Hamlin Wins at Richmond, Chase Field Finalized

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Denny Hamlin won the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday evening at Richmond, winning for the third time at Richmond International Raceway, his home track. In doing so, he claimed his third victory of the 2016 season, solidifying him as the No. 2 seed in the Chase, which kicks off next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray held the final three spots heading into the race at Richmond International Raceway. When the checkered flag flew, they officially clinched their berths into the 2016 playoffs.

Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne missed out on the Chase by 33 points. Chris Buescher also remained inside the top 30 and officially clinched.

But Hamlin, who led 189 of the 400 laps, survived a rash of cautions in the last 100 laps and an overtime finish. Sixteen cautions flew to slow the race considerably, a new track record at RIR.  The Chesterfield, Va. native was elated to get a win at his home track and gain some more momentum for his No. 11 team as they head into the playoffs.

“I see all the extra Denny Hamlin shirts and hats and everything, and it just fires me up every time I get here,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “This was a great car, and hopefully we can use it in the Chase.”

His Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, finished ninth, 32nd and 38th, respectively, with the latter two being involved in accidents.

Kyle Larson (led 15 laps) finished second, with Martin Truex Jr. (led a race-high 193 laps) third, Brad Keselowski fourth and Kevin Harvick rounding out the top five.

Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota failed post-race laser inspection, but no huge penalty is expected.

Kahne finished sixth, McMurray seventh, Kurt Busch eighth and Joey Logano tenth. Kahne needed a win to qualify for the Chase, but came up a few spots short.

Some other notable finishers include Jimmie Johnson in 11th, Dillon in 13th, Elliott in 19th, Buescher in 24th and Tony Stewart in 33rd (late-race accident). Smoke cut off Newman, who finished 28th after failing to secure a Chase berth, sending both the No. 14 and No. 31 crashing.

The incident also involved Edwards, David Ragan, Dylan Lupton and Brian Scott. Newman was not happy after the crash, and didn’t hold back while talking about Stewart.

It’s just disappointing that you’ve got somebody old like that, that should be retired the way he drives. It’s just ridiculous,” Newman told NBCSN. He also went on to mention the Kevin Ward Jr. incident, telling fans to Google Stewart’s name and see what comes up.

When asked if Stewart intentionally blocked Newman, his answer was straightforward: yes. “Ryan and I have been good friends. But he hits me in 1, he hits me off of 2, and it’s like the third time by that time,” he told NBCSN. “There was once early in the race that nobody saw. Three times, that’s two more times than I normally let somebody run into me.”

Nevertheless, the Chase Grid is set. Sixteen drivers, 10 races, one champion. It all begins next week in Chi-Town. Be sure to look out for a complete Chase preview from myself as well as an in-depth analysis on this week’s episode of Victory Lane. It’s playoff time, people!

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