Friday, August 15, 2008

Race 23: 3M Performance 400 presented by Bondo at Michigan


On a day where a slick race track on a sunny afternoon wreaked havoc with several Chase contenders, #99-Carl Edwards claimed his fifth victory of the season in convincing style. Edwards had qualified back in 27th, but vaulted up 22 spots in the first 34 spots to get into the top 5, swerving to toss a water bottle out of his car on the backstretch on lap 60, and racing into the lead on lap 74, where he barely avoided involvement in the second caution on lap 85 when #22-Dave Blaney wrecked just a few carlengths in front of him. From there, Edwards’ pit crew consistently got him off pit road fast while Edwards himself saved his car from spinning in turn two on lap 154, reeled in #18-Ky. Busch, who was concerned about his right-front tire, and made the winning pass on teammate #6-David Ragan with 18 to go after the fifth caution was thrown for debris. Though two more cautions fell in the final 13 laps, the latter setting up a two-lap shootout with point leader #18-Ky. Busch, Edwards still pulled an excellent restart and cruised to the checkers. With the victory and the Nationwide Series win the day before, Edwards became the first driver since Mark Martin in 1993 to sweep both events in the same weekend. Edwards led a race-high 84 laps.

1) #99-Carl Edwards
2) #18-Kyle Busch Running the same extremely-low line he used in the June race, he flew up to 3rd on lap 29 and hardly ever left the top 5 after that. For most of the day, he was chasing #99-Edwards, #88-Earnhardt, Jr., and #83-Vickers, but ultimately found #99-Edwards to be his most difficult combatant as the two started their fight for the lead on lap 93. At that point, the aggressive driver ironically complained his own car was way too loose, but was fortunately able to make adjustments when the third caution fell just four laps later. He remained 2nd behind #99-Edwards and was 4 seconds behind the leader on lap 131, then right on the rear bumper of #99-Edwards on lap 142 after the second round of green-flag stops was completed. He had gained a lot of that ground by smoking his brakes after speeding up to the commitment cone on pit road, then taking two tires. It was on lap 142 that he also took the lead for the first time in the race by passing #99-Edwards and rocketing out to a 7 second lead by the time the fourth caution came out on lap 165. The 7 second lead vanished along with the lead itself when #83-Vickers beat him off pit road and, though he promptly retook the lead on the restart with 31 to go, he then became concerned with 24 to go that his right-front tire had lost grip much earlier than expected. News of this concern soon reached #99-Edwards, who closed in even faster before the fifth caution came out for debris with 21 to go. Though everyone but #6-Ragan and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. followed him onto pit road, he lost the lead to #99-Edwards in the pits and could not climb through the pack fast enough on the restart with 18 to go. He also had trouble disposing of #6-Ragan during the following restart with 10 to go which came after the race’s sixth caution and, though the seventh and final caution gave him two more laps to try again, he could not catch #99-Edwards. Led 34 laps.
3) #6-David Ragan Qualifying 16th, he hovered near the top 10 in the first half of the race, running 13th on lap 53, then up to 5th on lap 102. He successfully defended his top 5 run with a combination of a fast 11.9 second pit stop under the fourth caution on lap 165, a late decision to stay out with #88-Earnhardt, Jr. and inherit the lead under the fifth caution with 21 to go, and an uncanny ability to hold off and race an aggressive #18-Ky. Busch for the second spot with 10 to go before, at last, hanging on to finish 3rd. The finish tied him with #07-Bowyer for 13th in points, both of them just 26 points away from #11-Hamlin for 12th. Led 3 laps.
4) #16-Greg Biffle Running near the front after starting 9th, he moved into the lead past teammate #99-Edwards on lap 92 and held it briefly before #99-Edwards, then hunted by #18-Ky. Busch, retook it the very next lap. Led 1 lap.
5) #17-Matt Kenseth Was plagued with the same terrible loose condition that affected much of the field and had to make several adjustments to his car as early as the first caution on lap 19. Still, he was competitive, running up to 11th on lap 40. A late two-tire stop put him up to the top 10, where he raced former teammate #8-Martin so hard for the fifth spot that he bounced off the outside wall coming off the final turn, but kept his foot in it.
6) #8-Mark Martin Silently moved into the top 10 late with a well-timed 4-tire stop and raced hard on the inside of former teammate #17-Kenseth as the two battled off the final corner to the finish line.
7) #83-Brian Vickers Running a "first-generation COT" from 2007 while at least #18-Ky. Busch and the Michael Waltrip cars ran newer models, he scored the fifth pole of his Sprint Cup career and the first for Team Red Bull in outstanding fashion, outpacing the field by more than 0.3 sec. after being fastest in the day’s practice session. He was quickly passed at the start by #48-Johnson and #88-Earnhardt, Jr., but remained in the top 5 for much of the race. He was the fastest car on the track on lap 44 as he caught the slowing #88-Earnhardt, Jr. and took the lead from #88-Earnhardt, Jr. on lap 49. He held on to the top 5 for several laps, but fell to 6th on lap 153, fearing that his car was losing power when, in fact, it was just getting very loose. A 2-tire stop got him back in the lead again after the fourth caution of the race on lap 165, which he held very briefly until #18-Ky. Busch retook the lead from him on the restart with 31 to go. Led 21 laps.
8) #29-Kevin Harvick Was another driver who rocketed up toward the lead in the early going, rallying from the 38th starting spot to 14th in the first 40 laps in a car that was 2nd-fastest in Happy Hour to #99-Edwards. He inched up to 11th by 24 to go and seemed to benefit from the final three cautions that allowed him to move into the top ten.
9) #19-Elliott Sadler Scored another solid run in the same car he used to finish 4th with at Indianapolis, qualifying third before picking up another top ten.
10) #26-Jamie McMurray Quietly matched his finish in the June race.
11) #31-Jeff Burton Led 1 lap.
12) #20-Tony Stewart Fighting an extremely loose race car which, like #17-Kenseth’s, seemed unresponsive to his crew’s changes, he struggled to make up positions from the 21st starting spot, but made up most of that ground in the final laps. His was the car that accidentally set off the chain-reaction that took #48-Johnson and #24-J. Gordon out of competition on lap 91 when, while running up high in a four-wide battle off turn three with the Hendrick duo and #41-Sorenson, he twitched left and bumped #48-Johnson into #24-J. Gordon.
13) #28-Travis Kvapil His excellent finish put him on the inside of #77-Hornish’s excellent save in turn two on lap 108 and the outside of #48-Johnson’s final corner spin, avoiding damage in both incidents.
14) #44-David Reutimann Even after UPS announced it would not return to his team in 2009, he had another solid weekend in his 50th Sprint Cup start, qualifying 4th and remaining just outside the top 10 for much of the day.
15) #66-Scott Riggs A season-best finish vaulted him from 37th to 35th in owner’s points, bouncing out #84-Allmendinger. Led 1 lap.
16) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Received the Lucky Dog under the fourth caution on lap 165.
17) #48-Jimmie Johnson Was pushed to the lead from his outside-pole starting spot going into turn one on the first lap by teammate #88-Earnhardt, Jr. and held the spot until #88-Earnhardt, Jr. passed him down the backstretch on lap 8. He then regained the lead off pit road under the first caution, then lost it again to teammate #88-Earnhardt, Jr. on lap 29. On lap 91, he was outside the top 10 in a four-wide battle off turn three with #20-Stewart to his outside and #24-J. Gordon to his inside with #41-Sorenson on the bottom when #20-Stewart twitched left, causing his left-front fender to crunch against the right-front tire of #24-J. Gordon. The contact caused the fender to crush on his tire, sending up a plume of smoke, and he pitted under green on the following lap, dropping him down a lap to the leaders. After narrowly losing the Lucky Dog to #84-Allmendinger under the third caution on lap 97, he finally got it under the sixth caution with 13 to go. He was running 13th on the inside of #28-Kvapil off the final corner when his car suddenly broke loose and spun through the grass, dropping him a few positions. Led 12 laps.
18) #5-Casey Mears NO NOTES
19) #55-Michael Waltrip A well-timed top 20 finish after NAPA announced it would return to sponsor his team in 2009.
20) #07-Clint Bowyer NO NOTES
21) #12-Ryan Newman His announced move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009 as driver of the #4 (later changed to #39) was unfortunately followed by engine troubles in the practice session before qualifying which forced him to start at the back of the pack after qualifying 20th. Fighting handling problems, he was the first car to make a green-flag stop on lap 63, but was still too loose and wound up bringing out the second caution of the race on lap 85 when he broke loose on the outside of turn two, merged on top of #15-Menard, and clipped the right-rear of #22-Blaney, sending #22-Blaney hard into the outside wall. He then dove to the inside directly in front of leader #99-Edwards, who himself barely avoided contact.
22) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Became the highest-finishing rookie for a series-leading eighth time this season, doing so for the first time since the last Michigan race back in June. The highest-finishing rookie for the series-leading eighth time this season and first time since the June event at the same Michigan track, he scraped the outside wall while running the high line in turn two on lap 2, then did an excellent job hanging on to a very loose race car on lap 108 when #28-Kvapil raced up to his rear bumper in turn two.
23) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The June winner pushed teammate #48-Johnson to the lead going into turn one on the first lap, then passed #48-Johnson going down the backstretch on lap 8. He lost the lead to #48-Johnson on pit road under the first caution, then got it back three laps after the lap 26 restart. All the while, concerns arose about his water temperature climbing to 260 degrees due to several bits of debris clogging the already-small hole on his grille. After his grille was cleared under the first caution, it was re-clogged under green, leaving him alone out front with no means to clear it. He throttled back and let #83-Vickers take the lead from him on lap 49, at which point the debris flew off and his water temperature fell to normal. He regained the lead after the first round of green-flag stops cycled through on lap 68, but was extremely loose and lost the lead to #99-Edwards on lap 74. Under the second caution on lap 85, he had an excellent pit stop despite a track bar adjustment and remained near the leaders. As the race then shifted toward #99-Edwards and #18-Ky. Busch, he remained nearby and then made a strategy call on the fifth caution to stay out with #6-Ragan as the rest of the field pitted. While #6-Ragan thrived on the ensuing restart with 18 to go, he struggled, breaking loose and smacking the turn two wall where the soft wall met the concrete barrier, thus ripping a hole in the passenger side of his car. The debris brought out the sixth caution of the race with 13 to go, at which time he had already pitted for repairs to get him to the finish. Led 43 laps.
24) #15-Paul Menard Was involved in the race’s second caution on lap 85 when #12-Newman broke loose to his right in turn two and merged on top of him, #12-Newman hooking himself off his nose and into #22-Blaney. He did avoid any significant damage in the incident.
25) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya NO NOTES
26) #38-David Gilliland NO NOTES
27) #43-Bobby Labonte NO NOTES
28) #84-A.J. Allmendinger Though his crew was able to make repairs to his car after he scraped the wall in Happy Hour, he found himself having to make an extended stop under the first caution on lap 19 when apparent contact with another car on pit road made his crew put a patch of tape on the upper part of his right-front fender. He lost a lap during one of the long green-flag runs in the race, then got the Lucky Dog under the third caution of the race on lap 97. The race was the first in which he had a guaranteed starting spot, but unfortunately, when #66-Riggs picked up a top 20, he was bumped back out again, 13 points behind #66-Riggs for 35th.
29) #01-Regan Smith (R) Scored an impressive eighth-place starting spot.
30) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) His qualifying prowess scoring him an outstanding sixth-place starting spot, he moved past teammate #19-E. Sadler for 5th and was still running there when the first caution fell on lap 19. On the ensuing restart, he missed a shift and slipped back to the 7th spot. From there, he dropped back in the running order, losing a lap to leader #99-Edwards on lap 137 after getting very loose in front of #99-Edwards, but saving it.
31) #70-Tony Raines Sustained damage to the right-front fender of his car with 31 to go when, while jammed in a five-wide battle off turn two, he wobbled into the left-rear tire of #2-Ku. Busch and nearly spun.
32) #45-Terry Labonte Scored a surprising 17th-place starting spot.
33) #41-Reed Sorenson After being involved in the lap 67 pit road incident with #22-Blaney, he was also the car to #24-J. Gordon’s inside during the ill-fated four-wide battle on lap 91 that damaged both #24-J. Gordon and #48-Johnson. Crew chief Donnie Wingo was later fined as the car was found to have an improperly-attached weight.
34) #78-Joe Nemechek NO NOTES
35) #00-Mike Skinner Began his fill-in for #00-McDowell to evaluate the team much as he had for #84-Allmendinger to great success in the spring.
36) #2-Kurt Busch His quiet run got a rude awakening in the final laps when, on the restart with 31 laps to go which followed the fourth caution of the race when he was jammed in the middle of a five-wide battle for position off turn two as he raced back in the pack. There, he and #70-Raines made contact when #70-Raines wobbled and ground the #70's right-front fender against his left-rear tire. The next lap, as he entered turn three, he slowed abruptly as the left-rear tire cut down, making him drift along the edge of the infield grass before he regained control. No caution was thrown as a result, however, dropping him further back in the running order.
37) #7-Robby Gordon NO NOTES
38) #96-Brad Coleman (R) Made his Sprint Cup debut as the new driver of the #96 car, squeezing past #08-Sauter on Friday to take the final spot in the field, and ran a quiet race, staying out of trouble.
39) #11-Denny Hamlin Angered by his team’s constant struggles in qualifying, Sunday proved to be just as much of a challenge when he was gaining spots in the first couple runs, climbing from the 37th starting spot to 22nd by lap 40, but was still a full second off the leader’s pace. Despite this, he still rallied into the top 10 by around lap 140 and looked to be turning his luck around. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be as his engine blew with just 6 laps to go, bringing out the seventh and final caution of the race. The poor finish dropped him to 12th in points, just 26 points ahead of both #07-Bowyer and #6-Ragan in 13th and 14th.
40) #9-Kasey Kahne Though running the same car he had so much success with at both the June Michigan race and at Indianapolis, he never contended for a top 10 finish and was very loose, running 23rd on lap 108 after starting 32nd. By around lap 134, his engine started to go flat and smoke in the car forced him to pit on lap 136, then promptly go behind the wall with a dropped cylinder. He returned to run a few laps before dropping out of the event.
41) #22-Dave Blaney Made contact with #41-Sorenson on pit road during the first round of green flag stops on lap 67, but did not sustain much more than minor damage to his right-front fender. He then received much more significant damage in the second caution of the race on lap 85 when, while racing off turn two, #12-Newman broke loose to his far right and turned off the nose of #15-Menard and into his right-rear, sending him spinning 180 degrees into the backstretch wall. Though he slammed the wall hard enough to hit the back of the roof of his car as he lifted on two wheels, he was not only uninjured, but returned to the race several laps down.
42) #24-Jeff Gordon Frustrating weekend seemed to come out of nowhere after his car proved to be very fast, fast enough to give him the fifth starting spot. On race day, his car proved to be way too tight and his pit crew was way too slow. His first pit stop under the first caution on lap 19 angered him as it took him out of the top 5. Another slow stop under green on lap 67 took 15.7 seconds and dropped him back once again, the right side of his car by then scuffed up from scraping the wall in an earlier incident. Then, under the second caution on lap 85, he had yet another terrible stop when a tire changer dropped some lugnuts, a costly stop that dropped him from 5th to 15th. Things didn’t get any better on the restart when, while racing in the middle of a four-wide battle off turn four on lap 91, #20-Stewart shunted teammate #48-Johnson down against him, damaging both his right-front tire and the left-front fender of #48-Johnson. He continued on the track after the contact until the right-front tire blew on lap 97, sending him hard into the turn two wall and bringing out the third caution of the race. He returned to competition many laps down, dropping debris which brought out the fourth caution on lap 165, before parking his car with 26 to go.
43) #21-Marcos Ambrose (R) Was unfortunately unable to defend his strong run at Watkins Glen when, after qualifying for his fourth race of the season, he brought out the first caution of the day on lap 19 when his engine blew on the backstretch. The large puddle of oil left under his car on pit road forced the caution to be out a while longer before cars were allowed to make their first pit stops.

#08-Tony Raines

No comments: