THE STARTING GRID:
#99-Carl Edwards claimed his second straight Sprint Cup win with his second consecutive Sharpie 500 victory, taking his sixth checkered flag of the season in an electrifying finish. Despite smacking the outside wall off turn four with the right-rear of his car, Edwards still won the pole on Friday, his first of the season, and shook off the disappointment of a poor finish in the Nationwide race to lead all but one of the opening 54 laps. Thanks in part to the fast lapped car of #42-Juan Pablo Montoya that blocked the leaders, point leader #18-Kyle Busch then took the lead on lap 55 and went on to dominate much of the race, dropping Edwards to an often-distant 2nd place in a car that was somewhat loose. Where Busch was good on long green-flag runs and he constantly beat everybody off pit road, Edwards was very good on restarts and the final few cautions played right into his hands. With 31 to go, eight laps after the eighth and final caution of the night, Edwards pulled the bump-and-run on Busch going into turn one and led the rest of the way. Busch returned the favor by body-slamming Edwards in turn two on the cooldown lap, to which Edwards promptly responded by spinning Busch on the backstretch and puckering his left-front fender, much the delight of the capacity crowd. Led 84 laps.
1) #99-Carl Edwards THE WINNER!
2) #18-Kyle Busch A very difficult week for Joe Gibbs Racing in the wake of their Nationwide teams’ controversial actions at Michigan ended with a different kind of controversy. After winning the Craftsman Truck race and qualifying 9th for the Cup race, he flew up through the pack and passed #99-Edwards for the lead on lap 55 after the leaders were held-up behind #42-Montoya’s lapped car. After that, he dominated the race, often by more than a full second, and consistently won the battle off pit road. However, the final cluster of cautions put #99-Edwards back on his rear bumper, the eighth and final caution with 39 to go ultimately leading to #99-Edwards bumping him out of the lead in turn one with 31 to go. #99-Edwards had been the first driver to take the lead from him since he first took it on lap 55. He tried to get back at #99-Edwards by with a light bump to the rear bumper in turn three, but fell back after that to wrestle with teammate #11-Hamlin for 2nd. After the finish, he promptly retaliated with a congratulatory doorslam to #99-Edwards in turn two on the victory lap followed by another that nearly put #99-Edwards in the wall. #99-Edwards then cut a hard left and spun him out and, after chasing him down, ended up going down pit road. Led a race-high 415 laps, tying #17-Kenseth’s laps led mark in this race back in 2005.
3) #11-Denny Hamlin Slowly moved into the picture from the 21st spot by moving up to 9th on lap 154 and was never far from the top 10 after that. When #99-Edwards pulled the bump-and-run on #18-Ky. Busch with 31 to go, he got in on the action, trying to get past #18-Ky. Busch on the outside for 2nd. #18-Ky. Busch still held him off, but he still cored a much-needed top 5 finish.
4) #29-Kevin Harvick Hovered around his 6th starting spot early on, running 7th on lap 80 as the cars in front of him (#01-Smith, #12-Newman, and #44-Reutimann) still struggled to get by the #42-Montoya road block. He barely missed involvement in the tremendous third caution of the race on lap 216 despite running behind #07-Bowyer, his less-fortunate teammate. In the final run to the checkers, he looked to have the fastest car on the racetrack, passing #24-J. Gordon for the 4th position just before the finish.
5) #24-Jeff Gordon Still looking for that first win of the season, he looked very strong in the early going, shoving #99-Edwards past #44-Reutimann and into the lead at the very start. As the leaders struggled to pass the lapped car of #42-Montoya, he edged ahead of #99-Edwards on the outside to lead lap 49, held onto 2nd, then took 2nd from #99-Edwards on lap 58 after #18-Ky. Busch had passed them both. Still among the leaders, but not in the lead, he was shoved up the track by #20-Stewart on lap 233 in a race for position. Led 1 lap.
6) #12-Ryan Newman Moved from the 12th starting spot to 6th on lap 70 and was briefly in 2nd when he followed leader #18-Ky. Busch off pit road under the second caution on lap 195. His car started to fall back after the lap 206 restart, dropping him to 6th, but he was able to regroup when the third caution fell just ten laps later.
7) #07-Clint Bowyer After it was announced that he would move to Richard Childress’ new #33 team in 2009 with #5-Mears taking over his ride, he narrowly lost the Nationwide race to Brad Keselowski after a late slip, but had a good points day with the struggles of #99-Edwards. He had an adventurous race on Saturday as well, climbing from 22nd to the top 10 in the first 100 laps, then dropping from 9th to 12th after an altercation with #88-Earnhardt, Jr. ended with him getting shoved up the track. His race took a different turn when, still running with the leaders, he was involved in the tremendous lap 216 wreck when #5-Mears, just after hitting the outside wall, turned hard left and hit him directly on the right-rear tire, knocking the tow end out so bad that his tire was turned in at a very sharp angle. Despite the contact, he managed to barely avoid contact with the outside wall when his car tried to go straight up the banking. Still, he was furious. Believing #55-Waltrip was to blame, he radioed in that “Michael Waltrip is the worst driver ever,” even questioning NAPA’s decision to re-sign with #55-Waltrip. The crew was able to make the cosmetic sheetmetal repairs to the top of his right-front fender and give him new tires, and though he stayed on the lead lap in a race with less than 20 cars on the same lap as the leader, he found himself out of the Chase with #6-Ragan, then running 11th, in his 12th-place Chase spot. Still, despite all this, he gained 3 spots on pit road under the fourth caution on lap 281 and fought his way around #6-Ragan and back into the top 10. On lap 387, he was back up to 9th with #6-Ragan in 10th, 4 points ahead of #6-Ragan for 12th.
8) #20-Tony Stewart Started a disappointing 28th, but promptly made use of every groove on the track to make up ground, running the high, middle, and low lines to make it up to 13th on lap 94. By lap 135, he was in 8th, having gained the most spots of any driver up to that point (20). Firmly in the top 10 and in traffic, he had nowhere to go when #77-Hornish, Jr. caused #09-Marlin to check up in front of him, his car clipping the left-rear of #09-Marlin and sending #09-Marlin spinning to the inside. He later made contact with #24-J. Gordon in a race for position on lap 233, first pushing #24-J. Gordon up the track, then banging doors with #24-J. Gordon as he passed.
9) #17-Matt Kenseth Solid night looked like it wasn’t going to happen early on when he was lapped in the 21st spot by #18-Ky. Busch on lap 182. He ironically benefitted most from the huge wreck that brought out the third caution and, eventually, the red flag on lap 216 when he got the Lucky Dog.
10) #6-David Ragan His fight to get into the Chase faced a setback during qualifying on Friday when, right before clocking in the 27th fastest time on his first lap, he lost control off turn four and slammed the inside wall going into turn one. The car was totaled, forcing him to a backup car in the back of the pack. By lap 135, he had moved up to 24th and was one of the biggest climbers through the field. From there, he fought his way into the top 10 and raced #07-Bowyer for the 12th spot in points until #07-Bowyer passed a few more cars in the final laps.
11) #16-Greg Biffle Despite his Bristol prowess and 14th-place starting spot, he was about a 15th-place car early on, then edged near the top 10 late.
12) #26-Jamie McMurray After starting way back in 41st, he came seemingly out of nowhere after the tremendous third caution on lap 216 to climb into the 9th position on lap 262.
13) #8-Aric Almirola Despite starting 23rd, he was just as strong as he had been in the spring Bristol race and, quietly up to 13th on lap 154, looked determined to back up that 8th-place finish. In fact, he was running 8th again on lap 262 with only a narrow tiremark along the right side of his Chevrolet. Still 8th with 50 laps to go, he got tight running up high and grazed the wall in turns three and four, but was saved by the seventh caution for debris that fell two laps later.
14) #01-Regan Smith (R) Was the top-finishing rookie for the seventh time this season, the first time since Loudon in July, and is again closing on #77-Hornish, Jr. with a series-leading eight times. Tied his best-career qualifying run from Pocono in June with a 4th place starting spot and, like #44-Reutimann, managed to stay near the front, running 3rd on lap 37, 5th on lap 55, and 4th on lap 70. He slipped back around the halfway mark and sustained minor damage in the fourth caution on lap 281 when #28-Kvapil crossed his hood on the frontstretch, making him slap the outside wall and wobble into #22-Blaney, who wrecked into the inside pit wall. Somewhere along the way, he lost at least two laps, getting them back as the Lucky Dog under the fifth caution on lap 344 and the seventh caution with 48 to go, also for debris.
15) #2-Kurt Busch Strangely absent from contention at a track where he has five wins, he lost a lap in the early going and got the Lucky Dog under the second caution on lap 195. He lost ground again under the second caution of the night when he was forced to the tail end of the longest line for being too fast entering pit road. The penalty wound up costing him a lap and, after a plastic patch covering a hole in his front bumper came off with 39 to go, the eighth and final caution came out and gave him his lap back.
16) #15-Paul Menard Went down at least a lap in the first half of the race and got a lap back as the Lucky Dog under the fourth caution on lap 281. He nearly got taken out in that very caution when, after being bumped by #83-Vickers going into turn 1, he dove down to the turn one apron in a race to avoid the wrecked car of #22-Blaney sliding down the banking. After he narrowly missed slamming into the right-front of #22-Blaney, the right-rear of his car grazed the front of the wrecked #22-Blaney, which did little more than loosen his rear bumper cover. He got his other lap back as the Lucky Dog under the sixth caution on lap 365 (for debris).
17) #70-Tony Raines Another of the many surprises in qualifying with a 20th place starting spot, the right side of his car was utterly covered in black donuts by lap 324 when he bounced off #44-Reutimann in a very physical battle down the frontstretch, #43-B. Labonte running down low to make it a three-wide battle.
18) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He struggled mightily in qualifying and started 40th, but the task of making up ground became even tougher when he jumped the start of the race and passed about four cars on the outside before he got to the start/finish line. He was black-flagged on lap 7 for a pass-through penalty and was trapped a lap down to the field. Furious, he raced very hard through the field and damaged the left-front fender of his car after making contact with the right-rear of #07-Bowyer on lap 111, following that up with shoving #07-Bowyer up the track in the next corner. Handling was again an issue as when he had problems with his right-rear tire chattering on lap 149, preventing him “from putting the power down” on the straightaways. He finally moved up to being the first car one lap down on the lap 370 restart following the sixth caution (for debris), but could not get his lap back before the end of the race. Finally, he ran over the plastic patch that came off #2-Ku. Busch and brought out the eighth and final caution of the race with 39 to go, but fortunately did not wreck.
19) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya After sponsor Texaco/Havoline announced it would not return to sponsor his or any Sprint Cup team in 2009, he made clear in the early laps that he refused to go a lap down. In fact, once #99-Edwards caught him around lap 46, his car ran so well on the outside that the leaders couldn’t pass, #99-Edwards’ half-second lead over the field evaporating almost immediately. His rolling road block enabled #24-J. Gordon to edge ahead and lead lap 49, and an angry #99-Edwards bumped him on lap 53 to no avail. Two laps later, the closing #18-Ky. Busch, then in 2nd, got around both he and #99-Edwards.
20) #83-Brian Vickers NO NOTES
21) #96-Ken Schrader Qualified an excellent 7th spot, matching his season-best qualifying run at Martinsville in the spring, his most recent Sprint Cup start.
22) #38-David Gilliland Locked his brakes while running on the apron of turns three and four to avoid contact with the disabled #1-Truex, Jr. car during the first caution on lap 97. There may have been some contact at that moment, for by lap 182, he had tire marks scrubbed onto the right-rear quarter-panel of his car.
23) #43-Bobby Labonte NO NOTES
24) #28-Travis Kvapil Lost a lap early and got the Lucky Dog under the first caution on lap 97, then was involved in the opening stages of the fourth caution when he barely crossed the nose of #01-Smith on the frontstretch, causing #01-Smith to break loose and slam doors with #22-Blaney, who was turned hard left and into the inside pit wall.
25) #44-David Reutimann Picked up the best qualifying run of his career with a strong outside-pole starting position for the race and, though #24-J. Gordon shoved #99-Edwards past him on the start, he held on in the top 5 along with #01-Smith, running 4th on lap 37 and 5th on lap 70. He fell out of contention along with #21-Elliott when he tried to escape the big third caution wreck on lap 216 by following #21-Elliott on the apron between turns one and two, but sustained enough damage to the right side of his car to knock him loose and loosen his rear bumper cover. The rear bumper cover began to flap some time later and was further compromised when he bounced off #70-Raines on the frontstretch on lap 324 in a tight battle for position. His rear bumper cover finally came off and landed on the safer barrier off turn four on lap 344, bringing out the fifth caution of the race. His car then ran very high around the track on the lap 350 restart as the race’s intensity continued to build.
26) #21-Bill Elliott Qualified an outstanding 5th at the very track where he had scored his only short track victory and the Wood Brothers had claimed their most recent Sprint Cup victory with #19-E. Sadler in 2001. His car was just as racy when the green flag fell, and on lap 15 was racing hard with young #84-Allmendinger for the 7th spot. He fell out of contention, however, when he tried to escape the big third caution wreck on lap 216 by moving to the apron of turns one and two, the right side of his car grazing the stopped #7-R. Gordon.
27) #66-Scott Riggs NO NOTES
28) #00-Mike Skinner NO NOTES
29) #78-Joe Nemechek Was involved in the second caution of the night on lap 195 when he couldn’t get slowed down fast enough and rear-ended the slowing #31-J. Burton, turning #31-J. Burton into the outside wall.
30) #55-Michael Waltrip Sustained significant damage to the back of his car in the tremendous third caution and first red flag of the race on lap 216 when #5-Mears accidentally crossed his nose and slammed the wall in front of him coming into turn one, #5-Mears bouncing off #07-Bowyer and into the side of his car just as he got drilled in the rear by #9-Kahne, who had been rear-ended by #7-R. Gordon, who had been hit in the left-rear by #41-Sorenson. The pileup spun his car backwards and rear-first into the outside wall.
31) #45-Kyle Petty NO NOTES
32) #19-Elliott Sadler Having recovered from a case of the flu earlier in the week, he qualified a solid 10th, but lost a ton of spots during pit stops under the first caution on lap 97 when he parked in his pit stall at a very sharp angle, forcing him to back up. He then fell out of contention when he was forced to pit under green on lap 117 to fix his loose seatbelt.
33) #48-Jimmie Johnson Bad luck from the wreck in his Craftsman Truck Series debut for owner Randy Moss and an extremely loose car in qualifying carried over to the Sprint Cup event itself. Racing off turn four on lap 27, he again got very loose off the corner and hooked himself off the nose of #09-Marlin at the start/finish line, smacking the wall with his right-front and right-rear. The field swallowed him up as he dropped through the pack with a flat right-rear tire, but the caution wasn’t thrown. He pitted at least twice in the immediate aftermath, the latter stop coming after his splitter started to drag on the track.
34) #84-A.J. Allmendinger Qualified 8th and waged a spirited side-by-side battle with #21-Elliott for the 7th spot on lap 15. Unfortunately, bad luck bit him a few laps later on lap 97 when #1-Truex, Jr. cut a right-front tire while racing beneath him in turns three and four, slamming his car into the wall as well and bringing out the first caution of the race. The right side of his car was flattened and he had visible fender damage.
35) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Despite being the second-fastest car to #9-Kahne in practice and qualifying 12th, his race did not go as well. On lap 97, he brought out the first caution of the night when he cut a right-front tire between turns three and four and turned hard right, pinning an unfortunate #84-Allmendinger in the wall and severely damaging the front of his own car. He then slid down the banking and #38-Gilliland had to lock his brakes to avoid contact. After his crew made repairs, he returned to the track on lap 213 several laps down.
36) #41-Reed Sorenson Was involved in the third caution and only red flag of the race on lap 216 when he pushed #7-R. Gordon by the left-rear into the back of #9-Kahne, who in turn hit the slowing #55-Waltrip just after #5-Mears made his initial contact with #55-Waltrip. His car only seemed to suffer damage to the top of his right-front fender, but it was nevertheless enough to take him out of contention. He returned to the track several laps later with a piece of sheetmetal missing above his right-front tire.
37) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Sparked the second caution of the night on lap 195 when he crossed the nose of the damaged #09-Marlin coming down the frontstretch, peeling the rear bumper cover off his car as #09-Marlin checked-up and was spun by #20-Stewart. His car was destroyed in the big third caution of the race on lap 216 when he was trapped in the outside groove after #55-Waltrip spun and wound up plowing into the rear of #5-Mears. He came back into the race several laps down with the sheetmetal on the front of his car missing sometime in the last 150 laps and limped round the inside of the track by lap 384. As both he and #84-Allmendinger had a hard night, he’s still hanging onto the 35th position in owner’s points by 14 over #84-Allmendinger.
38) #22-Dave Blaney Was having perhaps his best race of the year, running a solid 12th when the second caution came out on lap 195. Unfortunately, he was taken out in the fourth caution of the night on lap 281 when #28-Kvapil barely hooked himself across the front of #01-Smith, who wobbled and slammed doors with him. Upon contact, he immediately turned hard left and slammed head-on into the inside wall (in the same spot where #6-Ragan wrecked in qualifying) and slid up the banking in turn one. When his disabled car slid down the track, #15-Menard just barely got by, the right-rear of #15-Menard grazing the front of his car just hard enough to loosen the rear bumper cover of #15-Menard. His wreck happened just in front of #18-Ky. Busch, who followed #15-Menard at a slower pace and greater distance from the wreck.
39) #7-Robby Gordon Was taken out in the tremendous wreck that was the third caution and only red flag of the race when he followed the slowing #9-Kahne and was pushed in the left-rear by #41-Sorenson into the rear of #9-Kahne who, in turn, spun #55-Waltrip. His car then slipped down the banking, where the duo of #21-Elliott and #44-Reutimann made contact with his wreck with the right side of their cars while trying to slip by on the inside. He returned to the race several laps down and was limping around the bottom of the track by lap 391.
40) #9-Kasey Kahne Fastest in practice on Friday and 13th on the grid, he was up to 6th on lap 154, but had absolutely nowhere to go in the huge wreck on lap 216 that brought out the third caution and first red flag when he was shunted by #7-R. Gordon and #41-Sorenson into the back of #55-Waltrip so hard that the rear of his car lifted off the ground and his front end was utterly destroyed. He still managed to make a few more laps before parking his car with 91 laps to go.
41) #5-Casey Mears Surprising announcement came early in the weekend that he would be the new driver of Richard Childress’ #07 in 2009, moving #07-Bowyer to Childress’ new #33 team. Misfortune persisted, however, in the race when he inadvertently sparked a tremendous wreck on lap 216 that brought out the third caution and the red flag. When his spotter incorrectly said he was clear of #55-Waltrip on the frontstretch, he moved up and wound up hooking himself off the front of #55-Waltrip and into the outside wall. His car then hung a hard left down the banking in turn one and made contact with the right-front tire of #07-Bowyer, sending both he and #07-Bowyer up the track. While #07-Bowyer avoided the wall, he wound up clipping #55-Waltrip into a spin and getting slammed by #77-Hornish, Jr., who was trapped in the high groove.
42) #31-Jeff Burton The spring Bristol winner looked to be having another solid night, running 8th on lap 154, and was still around that spot when he got wrapped up in the second caution of the night on lap 195. At the moment #09-Marlin spun some distance in front of him, he slowed down, but was rear-ended going into the turn by #78-Nemechek, turning his car hard right into the outside wall. After bouncing off #09-Marlin, he slid down the track and left a long trail of fluids from beneath the engine.
43) #09-Sterling Marlin Solidly made the field in the 24th spot, but was the victim of early misfortune when the loose car of #48-Johnson crossed his nose and smacked him into outside the wall at the start/finish line, the incident failing to bring out a caution. After making some stops, his car proceeded to run very high around the track for much of the night. His car was finished off in the second caution of the night on lap 195 when #77-Hornish, Jr. tried to merge on top of him on the fronstretch, making him check up with the nose of his car peeling the rear bumper cover off #77-Hornish, Jr. At that moment, #20-Stewart clipped his left-rear and sent him spinning to the inside and up the banking in turn one where he was hit on the right side by the disabled car of #31-J. Burton.
DID NOT QUALIFY:
#10-Patrick Carpentier (R)