The 2013 Federated Auto Parts 400 was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stock car race held on September 7, 2013, at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia, United States. Contested over 400 laps, it was the twenty-sixth and final race leading into the Chase for the Sprint Cup in the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season. Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing won the race, his second win of the season, while Kurt Busch finished second. Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, and Paul Menard rounded out the top five.
The race was the first for Harry Scott, Jr. as a Sprint Cup Series team owner; Ryan Truex drove the #51 car in Scott's debut.
The race was marred by a controversial finish, after evidence surfaced that two teams were found to have manipulated the outcome of the race and Chase positions in the final ten laps. NASCAR ultimately determined that Michael Waltrip Racing, Penske Racing, and Front Row Motorsports were involved in two separate, but intertwined, incidents, first by Clint Bowyer intentionally causing a caution with less than ten laps remaining in the race, and on the ensuing restart, having Brian Vickers pit after a restart from caution so that Martin Truex, Jr. would clinch a Wildcard berth over Ryan Newman, and the second was collusion where Penske's Joey Logano earned the final guaranteed berth over Jeff Gordon after passing Front Row's David Gilliland. Both situations were intertwined together because of the tenth place and wild card situation. This scandal became widely known as Spingate from Bowyer's intentional spin.
1 Regan Smith drove the No. 48 car for practice and qualifying; Jimmie Johnson was on paternity leave.
Team orders became an issue during the last ten laps of the race, and it was ultimately determined that three teams had tried to manipulate the finish of the race and Chase positions.
Under the Chase system at the time, 12 drivers were eligible to make the Chase: the top 10 in points, with two additional Wild Card spots for drivers positioned 11th-20th in the points with race wins. Entering the race, Kasey Kahne had already locked up the first Wild Card spot as he was the only repeat winner in the field outside of the top 10 in points, with his two race wins from earlier in the year (Bristol in March, and Pocono in August). Ryan Newman entered the race trailing Martin Truex, Jr. for the final wild card. In order to guarantee a Chase position, Newman needed to either win the race, or be five points ahead of Truex and not have Joey Logano or Greg Biffle fall out of the top ten (as if either Logano or Biffle dropped out of the top ten at the end of the race, the other Wild Card spot would go to one of them). Jeff Gordon trailed Logano by 16 points for 10th place, the final Chase spot based on points position.
On Lap 393, Gordon was ahead of Logano by a large enough margin that Gordon led Logano by two points for the final guaranteed Chase position. Newman was the leader, and would have bumped out both Logano and Truex (one win each) had the race ended at that point. It was on that lap that Truex's teammate Clint Bowyer spun out in Turn 4. From the various angles captured of the spin, it initially appeared that Bowyer had either been tapped from behind by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or he had cut a right front tire. The field pitted under the resulting caution flag, including Bowyer, Truex's other teammate Brian Vickers, Newman and the rest of the field. A slow pit stop for Newman dropped him to third, behind Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, with Kurt Busch starting next to him in 4th.
As a result of pit stops, Truex gained multiple positions. Logano, who was two laps behind the leader (while Gordon was on the lead lap), used a wavearound to move up to one lap behind the leaders, where he could race other cars one lap behind in an attempt to gain more positions and overtake Gordon. Edwards went on to win, albeit with controversy as it appeared he jumped Paul Menard on the restart, with Kurt Busch and Newman finishing behind Edwards. However, Edwards was not penalized (as had happened to Jimmie Johnson at Dover in June) as NASCAR ruled that Menard had slid his tires and was slow getting up to speed.
Newman and Truex finished tied for the final wildcard spot on both wins, and the first tie-breaker, points. However, since Truex had an extra second-place finish at Texas, he entered the Chase. Logano, who overtook Gordon on the final restart, clinched the final non-wild card spot by one point over Gordon.
Immediately after the race, many in the garage suspected that Bowyer had spun out deliberately in an attempt to manipulate the finish of the race so that Truex would gain a Chase spot, in an incident dubbed the Singapore Sling, after the 2008 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix Formula One race, where Nelson Piquet, Jr. (who at the time of this race was racing in the second-tier Nationwide Series for Turner Scott Motorsports, having raced the previous night) intentionally caused a caution to give an advantage to teammate Fernando Alonso, who would win the race. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was directly behind Bowyer at the moment of the spin, and said afterwards that the way Bowyer's car spun was "one of the craziest things he's ever seen", and noticed the car being "jerked around" to make it lose control out of turn 4. While Bowyer claimed it was a flat tire that caused him to spin out, and indeed the right front was down after the spin, it was noted that the behavior of Bowyer's car was inconsistent with the normal behavior of a car that had cut a tire: the normal behavior for a car cutting a tire in the corners being for the car to wash up the track with no steering and slam the outside wall with its right side, then come back down onto the track, rather than spinning onto the apron. In addition, the popping noise normally associated with a flat tire only happened after the spin.
Further suspicion arose during the video replays, as the radio communications between Bowyer and crew chief Brian Pattie showed they were openly worried about the possibility of Newman winning and eliminating Truex from the Chase on lap 391, two laps before Bowyer spun. Another suspicious conversation was revealed between Vickers and his spotter, team general manager and vice president Ty Norris, where Norris ordered a completely oblivious Vickers to make a green-flag pit stop after the restart on lap 398 in order to give Truex another position to tie Newman in points. These conversations seemed to provide evidence of some kind of manipulation going on vis a vis team orders. In order for the scheme to work, Gordon, who was in 10th place, had to be overtaken by Logano in order to guarantee Truex a wild card. This scandal became known as Spingate from Bowyer's late-race spin.
On Monday, September 9, NASCAR penalized Michael Waltrip Racing by fining the team $300,000—the highest fine imposed on a team in NASCAR's 67-year history. It also indefinitely suspended Norris, placed all three of MWR crew chiefs on probation until December 31, and docked Bowyer and Truex 50 driver points (While Vickers, a Nationwide Series regular, was not eligible for Sprint Cup driver points under the series declaration rule, he was also docked 50 points, which was reflected in a negative points total at year's end). Each car was also docked 50 owner's points (Waltrip for the #55 and #56, Rob Kauffman for the #15). As this penalty was applied before the reset for the Chase, it effectively knocked Truex out of the Wildcard spot in favor of Newman. The 50-point penalty dropped Truex to 17th in points, removing him from eligibility for a wild-card position, and giving his spot to Newman. While NASCAR could not find any conclusive evidence that Bowyer had deliberately spun out, it did determine that Vickers' pit on Norris' orders was illegal. The point deduction did not affect Bowyer's post-seeding, as all penalties affected his pre-Chase points total and he had clinched a Chase berth two races earlier. Gordon, meanwhile, remained eliminated from the Chase because he did not have the necessary points to leapfrog Logano for a spot, which drew even more controversy, since Logano was able to overtake Gordon in the ensuing restart after the caution. Logano had to stay in the top ten in order to give Truex a wild card if Newman did not win. Had the caution not occurred, Gordon would likely have clinched a Chase position, since Logano would have remained two laps down.
Shortly after the penalties against Michael Waltrip Racing for trying to manipulate the race, rumors surfaced that Logano had received assistance from Front Row Motorsports driver David Gilliland. Penske and Front Row were considered technical partners, as they both used Ford cars and Roush Fenway Racing powertrains. Radio communications seemed to suggest to NASCAR that Front Row officials asked Gilliland to slow down and give up a position to Logano in order to help Logano race his way into the Chase, in exchange for an undisclosed form of compensation. Logano passed Gilliland on the final restart.
After a second inquiry, NASCAR placed both Penske and Front Row on probation until December 31, and forced all teams to attend a Saturday afternoon meeting at the 2013 GEICO 400 in Chicagoland, regarding ethics in light of the two related match fixing incidents. Additionally, NASCAR CEO Brian France announced that Gordon would be added to the Chase field, expanding the field to 13 drivers. France explained in a press conference that his decision to add Gordon to the Chase was "based on the totality of events that were outside" Gordon's control, and how MWR's and Penske's manipulation attempts gave Gordon an "unfair disadvantage", and the fact that if Bowyer hadn't spun and the caution hadn't come out at any point between lap 393 and the white flag, Gordon would have qualified for the Chase on points based on his running position.
NAPA Auto Parts, Truex's primary sponsor on the #56 car, announced on September 19, 2013, that they would withdraw sponsorship of the #56 team at the end of the season as a direct result of Spingate, choosing instead to align with Hendrick Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for the 2014 season. In 2014, NAPA would partner with Earnhardt's Nationwide Series team JR Motorsports and became the primary sponsor for up-and-coming driver Chase Elliott's 2014 championship and rookie of the year run in the Nationwide Series. They also sponsored Elliott for his part-time Sprint Cup debut in 2015, with a partial run set for his championship debut in 2016 after Elliott was moved to the No. 24 full-time following Jeff Gordon's retirement from racing, with Axalta covering the remaining races. With the loss of NAPA sponsorship, MWR had to scale the #56 team down to a part-time team for 2014, while Truex and everyone on his pit crew ended up being signed by Furniture Row Racing to replace a departing Kurt Busch, with Truex effectively being Newman's teammate via the satellite team association of Furniture Row and Childress. Truex has won three races for Furniture Row as of 2016.
Michael Waltrip Racing never won another race and folded after the 2015 season, with the main reasons are due to contracting to a two-car operation, loss of NAPA Auto Parts sponsorship, and part-owner Rob Kauffman left the team for Chip Ganassi Racing.