Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kyle Busch Wins Four in a Row

Kyle Busch had won the spring Richmond race for the past three years.  As the Capitol City 400 was being run, it didn't look like Kyle Busch had anything for the top two drivers.  But on two consecutive restarts, Busch was able to defeat the best to win his fourth-consecutive Sprint Cup Richmond race.

Kyle Busch celebrates his 24th career victory (Courtesy Getty Images)
Mark Martin, who first won the pole here 31 years ago in 1981, led the field to the green after he won his 53rd career pole.  Martin held the lead until lap 30, when Carl Edwards, who started second, passed him for the lead.  Martin's car was starting to get very loose, and he quickly began to lose spots on the track.  A competition caution came out on lap 50, and by that point Mark Martin had fallen all the way to eighth place. 

On the restart, Jeff Gordon got loose and got into Greg Biffle, and it sent his car into Kurt Busch's car.  Gordon was forced to pit with a flat tire. Carl Edwards was able to lead the entire green flag run, until lap 116, when Kurt Busch spun coming out of turn 4.  Edwards' pit crew once again got him off of pit road first.  On the restart, he was able to pull away from Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.  Tony Stewart had been closing on Carl Edwards for about 20 laps, and finally, on lap 201, Stewart passed Edwards for the lead.  The same time that Stewart took the lead from Edwards, green flag pit stops began for most of the field. 

Carl Edwards leads Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch (Courtesy Getty Images)
Stewart and Edwards made pit stops together, and Edwards was able to beat Stewart off pit road.  Following pit stops, however, Kevin Harvick was scored as the leader.  Harvick made his pit stop about five laps sooner than Stewart and Edwards, and that was all he needed to take the lead.  Harvick held onto the lead for a few laps, but Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart quickly passed him again for first and second place.  On lap 227, the third caution of the day came out for debris.  The leaders pitted, and Carl Edwards' crew got him off pit road first again, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and Kyle Busch. 

Carl Edwards pulled away from the field on the lap 236 restart.  Jimmie Johnson tried to fend off Tony Stewart, but to no avail; Stewart quickly got around Johnson and was soon on the back bumper of Carl Edwards.  On lap 250, Stewart was able to complete the pass on Edwards, and regained the lead.  Edwards quickly fell to fourth, as he was soon passed by Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson.  Green flag pit stops soon followed, and most of the leaders came in.  Carl Edwards missed pit road, which actually helped him.  While Jimmie Johnson was on pit road, Jeff Burton hit the wall on lap 311 to bring out the fourth caution.  Carl Edwards made his pit stop, and restarted first.

On the restart, Carl Edwards jumped out into the lead when Tony Stewart spun his tires.  But he may have jumped out to the lead a little too soon; Edwards was black-flagged for jumping the restart.  He came in to make his pass-through penalty, and Tony Stewart was handed the lead.  Kyle Busch tried to catch up to Stewart, but he began to pull away from the 18.  Stewart led until lap 386, when the fifth caution came out for debris.  The caution allowed Carl Edwards to get the lucky dog.

Edwards' crew chief, Bob Osborne, talks with a NASCAR official about his penalty (Courtesy Getty Images)
The field pitted for tires, and Kyle Busch's pit crew got him out first.  On lap 391, Kyle Busch brought the field to the green flag and pulled away from the field.  Tony Stewart had another bad restart, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was able to get around him for second place.  Earnhardt Jr. wasn't able to catch Busch, however, and Busch was able to win his fourth straight spring race at Richmond.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. came close to winning his first race since 2008, but fell short and finished second.  Tony Stewart led 112 laps, but could not get going on the final restart and finished third.  Denny Hamlin finished fourth, Kasey Kahne fifth, and Jimmie Johnson sixth.  MWR teammates Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin finished seventh and eighth, respectively.  Mark Martin will not be in the car next weekend at Talladega, and his next race will be at Darlington for the Bojangles' Southern 500.  Brad Keselowski finished ninth, and Carl Edwards came back to round out the top 10.  Points leader Greg Biffle finished 18th, while Jeff Gordon finished 23rd after troubles on the first restart. 

Kyle Busch's car is in a cloud of smoke following his post-race burnout (Courtesy Getty Images)
The Capitol City 400 had more cautions than we'd seen in the past few races, and Kyle Busch returned to his old form.  But what most people will be talking about this week will be how Carl Edwards lost the race.  The class of the field all day, Edwards lost the race in a confusing turn of events where Edwards may or may not have been the leader of the race when he was black-flagged for jumping the restart.  We'll see what happens next week, when NASCAR returns to the fastest track on the Sprint Cup circuit; Talladega.  The pack is back, and the race promises to be full of excitement.  The race can be seen next Sunday at 12 p.m., only on FOX.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Victory Slips Through Truex's Fingers

Martin Truex Jr.'s only career victory came at Dover in 2007.  He came as close as he could come to his second career victory, but Denny Hamlin proved too strong to overcome.  Hamlin was able to hold on to get his second win of 2012.

Hamlin celebrates his first win at Kansas (Courtesy Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger led the field to the green flag at Kansas.  He jumped out to an early lead, but was soon dogged by Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.  Harvick was not able to get around Allmendinger, and Truex Jr. decided to try his chances at getting around Allmendinger.  When the first round of green flag pit stops took place around lap 43, AJ Allmendinger had some trouble on pit road and when stops cycled around, Martin Truex Jr. found himself in the lead.  Less than 10 laps later, on lap 52, Clint Bowyer spun trying to get to pit road.  Bowyer, who had been having engine troubles, took his car to the garage under the caution.

Clint Bowyer's day didn't go as planned; his engine began to lose power just 50 laps into the race (Courtesy Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr. jumped out to a big lead on the restart.  While Truex drove away, Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne had a tough battle for second place.  Kahne was able to get beside Harvick, but he was unable to pass him, and Harvick was able to hold onto second place.  Pole-sitter AJ Allmendinger began to experience engine problems, much like Clint Bowyer.  Truex Jr. eventually lapped Allmendinger, and his promising day turned sour before lap 100.

On lap 87, Kevin Harvick began to run out of fuel, so he came in for a green flag pit stop.  That soon forced everyone else to pit.  On lap 92, one lap before he was scheduled to come in, Kasey Kahne also ran out of fuel.  Martin Truex Jr. was able to hold onto the lead, and he held an 8-second lead over Matt Kenseth when the second caution of the race came out on lap 132.  Jamie McMurray was caught on pit road by the caution, but he was able to take the wave around under the caution.  The rest of the field pitted under the caution, and Martin Truex Jr. was able to beat everyone off pit road.  During pit stops, AJ Allmendinger's crew went under the hood to look at his failing engine.  Bobby Labonte's engine also let go while the cars came onto pit road.  Right as the field was about to go green, Clint Bowyer's engine officially let go, and he took it to the garage for the second time today.

Martin Truex Jr. was on top of his game at Kansas (Courtesy Getty Images)
The race went green again at lap 142, and Martin Truex Jr. wasted no time in pulling out to a one-second lead over second-place Denny Hamlin.  By lap 163, Jimmie Johnson got up to the back bumper of Truex and was looking to take the lead.  Johnson's spotter told Johnson to not push the issue because Truex "will mess up."  Unfortunately for Johnson, Truex never messed up and was able to hold off Johnson.  Green flag pit stops happened again at lap 177, and Martin Truex Jr. found himself in the lead once again when the field cycled around.  The caution came out 10 laps later on lap 187, when Juan Pablo Montoya slapped the wall and dropped some debris on the track.  Under the caution, only a few drivers pitted, including Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, and Mark Martin.

The race restarted on lap 192, and Martin Truex Jr. led Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the line, and he jumped out to another one-second lead.  Truex held the lead for the entire green flag run, and the final round of pit stops came on lap 220.  Hamlin came in a lap before Truex, and Hamlin was right there when the 56 came out of the pits.  Following the pit stop, Hamlin's car began running .2 seconds faster than Truex Jr.'s.  With 31 laps to go, Hamlin was able to take the lead from Truex, who began to complain that the car was "wrecking loose" when the sun finally came out.

The 56 pit crew was on top of it's game at Kansas (Courtesy Getty Images)
At around the same time that Hamlin took the lead, two Hendrick engines began to fail; Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch both believed that they were only running on 7 cylinders.  The engine woes continued on lap 262; Mark Martin began to complain of his engine losing power.  Martin's MWR teammate Clint Bowyer lost his engine early on in the race.

Martin Truex Jr. began to find something with about 10 laps to go, and he started to eat into Hamlin's lead.  Truex got within .3 seconds of Hamlin, and he dive-bombed it into the corner with 3 to go, but his car didn't stick and it slid up the track.  Hamlin won his second race of the year, and his first at Kansas.  Truex Jr., who hasn't won since 2007, will have to continue looking for his second career win.  He led 179 laps today, while Hamlin only led 32 laps on his way to victory.

Denny Hamlin takes the checkered flag (Courtesy Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson finished third, and Roush Fenway teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle finished fourth and fifth, respectively.  Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10.  Jeff Gordon limped home in 21st, 3 laps down.  AJ Allmendinger, who won the pole and lead early, finished 32nd after having engine problems, 10 laps down.  Mark Martin ran in the top 10 all day, but a blown engine about 10 laps from the end relegated him to a 33rd-place finish.  Martin's teammate Clint Bowyer finished 36th after engine problems.  

The STP 400 had long green flag runs for the second race in a row, and the ending was once again an exciting finish.  Next week hopes to be even more exciting when the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Richmond International Raceway for 400 miles under the lights.  The next race can be seen on Saturday night, at 7 p.m., only on FOX.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Biffle Wins Texas Shootout

Greg Biffle's last victory came at Kansas in 2010, 49 races ago.  This season, the points leader had four top 10 finishes in the first six races.  Biffle was able to grow his points lead tonight, when he overtook Jimmie Johnson to win his first race of 2012.

Greg Biffle celebrates his first win since 2010 (Courtesy Getty Images)
Michael Waltrip Racing has been on a roll lately, and the off week did not slow them down; Martin Truex Jr. won the pole for the race, and Mark Martin qualified fourth.  Truex Jr. took the green flag first, and jumped out to an early lead.  Matt Kenseth began to have some problems at around lap 20.  He believed that something was on fire in the engine, after his water temperature shot up and he got some smoke in the cockpit.  But that didn't stop he and teammate Greg Biffle from catching Martin Truex Jr., and on lap 32, Biffle took the lead from Martin Truex Jr. 

Trevor Bayne, shown here on pit road, brought out one of the race's two cautions (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 43, Jeff Gordon hit pit road with a worn right-front tire, and it forced the rest of the field to make green flag pit stops.  During the stops, Kasey Kahne, who has had bad luck in almost every race this year, got boxed in on his stop and lost most of his track position.  At about lap 64, Matt Kenseth reported that he may have had a loose wheel, and that he would have to come in to fix it.  But then, on lap 67, they caught a break when the first caution came out, for debris.

Following pit stops, Martin Truex Jr. retook the lead from Greg Biffle, but Biffle took the lead on the high side on the ensuing restart.  He lead all the way until lap 82, when his Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth took the lead.  On lap 93, the second caution of the night came out when Trevor Bayne slapped the outside wall.  Kenseth lost the lead during pit stops, and Martin Truex Jr.'s team got him out front once again.  On the restart, however, Greg Biffle was able to drive away from the field and retake the lead.

Biffle was only able to hold the lead until lap 113, when Jimmie Johnson got a run coming off turn 4 to take the lead away.  Johnson lost the lead on the next round of green flag pit stops, after he pitted five laps after Martin Truex Jr., who took the lead away from Johnson while he was in the pits.  It took Johnson until lap 180 before he was able to take the lead away from Truex.  Just a few laps later, green flag pit stops began again, and this time Jimmie Johnson was able to hold on to the lead.  While Johnson was able to hold onto his position, Martin Truex Jr. was shuffled back to fifth after pit stops.  Truex's Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Mark Martin moved up to second following the round of green flag pit stops.

Jimmie Johnson leads Greg Biffle during the Samsung Mobile 500 (Courtesy Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson did not give up the lead over the next green flag run.  During the green flag pit stops, Johnson did not lose any time on Greg Biffle or Mark Martin, who were running second and third, respectively.  Johnson was dominating the race, but with 60 laps to go, Greg Biffle began to cut into Johnson's lead a little bit, partly due to the fact that Johnson was catching a lot of lapped traffic.

Right before the last set set of green flag pit stops, Greg Biffle cut into Jimmie Johnson's lead dramatically as Johnson was trying to get some trash off of his grille.  Following the green flag pit stops, the top three remained the same; Jimmie Johnson led Greg Biffle and Mark Martin with about 50 laps to go.  With 30 laps to go, Biffle was finally able to get around Jimmie Johnson to take the lead.  Biffle started to build a big lead on Johnson, and it got even bigger when the 48 car slid up into the outside wall with about 17 laps to go.  Biffle was able to keep his lead over Johnson at around 3.2 seconds, and easily captured his 17th career win.  Biffle led 91 laps on his way to victory.

Mark Martin stands in front of his car before the race; he would finish third (Courtesy Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, after leading a race-high 156 laps, was able to nurse his car home second.  Unfortunately for team owner Rick Hendrick, they will have to take the 200th Win hats to Kansas with them.  Mark Martin was running the fastest laps at the end of the race, but it was too little too late, and he came home third.  Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top 5. Pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. was able to come home sixth, while Kasey Kahne had some good luck and finished seventh.  Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished eigth, ninth, and  tenth, respectively.  Marcos Ambrose had a strong run all day, but ran out of gas on the last lap and ended up 20th.  Tony Stewart had to go to a back-up car before the race, and couldn't make up any ground; he finished 24th.  Brad Keselowski had engine troubles about halfway through the race, and wound up 36th, 22 laps down. 

The race at Texas was not very exciting, but any race with a 234-lap green flag run isn't exactly the epitome of excitement.  The next race will be Sunday at Kansas, where the Sprint Cup stars will run 400 miles to see who is the best-of-the-best.  The race will be at 12:30, and can be seen only on FOX. 

Greg Biffle: Winner of the Samsung Mobile 500 (Courtesy Getty Images)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Victory Falls Into Newman's Lap

If there was a "Look What Fell Into My Lap" award, Ryan Newman would be an early candidate to win it.  Newman took full advantage of his opportunity when he was able to avoid a wreck that collected the top three cars of Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson.

Ryan Newman celebrates his Martinsville victory (Courtesy Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne led the field to the green flag.  After a dismal start to the season, many were hoping that he would be able to hold onto the lead for at least one lap.  But unfortunately for Kahne, Kevin Harvick, who won the Truck Series race Saturday, took the lead and led the first lap.  Harvick actually led the first 21 laps, until Jeff Gordon took the lead.  Gordon started ninth, and quickly moved his way up through the field. 

Gordon believed that he had a tire going down, but he was able to hold off Brad Keselowski until the first caution came out at lap 97.  Kyle Busch smacked the wall in Turn 3 after what they believe to be a broken track bar.  Jeff Gordon was able to win the race off pit road, and he remained the leader.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third at Martinsville (Courtesy Getty Images)
Gordon led all the way until lap 229, when his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead.  Following green flag pit stops, however, Jeff Gordon was able to regain the lead from Earnhardt Jr.  At the same time, Kasey Kahne's bad luck continued; his engine began to lose power.  Kahne took his Chevrolet to the garage as Dave Blaney spun on lap 244 to bring out the second caution.

 The caution flag flew again on lap 263 after Juan Pablo Montoya got a bump from Ken Schrader and went around.  The fourth caution flew for Kasey Kahne, who's woes continued.  After coming back out on the track after getting his engine serviced, his engine completely blew on lap 315.  On his way into the pits, he spun in his own oil and blocked the entrance to pit road.

Kasey Kahne's woes continued at Martinsville (Courtesy Getty Images)
The race went back green on lap 329, and Jeff Gordon still led the field.  Gordon led until lap 356, when Jimmie Johnson, who has won six Martinsville races, took the lead.  Johnson led up until the fifth caution, which came out on lap 361 when Travis Kvapil spun in Turn 2.  On the restart, Denny Hamlin beat Jeff Gordon out of the pits and took the lead.

Hamlin held the lead, but soon had to deal with Jimmie Johnson.  Johnson and Gordon got up to Hamlin, and Johnson raced Hamlin for about 20 laps in the closest racing we had seen all day, before Johnson finally was able to make the pass.  Gordon followed him through to move back up to second. 

Jeff Gordon led 328 laps en route to a 14th place finish (Courtesy Getty Images)
With 4 laps to go, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were beating and banging for the lead, when David Reutimann's car stalled on the track for the sixth caution.  Jeff Gordon was the leader on the restart, but he quickly lost the lead.  Clint Bowyer dove into the first turn 3-wide, and Jimmie Johnson spun before Jeff Gordon's car clipped Bowyer's car, spinning him out as well.  Ryan Newman took the lead, and under the caution Jeff Gordon ran out of gas.

Clint Bowyer (15), Jeff Gordon (24), and Jimmie Johnson (48) wreck in Turn 1 (Courtesy Getty Images)
Ryan Newman led AJ Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., and Matt Kenseth on the restart.  Newman was able to hold off AJ Allmendinger to win his first grandfather clock.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third, Matt Kenseth fourth, and Martin Truex Jr. fifth.  Points leader Greg Biffle had a very quiet day, and went on to finish 13th.  Jeff Gordon, who led a race-high 328 laps, finished one lap down in 14th.

The ending of the Goody's Fast Relief 500 was amazing.  The one thing that is shocking is that Hendrick Motorsports failed to win their 200th race.  Between Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports led 443 of the 515 laps run.  Rick Hendrick will have to wait at least two weeks to win the milestone victory, because the Sprint Cup Series is off next weekend.   The next race will be at Texas under the lights for the Samsung Mobile 500.  The race can be seen on Saturday, April 14 at 7 P.M. on FOX.