THE STARTING GRID:
One week after pulling out of his full-time ride in the Nationwide Series and two days after qualifying back in the pack, then being allowed to re-qualify due to tape mistakenly left on his cowl only to qualify 30th, #18-Kyle Busch ran an uncharacteristically smooth and consistent race, gaining track position when the first caution came during green-flag stops and taking the lead when #16-Greg Biffle spun in turn 2 on the ensuing restart, slowing second-place #42-Juan Pablo Montoya in the process. From there, he proceeded to lead a race-high 78 laps, surviving three cautions in the final ten laps to hold off a surprisingly-strong #38-David Gilliland in the final green-white-checkered finish. Busch’s fifth Cup win of the season was a successful rebound from his last-place finish two weeks prior at Pocono.
1) #18-Kyle Busch THE WINNER!
2) #38-David Gilliland Driving a smart, but aggressive race, he remained on the same pit sequence as #18-Ky. Busch and many of the other leaders, keeping him in the top 10 for the mid-to-late stages. He fought his way into the top 5 around the halfway mark, bouncing off #21-Ambrose as the two raced off turn 10 on lap 79 to climb into 3rd. He narrowly missed involvement in the fifth caution of the race on lap 105 when he throttled back as #29-Harvick passed him on the inside coming into turn 7, allowing him to tiptoe into 2nd as #20-Stewart, #26-McMurray, #29-Harvick, and #01-Fellows were all taken out. He got an excellent restart when the race went back under green on lap 108, remaining within two carlengths of leader #18-Ky. Busch, but the sixth caution and first red flag of the race brought out by the oil-leaking #41-Pruett forced a do-over in a green-white-checkered finish. There, he did not get quite as good of a restart, but pulled away from #24-J. Gordon and others to secure his career-best Cup Series finish.
3) #24-Jeff Gordon Was uncharacteristically not a factor in the day’s race, struggling with the handling of the car and unable to figure out the problem as he slipped back from the 5th-place starting spot. Despite running mid-pack for much of the day, the crew continued to work tirelessly on the adjustments, bringing him up to 9th on lap 79. He, along with the five cars behind him, benefitted greatly from the fifth caution when the four cars in front of him were taken out by #29-Harvick, though he was still unable to do more than defend his third-place finish in the final two restarts.
4) #07-Clint Bowyer Scored his second straight top-5 finish at Infineon.
5) #5-Casey Mears Ran a very quiet, but very effective race by avoiding trouble, hanging onto the top 15 around halfway, then climbing up to 10th on lap 95.
6) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya The defending champion of this race didn’t have to start quite as far back despite still starting outside the top 15, but was up to 2nd on the eventful restart following the first caution when leader #16-Biffle spun in front of him, causing him to slow down and giving #18-Ky. Busch the lead. He then reeled in #18-Ky. Busch for the lead by lap 57 and proceeded to keep the pressure on. He was still in second on the restart following the lap 75 restart, but was then spun out of the spot on that lap in turn 11 when he cut down across #21-Ambrose as #21-Ambrose was racing hard side-by-side with #26-McMurray behind him, #21-Ambrose clipping his right-rear. In the final stages of the race, however, he did an incredible job of fighting his way back into the top 10.
7) #12-Ryan Newman NO NOTES
8) #17-Matt Kenseth NO NOTES
9) #99-Carl Edwards Led briefly under the second caution brought out by #7-R. Gordon, #2-Ku. Busch, and #66-Papis before pitting, relinquishing it to #18-Ky. Busch. Ran off course briefly coming off turn 2 in the latter stages of the race. Led 2 laps.
10) #20-Tony Stewart After a terrible qualifying run, he stomped through the field during the first green-flag run, crunching the left-rear of his car as he sliced through traffic. He was fortunate enough to get on the winning sequence with #18-Ky. Busch and many of the leaders, securing him a top 10 spot from about lap 30 onward, then up to 5th by lap 81. He climbed up to second on lap 105 when #26-McMurray clipped the dirt coming off turn two, but lost several spots along with #26-McMurray a few seconds later when #29-Harvick bumped #26-McMurray into him, sending all three cars into a spin in the fifth caution of the race. He recovered more quickly than any of the caution’s other victims, narrowly missed hitting a passing #42-Montoya as he got going again. Furious, he plowed into the rear of #41-Pruett on the ensuing lap 108 restart when the field jammed up in front of him, shoving #41-Pruett into the back of #1-Truex, Jr. and sending #41-Pruett spinning into #11-Hamlin, ultimately causing the sixth and final caution of the race when #41-Pruett leaked oil around the track.
11) #16-Greg Biffle Assumed the lead after the first caution of the day on lap 30, but only held it a lap when, on the restart, he clipped the inside grass coming up to turn two and spun across the track, forcing second-place #42-Montoya to check up and handing the lead to #18-Ky. Busch. Led 1 lap.
12) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Ran a very conservative race, hovering around 15th all day before gaining a few spots in the lap 105 fracas involving #20-Stewart, #01-Fellows, #26-McMurray, and #29-Harvick.
13) #31-Jeff Burton Continued his streak of top-15 finishes in every Cup race this season on the heels of the announcement that Caterpillar would be sponsoring his team in 2009. The effort was not without its obstacles, namely a pit road speeding penalty during the second round of green-flag stops.
14) #83-Brian Vickers NO NOTES
15) #48-Jimmie Johnson Qualified outside-pole, took the lead from a floundering #9-Kahne on lap 5, and leapt to a massive lead in the ensuing green-flag run. While he had a fast car out front, he had terrible luck in the pits, waiting too long to pit during the first green-flag cycle and losing his track position when the first caution fell on lap 30. Mired in the back of the pack, he was never able to make up the lost ground and, on lap 100, was spun off the nose of #16-Biffle as they raced into turn 2, his car sending up smoke from some impromptu burnouts. Led 27 laps.
16) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Sustained some damage to the rear of his car when #20-Stewart shoved #41-Pruett into the back of him coming up to turn 2 on the lap 108 restart.
17) #45-Terry Labonte Qualified a surprising 11th as he became the only man to race in all 20 Sprint Cup events at Infineon.
18) #26-Jamie McMurray On the same pit sequence as #18-Ky. Busch, #42-Montoya, #21-Ambrose, and others who pitted before the first two cautions, he was a fixture in the top five from the mid-to-late stages of the event, racing hard with both #42-Montoya and #21-Ambrose for the third spot before the two made contact on the eventful lap 75. He climbed up to 2nd after bumping #21-Ambrose out of the spot when #21-Ambrose spun his tires on the lap 78, then held the spot until the lap 105 restart when he clipped the dirt coming off turn two and was passed by #20-Stewart seconds before both were involved in the fifth caution of the race. While racing #20-Stewart into turn 7 on that lap, a closing #29-Harvick smoked his brakes and clipped the right-rear of his car, sending him spinning into #20-Stewart, who spun as well. On top of the left door damage sustained from sliding into #20-Stewart, the fishtailing right-rear of his car was then tagged by #01-Fellows, who was trying to squeeze by him on the outside.
19) #19-Elliott Sadler Had a qualifying lap fast enough to bump teammate #9-Kahne off the pole on Friday before he overdrove turn 11, but still had an excellent car on Sunday, remaining in the top 10 for most of the day and in the top 5 in the late stages. Despite some damage to the left-front of his car after spinning #21-Ambrose in turn 7 on lap 84, he ran as high as 4th after the fifth caution of the race only to discover he had a right-rear tire going down under the red flag after the sixth caution of the race. Knowing there were only two laps remaining, he stayed out, but dropped back out of the top 15 before the tire let go in turn 1 after the checkered flag, sending him wrecking backwards into the outside wall.
20) #22-Dave Blaney NO NOTES
21) #00-Michael McDowell (R) The highest-finishing rookie for the third time this season, scoring his best Cup Series finish in the process.
22) #28-Travis Kvapil NO NOTES
23) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) After falling back in the early stages, he ran tail-end of the lead lap along with #78-Nemechek in front of the leaders on the lap 75 restart after the second caution of the race, but promptly made up ground when #21-Ambrose made contact with #42-Montoya to bring out the third caution on that very lap.
24) #6-David Ragan Sustained heavy damage to the driver’s side of his car in the first caution of the race on lap 30 when he and #78-Nemechek made contact, causing his car to slam into one of the track’s stacks of protective tires. His crew did manage to make quick repairs and keep him on the lead lap, where, despite spinning in turn 11 once more with 10 laps to go, he still appeared to be running competitive laps.
25) #55-Michael Waltrip Started at the back of the pack due to an engine change, then was caught speeding off pit road under the second caution, keeping him running mid-pack all day.
26) #78-Joe Nemechek Was involved in the first caution of the race on lap 30 when he and #6-Ragan made contact in turn 11, sending him spinning into the outside groove. He and #10-Carpentier were the last two cars on the lead lap when the race was restarted after the second caution of the event on lap 75, but just after he went down a lap again to #18-Ky. Busch in turn seven on that lap only to receive the Lucky Dog a few seconds later after #21-Ambrose spun #42-Montoya in turn 11 to bring out the third caution of the race.
27) #11-Denny Hamlin First spun when his lap 52 attempt at driving under #12-Newman in turn 11 forced him to lock his brakes. He would lose a lap soon after, but regained it as the Lucky Dog under the second caution on lap 70. He spun a second time on lap 108 when teammate #20-Stewart rear-ended #41-Pruett in turn 2, #41-Pruett eventually turning hard right and clipping him into a spin.
28) #8-Aric Almirola Fell to the back early on and went a lap down during the first green-flag run, then received the Lucky Dog under the first caution.
29) #01-Ron Fellows Methodically climbed through the field from the 22nd starting spot, gaining two of those spots the exact same way as he had in 2003 after #2-Ku. Busch and #41-Pruett made contact and slid up the track in turn 11 on lap 47. By lap 52, he was up to 15th and bore several donuts over the driver’s side numbers on his car, then made it up to 6th on lap 88, cruising by the leaders as they continued to dice for position. On lap 105, he looked to be in position to gain even more spots when the top 10 cars of #29-Harvick, #26-McMurray, and #20-Stewart spun each other out in front of him in turn 7, but in trying to pass the wreck on the outside, he tagged the fishtailing right-rear of #26-McMurray, severely damaging the right-front of his car.
30) #29-Kevin Harvick Got himself on the winning pit strategy to be in the top 10 in the closing moments of the race only to cause the fifth caution of the race on lap 105 when, while racing past #38-Gilliland into turn 7, he locked his brakes and spun into #26-McMurray, who in turn spun into #20-Stewart. He, like the other victims of the incident, lost a ton of track position.
31) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Damaged the front of his car in practice by spinning into the outside tire barrier in turn 10, but the crew was able to make repairs for race day.
32) #2-Kurt Busch Qualified 3rd, but after running as high as 2nd, he fell back and wrestled for position with #41-Pruett on lap 47. After cutting down on a closing #41-Pruett in turn 11, #41-Pruett locked the brakes and slid up into him, allowing #01-Fellows to repeat his classic three-wide pass of 2003. He then retaliated coming down the frontstretch by squeezing against #41-Pruett, worsening his right-front tire rub and forcing him to pit under green. He received more damage on lap 70 when he clipped the turn 2 curb trying to pass #66-Papis and wound up running into #7-R. Gordon, a shunt from #66-Papis then sending him through the dirt to bring out the second caution of the race.
33) #9-Kasey Kahne After scoring a surprisingly-fast speed in qualifying that scored him the pole, the former apprentice of #60-Boris Said had early troubles on Sunday. While leading just 3 laps into the event, he reported a clutch problem and started to fall back from a bad push, losing the lead on lap 5 to #48-Johnson. The clutch problem then hampered his efforts on pit road and removed him from contention during the first green-flag cycle. During the pit stops under the second caution on lap 70, his car was stalled at the exit of pit road. Led 4 laps.
34) #15-Paul Menard Was caught speeding off pit road during the second caution of the race.
35) #66-Max Papis (R) One of two drivers making his first Cup Series race, the second being #21-Ambrose, the Italian open-wheel veteran qualified 28th. After still running around that position, he was damaged in the second caution of the race on lap 70 when contact between #2-Ku. Busch and #7-R. Gordon in front of him caused him to rear-end #2-Ku. Busch and then tag the right-front of #7-R. Gordon, damaging both of their cars.
36) #7-Robby Gordon Diced his way through the pack from the 8th starting spot and was in the top 5 by the fifth lap despite reports of something dragging behind his car. He was still near the front on lap 70 when he was bumped into a spin by #2-Ku. Busch, who was racing him on the inside of turn 2, sending him spinning into the path of #66-Papis, who tagged the right-front of his car. He then stopped in turn three and brought out the second caution of the race. He returned to the track with significant damage and trailed the field along with #84-Allmendinger for the rest of the day.
37) #84-A.J. Allmendinger Started at the back of the pack due to an engine change, but his efforts to make up ground early hit a snag when his car stalled while pitting under the first caution of the race. The crew tried several times to push him the NASCAR mandated three stalls down pit road before he finally returned to the track. As #7-R. Gordon was pushed behind the wall on lap 70, the camera also showed his car was stalled again, this time just before the last pit stall. From there, his car remained far behind the back of the pack, accompanied primarily by the damaged #7-R. Gordon.
38) #41-Scott Pruett Sustained damage to the left-front of his car when he overdrove turn 11 on lap 47 trying to pass #2-Ku. Busch and slid up into him, then was sideswiped down the frontstretch by #2-Ku. Busch as they neared the start/finish line. His car was finished off on the lap 108 restart when he was rear-ended by an angry #20-Stewart in turn 2, shunting him into the back of #1-Truex, Jr. and rupturing his oil tank. His car turned hard right and spun #11-Hamlin, then got back on the track, only to leak oil over the entire course, forcing the sixth and final caution to become a red flag.
39) #43-Bobby Labonte An outstanding 4th-place qualifying spot proved to be the sole highlight of his weekend when he accelerated too quickly off turn 11 on lap 2 and spun by himself, dropping him all the way back to 30th. After gaining some of those spots back on the track, he was taken out of the race on lap 103 during the cleanup for #44-Reutimann’s wreck when electrical problems made his car stop on the track, requiring a push from a wrecker.
40) #44-David Reutimann After struggling in qualifying, he was forced to a backup car when he wrecked on the inside of turn 10 during the final practice session. His backup car didn’t handle any better, the chrome front rims blackened by massive amounts of brake dust as he lost a lap under green on lap 62. When his car’s handling started to worsen inside the final ten laps, he blew a left-front tire going into turn 10 on lap 101, sending him hard into the tire-braced outside wall. Fortunately, he walked away from the frighteningly-sudden wreck, but the front of his car was shoved violently back.
41) #60-Boris Said After a decent qualifying run, he dropped back gradually after the start when his brakes began to fail, forcing him to slow down during the first green-flag run. Under the first caution of the race, his crew had the hood up on his car as they tried to bleed the brakes on his Ford, but he went a lap down as he sat on pit road for the restart, then sped off pit road and was forced to serve a costly penalty on lap 34. After struggling laps down to the field, he was finally knocked out with shock problems on lap 98.
42) #21-Marcos Ambrose (R) The second of two drivers who made his Cup Series debut, the other being #66-Papis, he was fast from the very beginning, posting the fastest speed in the first practice session and qualifying seventh on the grid for Sunday. Despite some slight damage to the right side of his car sustained in Happy Hour, he remained in the top 10 for much of the day, then made a bid for the top 5 after the lap 75 restart. He was racing #26-McMurray for fourth on that lap, but while diving under him in turn 11, made contact with the right-rear of #42-Montoya as #42-Montoya cut down on him, sending #42-Montoya into a spin that brought out the third caution of the race. Though the contact put a little damage on the left-front of his car, it also moved him up to the 2nd spot for the ensuing restart. There, unfortunately, he spun his tires and was rear-ended by #26-McMurray, who passed him as the field climbed up into turn 2. He then banged door-to-door off #38-Gilliland as the two raced off turn 10 on lap 79 and started to fall back. On lap 84, he then spun off the nose of #19-E. Sadler as the two raced for sixth in turn 7, but when he got going again, his car poured smoke from a broken transmission, ending his thrilling first race.
43) #34-Brian Simo Gave Front Row Motorsports its first Infineon start after bumping out such competitive teams as #40-Franchitti, #96-Yeley, and #70-Riggs in qualifying. The race, however, did not go as well as a failing transmission made his car pour heavy smoke on lap 20, NASCAR black-flagging him the next lap before he went behind the wall on lap 24.
DID NOT QUALIFY:
#40-Dario Franchitti (R)
MY PHOTOS & VIDEOS FROM THE TRACK: