THE STARTING GRID:
On a day that many believed would again showcase 2008 dominators #18-Kyle Busch, #99-Carl Edwards, and #48-Johnson, #16-Greg Biffle beat them all in surprising style for his first win since Kansas in 2007, 33 races and nearly one full year ago. Despite concerns about his brakes going away around lap 169, he raced particularly hard with #48-Johnson in the top 5. In the final 13 lap run to the checkers, this practice made perfect as he shot past #48-Johnson going into turn three with 12 to go and wound up winning by open track. Led 58 laps.
1) #16-Greg Biffle** THE WINNER!
2) #48-Jimmie Johnson** Remained in the top 5 for much of the race even as he had trouble leaving pit road under the first competition caution on lap 36 as his stall was still very wet from the morning’s rain. He caught leader #99-Edwards on lap 61 and took the lead from him four laps later by edging ahead at the start/finish line. He held the lead through the second caution, then lost it to #88-Earnhardt, Jr. on the lap 88 restart. He retook the lead off pit road under the third caution on lap 214 and positioned himself as the car to beat for the latter stages of the race. Led a race-high 96 laps.
3) #99-Carl Edwards** Despite struggles in practice which included a mild scraping of the outside turn four wall on Saturday, he benefitted from his 2nd place points ranking with an excellent starting spot and a strong run. He first took the lead on lap 4 by passing #18-Ky. Busch and proceeded to lead by open ground during the first green-flag run. After the first competition caution, he again took off, looking to put #18-Ky. Busch another lap down, but lost the lead to #48-Johnson on lap 65 as his car became tighter in the center. Just two and a half laps short on fuel with 52 to go, he assured his crew he was saving enough fuel as he worked to catch the leaders. As with the rest of the field, the final cautions threw this strategy out the window and he was able to defend his podium finish. Is now the new points leader, tied with #48-Johnson, but ahead by virtue of his higher win total. Led 61 laps.
4) #31-Jeff Burton** Seemed to be comfortable with another quiet top 10, but became very aggressive in the final stages, nearly wrecking out of 4th with 65 to go when he was pinched between #66-Riggs and #88-Earnhardt, Jr.
5) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr.** Made his own voice heard by passing teammate #48-Johnson on the lap 88 restart following the second caution of the race. He held the lead long enough to lap a very stubborn #55-Waltrip in 28th, who raced him very hard on the outside on lap 154. Under the green flag stops which cycled through soon after, his crew lost a little time when the air hose snagged on his splitter, but he retook the lead from #16-Biffle on lap 169. Again, he was stuck behind a lapped car, this time the wounded #18-Ky. Busch, which wore his tires down to the point that #16-Biffle retook the lead on lap 175. He and his worn tires fell back to 4th by lap 190. Led 79 laps.
6) #2-Kurt Busch The June event winner raced up to 4th by lap 69, 3rd on lap 96, and remained in the top 10, surrounded by Chase drivers, for much of the afternoon.
7) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Despite starting 18th by virtue of his ranking in owner’s points, he was a fixture in the top 10 all day after an early rally to the front.
8) #20-Tony Stewart** Looking to avenge his near-miss at Richmond the previous week, he vaulted past #07-Bowyer for 2nd on lap 23, preparing to give #99-Edwards a run for his money. After the first competition caution on lap 36, he then moved past the slowing #99-Edwards to challenge #48-Johnson for the lead by lap 70. While leaving his pit stall under the second caution on lap 83, he made contact with the right-rear corner of #70-Sauter parked in front of him. The contact damaged his left-front fender and forced him to pit once again. Restarting 34th on lap 88, he picked up 11 spots in the next 19 laps to the 23rd spot on lap 117. His rally faced another setback when he was caught speeding by just 0.3 mph under the green flag stops on lap 160, giving him a costly pass-through penalty that dropped him off the lead lap. On the lap 219 restart following the third caution of the race, he made a bold 3-wide pass on the backstretch to get into position as the first car one lap down, a move promptly rewarded two laps later when #78-Nemechek’s crash brought out the fourth caution, giving him his lap back as the Lucky Dog. Knowing many drivers were close on fuel, he took on fuel under the caution, anticipating a long green-flag run to the checkers. Unfortunately, the slew of late cautions threw fuel mileage out the window, but the decision to take on tires under the sixth caution with 35 to go allowed him to leapfrog from 11th to the top 10 in the final run. Led 1 lap.
9) #11-Denny Hamlin** After flying under the radar for much of the race, he had climbed up to 2nd with 81 laps to go, but was the only leader to pit for fuel when #78-Nemechek brought out the fourth caution two laps later. The crew chief reported that the stop was necessary not only for fuel, but for a cut left-rear tire suffered when he made contact with #8-Almirola on the previous caution. Slowly, he moved back into position along with teammate #20-Stewart, moving to 14th with 52 to go.
10) #29-Kevin Harvick** Slipped back almost immediately from the 11th starting spot due to handling problems and was running 20th on lap 11. Despite his frustrations, he climbed methodically through the field and was 7th with 60 to go.
11) #9-Kasey Kahne Narrowly avoided involvement in the sixth caution of the race with 35 to go as #00-McDowell and #84-Allmendinger tangled in front of him off turn four. Wound up finishing just outside the top 10 as he avoided trouble in such a way.
12) #07-Clint Bowyer** The defending Sylvania 300 champion led all three practices and, as a Chase driver, also secured a solid starting position. He first charged up to 2nd by lap 9, trying to run down #99-Edwards, but was then passed by #20-Stewart for the spot on lap 23. From there, his car was too loose to contend for the win, and he lagged back in 11th on lap 195. He narrowly avoided disaster during the big fifth caution of the race with 71 to go as he was in the middle of the ill-fated five-wide battle off turn four, but avoided any contact. His loose condition nearly got him in trouble again with 28 to go as he broke loose going into turn three and wobbled up the track, losing a handful of spots before regaining control. He then pitted for new tires under the seventh caution with 21 to go, accidentally clipping the foot of one of #19-E. Sadler’s tire changers in the process, and got the spots back before the finish.
13) #43-Bobby Labonte A very respectable run by a driver whom the ESPN crew had tabbed as a possible dark horse.
14) #24-Jeff Gordon** Not once, but twice he was blocked in by #7-R. Gordon on pit road, forcing him to back up in his pit stall to get around. Both incidents, which occurred under the first caution on lap 36 and under green around lap 165, cost him enough positions to invariably mire him around 15th spot. Taking notes from #88-Earnhardt, Jr.’s win at Michigan, he then turned to fuel strategy, flicking his ignition on and off under the fourth caution with 79 to go.
15) #44-David Reutimann Made contact with #38-Gilliland in turn one, causing #38 to wobble up the track before narrowly saving it. He himself fought some handling problems, hovering in 17th on lap 128, and barely avoided involvement in the big fifth caution with 71 to go as it unfolded in front of him. Running 11th, he pitted for tires along with #20-Stewart and several others under the sixth caution with 35 to go, but fell back a few spots in the final run to the finish.
16) #28-Travis Kvapil Raced his way into competition when he and #12-Newman climbed into the top 10 after pit stops during the first competition caution on lap 36. He was still 15th on lap 128.
17) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya Flirted with the top 10 for the first half of the race, running 10th on lap 96, but though he slipped back in the late stages, still picked up a solid top 20 finish.
18) #8-Aric Almirola Having lost a lap at one point, his was the car that forced #11-Hamlin to pit under the fourth caution with 79 to go as, under the previous caution, his car made contact with the left-rear of #11, cutting the tire down. Under the massive fifth caution wreck that came out soon after the restart, he then got his lap back as the Lucky Dog.
19) #66-Scott Riggs After a close call involving Chase drivers #31-J. Burton and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. with 65 to go, he got his lap back as the Lucky Dog when #84-Allmendinger brought out the sixth caution with 35 to go.
20) #70-Johnny Sauter Lost a lap, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when #10-Carpentier brought out the eighth and final caution with 17 to go.
21) #15-Paul Menard Went down a lap at some point, then got his lap back as the Lucky Dog when #6-Ragan brought out the seventh caution of the race with 21 laps to go.
22) #41-Reed Sorenson Made his 100th career Sprint Cup start.
23) #01-Regan Smith (R) The top-finishing rookie for the series-leading eighth time this season, again tying him with leader #77-Hornish, Jr. Was involved in the fourth caution with 79 laps to go when he clipped the left-rear of #78-Nemechek coming off turn four, sending #78 head-on into the inside wall in a single-car accident.
24) #19-Elliott Sadler One of his tire changers got his foot run over by #07-Bowyer as #07 came onto pit road under the seventh caution with 21 to go.
25) #55-Michael Waltrip Accidentally spun the wobbling #6-Ragan off turn two with 21 to go during the seventh caution of the race.
26) #7-Robby Gordon Was twice the road block of #24-J. Gordon on pit road when he stopped short in his pit stall under the first caution on lap 36 and under green around lap 165. Was involved in the eighth and final caution with 17 to go when he could not avoid squeezing #10-Carpentier up into #1-Truex, Jr., causing #10-Carpentier to spin. Still climbed back into the top 35 in owner's points, 35th by 15 points over #84-Allmendinger, who fell out.
27) #00-Michael McDowell (R) Was involved in the sixth caution with 35 to go when #84-Allmendinger crossed his nose coming off turn four, forcing him to turn #84 into the outside wall. He was also black-flagged on the final restart with 13 to go for intending to pass cars on the inside of the track as the field was coming to the green. Led 1 lap.
28) #6-David Ragan A weekend which began with an announcement that UPS would sponsor his team in 2009 ended with a difficult day in which he became involved in the second caution of the race on lap 83. In that moment, he had stopped on the backstretch due to the smoke kicked up by #18-Ky. Busch, but was then rear-ended hard by teammate #26-McMurray, spinning him into the outside wall. He returned to competition, but then spun again as the subject of the seventh caution with 21 to go when he broke loose off turn two and was turned by #55-Waltrip. Fortunately, he avoided contact this time and finished the race under power.
29) #21-Bill Elliott Lost a lap to #99-Edwards just before the first competition caution on lap 36, at which point he got his lap back as the Lucky Dog.
30) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Brought out the fifth caution (and only red flag) of the race with 71 to go with a banzai move on the apron of turn four that forced an impractical five-wide race for position. His car clipped the rear of #45-McCumbee, setting off the wreck, but he did not suffer any damage himself.
31) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) Was the only car one lap down when the race restarted after the first competition caution on lap 36. He became the sole participant in the eighth and final caution of the day with 17 to go when he was squeezed between #7-R. Gordon and #1-Truex, Jr. off turn two and spun, nearly collecting Chasers #24-J. Gordon, #29-Harvick, and #20-Stewart in the process. His car sustained minor damage to the splitter as a result of the spin.
32) #96-Joey Logano (R) Despite qualifying being rained out for the second week in a row, he made his Sprint Cup debut by virtue of the #96 team’s ranking in owner’s points. The car, however, was slow in practice and didn’t handle to his liking on race day. He avoided going a lap down to #99-Edwards by a half-carlength when the first competition caution came out on lap 36, then was penalized under the yellow for dragging his jack out of his pit stall.
33) #22-Dave Blaney NO NOTES
34) #18-Kyle Busch** Led the opening laps of the race from yet another rained-out pole position, but soon after losing the lead to #99-Edwards on lap 4 began to fall back through the pack. A broken heim bolt then caused the left side of his car to hike up in the corners. His handling suffered and he struggled to hold on, nearly wrecking off turn two on lap 21 as he dropped positions. He made it - barely - to the first competition caution on lap 36 and made two pit stops for repairs. When he raced the pace car to get onto pit road that second time, however, he was held a lap and almost lost another lap as the crew worked on the car. The repairs didn’t seem to work, unfortunately, and he was running very slow in last on the restart. He lost another lap by lap 79, then brought out the second caution on lap 83 when he suddenly broke loose off turn two, slid through the grass, and was hit by #26-McMurray, crumpling up the rear of his car. In the immediate aftermath of the big fifth caution of the race with 71 to go, he was seen pushing around the commitment cone, which had become lodged underneath his splitter. Led 3 laps.
35) #83-Brian Vickers Wrecked his primary car during Friday’s practice when he broke loose off turn four and hit the outside wall on the frontstretch, forcing him to start at the rear in a backup car along with #45-McCumbee. He went a lap down during one of the green flag runs, then got his lap back as the Lucky Dog under the third caution (for debris) on lap 214. With 71 to go, he was the last car involved in the fifth caution of the race when he clipped the right-rear corner of the disabled #38-Gilliland, sending him spinning to the inside of the track. Led 1 lap.
36) #12-Ryan Newman Flirted with the top 10 early when he and #28-Kvapil climbed into the top 10 off pit road under the first competition caution on lap 36. He was caught speeding off pit road under the second caution on lap 83, then soldiered back through the field only to drop a cylinder on lap 195, his car running 7 mph off the leaders for the rest of the race.
37) #5-Casey Mears Suffered significant damage in the fifth caution of the race with 71 to go when, just as #45-McCumbee slid down into #38-Gilliland’s path in front of him, he couldn’t get away in time and drilled the back of #38-Gilliland, sending #38 head-on into the driver’s door of #17-Kenseth. His car then limped around the track with severe damage to the front valence, which had to be ripped away before he returned to the track several laps down.
38) #84-A.J. Allmendinger Wrecked out of the race in the sixth caution of the day with 35 to go when he crossed the nose of #00-McDowell coming off turn four and turned hard into the outside frontstretch wall, spinning 180 degress in the process. Fell out of the top 35 in owners points and sits 15 behind #7-R. Gordon in 36th.
39) #26-Jamie McMurray Got lost in the smoke kicked up by #18-Ky. Busch in the second caution of the day on lap 83 and rear-ended #6-Ragan, sending #6 into the backstretch wall and himself spinning into #18-Ky. Busch, wrinkling the passenger side sheetmetal of his Ford.
40) #17-Matt Kenseth** He struggled early, running 21st on lap 79, but was back up to 12th with 71 to go. Unfortunately, he was in that spot just in time to be taken out in the fifth caution of the race when #45-McCumbee wobbled up the track and ran into his left-front, setting him up for #38-Gilliland, with the aid of #5-Mears, to ram into his driver’s side door. Though the contact was enough to launch his car up the track, he fortunately walked away. The resulting damage did, however, give him his first DNF of the 2008 season.
41) #38-David Gilliland Authored an amazing save on lap 13 when #44-Reutimann rooted him out of the groove in turn one, sending him wobbling up the track. Though he saved his car from wrecking, he was one of the loosest cars on the track for most of the day, often snapping loose off the corners. To finish it off, he was then taken out in the fifth caution of the race with 71 to go when the crashing #45-McCumbee clipped him in the right-front just as #5-Mears drilled him from behind, sending him head-on into the driver’s door of #17-Kenseth. His car was then clipped in the right-rear by the passing #83-Vickers, who also suffered damage.
42) #45-Chad McCumbee (R) Rough weekend started with a crash in Friday’s practice that forced him to a backup car, starting him in the rear with the other backup car of #83-Vickers. He got the Lucky Dog when #18-Ky. Busch brought out the second caution on lap 83. Unfortunately, he was then taken out in the huge fifth caution wreck with 71 to go when his four-wide battle off turn four, thanks to #77-Hornish, Jr., became a five-wide battle. #77-Hornish, Jr. clipped the rear of his car, sending him wobbling up the track and into the left-front tire of #17-Kenseth. His car then bounced into the right-front of #38-Gilliland, sending his car backing into the outside wall.
43) #78-Joe Nemechek Was involved in the fourth caution of the race with 79 laps to go when #01-Smith clipped him in the left-rear coming off turn four, sending him head-on into the inside wall. He climbed out unhurt, but his car gushed water from its ruptured radiator.
DID NOT QUALIFY:
** indicates a Chase driver