By Jim Utter
The Charlotte Observer
RICHMOND, Va.: Carl Edwards claimed an unexpected victory and the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup picked up some new championship contenders.
Edwards passed Paul Menard on a restart with three of 400 laps remaining and held off Kurt Busch to win Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Once the dust settled, Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano all claimed spots in the Chase by finishing the first 26 races in the Top 10 of the series standings.
Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne claimed the two wild-card positions. When the Chase begins next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, Kenseth will be the top seed.
Ryan Newman finished third in the race, Jamie McMurray was fourth and Menard was fifth.
Pole-winner Jeff Gordon took early control of the race, leading the first 49 laps.
Brad Keselowski got around Gordon to take the lead on Lap 50 and remained out front until a round of green-flag pit stops got underway on Lap 91.
During the green-flag stops, Johnson was penalized for speeding on pit road and fell three laps down under green-flag conditions.
Once the cycle of stops were completed on Lap 98, Keselowski was back in the lead followed by Kenseth and Kurt Busch.
After 100 laps, Keselowski continued to hold a comfortable lead over Kenseth.
The first caution of the race was displayed on Lap 137 for debris. All of the lead-lap cars pit for fuel and tires and McMurray took over the race lead on the restart on Lap 142. He was followed by Keselowski and Kyle Busch.
After 200 laps, Keselowski held the lead followed by Kurt Busch and McMurray.
David Stremme spun to bring the race’s second caution on Lap 207. During a round of pit stops, Kurt Busch came off pit road first and took over the race lead on the restart on Lap 215, followed by Keselowski and McMurray.
Four laps later, Keselowski — whose car was fastest on short runs — took back the race lead on Lap 219.
Gordon was forced to pit under green on Lap 224 for a loose wheel and fell two laps down under green-flag conditions.
Debris on the track brought out the third caution of the race on Lap 267. All of the lead-lap cars pit for fuel and tires again with Bowyer taking over the race lead on the restart on Lap 274. He was followed by Keselowski and Kurt Busch.
Gordon, who had already made up one lap under green, returned to the lead lap during the third caution after getting the free pass for the first car not on the lead lap.
With 100 laps remaining, Bowyer continued to lead followed by Keselowski and Harvick.
Just after another round of green-flag pit stops began, Johnson had another flat tire and hit the wall, which brought out the fourth caution of the race on Lap 343. Edwards was the first off pit road and took over the race lead on the restart on Lap 352, followed by Menard and Kurt Busch.
With 30 laps remaining, Edwards remained out front followed by Kurt Busch and Menard.
Bowyer wrecked on Lap 394 to bring out a caution and all of the lead-lap cars dived to pit road for fuel and tires. Menard took over the race lead on the restart on Lap 398 after taking just two fresh tires during his stop. He was followed by Edwards and Mark Martin.
Shortly after the restart, Edwards powered back into the lead.