Carl Edwards won the Richmond NASCAR Sprint Cup race as the Chase field was set and Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski headlined those missing out.
Kurt Busch sealed his and the underdog Furniture Row's Chase place with a battling runner-up spot, while Ryan Newman narrowly missed out on a title shot despite a storming late-race performance that ended with third place.
For most of the evening the lead fight was between Kurt Busch and Keselowski, in a fascinating contest that varied as their cars surged or slumped across stints and Furniture Row either had sublime or troubled pit stops. Keselowski dropped out of contention when the yellow came out midway through the penultimate pit stop sequence following a crash for Jimmie Johnson. The same misfortune also interrupted Kevin Harvick's victory bid just as he had hit the front, with both having pitted and dropped back moments before the caution.
Into the closing stages Roush Fenway driver Edwards and Kurt Busch were making the running, until Newman suddenly began a blistering charge from seventh to first. A win would have cemented his Chase place, but when Clint Bowyer – another earlier leader – spun in the final laps, the leaders all pitted and Newman fell back again.
He could only get back to third, as Edwards beat Paul Menard (who took just two tires at the stops) away at the final restart and then held Busch at bay to clinch a win that made him top scorer of the "regular" season..
Jamie McMurray was competitive throughout on the way to fourth ahead of Menard and brief race leader Matt Kenseth. Martin Truex Jr. scapped to seventh place and therefore earned the final Chase wild card spot on a tie-break over Newman.
Polesitter Gordon led for the first 49 laps then began tumbling backwards with high tire wear. A loose wheel then left him two laps down and outside the top 20, before he fought back to an eighth place that was not quite sufficient for the Chase.
Keselowski's hopes of a successful title defense faded away as he ultimately finished only 17th. His Penske teammate Joey Logano was off the pace all night and finished a distant 22nd, but clung on to a Chase spot.
It was a terrible race for erstwhile outright points leader Johnson. Having missed qualifying due to the birth of his second daughter, Johnson struggled to make any progress from the back. A pitlane speeding penalty and a battery problem delayed him further even before his tire-induced crash.
Results - 400 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 2h51m53.000s
2. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +0.669s
3. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +0.812s
4. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +1.766s
5. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet +2.024s
6. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota +2.124s
7. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +2.310s
8. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet +2.520s
9. Mark Martin Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +2.889s
10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford +2.925s
11. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +3.027s
12. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +3.103s
13. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +3.363s
14. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet +3.520s
15. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Toyota +3.643s
16. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +3.694s
17. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford +3.745s
18. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet +4.011s
19. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota +4.907s
20. Aric Almirola Petty Ford +5.241s
21. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota +1 lap
22. Joey Logano Penske Ford +1 lap
23. David Gilliland Front Row Ford +1 lap
24. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota +1 lap
25. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +2 laps
26. Casey Mears Germain Ford +3 laps
27. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +3 laps
28. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota +3 laps
29. David Ragan Front Row Ford +3 laps
30. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +4 laps
31. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +4 laps
32. David Reutimann BK Toyota +5 laps
33. Tony Raines Circle Sport Chevrolet +5 laps
34. Landon Cassill Hillman Chevrolet +5 laps
35. Ryan Truex Phoenix Chevrolet +5 laps
36. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet +7 laps
37. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford +7 laps
38. David Stremme Swan Toyota +9 laps
39. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota +12 laps
40. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet +28 laps
Josh Wise Front Row Ford 142 laps
Reed Sorenson Leavine Ford 126 laps
Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 76 laps