Hamlin's Hometown Win Clinches Top Seed in The Chase

Bowyer and Biffle Lock Up Final Two Chase Spots in "One Last Race To Make The Chase"

Denny Hamlin clinched the top seed in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with his second career victory at his hometown track, holding off his teammate Kyle Busch to win the Air Guard 400 Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

Hamlin led 251 laps, winning the fall Sprint Cup Series race here for the second consecutive season to give Joe Gibbs Racing its fourth straight win at Richmond. Busch has won each of the last two spring Cup races.

“It was so tough to be patient and not race anyone in your mirror,” said Hamlin after his sixth win of the season. “[Busch] made a heck of a charge and thank goodness it was a teammate because someone else probably would have moved us out of the way. I had saved my car and knew I had to go a certain distance on those tires.”

With the win and 60 bonus points, Hamlin will be the top seed in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff, which starts next Sunday at New Hampshire.

In the “One Last Race To Make The Chase,” Clint Bowyer entered the Air Guard 400 with a comfortable cushion and used a strong sixth-place run to clinch a Chase berth. Greg Biffle entered the race in 11th and also clinched a Chase berth early in the race. Bowyer led three times for a total of 33 laps.

“I was really excited about making the Chase and about having a great run here,” Bowyer said.

Busch got to Hamlin’s bumper in the final laps, but showed respect for his JGR teammate, settling for a 1-2 finish.

“It was a hard fought battle,” Busch said. “[Hamlin] was much better than us, and I could have knocked him out of the way, but I decided I’d like to see our team finish 1-2.”

Three-time Richmond winner and four-time reigning champion Jimmie Johnson was third and will start The Chase as the second seed with 50 bonus points.

“It was a great night for us,” Johnson said. “We stayed patient and stuck with our plan. We were OK at times. We just didn’t have enough for the 11 and the 18.”

Joey Logano finished fourth to round out a dominating performance by JGR. Logano started sixth, fell a lap down early then battled back for the top-five finish.

Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top five with his best finish at Richmond.

“It was a great effort for our team,” said Ambrose. “To race these guys at a track like this, I feel like I’m coming of age in these cars.”

A long shot at the start of “One Last Race To Make The Chase,” Ryan Newman finished 11th, but Bowyer’s great night kept Newman out of the Chase.

“We were close to the top ten and we’re disappointed not to make the Chase,” Newman said. “But, we have an opportunity to win 10 more races.”
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