NASCAR Rivals: Bobby Labonte Injured by Watkins Glen Mele’

August 13, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

With the laps dwindling down and the middle of the pack getting a little antsy, the field turned to complete mayhem with just 8 laps to go in the Centurion Boats at the Glen on Sunday afternoon. Michael McDowell spun David Gilliland as the two raced for position, setting off a chain reaction that left several cars crippled near the pit road entrance. Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte, Sam Hornish Jr, Reed Sorenson, Max Papis, Dave Blaney, and Joe Nemechek were also involved.

As seen in the video footage of the accident, Bobby LaBonte was left limping his way over to the infield care center. It was then learned that LaBonte was taken to the hospital in Elmira, NY with what Petty Enterprises VP Robbie Loomis described as discomfort in his rib and abdominal area, but NASCAR officials later stated that Bobby was released from the hospital and cleared to resume competition.

Rating the Race: Centurion Boats at the Glen at Watkins Glen

August 10, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Kyle Busch made perfect on his efforts to sweep the road course races in the Sprint Cup Series this season as he nabbed his first career victory at Watkins Glen International on Sunday. He led four times for a race high 52 laps, giving him his 8th win of the season and making him the first driver to win the races at both Infineon and Watkins Glen in the same year since his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Tony Stewart, did it back in 2005. He also won the Nationwide Series race in Mexico City earlier in the year, making him the only driver in NASCAR history to win three road course races in the same season.

After rain canceled Friday’s qualifying session, the field lined up based on their order in the car owner’s points standings, setting Kyle Busch out on the pole position for the start of the race. Kyle led the first lap before handing it over to Dale Earnhardt Jr, who started on the outside of the front row. As Busch dropped back to third in the running order, Earnhardt gradually expanded his lead through the next 28 laps, but found himself in 6th after the field completed their first round of green flag pit stops.

Kyle Busch once again took the race lead on lap 30, and was still in charge when the first caution of the day came out on lap 47. NASCAR made the decision to waive the yellow due to debris on the track that was a result of some loose gravel that had been kicked up on the track. The caution was a huge break for Jimmie Johnson who had just pitted a few laps earlier when he had a rear left tire going down, but because he was running up in the top-five at the time, he was able to make his stop without losing a lap. Once pit road opened up, 14 cars remained on the track, including Johnson. Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart - running 1st and 2nd at the time - also elected to stay out.

Kyle Busch was still the race leader when the field went back to green, but the most impressive story to this point was Marcos Ambrose, who was driving the no. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. He was forced to start dead last due to the car’s position in owner points, but had worked his way all the way up inside the top-15 for the restart.

Kyle Busch moved to the side to allow his teammate, Tony Stewart, to lead a lap and pickup the 5 extra bonus points on lap 53, but Tony returned the favor and let Kyle go back by the following lap, and that was the only movement up front until the leaders again came into pit on lap 56. Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmie Johnson each led a lap during the exchange of green flag stops. Johnson came into pit on lap 58, which handed the lead back over to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

With more than a 25 second lead, Earnhardt was the only car still out on the track that had not yet made his final pit stop. Despite continuing to lose a second per lap to the 2nd and 3rd place cars, Tony Eury Jr. - crew chief for the no. 88 team - elected to keep Earnhardt out on the track, but the call completely backfired when NASCAR waived the second caution flag on lap 64. The caution was again for loose gravel that Travis Kvapil kicked onto the track when he ran off the track. Earnhardt was forced to pit while the other race leaders remained out on the track, and with just 25 laps remaining, he lined up 37th for the restart.

Kyle Busch was once again deemed the race leader by virtue of Earnhardt’s misfortunes with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman chasing him. With the laps dwindling down, it almost looked as though we might have another caution when Sam Hornish Jr. spun PJ Jones on lap 70, but both cars were able to get going again, and NASCAR saw no reason to bring out the yellow.

The complexity of the race changed on lap 77 when Ryan Newman got into the corner too hard, resulting in a single car spin in Turn 9. Unable to get his car restarted, he had several close cars as the rest of the field tried to avoid the stalled car as it rolled back out onto the track. NASCAR eventually brought out the third caution, and luckily, the entire field was able to get around Newman without hitting him.

The fourth and final caution came with just 8 laps to go when Michael McDowell spun David Gilliland, setting off a huge multi-car crash that involved 9 cars right near the pit road entrance. Michael Waltrip, Bobby LaBonte, Sam Hornish Jr, Reed Sorenson, Max Papis, Dave Blaney, and Joe Nemechek all got caught up in the mess, and LaBonte appeared to be mildly injured as he was seen limping back to the infield care center.

After NASCAR stopped the race under red flag conditions for more than 40 minutes, they finally got the race restarted with Kyle Busch still in the lead, and behind him were Tony Stewart, Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr, and Kevin Harvick. Busch took the green flag with just five laps to go with Stewart keeping within a couple car lengths for the first few laps. With about 2 to go, though, Busch started to pull away, and Stewart’s new task became keeping the no. 21 of Ambrose in his rearview mirror. Busch went onto take the checkers, and Stewart was able to fend off Ambrose to give Joe Gibbs Racing a 1-2 finish.

Marcos Ambrose fought off Juan Pablo Montoya to hang onto third, and JPM finished 4th. Martin Truex Jr. held onto 5th to earn his first-ever top-five finish at Watkins Glen. He was followed by the 2006 winner of this event, Kevin Harvick, in 6th. 7th place went to Denny Hamlin, who capped off a solid run inside the top-ten for most of the day. Jimmie Johnson rebounded from his cut tire earlier in the race to finish in 8th. AJ Allmendinger walked away with the best NSCS finish of his career in 9th, also giving him his second top-ten in the last 3 races. Carl Edwards completed the top-ten.

Other Notables:
Matt Kenseth had a pretty quiet day, but finished 12th ….. Kasey Kahne matched his best Watkins Glen finish with a 14th place run ….. Dale Earnhardt Jr. wound up 22nd after his team’s race strategy put him in the back of the field with just over 20 laps to go ….. Jeff Gordon had an eventful day. His team had to have NASCAR black flag him to get him into the pits for the first round of stops after the team’s radio became disconnected. Gordon’s car, unfortunately, handled much like the radio, as his struggles throughout the day led to a 25th place finish ….. Robby Gordon started near the back of the pack and never was able to find his way to the front, finishing with a very disappointing 27th place finish ….. Ryan Newman’s spin on lap 77 led to a 28th place effort, as that team continues to watch their Chase hopes keep slipping away.

Kyle Busch now holds a 242 point lead on 1st in the standings, while Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson both moved past Earnhardt Jr. to take over the 2nd and 3rd spots. Tony Stewart’s back-to-back 2nd place efforts have also moved him up to 7th overall, and he now has a 138 point cushion in the Chase standings. Matt Kenseth also moved up a spot to take over the 12th and final spot in the Chase, moving Clint Bowyer back down to 13th. He’s now 22 points out of the Chase.

Grades:
the Race: 75%
Drama: 74%
Coverage: 90%
Pre-Race: 81%

Overall Grade: 78.4%

Complete Results (from nascar.com):

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 1 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M’s 195/10 90 Running
2 9 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 175/5 90 Running
3 41 21 Marcos Ambrose Ford Little Debbie 165/0 90 Running
4 25 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Big Red Slim Pack 165/5 90 Running
5 16 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 155/0 90 Running
6 11 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 150/0 90 Running
7 10 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 146/0 90 Running
8 4 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s 147/5 90 Running
9 35 84 A.J. Allmendinger Toyota Red Bull 138/0 90 Running
10 3 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 134/0 90 Running
11 19 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 130/0 90 Running
12 13 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT 127/0 90 Running
13 30 01 Ron Fellows Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Red Head 124/0 90 Running
14 7 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 121/0 90 Running
15 20 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy / Garmin 118/0 90 Running
16 18 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 115/0 90 Running
17 5 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 112/0 90 Running
18 17 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 109/0 90 Running
19 22 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet CARQUEST / Kellogg’s 106/0 90 Running
20 37 10 Patrick Carpentier * Dodge Charter Comm. 103/0 90 Running
21 8 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 100/0 90 Running
22 2 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / AMP Energy 102/5 90 Running
23 12 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet DIRECTV 94/0 90 Running
24 42 45 Boris Said Dodge Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil 91/0 90 Running
25 6 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 88/0 90 Running
26 34 00 Michael McDowell * Toyota Champion Mortgage 85/0 90 Running
27 31 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Jim Beam 82/0 90 Running
28 14 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Kodak 79/0 90 Running
29 27 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Quaker State / Menards 76/0 90 Running
30 32 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Mobil 1 73/0 90 Running
31 40 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Insurance 70/0 90 Running
32 28 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target 67/0 90 Running
33 26 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 64/0 88 Running
34 33 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet State Water Heaters 61/0 88 Running
35 15 8 Aric Almirola Chevrolet U.S. Army 58/0 88 Running
36 23 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Hitachi Power Tools 55/0 88 Running
37 36 96 P.J. Jones Toyota DLP HDTV 52/0 88 Running
38 39 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row Racing 49/0 86 In Pit
39 43 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 46/0 82 Running
40 24 38 David Gilliland Ford DISH Network Turbo HD 43/0 81 Running
41 29 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 40/0 81 In Pit
42 21 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 37/0 81 In Pit
43 38 70 Max Papis Chevrolet Haas Automation 34/0 81 In Pit

Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):

RANK +/- DRIVER POINTS BEHIND STARTS POLES WINS TOP 5 TOP 10
1 Kyle Busch 3254 Leader 22 2 8 13 14
2 +1 Carl Edwards 3012 -242 22 0 4 9 16
3 +1 Jimmie Johnson 3010 -244 22 3 2 7 12
4 -2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2985 -269 22 1 1 7 12
5 Jeff Burton 2945 -309 22 0 1 4 11
6 Jeff Gordon 2754 -500 22 2 0 8 10
7 +2 Tony Stewart 2744 -510 22 0 0 8 11
8 -1 Kasey Kahne 2713 -541 22 2 2 3 11
9 +1 Denny Hamlin 2689 -565 22 1 1 6 11
10 -2 Greg Biffle 2689 -565 22 2 0 6 9
11 Kevin Harvick 2670 -584 22 0 0 4 8
12 +1 Matt Kenseth 2628 -626 22 0 0 4 12
13 -1 Clint Bowyer 2606 -648 22 0 1 4 10
14 David Ragan 2539 -715 22 0 0 4 7
15 Ryan Newman 2424 -830 22 1 1 2 7
16 +1 Martin Truex Jr. 2419 -835 22 0 0 3 7
17 -1 Brian Vickers 2418 -836 22 0 0 3 5
18 Kurt Busch 2269 -985 22 0 1 3 5
19 Jamie McMurray 2231 -1023 22 0 0 0 5
20 +1 Elliott Sadler 2159 -1095 22 0 0 2 5
21 -1 Bobby Labonte 2121 -1133 22 0 0 0 1
22 +3 Juan Montoya 2117 -1137 22 0 0 2 3
23 -1 Travis Kvapil 2071 -1183 22 0 0 0 3
24 Casey Mears 2070 -1184 22 0 0 1 4
25 +1 David Gilliland 1979 -1275 22 0 0 1 2
26 -3 Mark Martin 1965 -1289 16 0 0 2 7
27 David Reutimann 1927 -1327 22 0 0 0 1
28 Paul Menard 1883 -1371 22 1 0 0 0
29 +1 Robby Gordon 1770 -1484 22 0 0 0 2
30 +1 Reed Sorenson 1736 -1518 21 0 0 1 2
31 -2 Dave Blaney 1736 -1518 21 0 0 0 2
32 Michael Waltrip 1682 -1572 22 0 0 1 1
33 Sam Hornish Jr.* 1674 -1580 22 0 0 0 0
34 Regan Smith* 1584 -1670 20 0 0 0 0
35 Scott Riggs 1549 -1705 20 0 0 0 0
36 +1 Patrick Carpentier* 1333 -1921 18 1 0 0 0
37 +1 Joe Nemechek 1272 -1982 19 1 0 0 0
38 -2 J.J. Yeley 1263 -1991 17 0 0 1 1
39 +1 A.J. Allmendinger 1226 -2028 14 0 0 0 1
40 -1 Michael McDowell* 1200 -2054 17 0 0 0 0

BallHype: hype it up!

Rating the Race: Infineon - Toyota Save/Mart 350

June 22, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Kyle Busch wins the Toyota Save/Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

Heading into Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Infineon Raceway, most people weren’t talking about points leader Kyle Busch as a favorite to win, especially since he was starting all the way back from the 30th position … well, they were wrong. Busch put his no. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota out front on lap 32, and then held the position for the remainder of the race, with the exception of 2 laps that were led by Carl Edwards during green flag pit stops.

Busch gained his track position due to some good fortune when he and nine other cars made their first pit stops just prior to the first caution of the day on lap 30. Up to that point, the race had been dominated by Jimmie Johnson, who took the lead from polesitter, Kasey Kahne, back on lap 5. The caution forced all of the cars that hadn’t yet stopped into the pits, and marred the race leaders back into traffic. Greg Biffle inherited the lead at that point, but his string of misfortunes continued as he spun through the dirt going through turn 3. Busch was riding in third at that point, but the second place car of Juan Pablo Montoya had to check up during Biffle’s spin, and Kyle made the pass on both cars.

Carl Edwards, who had been in second when the first caution came out, had worked his way back up into the top-five prior to the next round of pit stops, but was again the victim of another untimely caution. He was handed the lead after Kyle Busch and several other cars had pitted, but the caution waived again on the following lap when Kurt Busch and Robby Gordon made contact on lap 70, and Gordon was unable to get his car restarted. Once the remaining cars came in for their stops, Edwards found himself outside of the top-20, and Busch was once again named the race leader.

The next bit of excitement came on lap 78 when Marcos Ambrose - making his Sprint Cup debut - got into Juan Pablo Montoya as the two raced for position inside the top-five. The contact sent Juan spinning on the track, but he was able to maintain position inside the top-15. The damage was very minor to Ambrose’s car as well, but the no. 19 of Elliott Sadler got into the back of him with just 26 to go. No caution came out for the incident, but Ambrose pulled his car onto pit road, and the no. 21 Wood Bros team called it quits for the day.

The final 10 laps in the scheduled 110-lap race saw three separate cautions brought out. The first of which came when Michael McDowell cut down a left side tire that sent him screaming into the wall on lap 101. The field lined up with Kyle Busch still out in front, followed by Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart, and Kevin Harvick. The trio behind Busch brought out the fifth caution of the day when Harvick got into the turn a bit too hard and clipped the rear end of McMurray, who was already loose. McMurray then clipped Stewart, and all three cars went spinning.

With the field bunched up, a bunch of cars got into one another around the middle of the pack, and Tony Stewart just sort of drove through all of them. Receiving the most of the damage was the no. 41 Dodge of Scott Pruett, who drove his wrecked race car off the track as NASCAR waived the final caution of the day, and eventually red flagged the race as they cleaned up the mess. The field lined up for one final restart in NASCAR’s fifth green-white-checkered finish of the season, but it was all for naught. Kyle Busch did as he had all day long and drove away from the field yet again, and eventually landed himself in Victory Lane for the fifth time in 2008.

David Gilliland held onto the 2nd spot and earned himself the best finish of his career, and only his second top-five in his three seasons with Yates Racing. Behind him in third was Jeff Gordon, who had a miserable start to the day, but managed to fall in-line with the pit stops and the cautions and pickup a much-needed top-five for his team. In 4th was Clint Bowyer, and 5th place went to Casey Mears, who picked up his first top-five finish of the season.

Juan Pablo Montoya rebounded from his earlier incident with Marcos Ambrose, and the no. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team salvaged a 6th place run. 7th place went to Ryan Newman, who started in 9th and went virtually unnoticed the entire afternoon as he hung around just outside of the top-ten for most of the day. Matt Kenseth probably had an even quieter day than Newman, but still managed to finish in 8th, which was also good enough to move him back inside the top-12 in points. Despite having one of the best cars all day, the pit strategies did not fall in the favor of the no. 99 Roush team, and Carl Edwards was forced to settle with a 9th place finish. And, Tony Stewart - who restarted in 19th on lap 108 - managed to fight his way back up through the field to in the last couple of laps to finish 10th.

Other Notables: Greg Biffle recovered from his earlier spin to finish 11th … Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished with a satisfactory 12th place run … Jeff Burton continued his streak of top-15 runs with a 13th place finish … Defending Series champion, Jimmie Johnson, was dumped by Greg Biffle on lap 100, but was able to rebound with to 15th … Terry LaBonte finished 17th for Petty Enterprises … After running inside of the top-five most of the day, the late race mishap relegated Jamie McMurray to 18th … Elliott Sadler also had a good run going, but had a tire go down after the final restart that sent him from 4th to 19th … Kevin Harvick wound up in 30th … Polesitter, Kasey Kahne, dropped like a rock after giving up the lead on lap 5 and wound up finishing 33rd.

The top five spots in the points standings remained unchanged, while Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle leap-frogged Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne to move into 6th and 7th. Clint Bowyer went from 12th to 10th, while Tony Stewart remained 11th. And, as previously mentioned, Matt Kenseth finally made his way into the Chase field, taking over the 12th spot in the standings, while Kevin Harvick dropped from the cut for the first time this season. He sits in 13th now, just 2 points behind Kenseth.

Grades:
the Race - 72%
the Drama - 78%
Coverage - 90%
Pre-Race - 84%

Overall Grade: 78.0%

Complete Results (from nascar.com):

FIN

ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 30 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M’s 195/10 112 Running
2 31 38 David Gilliland Ford FreeCreditRep
ort.com
170/0 112 Running
3 5 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont Cromax Pro 165/0 112 Running
4 19 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel’s 160/0 112 Running
5 23 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet CARQUEST / Kellogg’s 155/0 112 Running
6 21 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Texaco / Havoline 150/0 112 Running
7 9 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Alltel 146/0 112 Running
8 33 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT 142/0 112 Running
9 12 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 143/5 112 Running
10 39 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 134/0 112 Running
11 10 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 135/5 112 Running
12 15 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet AMP Energy / National Guard 127/0 112 Running
13 20 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 124/0 112 Running
14 26 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 121/0 112 Running
15 2 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s 123/5 112 Running
16 25 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 115/0 112 Running
17 11 45 Terry Labonte Dodge Wells Fargo 112/0 112 Running
18 18 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 109/0 112 Running
19 6 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Stanley Tools 106/0 112 Running
20 16 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 103/0 112 Running
21 34 00 Michael McDowell * Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 100/0 112 Running
22 41 28 Travis Kvapil Ford California Highway Patrol 97/0 112 Running
23 37 10 Patrick Carpentier * Dodge Valvoline 94/0 112 Running
24 38 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Insurance 91/0 112 Running
25 35 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 88/0 112 Running
26 24 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row
/ DenverMattress.com
85/0 112 Running
27 13 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office 82/0 112 Running
28 40 8 Aric Almirola Chevrolet U.S. Army 79/0 112 Running
29 22 01 Ron Fellows Chevrolet DEI / Principal Financial Group 76/0 112 Running
30 32 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 73/0 112 Running
31 17 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Mobil 1 70/0 112 Running
32 3 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 67/0 111 Running
33 1 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 69/5 111 Running
34 29 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Johns Manville / Menards 61/0 111 Running
35 28 66 Max Papis Chevrolet Haas Automation 58/0 111 Running
36 8 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Camping World 55/0 110 Running
37 36 84 A.J. Allmendinger Toyota Red Bull 52/0 109 Running
38 27 41 Scott Pruett Dodge Target 49/0 108 Running
39 4 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 46/0 103 In Pit
40 42 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 43/0 99 In Pit
41 14 160 Boris Said Ford 7-Eleven Slurpee / No Fear 40/0 94 In Pit
42 7 21 Marcos Ambrose Ford Little Debbie Honey Buns 37/0 83 In Pit
43 43 34 Brian Simo Ford No Fear 34/0 20 In Pit

 
Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):

RANK +/- DRIVER POINTS BEHIND STARTS POLES WINS TOP 5 TOP 10
1 Kyle Busch 2408 Leader 16 2 5 10 11
2 Jeff Burton 2305 -103 16 0 1 4 10
3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2256 -152 16 1 1 7 11
4 Carl Edwards 2150 -258 16 0 3 6 12
5 Jimmie Johnson 2082 -326 16 1 1 4 7
6 +3 Jeff Gordon 2041 -367 16 2 0 7 8
7 +1 Greg Biffle 2019 -389 16 2 0 5 7
8 -2 Denny Hamlin 2008 -400 16 1 1 5 8
9 -2 Kasey Kahne 1958 -450 16 2 2 3 8
10 +2 Clint Bowyer 1924 -484 16 0 1 4 8
11 Tony Stewart 1908 -500 16 0 0 5 8
12 +2 Matt Kenseth 1892 -516 16 0 0 3 10
13 -3 Kevin Harvick 1890 -518 16 0 0 2 5
14 -1 David Ragan 1845 -563 16 0 0 2 4
15 +1 Brian Vickers 1788 -620 16 0 0 3 4
16 +1 Ryan Newman 1787 -621 16 1 1 2 6
17 -2 Martin Truex Jr. 1785 -623 16 0 0 1 4
18 Travis Kvapil 1676 -732 16 0 0 0 3
19 +3 Juan Montoya 1638 -770 16 0 0 1 2
20 +1 Jamie McMurray 1616 -792 16 0 0 0 3
21 +2 David Gilliland 1613 -795 16 0 0 1 2
22 -3 Kurt Busch 1604 -804 16 0 0 1 2
23 -3 Bobby Labonte 1571 -837 16 0 0 0 0
24 +3 Casey Mears 1506 -902 16 0 0 1 3
25 +1 Elliott Sadler 1466 -942 16 0 0 0 3
26 -1 Paul Menard 1443 -965 16 0 0 0 0
27 -3 Mark Martin 1437 -971 12 0 0 2 5
28 David Reutimann 1390 -1018 16 0 0 0 1
29 Dave Blaney 1299 -1109 15 0 0 0 2
30 +4 Michael Waltrip 1251 -1157 16 0 0 0 0
31 +2 Sam Hornish Jr.* 1248 -1160 16 0 0 0 0
32 -1 Robby Gordon 1239 -1169 16 0 0 0 1
33 -3 Regan Smith* 1187 -1221 15 0 0 0 0
34 -2 Reed Sorenson 1179 -1229 15 0 0 1 1
35 Scott Riggs 1150 -1258 15 0 0 0 0
36 J.J. Yeley 882 -1526 13 0 0 0 0
37 +1 Patrick Carpentier* 852 -1556 13 0 0 0 0
38 -1 Joe Nemechek 844 -1564 13 1 0 0 0
39 Michael McDowell* 796 -1612 11 0 0 0 0
40 A.J. Allmendinger 656 -1752 8 0 0 0 0

Recommended Reads:
- Busch Wins Toyota Save/Mart 350 - (the Lead Lap)
- Kyle Busch Dominates in Sonoma - (Racing for the Win)

*Credit photo to Newscom.

Rating the Race: Dover - Best Buy 400

June 2, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Best Buy 400
Image details: Best Buy 400 served by picapp.com

Kyle Busch stayed atop the Sprint Cup Series points standings, and he did so in convincing fashion by dominating the later portions of the Best Buy 400 at Dover International Speedway, outrunning the Roush-Fenway Racing cars to the finish. The race was 400 circuits long, and Busch was a third place car for over half of them, but his ability to get on and off of pit road quickly enabled him to pass Carl Edwards for the lead during a round of green flag pit stops with 163 laps to go, and there was no turning back after that.

The race had the looks of an exciting one early on with a huge pileup on lap 18 that involved twelve cars, six of which entered the day inside the top-12 in points. Elliott Sadler clipped the front end of the no. 38 Yates car of David Gilliland coming out of the turn, and the contact was enough to send Sadler spinning into the wall. Tony Stewart, who was driving behind Sadlers no. 19 Dodge at the time, ran right into the crash, and it became a domino effect after that, collecting Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Bill Elliott, Scott Riggs, Bobby LaBonte, and Paul Menard in the process. Hamlin and Sadler retired their cars following the accident, while Stewart and Harvick spent significant time in the garage. With the exception of Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, and David Gilliland, all of the other cars found themselves at least one lap down after the mele’.

From that point, things remained relatively uneventful until lap 154, at which point Greg Biffle had led all but four laps, surrending the lead only during the first caution period, at which point Michael McDowell stayed out to lead a lap, and then three laps during a round of green flag stops. Shortly after all of the cars had completed their green flag stops, the no. 84 Team Red Bull car driven by AJ Allmendinger stalled due to a problem with the fuel pressure to bring out the fourth caution flag of the day.

Under caution, Kurt Busch, who had been running inside the top-five for the better part of the day, spent a lot of time on pit road as the team try to correct a problem with the fuel intake. Busch returned to the track, but was two laps down, ending his bid for a much needed quality run. During the same caution period, Jimmie Johnson was caught speeding on pit road and was forced to start at the tail end of the longest line.

Carl Edwards finally took the lead from his Roush teammate on lap 171, marking the first time all day long that Biffle had been passed on the track. Biffle had spotted a problem with car, which they traced back to an altenator problem, and it cost him a bit of time on the track as he was forced to shut off several things in the car to save the battery, including the driver cooling systems.

Edwards held onto the lead until the field was set for their next round of pit stops on lap 232. A few drivers, including Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Paul Menard led the race during the exchange, but when the field had cycled through, it was Busch at the front of the pack with a 2 second lead, largely attributed to his ability to get onto pit road much more aggressively, and more quickly than the other drivers.

The caution flag waived only once more for debris in turn 2, much to the dismay of the Roush drivers that trailed behind Busch on the track. The field made two more pit stops under green, and Busch extended his lead on the field each time. He went onto win the race by a 4.225 second margin.

Edwards finished the race in second, followed by fellow Roushketeers Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth in third and fourth place. Jeff Gordon ended a solid day with a fifth place run, and last year’s winner, Martin Truex Jr, finished in sixth and was the final car on the lead lap. Jimmie Johnson recovered nicely from his earlier mistake on pit road, but not as well as he’d have liked to, and he came home in seventh. 8th place went to Jeff Burton, extending his streak to finishing every race this season in the top-15, but he ended his streak of completing every lap run, as he, too, finished a lap down. Dave Blaney and Jamie McMurray finished in 9th and 10th, giving them each their second top-ten finish of the season.

Travis Kvapil put together another nice run with his 11th place finish in yet another unsponsored car, moving him up now to 18th in the points standings. Brian Vickers ran up inside the top-ten for the first half of the race, but was caught speeding on pit road twice, and finished two laps down in 13th place. Ryan Newman had a top-ten run ruined as well, as he experienced the same issues with the fuel intake as his Penske teammate, Kurt Busch, and he went two laps down due to an extended pit stop with 80 laps to go, though he still maintained a 14th place finish.

Busch’s victory now gives Joe Gibbs Racing their season-leading fifth on the season, and extends his points lead over Jeff Burton to 142. Though no drivers dropped out of the top-12, there was quite a bit of shakeup. Greg Biffle jumped up six spots to take over fifth, and less than a hundred points now separates 12th place Kasey Kahne from 16th place Matt Kenseth.

Grades:
the Race: 77%
the Drama: 80%
Coverage: 85%
Pre-Race: 76%

Overall Grade: 79.1

Complete Results (from nascar.com):

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 2 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Combos 190/5 400 Running
2 3 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 175/5 400 Running
3 1 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 175/10 400 Running
4 8 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT NANO Technology 165/5 400 Running
5 9 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 160/5 400 Running
6 12 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 150/0 400 Running
7 6 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s 151/5 399 Running
8 15 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 142/0 399 Running
9 11 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 138/0 399 Running
10 10 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 139/5 399 Running
11 13 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Yates Racing 130/0 399 Running
12 20 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Texaco / Havoline 127/0 399 Running
13 7 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 124/0 398 Running
14 5 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Samsung HDTV / ALLTEL 126/5 398 Running
15 16 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Insurance 118/0 398 Running
16 18 38 David Gilliland Ford FreeCreditRep
ort.com
115/0 397 Running
17 24 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet Kellogg’s / CARQUEST 112/0 397 Running
18 13 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Penske Truck Rental 109/0 397 Running
19 26 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Jim Beam 106/0 397 Running
20 4 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 103/0 396 Running
21 25 01 Regan Smith * Chevrolet DEI / Principal Financial Group 100/0 396 Running
22 29 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Pittsburgh Paints / Menards 97/0 396 Running
23 19 8 Mark Martin Chevrolet U.S. Army 94/0 394 Running
24 31 96 J.J. Yeley Toyota DLP HDTV 91/0 394 Running
25 21 40 Jeremy Mayfield Dodge Target 88/0 394 Running
26 27 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target 85/0 394 Running
27 32 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 82/0 394 Running
28 22 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 79/0 393 Running
29 34 10 Patrick Carpentier * Dodge Auto Value / Bumper to Bumper 76/0 393 Running
30 33 00 Michael McDowell * Toyota Microsoft Small Business 78/5 393 Running
31 30 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 70/0 392 Running
32 37 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 67/0 391 Running
33 36 21 Bill Elliott Ford U.S. Air Force 64/0 389 Running
34 23 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row
/ DenverMattress.com
61/0 388 Running
35 38 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet AMP Energy / National Guard 58/0 387 Running
36 28 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet DIRECTV 55/0 381 Running
37 17 84 A.J. Allmendinger Toyota Red Bull 52/0 365 Running
38 41 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 49/0 326 Running
39 40 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet State Water Heaters 46/0 308 Running
40 35 34 Tony Raines Chevrolet doorstopnatio
n.com / Continental Fire & Safety
43/0 296 In Pit
41 39 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 40/0 199 In Pit
42 42 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy / Garmin / Autism Speaks 37/0 16 In Pit
43 43 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Kinko’s 34/0 16 In Pit

 Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):

RANK +/- DRIVER POINTS BEHIND STARTS POLES WINS TOP 5 TOP 10
1 Kyle Busch 2050 Leader 13 2 4 9 10
2 Jeff Burton 1908 -142 13 0 1 3 9
3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1779 -271 13 1 0 5 9
4 +2 Carl Edwards 1713 -337 13 0 3 6 9
5 +6 Greg Biffle 1658 -392 13 2 0 5 7
6 +4 Jeff Gordon 1646 -404 13 2 0 6 7
7 +2 Jimmie Johnson 1644 -406 13 1 1 4 5
8 -3 Clint Bowyer 1633 -417 13 0 1 3 7
9 -5 Denny Hamlin 1630 -420 13 1 1 4 7
10 -3 Kevin Harvick 1566 -484 13 0 0 2 5
11 -3 Tony Stewart 1551 -499 13 0 0 4 6
12 Kasey Kahne 1524 -526 13 0 1 1 6
13 David Ragan 1516 -534 13 0 0 2 3
14 Ryan Newman 1495 -555 13 1 1 2 5
15 Martin Truex Jr. 1441 -609 13 0 0 1 4
16 Matt Kenseth 1429 -621 13 0 0 2 7
17 Juan Montoya 1390 -660 13 0 0 1 1
18 +1 Travis Kvapil 1370 -680 13 0 0 0 3
19 +1 Brian Vickers 1327 -723 13 0 0 1 2
20 -2 Bobby Labonte 1325 -725 13 0 0 0 0
21 Kurt Busch 1295 -755 13 0 0 1 1
22 +1 Jamie McMurray 1265 -785 13 0 0 0 2
23 -1 David Gilliland 1246 -804 13 0 0 0 1
24 Mark Martin 1215 -835 10 0 0 2 4
25 +2 Casey Mears 1193 -857 13 0 0 0 2
26 David Reutimann 1183 -867 13 0 0 0 1
27 +1 Paul Menard 1164 -886 13 0 0 0 0
28 -3 Elliott Sadler 1156 -894 13 0 0 0 2
29 Robby Gordon 1086 -964 13 0 0 0 1
30 Reed Sorenson 1054 -996 13 0 0 1 1
31 +4 Dave Blaney 1048 -1002 12 0 0 0 2
32 -1 Regan Smith* 1041 -1009 13 0 0 0 0
33 +1 Sam Hornish Jr.* 1039 -1011 13 0 0 0 0
34 -1 Michael Waltrip 1012 -1038 13 0 0 0 0
35 -3 Scott Riggs 981 -1069 13 0 0 0 0
36 J.J. Yeley 842 -1208 12 0 0 0 0
37 Joe Nemechek 604 -1446 10 1 0 0 0
38 +1 Patrick Carpentier* 600 -1450 10 0 0 0 0
39 +1 Jeremy Mayfield 578 -1472 8 0 0 0 0
40 +1 Michael McDowell* 562 -1488 8 0 0 0 0

Rating the Race: Lowe’s - Coca Cola 600

May 26, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

Coca-Cola 600
Image details: Coca-Cola 600 served by picapp.com

In the longest race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, Kasey Kahne proved that attrition pays off, as he was setup in the right place at the right time in the closing laps of the Coca Cola 600 to put his no. 9 Dodge into Victory Lane at Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the second time in as many weeks for car owner Ray Evernham.

After cruising to a victory in last week’s All-Star Challenge, and then earning himself the outside pole position through qualifying, Kahne looked as though he was in position to potentially run away with the race at the drop of the green flag, but that wasn’t the case. Kasey immediately faded from the frontrunners in the early stages of the race, but as the sun went down and the track got cooler, the no. 9 car seemed to get some life back in it. Kahne didn’t lead the race until lap 207 when he snuck around Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead, but he surrendered the front position twenty laps later as the field came around for a round of greenf flag stops.

Kahne got the lead two more times before getting passed by Tony Stewart with only 17 laps remaining. Kahne made his final pit stop for fuel just a few laps later, but his stop took nearly 3 seconds longer than Stewart’s, and as the field cycled through their stops, Stewart’s lead over Kasey opened up to nearly half a track length. Misfortune struck the no. 20 team on lap 397 of the 400 lap race, though, as Tony blew a right front tire and was forced to pit, handing the lead over to Kahne for the final time of the evening.

For Kahne, it was his first points race win since the Fall race at Lowe’s in 2006, and it was enough to move him back into the top-12 in points, and the first top-five finish for Evernham Motorsports all season long. For Stewart, it was a frustrating ending to a near-perfect night. Smoke had started the race from 31st position, but his crew worked all night long to get his car up to the front, and it appeared as though he had his first Coca Cola 600 victory well in-hand. Instead, he went onto finish 18th.

Greg Biffle bounced back from a flat tire earlier in the evening that put him a lap down on lap 135. He was able to race his way back onto the lead lap just before a lap 170 caution that was brought out when Patrick Carpentier spun Juan Pablo Montoya through the infield. Biffle was able to avoid further troubles and went onto finish second.

Third place went to Kyle Busch, who was pretty much all over the map all night long. After leading the first 33 laps of the race, his car started to slip a little through the pack as his car started to lose some power. He then had to make an unscheduled stop on lap 150 when he thought he had a tire going down, but was able to race his way back onto the lead lap less than 15 laps later. He went onto lead three more times throughout the race before settling for a top-five finish.

Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. used some fuel strategy to sneak their way into top-five finishes, as they finished 4th and 5th, respectively. As the rest of the field made their final stops, both drivers stayed out on the track after topping off their fuel tanks on the final caution that occurred with 66 laps remaining. For Gordon, a top-five was a mental victory for the team after running outside of the top-15 for the majority of the race. For Junior, this was a way to salvage a race that had previously taken a turn for the worse. After leading the most laps of the race, Earnhardt blew a right front tire while leading on lap 296. He got into the wall, and then was run into from behind by JJ Yeley. The no. 88 team made several attempts to repair the damaged race car, but in the end, it was a little bit of strategy combined with some good luck that saved the day.

Jeff Burton had a solid day, and wound up finishing 6th. He was followed by Matt Kenseth, who had a pretty uneventful evening and finished 7th. In 8th place was Elliott Sadler, who used some pit strategy to gain some much needed track position around the halfway point of the race. Carl Edwards started the race in 30th, but wound up 9th despite running out of fuel on the final lap. David Reutimann came home in 10th to earn himself his first career top-ten in the Cup Series.

Along with Stewart, several of the race’s other dominant cars were also taken out through a variety of misfortunes. After leading more than 65 laps of the race, and having just surrendered the lead over to Jimmie Johnson, on lap 185, Brian Vickers’ tire actually flew off of his race car, sending him hard into the inside SAFER barrier. The tire then proceeded to smack the no. 38 car of David Gilliland before bouncing down the track and into the trackside camping area. After leading on four different occassions, Johnson would later blow his motor with only 49 laps to go. Kurt Busch had also led more than 50 laps of the race before he had a tire go down, sending him into the wall and ending his bid for his first win of the season.

And, the most interesting statistic of the evening belongs to Ken Schrader. He was given the task of debuting the RCR no. 33 car this weekend, which he successfully qualified 33rd … and, then raced to a 33rd place finish.

Grades:
the Race: 96%
the Drama: 97%
Coverage: 89%
Pre-Race: 76%

Overall Grade: 92.8%

Complete Results (from nascar.com):

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 2 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 190/5 400 Running
2 4 16 Greg Biffle Ford DISH Network / DishDVRs 175/5 400 Running
3 1 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M’s 170/5 400 Running
4 18 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 160/0 400 Running
5 6 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / AMP Energy 165/10 400 Running
6 14 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 155/5 400 Running
7 12 17 Matt Kenseth Ford R+L Carriers 151/5 400 Running
8 9 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy / Garmin 147/5 400 Running
9 30 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 138/0 400 Running
10 28 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 134/0 400 Running
11 23 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Trix / Lucky & Friends 130/0 400 Running
12 5 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Insurance 132/5 400 Running
13 20 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Mobil 1 124/0 400 Running
14 19 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 121/0 400 Running
15 7 8 Mark Martin Chevrolet U.S. Army “Salute the Troops” 118/0 400 Running
16 8 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 120/5 400 Running
17 11 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 117/5 400 Running
18 31 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 114/5 399 Running
19 37 01 Regan Smith * Chevrolet DEI / Principal Financial Group 106/0 399 Running
20 27 84 A.J. Allmendinger Toyota Red Bull 103/0 399 Running
21 38 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Alltel 105/5 399 Running
22 17 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target 97/0 399 Running
23 15 26 Jamie McMurray Ford IRWIN Industrial Tools 94/0 399 Running
24 16 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Freight 96/5 399 In Pit
25 39 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel’s / USO “Toast to the Troops” 88/0 398 Running
26 41 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Lumber Liquidators 85/0 398 Running
27 29 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 82/0 397 Running
28 13 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet Haas Automation 79/0 397 Running
29 21 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet CARQUEST / Kellogg’s 81/5 396 Running
30 42 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Texaco / Havoline 73/0 396 Running
31 26 40 Sterling Marlin Dodge Wii Fit / Target 70/0 396 Running
32 40 00 Michael McDowell * Toyota Aaron’s Dream Machine 67/0 395 Running
33 33 33 Ken Schrader Chevrolet Camping World
/ RVs.com
64/0 395 Running
34 24 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 61/0 395 Running
35 43 70 Johnny Sauter Chevrolet Haas Automation 58/0 395 Running
36 36 45 Kyle Petty Dodge Coca-Cola celebrates 2008 Olympics 55/0 389 Running
37 34 10 Patrick Carpentier * Dodge LifeLock 52/0 363 Out of Race
38 35 96 J.J. Yeley Toyota DLP HDTV 49/0 353 Running
39 10 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe’s 51/5 351 Out of Race
40 32 38 David Gilliland Ford FreeCreditRep
ort.com
43/0 343 Running
41 25 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Johns Manville / Menards 40/0 244 In Pit
42 3 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 42/5 184 Running
43 22 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Jim Beam 34/0 181 Out of Race

Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):

RANK +/- DRIVER POINTS BEHIND STARTS POLES WINS TOP 5 TOP 10
1 Kyle Busch 1860 Leader 12 2 3 8 9
2 Jeff Burton 1766 -94 12 0 1 3 8
3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1721 -139 12 1 0 5 9
4 Denny Hamlin 1596 -264 12 1 1 4 7
5 Clint Bowyer 1578 -282 12 0 1 3 7
6 +1 Carl Edwards 1538 -322 12 0 3 5 8
7 +2 Kevin Harvick 1517 -343 12 0 0 2 5
8 Tony Stewart 1511 -349 12 0 0 4 6
9 -3 Jimmie Johnson 1493 -367 12 1 1 4 4
10 Jeff Gordon 1486 -374 12 2 0 5 6
11 Greg Biffle 1483 -377 12 1 0 4 6
12 +2 Kasey Kahne 1454 -406 12 0 1 1 6
13 -1 David Ragan 1398 -462 12 0 0 2 3
14 -1 Ryan Newman 1369 -491 12 1 1 2 5
15 Martin Truex Jr. 1291 -569 12 0 0 1 3
16 +4 Matt Kenseth 1264 -596 12 0 0 1 6
17 -1 Juan Montoya 1263 -597 12 0 0 1 1
18 +1 Bobby Labonte 1258 -602 12 0 0 0 0
19 -1 Travis Kvapil 1240 -620 12 0 0 0 3
20 -3 Brian Vickers 1203 -657 12 0 0 1 2
21 +1 Kurt Busch 1192 -668 12 0 0 1 1
22 -1 David Gilliland 1131 -729 12 0 0 0 1
23 Jamie McMurray 1126 -734 12 0 0 0 1
24 +2 Mark Martin 1121 -739 9 0 0 2 4
25 +3 Elliott Sadler 1119 -741 12 0 0 0 2
26 +3 David Reutimann 1101 -759 12 0 0 0 1
27 -2 Scott Riggs 1085 -775 12 0 0 0 0
28 -1 Casey Mears 1081 -779 12 0 0 0 2
29 -5 Paul Menard 1067 -793 12 0 0 0 0
30 Robby Gordon 980 -880 12 0 0 0 1
31 Reed Sorenson 969 -891 12 0 0 1 1
32 +1 Regan Smith* 941 -919 12 0 0 0 0
33 -1 Michael Waltrip 933 -927 12 0 0 0 0
34 Sam Hornish Jr.* 930 -930 12 0 0 0 0
35 Dave Blaney 910 -950 11 0 0 0 1

Rating the Race: Richmond - Dan Lowry 400

May 4, 2008 by Tim Zaegel  
Filed under Racing

The Dan Lowry 400
Image details: The Dan Lowry 400 served by picapp.com
  

Saturday night’s running of the Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400 was one of dominance, heartbreak, surprise, and all-around pure excitement, and the Sprint Cup Series manage to squeeze it all into just 400 laps at Richmond International Raceway. In fact, there hasn’t been any official report published on it, but I’d be willing to bet that at least a handful of fans at Richmond suffered from anxiety attacks, and the rest of them were probably focusing their efforts on tracking down the driver of the no. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing car.

Denny Hamlin started the race from the pole position, set a track record for laps lead, and looked as though he was well on his way to becoming only the fifth driver to win at Richmond from the pole since the track was reconfigured and only the third to ever sweep the weekend series at RIR, but it was Clint Bowyer standing in Victory Lane after the checkered flags waived.

Hamlin started the race off in grand fashion by quickly establishing himself as the class of the field right off the bat en route to leading 381 of the first 382 laps at his hometown track, with the other being led by AJ Allmendinger on lap 207 under caution.

Hamlin held onto the lead until there were only 18 laps left in the race when he felt a tire going down, and he not only gave up the lead, but dropped deep into the field. The grandstands went crazy as the no. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed him for the lead with Kyle Busch right next to him. Hamlin finally stopped his car on the track to draw the caution flag with 10 laps to go, but NASCAR threw the rulebook at him and parked him for two laps for intentionally bringing out a caution.

The race restarted, and Earnhardt and Kyle Busch battled for the lead. Earnhardt - who hadn’t won a race in two years - took the high side of the track, while Busch drove around the bottom. The two cars were running virtually neck and neck, and just when Earnhardt Nation thought their hopes were about to come true - the heartbreak kicked in. The two cars just sort of met in the middle of the track, and Busch sent Junior spinning with only 3 laps left to bring out the final caution of the race. The surprise was that as all of this was going on, Clint Bowyer snuck right past both cars to take the lead, and eventually the checkered flags. Kyle Busch would eventually finish 2nd.

Mark Martin started the race in second and ran inside the top-five the entire evening to finish in third. Tony Stewart had a solid day inside the top-ten, and was eventually rewarded with a fourth place effort. Martin Truex Jr. had a pretty quiet evening, but finished fifth. Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, and Kasey Kahne completed the top-ten. Junior went onto finish 15th.

The first real bit of excitement occurred on lap 231 when JJ Yeley got tapped by Dave Blaney and Carl Edwards to set off a huge multi-car accident that involved thirteen drivers to bring out the 6th caution of the evening. Blaney and Edwards escaped the melee, but it forced Yeley down the track into Patrick Carpentier who took a spin around the track, running into several cars. The wreck included the cars of Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, David Gilliland, Juan Pablo Montoya, Johnny Sauter, Regan Smith, Michael McDowell, and Jeff Burton, though Burton was able to escape with minor damage and stay on the lead lap.

With 48 laps remaining, Casey Mears slid up the track and pinched Michael Waltrip, who had just pitted for four tires and gas. The pinch wound up wrecking both cars, and out of frustration, Waltrip just sort of clung to the back of Mears’ car, pushing him down the track. The incident warranted a call from NASCAR ordering Waltrip to park his car for the rest of the night.

Jeff Burton - after salvaging his racecar from the earlier accident - managed an 11th place finish, and continues to be the only driver in the series to successfully complete every lap this season, but surrendered the points lead to Kyle Busch. Burton now trails Busch by 18 points. Dave Blaney replaced JJ Yeley in the 35th points position.

For Bowyer, it is only the second Cup Series victory of his career, and the first since winning in New Hampshire from the pole position last September. He started Saturday’s race from 31st, making him only the eighth driver in series history to win a race at Richmond after starting from outside the top-20. The win moves Bowyer up three spots to fourth overall.

For a transcript of the race as it unfolded, please check out Richmond: “Live” on Type Delay over at Reverend Jim’s Rants ‘n’ Raves.

Grades:
the Race:  94%
the Drama:  98%
Coverage:  91%
Pre-Race:  86%

Overall Grade:  93.4%

Complete Results (from nascar.com):

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 31 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet BB&T 190/5 410 Running
2 7 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Pedigree