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Here's NASCAR's playoff field after final win-and-you're-in chance goes unclaimed

Mike Reader, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

Three winless drivers -- Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray -- rounded out NASCAR's Cup Series playoffs after Saturday night's race at Richmond Raceway.

The trio join 13 drivers that had already clinched a spot in the 16-team postseason field with a win. The playoffs begin next week at Chicagoland Speedway.

A win in Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 400 would have clinched a playoff berth, but Kyle Larson took that chance away with his fourth victory of the season.

Richmond pole winner Kenseth's night ended early in the night's oddest incident. When a NASCAR ambulance stopped on the apron near the entrance to pit road with 140 laps left, Kenseth ran into Clint Bowyer's Ford as drivers tried to maneuver around the rescue vehicle to get to their stalls. The damage took Kenseth out of the race and would have knocked him out of the playoffs had there been a first-time winner.

"I saw an ambulance sitting there," Kenseth said. "It was an accordion effect and I just couldn't get stopped."

Joey Logano and Bowyer, both needing a victory to make the playoffs, also suffered damage in the ambulance incident.

Logano ran in the top 10 much of the night but finished second, ending his playoffs hope. Bowyer finished 24th.

"It's happened to us a few times at Richmond that we didn't have a winning car and we won," Logano said. "We almost did it again."

Logano won at Richmond in the spring, but the result was "encumbered" by NASCAR when it ruled that Logano's car had an illegal rear end. That meant it didn't count for the playoffs and he lost playoff points as well.

Dale Earnhardt Jr, also officially eliminated from the playoffs, ran consistently in the top 10 Saturday but fell to 13th after the final restart. Earnhardt will retire full-time from racing at season's end.

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