Friday, September 5, 2008

Race 26: Chevy Rock 'n Roll 400 at Richmond


#48-Jimmie Johnson continued to make his presence known in this year’s Chase For The Sprint Cup Championship by winning yet again, claiming his second win in a row and his third Richmond victory in the last four races. Johnson was in the top 5 for much of the mid-to-late stages and made his move with #20-Tony Stewart on lap 236 to double-team #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for the lead, taking 2nd behind #20-Stewart. When 14 cars decided to stay out under the tenth caution on lap 242, he and #20-Stewart worked their way up to the lead even after he clipped the backstretch wall with the right-rear of his car on lap 289. With 60 to go, the two “home improvement” cars were 2nd and 3rd, retaking the lead from #44-David Reutimann with 52 laps remaining to settle the race amongst themselves. After Johnson edged #20-Stewart off pit road under the thirteenth caution with 42 to go, the two set up a thrilling side-by-side battle that lasted the first six of the final 12 laps. After that, Johnson cruised to the victory. Johnson will start the Chase from the 3rd points position. Led 32 laps.

1) #48-Jimmie Johnson
2) #20-Tony Stewart He started to make some noise around the halfway mark, running the same low line as teammate #11-Hamlin up to 6th on lap 187. After narrowly avoiding contact with the sliding wreck of his other teammate, #18-Ky. Busch, in turn one on lap 211, he restarted 2nd and set his sights on #88-Earnhardt, Jr. for the lead. He got the lead from #88-Earnhardt, Jr. on lap 236 just as #48-Johnson was trying to make it a three-wide battle on the inside. From there, he and #48-Johnson were never far from each other, both climbing through the 14 cars that stayed out on lap 242's tenth caution of the race, both passing #44-Reutimann for the lead with 52 to go, and both racing each other off pit road under the thirteenth caution with 42 to go. Though he waged an impressive side-by-side battle for 6 of the last 12 laps against #48-Johnson and finished 2nd, he was furious after the race, certain that his crew had “given another one away” when he lost to #48-Johnson off pit road that final time. In reality, it appeared the stops were identical and it was just a matter of #48-Johnson pitting in front of him. Clinched his Chase spot, where he’ll start 8th. Led 23 laps.
3) #11-Denny Hamlin Using a car that was, in fact, not the same one that led 381 laps in May, he still moved up through the pack early to 2nd on lap 47, using the low line even as the leaders were running high, and passed leader #29-Harvick on lap 77. #88-Earnhardt, Jr. then came up to challenge him on lap 79, bumping him going into turn three. He retaliated by shoving #88-Earnhardt, Jr. up the track in turn three before NASCAR warned both of them to settle down. From there, he remained about a 4th place car and tried to stay up on the necessary adjustments. The run was his third-straight 3rd place finish. After pitting with teammate #18-Ky. Busch and very few others under the ninth caution on lap 227, he restarted 17th on lap 233 and was up to 6th just nine laps later on lap 241. Again set back when 14 cars stayed out under the tenth caution on lap 242, he re-entered the top 10 with 88 to go and the top 5 in the final laps despite scraping the outside wall off turn four with 49 to go. Again, as he had at both Bristol and Fontana, he surged in the final laps, moving past #31-J. Burton for 4th with 22 to go, then past #88-Earnhardt, Jr. for 3rd with 13 to go. He was within sight of the leaders as they raced side-by-side, but wasn’t quite close enough to threaten for the win. Clinched his spot in the Chase, where he will be 6th in points. Led 4 laps.
4) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Running an even more adventuresome high line around the track than usual, he tracked down leader #29-Harvick and was on the bumper of #29 right when the first competition caution flew on lap 36. His car never got going until the tire pressures built up after about 30 laps, a trend which became even clearer when, on the ensuing green-flag run, he closed in on leader #11-Hamlin on lap 79 so fast that he bumped #11-Hamlin going into turn three. After #11-Hamlin chased him up the track in turn three, he took the lead three laps later on lap 82. By lap 90, his lead had built to more than 2 seconds, and he kept the lead off pit road under the second caution on lap 96. For the next 80 laps, he engaged in a spirited battle with #29-Harvick and #18-Ky. Busch before #18-Ky. Busch took the lead around the seventh caution on lap 201. It was then that visions of the pair’s controversial finish in May proved prophetic when, on lap 211, #18-Ky. Busch cut across his nose going into turn one. Despite locking his brakes going into the corner, the two made contact, sending #18-Ky. Busch backwards into the outside wall. Though he suffered a vibration from tires that were likely flat-spotted in the incident, he stayed out under the ninth caution on lap 227 to keep the lead. It was then on lap 236, as #20-Stewart and #48-Johnson caught him, that he lost the lead to #20-Stewart. Running 3rd with less than 60 laps to go, he lost 2 seconds to the leaders when he almost had to stop in turn one when he ran too high and touched the outside wall. He lost 3rd to #11-Hamlin with 13 to go, but will start 4th in points for the Chase. Led 90 laps.
5) #8-Mark Martin Restarted 2nd to #44-Reutimann on the lap 247 restart as one of the 14 cars who stayed out under the tenth caution which came out five laps earlier. After see-sawing back and forth, he climbed back up to 5th with 13 to go and wound up finishing there.
6) #31-Jeff Burton Quietly secured another top 10 finish despite locking his brakes in a race for 4th with #11-Hamlin with 22 to go. Will start 7th in the Chase.
7) #29-Kevin Harvick Starting 7th, he clinched his spot in the Chase on lap 1, proceeded to run high around the track, and march his way toward the leaders to 2nd on lap 19, then to the lead past #18-Ky. Busch on lap 29. He regained the lead from #24-J. Gordon on lap 44, lost it to #11-Hamlin on lap 77, and retook it in several tight battles with #18-Ky. Busch and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. during the 2nd 100 laps of the race. Will start 11th in the Chase. Led 80 laps.
8) #24-Jeff Gordon Was fastest in the only practice held Friday before Tropical Storm Hanna rolled in, but on Sunday clipped the wall coming off turn two on lap 7. Determined to lead, he took 2 tires under the first caution and led until #29-Harvick re-passed him on lap 44. After hanging on to a top 10 finish, he will start 10th in the Chase. Led 6 laps.
9) #44-David Reutimann Had a career day at Richmond after three weeks of progressively more impressive runs to lead the most laps in a Sprint Cup race for the first time. After starting way back in 27th due to his points ranking, he was up to 13th on lap 50. He did lose a lap sometime during that run, however, and got it back as the Lucky Dog when #70-Sauter brought out the second caution on lap 96. After that, he bided his time until his fateful decision to stay out with 13 other cars under the tenth caution of the day on lap 242 put him into the lead. Though expected to fall back, his car instead took off after the lap 247 restart, opening it up to 2 seconds on lap 261, 3.3 seconds on lap 267, and 4.2 seconds on lap 283. In the process, he got very loose trying to lap a stubborn #96-Schrader on the frontstretch on lap 295, but held onto it while the previous leaders continued to pick their way through the field. He would remain in the lead all the way until 52 to go when #20-Stewart and #48-Johnson double-teamed him for the top spot. After hanging with the leaders for a few laps, he slowly fell back, but still tied his career-best finish by finishing 9th for the 2nd straight race, the finish being his 3rd top 10 of the year. Led a race-high 104 laps.
10) #2-Kurt Busch Lost some time in the pits under the tenth caution on lap 242 when he had to back up to get around #17-Kenseth, who had pitted right in front of him.
11) #5-Casey Mears NO NOTES
12) #07-Clint Bowyer Knowing that he had to finish ahead of #6-Ragan in order to make the Chase for the second time, he played it conservatively early and continued to do so after #6-Ragan’s incident on lap 122. He started in the 12th spot and was in 8th on lap 187. Somewhere along the way, however, he fell behind on the adjustments and slipped back, nearly going a lap down to leader #44-Reutimann before the eleventh caution came out on lap 297. There, he found himself catching up to the damaged #6-Ragan, hugging his rear bumper by 75 to go. With 72 to go, after #6-Ragan made contact with his right-front tire going down the frontstretch, he went on the inside of #01-Smith and bumped #01-Smith into #6-Ragan, further damaging the left-front fender of #6-Ragan so that he fell back in the pack. From there, he drove more defensively to secure a top 15 and the 5th spot in the Chase.
13) #99-Carl Edwards After hovering around the top 10, his car suddenly got very loose on lap 74, at which point he made an unscheduled green flag stop for what he believed was a slowly-leaking right-side tire. His crew gambled by only changing the right sides and, fortunately, they were right as his right-rear tire was, in fact, going down. The stop did, however, drop him one lap down to the leaders, but he then got his lap back as the Lucky Dog when #1-Truex, Jr. and #77-Hornish, Jr.’s spin off turn four brought out the seventh caution on lap 201. He then marched towards the front once again, moving up to 20th on lap 233. With 85 to go, he then had another setback, a victim of the twelfth caution when #21-Elliott spun himself off his nose trying to avoid the spinning #43-B. Labonte. He recovered nicely from that incident as well and will start 2nd in the Chase.
14) #16-Greg Biffle Sustained minor damage to the right-rear of his car during practice on Friday, but the crew got it fixed and he clinched his spot in the Chase along with #29-Harvick on lap 1. Unfortunately, while running around the top 10, he suddenly lost control going into turn one on lap 115, drifting diagonally into the wall in a way that crunched his right-rear corner and slapped the right side of his car against the fence. The damage was not too severe, fortunately, and he remained on the lead lap. Will start 9th in the Chase.
15) #18-Kyle Busch Despite leading due to his points-position pole afforded him by the rained-out qualifying session, he had trouble with the right-front of his splitter dragging on the track as #29-Harvick caught him for the lead. He then fell back to 10th under the first round of pit stops under the first caution when he overshot his pit stall and had to back up. He fought back up to contend for the lead with #29-Harvick and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. a few laps later. Then, while running 3rd on lap 154, he complained of his throttle sticking, perhaps from a lack of lubricant on the throttle lever. His involvement in the eighth caution on lap 211, however, had nothing to do with these problems as, while leading #88-Earnhardt, Jr. into turn one, he cut across the nose of #88 and spun himself out, sending him backing into the turn one wall. His car then slid down the banking, nearly collecting teammate #20-Stewart in the process, before he returned to the pits. Though the crowd roared with approval, his crew did a fantastic job hammering the rear decklid of his car back in place while keeping him on the lead lap. He did lose a lap sometime later, then received the Lucky Dog under the twelfth caution when #43-B. Labonte spun off turn one with 85 to go. Will remain the top driver in the Chase at New Hampshire. Led 53 laps.
16) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Brought out the seventh caution on lap 201 when he got very loose in turn four and cut across the nose of #77-Hornish, Jr. to his inside, sending them both into a spin. #22-Blaney almost collided with him as he slid back up the track, but fortunately avoided contact. While following #11-Hamlin with 49 to go, he also scraped the outside wall coming off turn four. He literally bounced back after that, taking two tires under the thirteenth caution with 42 to go to lead the field with 37 to go. Though #48-Johnson and #20-Stewart retook the lead with 34 to go, he remained in the top 20. Led 6 laps.
17) #28-Travis Kvapil Lost a lap around the time he missed his pit stall under the first caution on lap 36, then received the Lucky Dog when #55-Waltrip’s spin brought out the third caution on lap 103.
18) #38-David Gilliland A nice, steady run for his team, having hovered around 20th all afternoon.
19) #9-Kasey Kahne Despite starting next to fellow bubble driver #6-Ragan, he dropped back quickly in the early stages, then was mired in the 20s on lap 69 after he had been held up on a very congested pit road. His day, unfortunately, never got much better, and he missed the Chase along with #6-Ragan.
20) #00-Michael McDowell (R) Returned to his ride after Mike Skinner had worked to help the team get into the top 35 in owner’s points. Lost a lap, then received the Lucky Dog when #6-Ragan and #17-Kenseth’s wreck in turn one brought out the fifth caution on lap 122. As one of the 14 cars who stayed out under the tenth caution on lap 242, he ran as high as 5th before slowly falling back. He wound up not only as the top-finishing rookie for the fifth time this season, but moved past #7-R. Gordon into the 35th spot in owner’s points.
21) #43-Bobby Labonte Lost a lap, then received the Lucky Dog when #18-Ky. Busch wrecked in turn one to bring out the eighth caution on lap 211. He then brought out the twelfth caution of the race with 85 to go when he spun out coming off turn two, forcing #21-Elliott to turn hard left across the nose of #99-Edwards as they both spun on the apron.
22) #22-Dave Blaney Nearly collided with #1-Truex, Jr. during the seventh caution of the race on lap 201, locking his brakes and skidding as he moved around the stopped #1.
23) #01-Regan Smith (R) Was the innocent victim of the #07-Bowyer / #6-Ragan squabble with 72 to go when #07-Bowyer shoved him sideways up into #6-Ragan, crunching the damaged left-front fender of #6-Ragan.
24) #45-Kyle Petty Lost a lap, then received the Lucky Dog when #16-Biffle’s accident in turn one brought out the fourth caution on lap 115. He was also the Lucky Dog under the thirteenth caution when #66-Riggs spun off turn two with 42 to go.
25) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) Lost a lap, then received the Lucky Dog when #19-E. Sadler spun down the frontstretch on lap 227. Brought out the fourteenth and final caution with 31 to go when he got very loose under #15-Menard going into turn one, sending #15-Menard backing hard into the outside wall.
26) #41-Reed Sorenson NO NOTES
27) #96-Ken Schrader Was involved in the precursor to the sixth caution of the race on lap 164 when #19-E. Sadler made contact with his left-rear, creating the fateful cut in the right-front tire on #19-E. Sadler that led to the #19's spin. After making leader #44-Reutimann get very loose as he struggled to stay on the lead lap on lap 295, he was promptly given the lap back as the Lucky Dog two laps later when #83-Vickers stalled in turn one.
28) #55-Michael Waltrip His up-and-down afternoon began as he ran the high line up from 34th to 19th by the pit stops during the second caution on lap 96. On the ensuing lap 103 restart, a chain-reaction in the outer groove led to #12-Newman punting him into a spin that nearly spun #83-Vickers in the process. Fortunately, under that third caution of the race, he didn’t anything, but lost a lot of track position. He got a lot of it back as one of the 14 cars who stayed out under the tenth caution on lap 242, running in the top 5 with Michael Waltrip Racing teammates #44-Reutimann and #00-McDowell before he and #00-McDowell fell back once again in the running order.
29) #26-Jamie McMurray NO NOTES
30) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya Brought out the sixth caution on lap 164 when, while on the outside of a three-wide battle on the frontstretch, he ground the outside wall and then spun off turn one, #19-E. Sadler spinning a few seconds later in an unrelated incident. He lost a lap around that time, but got it back “the old-fashioned way” by driving around leader #44-Reutimann just before the twelfth caution with 85 laps to go.
31) #66-Scott Riggs Lost a lap, then received the Lucky Dog when #18-Ky. Busch’s spin in turn four on lap 242 brought out the tenth caution of the race. He himself brought out the thirteenth caution of the race when he spun by himself coming off turn two with 42 to go. Losing a lap, he again received the Lucky Dog when #15-Menard’s wreck brought out the fourteenth and final caution with 31 to go.
32) #6-David Ragan Looking to race his way into the Chase, he entered Sunday’s race as the car 2nd fastest to #24-J. Gordon in Friday’s practice session with 17 points to make up on 12th place #07-Bowyer. He had an early scare under the first caution when he nearly collided with #21-Elliott as he pulled out of his pit stall. Still running in the top 10 on lap 122, he suffered a much costlier setback when he slid out of control in turn one the exact same way as teammate #16-Biffle had on lap 115. The incident was worse, however, as #17-Kenseth also lost control right behind him and slid up into the driver’s side of him, damaging all three corners of his car with the exception of the right-front. The crew fixed his car fairly well, and it was even supposed that the turned-down left-front corner of his splitter was an aerodynamic advantage. Still, he lost a lap before getting it back as the Lucky Dog when #42-Montoya and #19-E. Sadler brought out the sixth caution on lap 164. From there, he worked to make the most of a bad situation, climbing up to 24th on lap 233 and staying out under the tenth caution on lap 242 to again hover around the 8th spot. With 75 to go, he was around the top 15 with none other than #07-Bowyer right on his rear bumper. He held #07-Bowyer off for a while, bumping against the right-front tire of #07-Bowyer on the frontstretch with 72 to go, but as the two split #01-Smith going into turn one, #07-Bowyer bumped #01-Smith up into him, further damaging his left-front fender and dropping him further back in the field. He nearly lost a lap again before the thirteenth caution with 45 to go, which came just in time. Unfortunately, he still missed the Chase along with #9-Kahne.
33) #12-Ryan Newman Announcement came the previous Wednesday that Nationwide Series regular and 2006 Rookie of the Year contender David Stremme would return to the Sprint Cup Series driving for this team in 2009. May have sustained cosmetic damage when he bumped #55-Waltrip into a spin on the lap 103 restart, the act bringing out the third caution of the race.
34) #15-Paul Menard Wrecked in the fourteenth and final caution of the race with 31 to go when, while racing into turn one, #10-Carpentier broke loose and slid into him, sending him backing hard into the outside wall with enough to severely loosen the rear bumper cover of his car.
35) #21-Bill Elliott After narrowly colliding with #6-Ragan on pit road, he went down a lap and was involved in the twelfth caution of the race with 85 to go. Upon seeing #43-B. Labonte spin off turn two, he turned a hard left and spun himself off the nose of #99-Edwards, who spun as well. As with many incidents during the race, there was no visible damage to any of the cars involved.
36) #83-Brian Vickers After nearly losing control when #12-Newman spun #55-Waltrip on his inside on lap 103, he was himself involved in the eleventh caution on lap 297 when he slowed after grazing the wall on the frontstretch for several feet in a manner similar to #42-Montoya. Forced to stop to try and get to pit road, he was then given a questionable 2 lap penalty by NASCAR for not continuing around the track after bringing out the caution.
37) #19-Elliott Sadler Was involved in the sixth caution on lap 164 when, after making contact with the left-rear of #96-Schrader just before #42-Montoya scraped the frontstretch wall, he cut a right-front tire and spun halfway down the backstretch. Then, on lap 227, he cut another right-front tire and spun down the frontstretch, bringing out the ninth caution of the day. He then became involved in yet another incident, the tenth caution of the day on lap 242, when he clipped the rear of the damaged #18-Ky. Busch in turn four and sent #18 into a spin.
38) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Received the Lucky Dog under the first caution of the day (a competition caution) on lap 36. He was unlucky, however, to not only spin in the seventh caution on lap 201 after a loose #1-Truex, Jr. crossed his nose, but have an improperly-secured left-rear wheel come off while leaving pit road under the eleventh caution on lap 297.
39) #17-Matt Kenseth Was involved in the fifth caution of the race on lap 122 when, just as #6-Ragan spun in front of him going into turn one, he lost control as well and slammed doors with #6-Ragan, severely damaging his right-front and right-rear to the point that his right-front fender smoked badly against the tire. On the lap 170 restart following the sixth caution of the day, he received the black flag for a loose crush panel that was protruding from the right-rear wheel well and had to pit under green. His car sustained further cosmetic damage when he got loose again, nearly spinning off turn four as he bumped the fence on lap 289. Led 2 laps. Will start 12th in the Chase, joining winner #48-Johnson as the only drivers to make every Chase field since 2004.
40) #78-Joe Nemechek NO NOTES
41) #70-Johnny Sauter Returning to the second HAAS team after successfully getting E&M Motorsports its first start of the season, he unfortunately damaged his car in the second caution on lap 96 when he blew a right-front tire and scraped the wall on the frontstretch. In between, he picked up the most pit road penalties during the race with three.
42) #7-Robby Gordon Fell out of the top 35 in owner’s points and is now 36th, 11 points behind #00-McDowell.
43) #84-A.J. Allmendinger Lagged back in last place early in the going when his engine ran flat from a dropped cylinder around lap 32. Still finished the race under power as, for the first time since New Hampshire in the fall of 2007, all 43 cars were running at the finish.

#34-Tony Raines
#02-Joey Logano (R)
Was 9th in the only practice session on Friday, but was rained out of his Sprint Cup debut.
#09-Sterling Marlin


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