How the race was won
Burton Jeff Burton pit late, Matt Kenseth did not. Burton eventually ran down Kenseth, and the two engaged in a terrific battle in the waning laps before Burton finally made the pass and drove on to his first Cup victory in nearly five years. After being passed, Kenseth ultimately ran out of gas.
Story of the race
The dramatic finish.
Burton finally sealing the deal.
Outside of a select few, the Chasers' relative lack of success at Richmond. In fact, a couple of them essentially fell by the wayside when it comes to the title race – one doing so in a very memorable wreck.
Give 'em credit
Burton. Yes, the winless streak is over, but perhaps more importantly, the No. 31 team proved it can finish a race as well as it starts one. A top-five might have been enough to prove as much, but a win – and the points lead that came with it – carries far more weight.
Jeff Gordon. It had been about a year since he scored back-to-back top-three finishes, and more than 16 months since he had been ranked as high as second in points, which is his current standing.
Kenseth. Almost. More on him later.
What were they thinking?
Those who pit on alternate cycles and were forced to dive down to pit road, unfortunately for them, shortly before a caution came out and stuck them a lap down. Actually, this wasn't an unreasonable gamble, as the chances of seeing a long green flag run like the one that doomed them really weren't that great. Those teams, including Jimmie Johnson and Biffle (who did get his lap back), simply were unlucky.
Kenseth and his No. 17 team. Running out of gas but still finishing 10th isn't so bad, but Kenseth, believing he couldn't have beaten Burton anyway, was annoyed that his team didn't pit under a late caution despite being so close on fuel. Had Kenseth been better informed, he also might have let Burton by a bit more easily and saved fuel – and a second-place finish, as there was a sizable gap back to third place. Kenseth and Co. – who survived a rare pit mistake earlier in the race – may have cost themselves as much as 41 points. Keep that in mind when Homestead rolls around.
Better luck next time
Kenseth Kenseth. All that said, he did deserve better. That car was tremendous all day, and Kenseth was driving it hard – as Johnson and Biffle could attest when they were trying to stay on the lead lap.
Kasey Kahne. Never had a chance.
Kyle Busch. Better luck next year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Tire problems – brought on by bad luck, bad setup or overaggressive driving – didn't help his Chase hopes. Rough day for Kevin Harvick, too, especially coming off a couple of big weekends prior.
By the way …
A week after talking about trying to race hard while being careful not to take out a Chase driver, Tony Stewart – of little fault of his own – took Kahne out and destroyed any reasonable hope the No. 9 team had at winning the championship. Consistency still is important and shouldn't be downplayed, but Stewart is somewhat right that it also comes down to which drivers have better luck. Scoring the Chase drivers on their own points system would help with this, as would slightly non-proportional points awards for wins and top-five finishes. Maybe next year …
Can Dave Blaney collect another strong finish next weekend at the horsepower-necessary Kansas Speedway?
Speaking of Kansas, here come the cookie cutters. (Too late for Kahne?)
Finally, hats off to Cristiano da Matta.
Grading the race
The late field shuffling and then the tremendous finish changed the complexion of this one. It wasn't the most exciting race early on, though there was some solid action and passing at times – especially following restarts. The caution brought out by Scott Riggs' wreck was brutal for those who had pit, as some strong cars being caught a lap down either added drama to the finish or removed it. But again, this one was all about the finish. That, and Kahne's wreck with Stewart, are what most will remember. Grade: B
From the source
Jeff Burton: "I never woke up in the morning wondering if I'd ever win another race. I never [lost] sleep at night wondering about that."
Kasey Kahne after his wreck: "No more championship. … I think we'd have to win the final eight to win the Cup. … Maybe we'll dominate the last eight races, who knows?"
Kyle Busch on his title hopes: "We're done."