RICHMOND, Va. — It was yet another Denny Hamlin runaway for Joe Gibbs Racing on Saturday night in what turned out to be an anticlimactic end to NASCAR's regular season.
The fireworks came off the track at Richmond International Raceway, where Ryan Newman angrily chided former boss Tony Stewart after a wreck between the two in the Federated Auto Parts 400 officially ended Newman's chances to make the playoffs.
The verbal torrent from Newman came with 37 laps left, before Hamlin — who was born in Brandon but grew up in Virginia — finished his third career Sprint Cup win at his home track. It was JGR's third consecutive victory at the track and ninth in the past 15 races.
Newman called Stewart "bipolar," said the retiring driver had anger issues, and all but outright referenced the 2014 incident in which Stewart fatally struck a sprint car driver.
"I guess he thought he was in a sprint car again and didn't know how to control his anger," Newman said.
Stewart admitted his contact with Newman was intentional and that the wreck came after Newman's third contact with Stewart in the race. Newman once drove for Stewart-Haas as Stewart's employee and teammate.
"How many times does a guy get a free pass," Stewart said. "Three times? That's two more times than I normally let somebody run into me. Tonight wasn't a make or break for him, the 25 weeks before that set the tone for tonight."
Dylan Lupton couldn't avoid the accident and his car ended up wedged between the wall and on top of Newman's car when the crashing finally ceased.
The wreckage caused a stoppage of just more than 20 minutes and sent Newman's temperature soaring. Newman's team was penalized 15 points last week by NASCAR for failing inspection after Darlington, and the punishment made his task of trying to race his way into the Chase extremely difficult.
But few expected him to be so harsh toward Stewart, who employed Newman for five years the end of the 2013 season.
"Just disappointing that you have somebody old like that, that should be retired the way he drives. It's just ridiculous," Newman said.
Stewart, 45, is retiring at the end of the season and already had his spot in the Chase secure headed into Richmond.
There were three spots available in the Chase at the start of the night, but Newman was going to need a near-miracle.
He didn't get it, and the remaining playoff positions in the 16-driver field went to rookie Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray. Chris Buescher also made the Chase by virtue of his win at a rain-shortened race and by maintaining a spot in the top 30 in points.
The rest of the field for the 10-race Chase is made up of the other 12 race winners this season. Brad Keselowski holds the top seed and, along with fellow four-time winner Kyle Busch, starts the playoffs with 2,012 points. Each Chase driver gets 2,000 points plus three bonus points for each win.