Matt Kenseth took his fourth win of the year in dominant fashion at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night, leading for a total of 352 laps during the three hour race at the three-quarter-mile oval.

"We were really superb in the long run," said Kenseth, who has only once in his career led for more laps in a race (415 at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2005) as he did here. "I had to work for it pretty hard in the short run.

"These guys gave me a great car," he added, referring to his pit crew led by Jason Ratcliff. "Thanks to Jason and all these guys standing behind me. They had the pit stops we needed, held serve every time and kept us out in front."

Full Saturday night race results from Richmond International Raceway.

Kenseth's victory means there was no last-minute new winner making it into the Chase. With the ten other drivers besides Kenseth making the championship play-offs by virtue of a race win in 2015, the remaining five places have therefore been decided by the points standings meaning that Jamie McMurray (Ganassi), Jeff Gordon (Hendrick Motorsports) and Clint Bowyer (Michael Waltrip) together with Richard Childress Racing pair Ryan Newman and Paul Menard all find themselves coming out of Richmond with a priceless Chase berth.

At the start of the evening, Joey Logano had successfully converted his pole position to an early lead once the green flag came out to get the 400-lap, 300-mile Federated Auto Parts 400 race underway, the Penske #22 pursued by the Joe Gibbs Racing pair of Kenseth and Kyle Busch while Brad Keselowski dropped back to fourth ahead of a brace of Stewart-Haas Racing cars driven by Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

Kenseth duly took over the lead for the first time on lap 15 and started to pull away, just before the leaders started to come up on the slower cars at the rear field and begin putting them a lap down. By the time the first caution of the night came out on lap 38 for Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing) hitting the wall in turn 1 after spinning on a patch of oil from the #98 car of Reed Sorenson, Kenseth's lead had stretched to two seconds over Busch.

"We had a good race car and everything was going smoothly until I slid into the oil," said Truex, who was comfortably running in the top 15 at the time. "Getting into somebody else's oil was unfortunate and very disappointing, but what happened tonight will be quickly forgotten about. The big picture is the next ten races, and right now all of our focus will be on the Chase opener in Chicago."

Kenseth retained the lead for the restart but with Busch having an atypically slow stop and dropping to ninth, Logano found himself back in second ahead of Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson (Ganassi) and Carl Edwards (JGR). Kenseth saw off Logano to retain the lead at the restart and went on to pull out a four second margin at the front by the time the yellows were out again next caution of the night, for debris in turn 1 on lap 99.

Kenseth, Logano and Keselowski won the race off pit road, with Denny Hamlin now in fourth after a strong run, not looking at all handicapped in the car by the torn ACL in his right knee sustained in a mid-week basketball game. Logano once again had the better immediate speed and briefly took the lead from Kenseth, but the #20 was back in front by the time that Michael Annett smacked the wall on the backstretch to bring out the third caution of the evening.

Logano stayed off pit road this time to lead the field to green, but Hamlin quickly got the better of him once the race resumed with his team mate Edwards coming with him as wingman while Kenseth and Busch scrapped over third to make it a JGR 1-2-3-4. Kenseth won that battle and then forced his way past Edwards, making slight contact in the process, on his way to the front again on lap 139.

"That's the most nervous that I get in a race," team owner Joe Gibbs said of the contact between his cars. "I saw some beating and banging there. I saw a hand come out the window, and I wasn't sure what it was showing for a minute or two. I got a little nervous there.

"I think that's when I'm always the most nervous, when you got your cars up front and having a good night. Our guys, though, I think they all handled it the right way, it seems like."

Gibbs confirmed later that Kenseth and Edwards had briefly discussed the incident after the race and that there were no lasting ill-feelings brewing within the JGR camp, which would be exactly the sort of distraction that the team would not want coming into the championship play-offs.

The leaders settled in for a devastating green flag run that lasted until 210 by which time Kenseth's lead over Hamlin was up to six seconds and only 16 cars were on the lead lap, with notable luminaries including Kurt Busch now having been lapped. A debris caution came at just the right time for a round of pit stops, and Kenseth resumed in the lead ahead of Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Johnson, Keselowski, McMurray, Logano, Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsport), Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson. Once again, restarts proved to be Kenseth's Achilles heel and he briefly lost the lead to Busch when the action resumed, but when things settled down Kenseth's superior pace saw him inexorably return to the front. At least this time Busch was able to stay with Kenseth, and when lapped traffic became a problem for the #20 he was able to close up to within half a second of his team mate, but then Kenseth turned on the after burners and by lap 280 Kenseth had built up a four second lead and was targeting Harvick as the next man to lap, the #4 having been suffering from jack problems during pit stops that had cost him track position and left him permanently in damage control mode.

Although Harvick did go a lap down, he got the free pass a few minutes later under a debris caution on lap 289 which saw everyone pit. Kenseth maintained the lead with Logano pipping Busch, Johnson and Hamlin in the race off pit road, but there were penalties for speeding for Keselowski and McMurray that put them at the back of the field for the restart. There was also trouble for Leavine Family Racing's Michael McDowell who managed to graze the debris recover truck under the caution and rip the right rear quarter panel off his car, earning him a stern summons to go see the NASCAR officials after the race.

Kenseth once again briefly lost the lead to Logano at the restart but he was able to quickly counter-attack and go to the front again; despite just over a hundred laps remaining, this would prove to be the final lead change of the night. Kenseth picked up where he had left off before the caution, re-lapping Harvick and pulling out a four second lead over Logano and the rest. It was, quite simply, a one-car race and a sustained level of dominance for Kenseth rare to see in a NASCAR race. The only chance the rest of the field was to pray for a late caution that would enable them to take advantage of Kenseth's slightly sluggish restart: maybe if they could get out in front near the end of the race, they could block the #20 and score a win against the prevailing current.

And on lap 375 with just 25 laps remaining, it seemed that their prays had been answered with a caution for debris on the backstraight which allowed the rest of the field to close up and attack Kenseth in a sprint finish to the race. No one wanted to face the restart on old rubber after that lengthy green flag stint and so everyone duly came down pit lane one last time for a full set of new tyres, with Kenseth winning the race back out ahead of Logano, Almirola, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon.

"I was disappointed to see that last caution," Kenseth admitted, fearing that this might cost him the victory that was rightfully his after all the hard work. "I knew it was going to be tough, but we were able to get the jump to get out front."

Sure enough, Kenseth had his most solid restart of the night and any hopes that Logano might have had of staging an ambush evaporated into the cool night air. When the chequered flag did finally come out without further interruption, Kenseth's lead had grown to almost a second with Kyle Busch having taken over second spot from Logano to emphasise the JGR dominance this weekend.

Against such opposition, Aric Almirola held on for an impressive fourth place which is his best finish of the year. He had done absolutely everything he could despite having gone a lap down early in the race, but still it hadn't been enough to put him into the Chase: although Paul Menard crossed the line three laps down in 26th place, the #27 was still 17 points ahead in the points for the last play-off place.

"I'm disappointed to come up a few spots short, but we gave it all we had, and that is all we can do. We'll go race these last ten races and try to get a victory," said Almirola. "We worked our guts out all year long, and tonight was no different. I feel we've overachieved this year and really maximized our results week in and week out."

Also missing out on Chase places were Hendrick's Kasey Kahne, Ganassi's Kyle Larson, RCR's Austin Dillon and JTG Daugherty Racing's AJ Allmendinger. SHR's Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick will also play no part in the play-offs, and shockingly neither will any of the Roush Fenway Racing drivers with Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne all falling well short of a berth - the first time in the team's history that have failed to make the Chase.

The 16 drivers who have successfully made the Chase were able to celebrate with the fans late into the night at Richmond, but this morning they will have to quickly settle down and refocus as the series gets down to the business end of the season. There will now effectively be three elimination rounds consisting of three races apiece before the season finale at Homestead-Miami in November. At the end of each round a further four drivers will be cut from Chase contention, and previous form now counts for little: drivers will either have to win one of the three races in the round or make it through based on points if they want to stay in the hunt for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crown.

The real battle for the title commences in one week, with the 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 20.

Full race results and updated NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship standings.

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