Carl Edwards won a crash-filled Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway, while Jeff Gordon survived a number of incidents to finish eleventh and take over the Chase lead.
Edwards took his third victory of the year and moved up to third place in the Chase just three points behind Gordon and one behind Tony Stewart. He led 96 of the 400 laps of the day and managed to keep control on every restart in the last 40 laps, which saw six caution periods and two red flags.
"That was a lot of fun," said Edwards, who took his sixth win of the year on a concrete oval, counting both his Busch and Nextel Cup victories. "Those red flags were killing me. I wanted to win bad; this is the Chase, we're in this deal and we've been working hard."
The Roush Fenway driver recovered after dropping down the order early on due to a sticking throttle. He also made the most out of the bad day that most of the Chase contenders had, as only four of them finished in the top ten while some didn't even make the chequered flag.
"A lot of guys are having bad luck and I'm sure we'll get our fair share of that as well but to see Matt Kenseth lose an engine is not good. We hope it doesn't happen to us and I'm happy we were able to capitalize today," Edwards added.
There was some cause for worry after the race for Edwards however, as his car failed the post-race inspection. The right rear of the car was found to be too low and although he is likely to keep his win, his team could be faced with some sort of penalty this week.
But if it was Edwards who took victory, it was his teammate Matt Kenseth who looked set to win until he started experiencing engine problems. With only 27 laps remaining his Ford unit finally gave up in a cloud of smoke, putting a sad end to what had seemed to be a promising day, as he had led nearly half the laps of the race.
It could have been a top-three sweep for Roush Fenway if it wasn't for Kenseth's retirement, as Greg Biffle came second after overtaking Mark Martin for second place on the last restart. He felt like he could have challenged for victory, something he hasn't tasted since November last year.
"I was beside Mark when the last caution came out," said Biffle. "That was the whole key to the race. If I could've been behind Carl Edwards in the last restart I think I could've passed him like I did to Dale maybe on the outside. That probably cost us the win."
Dale Earnhardt Jr finished third after taking advantage of fresher rubber than some of his rivals in the closing laps. He was a lap down to Edwards but got back in contention in the closing stages of the race thanks to NASCAR regulations, which allow the first driver a lap down to get back on the lead lap during each caution period.
"This was an adventurous race for a lot of different people," Earnhardt Jr said. "We had a lot of luck on our way but we worked really hard to get to where we got. We got a lap down but we were able to get it back. It was a good run for us. It's going to help us getting into the next couple of races."
Mark Martin finished fourth, while Kyle Busch rounded up the top five on a day where the Hendrick Motorsports cars were nowhere near challenging for victory, despite having Jimmie Johnson starting from pole position.
The reigning Nextel Cup champion was in fact involved in the biggest crash of the day with 14 laps to go, although he was able to finish the race in 14th. However he has dropped down from the lead of the Chase and now ranks fourth in the title race.
Kurt Busch, another Chase contender, was the one who ignited the chain reaction by hitting the wall with 14 laps remaining when the field was bunched up after a restart. Twelve cars were involved in the crash, which required the race to be red flagged for nearly 12 minutes.
"I'm not sure if we broke something in the suspension or just a tyre went down," said Busch. "But man, it shot straight in the fence and when you have that after a restart you collect a ton of cars and I feel bad for all the crew members that built this cars. It was just a mechanical failure on our part and it just took out a lot of good cars."
Martin Truex Jr, who was running fourth at the time and was looking to move up in the Chase standings, was also caught up in the incident that effectively took seven cars out of the race. Truex was able to cross the line in thirteenth, with his car smoking and falling to pieces. He dropped one place to seventh in the Chase as a result.
Also crashing, but in a separate incident, was Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs driver had led the race in the early going but then crashed into the back of the lapped car of Kyle Petty, also hitting the wall. He was able to return to the track and cross the finish line but he is now at the bottom of the Chase standings.
Another incident which forced officials to show the red flag for 5 minutes took place on lap 370 after John Andretti and Tony Raines crashed hard into the wall coming out of turn two.
Juan Pablo Montoya, who had started the race from the front row, dropped down early on but stayed in the top-15 for most of the race, battling with Jeff Gordon. He survived most of the incidents in the late part of the race to move up the order and finish tenth, claiming his first top-10 on a short oval.
"I couldn't really find a good balance. [The car] was either too loose or too tight and we fought that all day," Montoya said. "We just really stayed out of trouble. That was the key thing.
"It's good. I'm pretty happy. The last few weeks have been annoying when we had a good car and this week we finally figured something out."
With the top six drivers in the points covered by less than twenty points, the Chase for the Nextel Cup moves to Kansas next weekend. It will be the first of the last ten races where the Car of Tomorrow will not feature.
Pos Driver Make Laps 1. Carl Edwards Ford 400 2. Greg Biffle Ford 400 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 400 4. Mark Martin Chevrolet 400 5. Kyle Busch Chevrolet 400 6. Casey Mears Chevrolet 400 7. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 399 8. Jamie McMurray Ford 399 9. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 399 10. Juan Montoya Dodge 399 11. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 399 12. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 399 13. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 399 14. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 398 15. Michael Waltrip Toyota 398 16. Brian Vickers Toyota 397 17. Elliott Sadler Dodge 397 18. David Reutimann Toyota 397 19. Robby Gordon Ford 397 20. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 396 21. Paul Menard Chevrolet 396 22. Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 396 23. Kenny Wallace Ford 396 24. David Gilliland Ford 395 25. David Ragan Ford 394 26. Ken Schrader Ford 394 27. Bobby Labonte Dodge 394 28. Kurt Busch Dodge 385 29. Ryan Newman Dodge 385 30. Reed Sorenson Dodge 384 31. Jeff Green Chevrolet 384 32. Kasey Kahne Dodge 384 33. J.J. Yeley Chevrolet 383 34. Scott Riggs Dodge 382 35. Matt Kenseth Ford 374 36. Tony Raines Chevrolet 361 37. John Andretti Dodge 358 38. Denny Hamlin Chevrolet 308 39. David Stremme Dodge 287 40. Kyle Petty Dodge 201 41. Dale Jarrett Toyota 141 42. Johnny Sauter Chevrolet 11 43. A.J. Allmendinger Toyota 4 Chase For The Cup - Points Standing: Pos Driver Change Points 1. Jeff Gordon +1 5340 2. Tony Stewart +1 5338 + 2 3. Carl Edwards +5 5337 + 3 4. Jimmie Johnson -3 5336 + 4 5. Kyle Busch 5330 + 10 6. Clint Bowyer -2 5322 + 18 7. Martin Truex Jr -1 5294 + 46 8. Jeff Burton +3 5265 + 75 9. Kevin Harvick +1 5225 +115 10. Matt Kenseth -3 5224 +116 11. Kurt Busch +1 5192 +148 12. Denny Hamlin -3 5182 +158