locked into a race for the second wild cards, and the race win would give it to Newman. Only he lost the lead on pit road, wound up finishing third, and Truex grabbed the final spot in the Chase.
Conspiracy theorists immediately accused Bowyer of spinning on purpose to help his teammate.
A despondent Newman wasn’t sure.
“They are teammates. I don’t know if he looked at the scoring pylon, knew I was leading. It doesn’t matter,” Newman said. “If that was the case, I’ll find out one way or the other. At the same time we still had the opportunity to make our own destiny and win it on pit road, and we didn’t. That being said, we’re out.”
Truex, who broke his right wrist two weeks ago in a crash at Bristol and has been racing with a cast, said he had no idea who even caused the caution.
“I don’t know. I don’t have any thoughts on it. I raced my (butt) off all night long, that’s all I can do. I didn’t even know (Bowyer) brought out the caution until after the race.”
Joey Logano, Keselowski’s teammate at Penske Racing, qualified for the Chase for the first time in his career, by rounding out the top 10 in points. Logano edged four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon for the final spot in the field.
Edwards darted past Paul Menard on a restart with three laps remaining. Kurt Busch finished second to make Furniture Row Racing the first single-car organization to make the Chase.
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel will start the Italian Grand Prix from the pole position after posting the fastest time in qualifying, while Lewis Hamilton’s bid for a fifth straight pole ended in disappointment after he placed 12th. Vettel has won the Italian GP twice and will share the front row with teammate Mark Webber. … Ross Chastain took the pole for the NASCAR Truck Series race Sunday at Iowa Speedway in Newton, edging Erik Jones for the top spot.