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Denny Hamlin wins the Richmond 400; Brian Vickers makes the chase, but Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch miss

  Denny Hamlin, carrying momentum into the NASCAR championship playoffs (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Brian Vickers made the championship chase, and Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch didn't.
   And hometown Denny Hamlin had the front of the pack all to himself most of the night at Richmond International Raceway, winning the last race of NASCAR's regular season.
   Hamlin, who had already locked up a playoff spot, was the man all night, with simply too much for everyone else in the Chevy Rock&Roll 400.
   So the race, played in front of a nearly sellout crowd of well over 100,000, was all but anticlimactic, Hamlin dominating, Kenseth in trouble early.
    The best action was Vickers versus Busch for the 12th and final spot in the playoffs. Vickers finished seventh, Busch finished fifth, and Vickers edged Busch for the spot by eight points.
    Busch has won four races this year, and no one has won more.
   So the 12 men playing out these final 10 Sprint Cup events for the NASCAR title will be: Mark Martin (his four wins give him the points lead), Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Juan Pablo Montoya, Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers.
    Hamlin: "They'd better watch us in the chase. This team is dangerous."
   "It wasn't the eight points; it was a conglomeration of points all year," Busch said afterwards. "We didn't have the best of years in consistency. Now we can try to win a bunch of races and go out in a bang.
   "We just need to pick up the consistency. It just wasn't our year.
   "But that was a good, strong top-five finish. My arms are sore, my back is sore. That was a heck of a fight.
   "But we just missed it.
   "My crew has earned a couple of steak dinners too; they give me spots every time down pit road."
   "It's not just one race, it's a lot of races, and we'll have a good time celebrating," Vickers said. "We picked a heck of a night to have a good car."
    Kenseth, the Daytona 500 and California 500 winner, had a ragged night from the start.
   "We finished last at Las Vegas in the third race of the year, and it was all downhill from there," Kenseth said. "Even if we'd made the chase we wouldn't have had a
   "There are some improvements that need to be made in the organization to make our cars better. And I can do a better job driving."
   It was the first time Kenseth hasn't made the playoffs.
    The Chevy Rock&Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway
The Sprint Cup tour top-20 standings at the end of the 26-race regular season


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