Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Race 9: Aaron's 499 at Talladega


#18-Kyle Busch was in the right place at the right time, leading on the final lap when a twelve-car pileup in turn two froze the field on the backstretch. Busch, who led only 12 laps, rallied from missing his pit stall during the second round of pit stops, a miscue which forced him to pit again the following lap, and an amazing save on the backstretch when he and #26-Jamie McMurray made contact and nearly spun from the top five. The win was particularly sweet for Busch as he narrowly missed winning the Daytona 500 in February after leading the most laps and had wrecked out of both Talladega events in 2007.

1) #18-Kyle Busch THE WINNER!
2) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya First popped up with the leaders after the second caution of the race, shoving #24-J. Gordon into the lead before #11-Hamlin and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. mounted an even bigger run. He then hooked up with teammate #40-Stremme, who was having a career day in the mid-to-late stages, but when the two mounted a run on third-place #15-Menard, they slipped below the line and spun out #15-Menard, bringing out the fourth caution of the race. He and #40-Stremme were warned not to go below the yellow line again by NASCAR, but were not penalized. Led 1 lap.
3) #11-Denny Hamlin Actually managed to be even more aggressive than teammate #18-Ky. Busch in a car that was handling to perfection. He was the first to make a daring two-car draft to the front, flying up to the lead by pushing #26-McMurray up from 12th to the front in three laps, then dropping down to pass him for the lead. The duet was running 9 mph faster than the rest of the pack when they made the move. He also pushed #20-Stewart the same way to a one-second lead at over 206 mph on the backstretch. So fast was #11-Hamlin that he complained about a vibrating gas pedal in the middle stages which caused his right foot to fall asleep. Still, his daring moves continued, cutting off #88-Earnhardt, Jr. for the lead with 53 laps to go and getting very loose, but saving his Toyota. Led 37 laps.
4) #6-David Ragan Was very fast early in the race, hanging around the top five and threatening to lead, then played it smart and avoided the carnage to race his way back to the front in the final laps for a solid finish.
5) #83-Brian Vickers First led while battling #31-J. Burton and #11-Hamlin after the first caution, but he spun coming off pit road during the first round of green-flag stops a few laps later, costing him track position, but not bringing out the caution. He did bring out the race’s fifth caution when #19-E. Sadler rear-ended him in turn one, causing his rear bumper cover to fly off in the middle of the track. Led 4 laps.
6) #28-Travis Kvapil Made his way into the top five with teammate #38-Gilliland after the second caution of the race and managed to stay there through much of the closing stages of the race even as #38-Gilliland fell back.
7) #5-Casey Mears Lagged at the back of the pack with teammate #48-Johnson to avoid trouble and was fortunate enough to avoid his teammate's fate in the eighth and final caution.
8) #12-Ryan Newman Finally finding some luck in the dry spell following his Daytona 500 victory, he took the lead shortly before the race’s sixth caution and remained with the leaders through the end of the race. Led 5 laps.
9) #07-Clint Bowyer NO NOTES
10) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. First took the lead on lap 39 when teammate #24-J. Gordon gave him a push down the backstretch and proved himself to be one of #11-Hamlin’s biggest competitors as he mimicked #11-Hamlin’s two-car draft with former teammate #15-Menard to take the lead back later in the race. A gas-and-go stop under the second caution kept him in front. Subsequently drafting with #20-Stewart did not go as planned when #20-Stewart got loose off his nose and smacked the outside wall in turn one, bringing out the third caution of the day. He brought out the sixth caution of the race by breaking loose in turn one and sliding up into #43-Labonte, damaging his own right-rear quarter panel in the process as the multi-car wreck ensued when #2-Ku. Busch spun the slowing #43-Labonte. Car was not the same after, but he remained in the top 10 even as he may have made the contact with #26-McMurray which caused the final caution. Led 46 laps.
11) #7-Robby Gordon After missing practice and qualifying as he competed in a rally in Europe to make up for the canceled Dakar Rally in January, putting P.J. Jones in the car for those two sessions, he returned to challenge for the top 10 in the final laps.
12) #31-Jeff Burton Exchanged the lead with #83-Vickers and #11-Hamlin shortly after the first caution, then nearly spun off the nose of aggressive #44-Reutimann in the tri-oval before the third caution. Received some damage to his machine in the eighth and final caution of the race when #48-Johnson clipped him into the outside wall, but somehow managed to be the highest-finishing of those involved. Led 1 lap.
13) #48-Jimmie Johnson Lagged at the back of the pack with teammate #5-Mears to avoid trouble, which seemed like a great strategy as he avoided damage in the sixth caution and found himself fighting for the lead with #55-Waltrip and #18-Ky. Busch inside the final 10 laps. While cutting beneath #55-Waltrip to take the lead after the seventh caution, #18-Ky. Busch managed to get beneath him and get by for the top spot. He fell back into the field after that only to be involved in the eighth and final caution of the race when #26-McMurray broke loose and hooked him into the outside wall off his left-rear quarter panel. His car then slid through the pack, collecting several cars including #29-Harvick, #01-Smith, and #19-E. Sadler. Led 1 lap.
14) #15-Paul Menard Had a career day in his familiar number 15, drafting up with the leaders all day long and helping former teammate #88-Earnhardt, Jr. to the lead in the early stages. He led himself with 40 laps to go in the race and was running third when the Ganassi machines of #42-Montoya and #40-Stremme got a run on him in the tri-oval and spun him through the infield grass, bringing out the fourth caution of the race. Led 3 laps.
15) #38-David Gilliland Picked his way through the field to follow #28-Kvapil into the top five after the second caution, shunting #20-Stewart into the lead on the outside groove. He managed to lead, unlike his teammate, but could not stay with #28-Kvapil in the final laps. Spun #78-Nemechek into #01-Smith during the eighth and final caution, but avoided contact himself. Led 2 laps.
16) #66-Scott Riggs Lost his lap early and was forced to move down on the apron as the lead draft began to dice around him for position shortly before the fourth caution of the race.
17) #26-Jamie McMurray His rather adventurous day began as he was the car whom #11-Hamlin pushed to the lead after the first caution in the race’s first thrilling two-car draft. He was the biggest mover through the field through the first half of the event and attempted a daring three-wide move on the outside of #12-Newman and #11-Hamlin, but was shaken out of the draft. The excitement of that moment was promptly eclipsed later in the race when he bounced off #18-Ky. Busch in a race for third on the outside groove coming into turn three, both cars getting very loose, but managing to save their racecars. Nothing could save his car from damage in the sixth caution, however, as he was pushed into the outside wall of turn two behind #20-Stewart by #43-Labonte and #2-Ku. Busch. His car spun free and still managed to keep going after that, only to break loose in turn two from possible contact from #88-Earnhardt, Jr. and hook #48-Johnson into the wall, setting off the 12-car wreck with #78-Nemechek, #01-Smith, #9-Kahne, #31-J. Burton, #19-E. Sadler, #84-Allmendinger, #29-Harvick, and #44-Reutimann that forced the race to end under caution.
18) #16-Greg Biffle Stopped in turn two to avoid the carnage of the eighth and final caution, allowing him to finish ahead of many of the wreck’s victims.
19) #24-Jeff Gordon Flirted with the lead for much of the day, but just didn’t have the same kind of power that the Toyotas managed to find. He still found himself running second behind #18-Ky. Busch after teammate #48-Johnson was shaken out of the groove with #55-Waltrip, but when he attempted to repeat the pass that scored him the win at Talladega in October 2007, #18-Ky. Busch blocked him and forced him out of the groove, sending him to the back of the pack just in time to be pinned behind #40-Stremme in the outside wall in the eighth and final caution. Led 1 lap.
20) #44-David Reutimann Got #31-J. Burton very loose in the tri-oval just before the third caution of the race when he pushed #31-J. Burton too hard. His aggression resurfaced when he made contact with teammate #00-McDowell in the tri-oval, sending #00-McDowell into a spin just seconds before he himself was tangled in the late stages of the eighth and final caution by hitting the backwards #29-Harvick.
21) #01-Regan Smith (R) The highest-finishing rookie for the fourth time in 2008, tying him once again for the lead with #77-Hornish, Jr. He sustained significant damage to the rear of his car in the eighth and final caution when #38-Gilliland spun #78-Nemechek into him, but still managed to limp around to the finish. Led 1 lap.
22) #09-Sterling Marlin Qualified for his first race since Homestead last November and avoided the carnage of the eighth caution to score a respectable finish.
23) #9-Kasey Kahne Led his lap of the race thanks to a push from teammate #19-E. Sadler just before the third caution of the race, but, like his teammate, was thrashed in the eighth and final caution of the race when he could not avoid the spinning #01-Smith or #84-Allmendinger on the apron. Led 1 lap.
24) #29-Kevin Harvick Uneventful race ended in the eighth and final caution when he spun through turn two and sustained damage to the right side of his car after rear-ending #84-Allmendinger, then being spun by #78-Nemechek into #01-Smith before his nose was hit softly by the slowing #44-Reutimann. Led 1 lap.
25) #78-Joe Nemechek The surprise polewinner, his fourth at Talladega and his first since Michigan in August, 2005, was forced to take an extended stop early in the race as, since this was an impound race, his team had to put on the alternator belt they left off during qualifying. He never led a lap, losing it soon after the start as teammates #11-Hamlin and #20-Stewart pushed by. Ran as high as 10th toward the middle stages of the race, but was ultimately involved in the eighth and final caution of the race after contact from #38-Gilliland sent him into #01-Smith, the rear of his car then lifting off the ground as it was pummeled by #40-Stremme trying to find his way through.
26) #00-Michael McDowell (R) Spun off teammate #44-Reutimann midway through the tri-oval as the field received the white flag, but did not bring out the caution, something which was perhaps a good thing as it also allowed him to avoid involvement in the eighth and final caution that ended the race under yellow just seconds later.
27) #55-Michael Waltrip Got very loose in a three wide battle back in the pack and worried that he had a low left-rear tire after he made contact with #77-Hornish, Jr. The tire held, however, and he slipped his way into contention after the sixth caution by making a daring run on the outside of leading #18-Ky. Busch to take the lead with just 8 laps to go. He held the lead through the seventh caution caused by #43-Labonte, but lost it in turn three when #18-Ky. Busch made a three-wide pass on he and #48-Johnson. Blew the engine on the final lap and lost the lead draft. Led 4 laps.
28) #40-David Stremme Filled in for rookie Dario Franchitti when Franchitti suffered a broken ankle in a vicious wreck during the Nationwide race the previous day. The exchange seemed to spell upset winner as Stremme, reunited with his old team and crew chief, led before the third caution and was solidly in contention for the win as he and teammate #42-Montoya teamed up. His push behind #42-Montoya ultimately caused the fourth caution of the race when it shoved #42-Montoya into #15-Menard, but then found himself in the lead with 34 to go to lead his second lap of the day. He slipped back in the final run to the checkers and was unable to avoid the slowing #26-McMurray, pinching him against the outside wall along with #24-J. Gordon in the eighth and final caution. He escaped severe damage and moved down the track only to pile into the stopped cars of #19-E. Sadler and #78-Nemechek, lifting the rear wheels of #78-Nemechek off the ground. Led 2 laps.
29) #19-Elliott Sadler Found his way to the front just before the third caution, taking the lead before slipping back and shunting teammate #9-Kahne into the lead. His bump drafting contact with #83-Vickers in turn one caused #83-Vickers to lose his rear bumper cover and bring out the fifth caution of the race. His car was later destroyed in the eighth and final caution of the race when #01-Smith slid up into his path, sending him hard into the outside wall before bouncing back into teammate #9-Kahne and stopping into the pileup between #78-Nemechek and #40-Stremme. Led 3 laps.
30) #84-A.J. Allmendinger Excellent third-place qualifying run in his first 2008 start was followed by a quiet race which ended rudely when he was rear-ended hard by #29-Harvick while both were trying to avoid the spinning #9-Kahne in the melee which was the eighth and final caution. Led 1 lap.
31) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) Had a very slow pit stop under the first caution of the race, just coming off pit road as the race restarted on lap 24. Scraped the wall in turn two when he checked up a few cars behind #20-Stewart, who slipped off the nose of #88-Earnhardt, Jr., scraped the wall himself to bring out the third caution of the race.
32) #45-Kyle Petty NO NOTES
33) #8-Aric Almirola Brushed the outside wall off turn two during the first round of green-flag stops in the long cautionless run after the first caution, but did not bring out the yellow as he limped to pit road.
34) #43-Bobby Labonte Was slowed up by loose #88-Earnhardt, Jr., then immediately spun by #2-Ku. Busch in the middle of the three-wide pack involved in the sixth caution of the race, tearing up his Dodge badly after hooking #1-Truex, Jr into the wall and forcing he and #2-Ku. Busch into the side of #26-McMurray, then #20-Stewart. His car also brought out the seventh caution of the race when his damaged car spun exiting the tri-oval.
35) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Raced three-wide below #55-Waltrip and made contact with his left-rear tire, but did not sustain any damage.
36) #21-Jon Wood One of the many surprises in qualifying, starting 12th in his first 2008 start, he was forced behind the wall after only two laps as his setup had to be changed completely for race setup. He returned to the race 8 laps down, but was running at the finish.
37) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Sustained perhaps the worst damage of anybody in the sixth caution of the race when everything but the left-front corner of his car was torn up, his car turned backwards from the bottom groove up into the path of #20-Stewart against the wall, crumpling the passenger side and rear of his car just before #2-Ku. Busch and #43-Labonte also made contact.
38) #20-Tony Stewart Won the Nationwide race to score his first-ever win at Talladega and led the opening lap on Sunday thanks to his powerful teammate #11-Hamlin. One nose-to-tail draft he led over #11-Hamlin pushed him to 206 mph and an improbable one-second lead on the rest of the field. Brought out the third caution of the race when, while leading, he slid across the nose of #88-Earnhardt, Jr. as the two drafted into turn one. He wasn’t angry as he was already fearing a tire was going down before the incident happened. The right side of his car was flattened, but the tire held and the damage was not as severe as expected, so he continued to race in the lead draft. His car was finished off some laps later in the sixth caution when he bounced between #43-Labonte and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. during a tight three-wide battle into turn one, causing #88-Earnhardt, Jr. to wobble down to the inside and forcing the field behind to check-up, #2-Ku. Busch rear-ending the slowing #43-Labonte who spun #1-Truex, Jr. up into his path just in time for #2-Ku. Busch and #43-Labonte to slide into the pinned #20-Stewart against the wall after the two had ground #26-McMurray into the fence behind him, severely damaging the front of his car #20. Led a race-high 61 laps.
39) #2-Kurt Busch Knocked #43-Labonte into a spin during the chain-reaction of the sixth caution soon after #20-Stewart checked up after contact from #88-Earnhardt, Jr. Sustained severe damage to the front and sides of his machine as he was mashed between #26-McMurray and #43-Labonte, then #43-Labonte and #20-Stewart, for an extended period.
40) #99-Carl Edwards Nearly spun off pit road during pit stops under the first caution of the day, foreshadowing on further misfortunes in the final week of crew chief Bob Osborne’s suspension. He made an unscheduled stop on lap 43 for a vibration, his right-front tire having been given too much negative camber. The pit stop cost him a lap. Things got worse when he brought out the second caution of the day on lap 116, blowing a right-front tire like teammate #17-Kenseth, smacking the outside wall in turn four just as hard.
41) #17-Matt Kenseth Brought out the first caution of the day when his right-front tire failed very early in the race while he was in turn two, causing him to slam the outside wall so hard that part of his splitter broke off.
42) #70-Ken Schrader Qualified a surprising 3rd on Saturday in his first start with the second HAAS team, but, like his fellow go-or-go-homers, raced a setup that was not ready for race day as he lost the engine around the time of the third caution brought out by #20-Stewart. Led 1 lap.
43) #41-Reed Sorenson Blew his engine only five laps into the race, but did not bring out a caution as he coasted onto pit road.

#22-Dave Blaney
#34-John Andretti
#96-J.J. Yeley

Monday, April 21, 2008

Race 8: Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix


#48-Jimmie Johnson finally scored the first win of 2008 for Hendrick Motorsports, doing so in dramatic fashion by stretching his fuel for the final 82 laps, driving slower and slower around the one-mile facility as several contenders dove onto pit road. The win is Johnson’s second consecutive Phoenix victory and his first at night. Johnson led a race-high 120 laps en route to the checkered flag.

1) #48-Jimmie Johnson
2) #07-Clint Bowyer After problems with overusing his brakes to the point that they started to vibrate, he stretched his fuel and wound up several seconds behind #48-Johnson.
3) #11-Denny Hamlin Was silently in top 10 all day and became a huge factor in the #8-Martin vs. #88-Earnhardt, Jr. battle when the sun went down, pitted for fuel with 16 to go, but #48-Johnson and #07-Bowyer did not.
4) #99-Carl Edwards Strong run early on was compromised when his pit crew jumped the wall too early just before #78-Nemechek brought out the caution on lap 114, putting him one lap down AND at the tail end of the line. Got the Lucky Dog under #19-Sadler caution and fought back, narrowly avoiding another pit penalty. Pitted with 6 to go for a splash-and-go which, despite his crew’s concerns, was enough to go the distance.
5) #8-Mark Martin Defended his strong qualifying run early on and found himself in the lead around halfway, fighting a furious battle with #88-Earnhardt, Jr. for the lead for much of the rest of the race. Ran over what appeared to be a brake rotor off the damaged #9-Kahne car on lap 245, but did not appear to suffer any damage. Concerns about fuel mileage made him pit with 11 to go, allowing #48-Johnson to make the winning pass. Led 68 laps.
6) #31-Jeff Burton The biggest mover through the field through the first 100 laps was the first to spin during the #12-Newman caution on lap 133, but recovered nicely thanks in no small part to having the same fuel mileage as Childress teammate #07-Bowyer. Still leads the points.
7) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Led his first laps at Phoenix since his 2004 win at the track despite frequent complaints about the car’s handling and it appeared he would have to beat #8-Martin in his old ride when he was forced to pit for fuel with 11 to go just before #8-Martin. Led 87 laps.
8) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Concerned about his carburetor all weekend, but was another constant figure in the top 10 who was forced to pit for fuel with 15 to go.
9) #16-Greg Biffle Silently remained in or around the top 10 all night.
10) #18-Kyle Busch Complaints of “zero grip” and a fluttering fuel gauge proved distracting as he drove on to another solid run. Won Friday’s Nationwide race.
11) #5-Casey Mears Cut through the grass during the chaotic #12-Newman caution on lap 133 and was able to stretch his fuel.
12) #43-Bobby Labonte Stretched his fuel as well on the final run in a car which, despite dropping a cylinder around halfway, was able to remain on the lead lap.
13) #24-Jeff Gordon Lost a lap with #99-Edwards and others during the lap 114 caution brought out by #78-Nemechek and got the Lucky Dog under the #41-Sorenson caution on lap 147, but handling problems kept him from contention. Pitted for fuel with 9 laps to go.
14) #20-Tony Stewart Noticeably absent among the frontrunners, particularly when it got dark. Pitted for fuel with 13 laps to go and stalled it briefly, though not as badly as #29-Harvick did 6 laps later.
15) #38-David Gilliland Was in a three-wide battle with #40-Franchitti and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. on lap 126 and saved his car from spinning out while racing #99-Edwards with 156 to go.
16) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya Was spun through the backstretch grass off #7-R. Gordon on lap 147, just around the same time as the #41-Sorenson caution.
17) #26-Jamie McMurray Minor right-side damage to his car from an undisclosed incident. Nearly plowed the wall in turn one when he caught some fluid on the track on lap 114, #78-Nemechek getting lost in his smoke and slapping the wall to bring out caution. Used pit strategy to remain near the top 15.
18) #44-David Reutimann Fought his way back into the top 35 in owner’s points despite significant tire mark damage on the fender behind his right-front tire.
19) #29-Kevin Harvick Was as high as second in the late stages after finding his way into the top five when night fell, but lacked both the luck and the fuel mileage of his Childress teammates. He pitted with 7 to go and stalled, costing him 10 additional seconds in the pits.
20) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) The top-finishing rookie of the race for the series-leading fourth time in 2008 had a little trouble getting up to speed when the race finally restarted following the #12-Newman caution, but otherwise stayed out of trouble.
21) #15-Paul Menard NO NOTES
22) #28-Travis Kvapil NO NOTES
23) #2-Kurt Busch Penalized early for a crewman letting a tire roll away, then gambled on old tires to get track position back which ultimately slipped away in the late going as his car wouldn’t stop pushing.
24) #55-Michael Waltrip NO NOTES
25) #83-Brian Vickers Fought hard with #99-Edwards for the Lucky Dog when #19-Sadler slowed up with 151 to go, but missed it narrowly when the caution fell.
26) #66-Scott Riggs Great qualifying run, but was unfortunately unable to get his lap back once he lost it.
27) #6-David Ragan Was continuing his string of strong runs by getting into the top 10 on lap 75, but a blown right-front tire and very minor bumper damage from the resulting spin on the backstretch in the sixth caution proved unusually costly.
28) #84-Mike Skinner NO NOTES
29) #7-Robby Gordon Just like last week at Texas, remained with the leaders trying to get his lap back for several laps in the mid-to-late stages. Spun #42-Montoya through the grass during a shoving match on lap 147 while #41-Sorenson hit the wall in an unrelated incident.

30) #22-Dave Blaney Won the “Good Hands Driver” award for narrowly missing #19-Sadler when he suddenly slowed on the frontstretch, but had suffered minor fender damage from contact with #17-Kenseth and #41-Sorenson under the lap 133 caution brought out by #12-Newman.
31) #21-Bill Elliott NO NOTES
32) #40-Dario Franchitti (R) Raced three-wide with #88-Earnhardt, Jr. and #38-Gilliland on lap 126.
33) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) Nudged out of the groove by an aggressive #88-Earnhardt, Jr. trying to climb back
through the field.

34) #00-Michael McDowell (R) Was the highest-finishing Phoenix native.
35) #01-Regan Smith (R) NO NOTES
36) #9-Kasey Kahne Good run early in the going ruined when he slammed the outside wall off turn four with 83 to go, then hit the turn one wall even harder, bringing out the seventh and final caution.
37) #70-Johnny Sauter Return to HAAS-CNC racing marred when he suffered significant damage to the front of his car trying to avoid the cars spinning in the oil dropped by #12-Newman on lap 133.
38) #17-Matt Kenseth His 300th Cup start left much to be desired, falling to 43rd early right before he blew a right-front tire on lap 41 and hit the outside wall off turn four. He returned to the track several laps down only to spin and wreck again in the #12-Newman caution on lap 133. Still finished running.
39) #96-J.J. Yeley Dropped to the back due to an engine change and was second only to #31-Burton in positions gained through the first 100 laps, but the hometown hero suffered severe damage to the front of his car in the #12-Newman caution on lap 133 and has now fallen out of the top 35.
40) #78-Joe Nemechek The first car to go a lap down, he brought out the second caution (first was for debris) when he slammed the outside wall in turn one on lap 114 when he got lost in the brake smoke left by #26-McMurray when he, too, tried to slow up in some fluid dropped on the track.
41) #19-Elliott Sadler His excellent outside-pole qualifying run and inspiring rally back into the top 5 at halfway was all for naught when his engine suddenly failed coming off turn four with 151 to go, #22-Blaney barely avoiding contact in what was the fifth caution of the race.
42) #41-Reed Sorenson After sustaining damage in the #12-Newman caution on lap 133 when he spun with the damaged #17-Kenseth, he was penalized for removing equipment from th pit box and then hit the wall in turn three on lap 147 when his left-front tire failed, bringing out the fourth caution.
43) #12-Ryan Newman The polesitter looked stout in the early going, holding off battles from #99-Edwards and the rest of the field, but on lap 133, his engine lost a seal and sprayed oil all over the track, causing the third caution on the backstretch with a wreck which involved #31-Burton, #41-Sorenson, #17-Kenseth, #96-Yeley, and #70-Sauter. After leaking the fluid all over the track and spinning in his pit box, the race was red-flagged to clean up the mess. Led 37 laps.

#34-John Andretti
#45-Kyle Petty