THE STARTING GRID:
Racing the car he brought to victory lane at Indianapolis in July and Fontana in early September, #48-Jimmie Johnson truly had a charmed weekend at Kansas, picking up his fifth victory of the season and moving into the points lead by 10 points over #99-Carl Edwards. Johnson averted disaster in Friday’s practice when he ran over a large orange hammer that was carelessly left on another car, suffering only minor damage to his splitter. In qualifying, Johnson was beaten for the pole by #42-Juan Pablo Montoya, then inherited the pole when the #42 had his time revoked due to a technical infraction. On race day, Johnson dominated much of the middle-to-late stages of the race and, thanks to excellent pit work, wound up ahead of #99-Edwards after the final round of stops with 49 to go. As Johnson and #99-Edwards sliced through lapped traffic, #99-Edwards managed to catch Johnson with two to go, at which point Johnson blocked the #99 into the outside wall in turn four. On the final lap, going into the final corner, #99-Edwards made a daring move that sent his car sliding up into the lead, but when he slid too far into the wall, Johnson moved past to take the victory. Led a race-high 124 laps.
1) #48-Jimmie Johnson** THE WINNER!
2) #99-Carl Edwards** Struggle in qualifying on Friday with the 34th-fastest time, but was determined to make up for it on Sunday, where he raced up to 16th by lap 41. Due in most part to the terrible pit selection resulting from his qualifying run, he then became involved in two pit incidents. The first took place during green-flag stops around lap 50 when he exited his pit stall only to be cut off by the wide entry of #83-Vickers, forcing him to stop near the #83's pit stall as the two made slight contact. The second occurred under the first caution on lap 75 when, as he exited his pit stall in tandem with #22-Blaney, the #22 bounced off #31-J. Burton and into him, causing some damage to his right-front fender. He also narrowly avoided involvement, along with many of the leaders, in the fourth caution of the race when #17-Kenseth spun a few carlengths ahead of him. Following the fifth caution brought out by #20-Stewart on lap 130, he marched up through the pack, climbing to 5th on lap 140 and 2nd on lap 162. For the next 11 laps, he chewed up #48-Johnson’s 3 second lead and was right on the #48's rear bumper with 94 to go before green-flag stops began again. He found himself 1.4 seconds behind #48-Johnson once more after the stops cycled through with 82 to go, but caught up to the leader once more just 2 laps later, after which he took the lead with 77 to go. He then lost the lead to #48-Johnson during his final pit stop under the sixth caution with 49 to go as he lost a split-second getting around the car of #84-Allmendinger in front of him. In the final 39 laps following the seventh and final caution of the race, as the two flew through lapped traffic, he hovered in 2nd behind #48-Johnson by 0.8 second, apparently too evenly-matched to compete. That illusion disappeared with 2 to go when he suddenly closed right onto the rear bumper of #48-Johnson going into turn four, the #48 blocking his run on the outside to the point that he scraped the outside wall. Through the final circuit, he closed in once again, this time diving low going into turn three. He completed the pass with a slide-job through the corner, but dove in too hot, causing his car to slide right into the outside wall. Hoping that video game physics would come into play, he kept his foot in it, but he lost too much speed, #48-Johnson passing him once more before he came off the wall and scrambled to the inside, following the #48 home by a couple carlengths. Personally "congratulated" #48-Johnson on pit road after the finish. Led 31 laps.
3) #16-Greg Biffle** Wanted to win his 3rd straight Sprint Cup race to be the first driver ever to sweep the first three Chase races and looked like he had a good chance when, after qualifying 18th, he was fastest in Happy Hour. Despite his early climb toward the top 15, he was very unhappy with his car during the first green-flag run, saying on lap 66 that he was so loose he thought his right-rear tire was going down. The problem never really got better, but in the spirit of teammate #99-Edwards, he drove the car as hard as he could, recovering from a wobble on the restart with 45 to go that dropped he and #17-Kenseth back in the pack to race #24-J. Gordon for 3rd on the final lap, securing the spot off the final corner.
4) #24-Jeff Gordon** Despite suffering an illness through the weekend that led to Brad Keselowski, acting as a DirecTV commentator for the race, standing by as a relief driver, he completed the entire race, spending much of it in the top 5. He nearly spun #07-Bowyer out of 4th in the tri-oval on lap 135, but had trouble with his splitter bouncing off the track on lap 147. Still, he stubbornly held onto the top 5 and even fought off #16-Biffle for the 3rd spot during the final run all the way until the final turn, when #16-Biffle finally inched past by about one carlength.
5) #17-Matt Kenseth** Took the lead from polesitter #48-Johnson on lap 17 and looked set to avenge his near-loss at Dover the previous week. After losing the lead to #1-Truex, Jr. on lap 42, he regained it during green-flag stops on lap 54 after the slow #18-Ky. Busch stayed out an extra lap to get his own 5 bonus points. He kept the lead off pit road under the first caution on lap 75, but immediately lost it when it was discovered he was missing a lugnut. He pitted a third time under that yellow to top off his fuel. By lap 104, he was up to 13th and on lap 123 was near the leaders when he brought out the fourth caution of the race. It was then that he crossed the nose of #5-Mears in turn one, causing his car to drift diagonally through the turn before spinning down to the apron, miraculously avoiding contact with any other car or object. He restarted the race back in the pack on lap 126, was in 20th 11 laps later, and was 15th around lap 154. By the end, he was racing #31-J. Burton for the 5th spot with 30 to go, then held the spot to the finish. Led 49 laps.
6) #29-Kevin Harvick** Raced up from the 36th starting spot to 23rd by lap 41 in the same car which he credited to his string of post-Indianapolis top 10 runs. From there, he kept his nose clean and, indeed, picked up another solid top 10 finish.
7) #31-Jeff Burton** Had trouble before the race even began when, as the cars were rolling off the grid, he remained stopped on pit road to have a faulty tachometer replaced. The repair took until the completion of the first parade lap, at which point he returned to the track, surrendering his 37th place starting spot to start at the back of the pack. He also sustained some minor damage under the first caution on lap 75 when #22-Blaney exited his pit stall in tandem with #99-Edwards, forcing the #22 to bump into his driver’s side door just shy of his left-rear tire. Despite his concerns about damage to his left-rear tire, he remained on the track. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t bad enough to inhibit him and he took 2 tires under the second caution on lap 94 along with #8-Martin and #19-E. Sadler to restart in the top 5. On lap 168, he was racing #88-Earnhardt, Jr. for 6th when he bumped the left-rear of the #88, nearly spinning the #88 in the process. In the final run to the checkers, he had a good race with #17-Kenseth for 5th before falling back to 7th.
8) #6-David Ragan Slid into the top 10 by lap 147 and remained there for much of the rest of the race, picking up another solid finish. In the process, he narrowly avoided a wreck on the restart with 45 to go following the sixth caution of the race when #1-Truex, Jr. in front of him didn’t get up to speed, squeezing him between the #1 and #19-E. Sadler, who was behind him. Luckily, he darted out of the line in time. He was also allegedly involved in the seventh and final caution of the race with 42 to go when he bumped #55-Waltrip’s left-rear in turn four, sending the #55 spinning along with #77-Hornish, Jr.
9) #84-A.J. Allmendinger In a week where, on Tuesday, it was announced he would not be returning to Team Red Bull in 2009, giving him the impression he would be out of the ride after this race, he drove a solid race and bested his career-best finish of 10th at Indianapolis. The run also moved his team up from 34th to 33rd in owner’s points, 89 ahead of 35th place #7-R. Gordon.
10) #19-Elliott Sadler Qualified an impressive 4th and made himself another non-Chase driver to watch during the race when he remained in the top 10 for much of the first green-flag run. A two-tire stop under the second caution on lap 94 along with #8-Martin and #31-J. Burton moved him back into the top 5. He remained in 5th through at least lap 110, fell back to 13th around lap 150, then inched his way back into the top 10 in the final stages, narrowly avoiding disaster when #1-Truex, Jr.’s slow restart with 45 to go forced him to rear-end #6-Ragan.
11) #11-Denny Hamlin** Took the checkered flag in the Nationwide race to clinch the series manufacturer’s championship for Toyota, but a 30th place starting spot for Sunday put him in a tough spot. His car handled, as he said, “terrible” on lap 45 as he remained in the 30th spot during the first green-flag run, but careful adjustments and a late pit stop with #26-McMurray and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. under the seventh and final caution with 42 to go brought him back up to just outside the top 10. He avoided involvement in that seventh and final caution by driving down pit road when #55-Waltrip’s damaged car slid into his path off turn four. Led 1 lap.
12) #07-Clint Bowyer** Eager to win at his home track, he jumped the start when #45-Petty didn’t get up to speed in front of him, leading to NASCAR giving him a pass-through penalty which he served on lap 2. He narrowly held on to the lead lap upon returning to the track, but lost a lap before the first caution fell on lap 75, at which point he received the Lucky Dog. By lap 104, he was back up in 14th, then moved up to 4th where, on lap 135, he nearly spun himself off the nose of #24-J. Gordon in the tri-oval. He then suffered another costly penalty on pit road during the sixth caution with 49 to go when he was caught too fast entering and exiting pit road, dropping him to 17th behind a long line of lapped cars (as no one was out of the race at the point). He only got a few of those spots back before the finish.
13) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr.** For the second straight week, he struggled mightily with handling problems, breaking loose several times off turn four from as early as lap 5. Strangely, however, his car was still running reasonably well near the top 10. In one near-miss on lap 168, he was running 6th in turn four when he crossed the nose of #31-J. Burton, sliding up the track, then twitching off the corner. He was running 10th with 62 to go as the field strung out to the point that he was 21 seconds behind the leader, then lost a couple spots in the final laps despite getting new tires with #26-McMurray and #11-Hamlin under the seventh and final caution with 42 to go.
14) #5-Casey Mears Qualified 10th and crept silently toward the front until he found himself coming off pit road 2nd to #17-Kenseth under the first caution on lap 75, then leading when #17-Kenseth was forced to pit again due to a missing lugnut. He held the lead through the next two cautions in impressive fashion, holding off teammate #48-Johnson until the #48 took the lead on lap 107. His leading was yet more impressive as he was the only car to stay out during the second caution on lap 94 when the rest of the leaders pitted. He held onto the 4th position with his old tires when the third caution came on lap 117, at which point he got back in sequence with the leaders. He was then involved in the fourth caution of the day when he made contact with the left-rear of #17-Kenseth in turn one, causing the #17 to drift through the corner before spinning down to the apron. Held on to a top 15 in the final stages. Led 29 laps.
15) #83-Brian Vickers Became the subject of both #99-Edwards and #20-Stewart’s ire during the race as he consistently seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was first involved in an incident during green flag stops on lap 50 when he swung wide into his pit stall, trapping an exiting #99-Edwards on his inside with whom he made contact. His crew also had a tire roll away during pit stops under the first caution on lap 75. The next pit incident was during the third caution on lap 117 when his pit crew failed to get out of the way when #20-Stewart, pitted behind them, was leaving. His gasman was almost run over by #20-Stewart in the process, and one of his other crewmen kicked the #20 as it passed. He and #20-Stewart crossed paths again during the fifth caution on lap 130 when the #20 merged up into his left-rear tire entering the tri-oval, sending #20-Stewart spinning through the infield grass. He pitted under the yellow to change tires and inspect the cosmetic damage. He lost a lap sometime after that, but got it back as the Lucky Dog under the sixth caution when #28-Kvapil scraped the outside wall with 49 to go. An excellent finish considering what it took to get there.
16) #12-Ryan Newman Brought out the first caution of the day when, while running the high line, he ground his car against the outside wall in turn one, dropping debris in the process. He lost a lap around that time, but got the Lucky Dog when #55-Waltrip and #77-Hornish, Jr.’s spin brought out the seventh and final caution with 42 to go.
17) #26-Jamie McMurray Had a top-15 run going in the middle stages, running 12th on lap 147, but slipped back after that despite taking on new tires along with #11-Hamlin and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. under the seventh and final caution with 42 to go.
18) #8-Mark Martin Picked up the outside-pole yet again as he had at Richmond, Daytona, Indianapolis, and Dover, narrowly missing #48-Johnson’s pole run as he said he “left enough on the table” for someone to best his time. After running up with the leaders, he fell to 10th under the first round of green-flag stops as one of his crewmen snagged his airhose on his splitter. Under the second caution on lap 94, he gained some spots back by leading the field off pit road with a 2-tire stop and restarted 2nd behind #5-Mears. He was back in 20th on lap156 after a pit penalty under the fifth caution on lap 130 forced him to restart at the tail end of the longest line. First car one lap down.
19) #44-David Reutimann After qualifying 40th, he was forced a few spots further back to the back of the pack due to an engine change during practice. The confluence of these two things ultimately led to him losing a lap in the first 100 laps, but he got his lap back the hard way by running in front of leader #5-Mears after the lap 99 restart, remaining there even as #48-Johnson took the lead on lap 107, then holding on until the third caution on lap 117, at which point he got his lap back without the Lucky Dog. Led 1 lap.
20) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya Looked to be having a career day in qualifying on Friday when he beat #48-Johnson’s time to take the pole in his 66th start. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be as the nitrogen pressures in his rear shocks was ruled to be too high, causing NASCAR to disallow his time. The penalty sent him back to the 42nd starting spot and gave eventual race winner #48-Johnson the pole.
21) #9-Kasey Kahne NO NOTES
22) #38-David Gilliland NO NOTES
23) #70-Tony Raines NO NOTES
24) #43-Bobby Labonte Nearly collided with the slowing #28-Kvapil after the #28 had ground the outside wall in turn one, bringing out the sixth caution with 49 to go.
25) #21-Bill Elliott Qualified an impressive 7th, nearly besting his season-best qualifying run of 5th in the August Bristol race. He ran a quiet race until he sustained some minor damage in the seventh and final caution when, while trying to avoid the #55-Waltrip machine sliding down the banking, he bumped the left-front fender of the #55 with the right side of his car, causing some minor cosmetic damage to his car.
26) #41-Reed Sorenson NO NOTES
27) #15-Paul Menard Qualified an outstanding 6th, but was very loose early on and slipped back gradually through the field. During a late pit stop with 80 to go, his car was shown with the right side very scuffed-up from a scrape with the outside wall.
28) #18-Kyle Busch** Despite bringing the very car with which he dominated at Chicagoland in July, the Kansas race proved to be yet another disappointment. After qualifying 23rd, he was still mired back in 25th on lap 26 when he reported that the pitch of his engine was changing. As he began to slowly lose spots, at one point wobbling his car from a possible fuel pickup problem, his crew prepared for the worst in the garage area on lap 36. During the green-flag stops which soon followed, he stayed out an extra lap to get his 5 bonus points before pitting for tires. His crew did not raise the hood under that caution as they planned to fix his carburetor under the next caution. Strangely, after losing a lap, his car seemed to get some of its speed back just before the first caution, as he was able to fight for the Lucky Dog. Though he lost the Lucky Dog to #07-Bowyer under the first caution on lap 75, he got it himself when the second yellow fell on lap 94. The car still wasn’t up to speed, however, and under the third caution on lap 117, his crew looked under the hood and suspected that a piece of paper was stuck in his carburetor. The repair may not have been successful, however, as he was still 32nd, 3 mph off the leader’s pace, on lap 165. Led 1 lap.
29) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) The top-finishing rookie for the seventh time this season, breaking a tie with #00-McDowell for third and moving to just one race shy of leaders #77-Hornish, Jr. and #01-Smith with eight. Lost a lap early, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when #96-Logano brought out the third caution on lap 117. Led 3 laps.
30) #2-Kurt Busch Like #88-Earnhardt, Jr., he fought a very loose race car through much of the race, which was an even greater problem for him as he qualified back in 31st and went down a lap early in the race.
31) #22-Dave Blaney Suffered some damage during pit stops under the first caution on lap 75 when he was “pinballed” between the exiting car of #99-Edwards and the car of #31-J. Burton who was running on his outside.
32) #01-Regan Smith (R) NO NOTES
33) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Was involved in the seventh and final caution of the race when #55-Waltrip, knocked loose off turn four by #6-Ragan, wobbled up into his left-rear, sending his car sliding through the turn. Fortunately, he avoided spinning and kept his car straight down the frontstretch, avoiding any other contact in the process.
34) #28-Travis Kvapil Brought out the sixth caution of the race when, while running the outside groove as #12-Newman and #96-Logano had before him, he scraped the outside wall in turn one, nearly colliding with #43-B. Labonte as he came off the wall.
35) #55-Michael Waltrip Was involved in the seventh and final caution of the race when #6-Ragan made slight contact with the left-rear of his car coming off turn four with 42 to go, causing him to wobble up into #77-Hornish, Jr., sending his own car sliding down the track where it made slight contact with the passing #21-Elliott machine. #11-Hamlin was also forced to evade contact by driving down pit road. The contact creased his left-front fender onto his tire and, though the crew seemed to repair it, his left-front tire exploded under green coming off turn two with 12 to go. The incident did not bring out a caution as he dropped debris on the apron on the backstretch. Led 1 lap.
36) #47-Marcos Ambrose (R) May have been short on tires as, in the middle stages of the race, he started running silver Michael Waltrip Racing wheels on the front of his car. Soon after the final restart with 39 to go, he was seen slowing down the backstretch after making contact with the wall in turns one and two.
37) #7-Robby Gordon Still hangs on to the 35th spot in owner’s points, though now by slightly more ground (29 points) over #00-McDowell, who DNQ’d.
38) #78-Joe Nemechek NO NOTES
39) #96-Joey Logano (R) Lost a lap in the first green flag run and, surprisingly, never contended. Brought out the third caution of the race on lap 117 when, while running the high groove, he ground his car against the wall in turn three.
40) #20-Tony Stewart** A terrible 41st place starting spot motivated him in the early going when, by lap 8, he was already up to the 27th position. However, during that first green-flag run, his car seemed to stall out in that spot as he was still running 26th on lap 41. Pit strategy seemed to help as he was back up to 15th by lap 104 not long after the restart following the second caution of the race. He lost some spots in the pits as well, however, when under the third caution on lap 117, #83-Vickers’ crew failed to get out of his way fast enough from the stall in front of him, making him almost run over the #83's gasman before he stopped. Angry, he sped off pit road, sending him to the tail end of the longest line. There, he found himself with #83-Vickers yet again when the two were involved in the fifth caution on lap 130. Entering the tri-oval, he broke loose and made contact with the left-rear tire of the #83, sending him spinning through the infield grass. The agricultural ride broke at least two brackets on his splitter and loaded the weakened splitter with grass. His crew cleared away the grass, but knew they would have to make repairs to the splitter under a subsequent caution. By lap 162, he was running a lap down with his splitter was dragging on the track (like #99-Edwards at Chicagoland), and his crew was putting together a patch on pit road. He then pitted under green with 77 to go and lost 6 more laps from the repairs.
41) #45-Kyle Petty After getting off to a slow start at the green flag which forced #07-Bowyer to illegally pass before the start of the race, then blocking #1-Truex, Jr. in his pit stall during the first round of green flag stops, he brought out the second caution of the day when, while running on the edge of the apron in turn two on lap 94, he lost control and spun through the grass.
42) #66-Scott Riggs Had a separate issue from #45-Petty during the second caution of the race on lap 94 when, while running 12th, he broke his drive shaft, dropping a large piece of it at the entrance of pit road. The repairs took 30 laps, after which he managed to return to the track. Since there was not much attrition at all, however, he finished as the last car running and slipped to 34th in owner’s points, 50 ahead of 35th place #7-R. Gordon, as #84-Allmendinger scored a strong 9th place finish.
43) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Was fastest in the first practice session on Friday and qualified a solid 5th, positioning himself as the Chase spoiler of the week. On Sunday, he worked the outside groove to perfection, racing up to 3rd by lap 22 and past #17-Kenseth for the lead as the two fought through traffic on lap 42. Held up by #45-Petty in the pits under green around lap 50, he lost the lead to #17-Kenseth. Having refused adjustments earlier on, he slipped back to 4th by lap 86 and found himself in defensive mode. His pit crew pulled through, however, getting him off pit road first with a two-tire change during the third caution on lap 117. He held the lead through the next two brief cautions before #48-Johnson passed him on lap 137. With 66 to go, he was back in 6th and very angry about his handling, yelling “Fix the damn thing!” on the radio. Disaster began to strike on the restart with 45 to go following the sixth caution of the race when he missed a shift, squeezing #6-Ragan between his car and the closing car of #19-E. Sadler. Though he avoided a wreck, his transmission problem worsened on the restart with 39 to go following the seventh caution of the race when he faded high in turn one and made an unscheduled stop with his car not under power. The shifter on his car had completely come apart, sending him to the garage as the only car out of the race. Led 27 laps.
DID NOT QUALIFY:
#00-Michael McDowell (R)