Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bowyer's Not Done Yet

Brad Keselowski was ready to win his sixth race of the season, and continue his run towards a Sprint Cup Championship.  But he ran out of gas while leading, and fell back in the pack.  Clint Bowyer took over the lead when the other leaders had to stop for fuel, and he was able to save enough fuel and hold off Denny Hamlin to win his third race of the season.

Bowyer celebrates his third win of the season (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Greg Biffle led Mark Martin and the rest of the field to the green flag.  Biffle picked the outside line on the start, and Martin was able to stay alongside him, and led lap two.  They stayed side-by-side until lap five, when Biffle was finally able to clear Martin for the lead coming off Turn 4.  The caution came out on lap 12 for Matt Kenseth, who blew a left rear tire and spun to the inside of the track. 

The race restarted on lap 15, and the caution came out as soon as the green came out.  The field stacked up, and Jeff Burton and David Ragan spun coming across the start/finish line.  Biffle led the field back to the green flag on lap 22, and he was able to pull ahead of the field.  Bowyer, who restarted second, didn't get a good restart, and Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were able to get around him for second and third, respectively. 

Mark Martin races side-by-side with Greg Biffle (John Harrelson/Getty Images)
Paul Menard blew a right front tire and hit the outside wall to bring out the third caution on lap 36.  The leaders came in to make pit stops, and Jimmie Johnson beat Kevin Harvick and Martin off pit road after taking only two tires.  Biffle was 10th after stops, as he was the first driver to take four tires.  Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose stayed out under the caution, and led the field to the green flag on lap 42.  Ambrose restarted on the bottom, but he was able to get around Keselowski coming off Turn 4 to take the lead.  Keselowski was able to get back around Ambrose for the lead on lap 44 heading into Turn 1. 

On lap 62, Regan Smith, who was driving the No. 88 car for Dale Earnhardt Jr., blew an engine and had to take his car to the garage.  By lap 67, Johnson had caught Keselowski for the lead, but was unable to make the pass.  Keselowski made his pit stop on lap 74, giving up the lead to Johnson, who pitted later than Keselowski.  On lap 80, Kasey Kahne made his pit stop to kick off a round of green flag pit stops.  Johnson gave up the lead on lap 85 to make his pit stop.  When Jeff Gordon made his pit stop on lap 86, Brad Keselowski cycled around as the leader. 

Regan Smith, driving the 88 car for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., blew an engine (Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
By lap 97, Jimmie Johnson was able to catch Keselowski to get the lead back.  On lap 106, Denny Hamlin, who had fresher tires than Keselowski, got around him for second place going through turns 3 and 4.  On lap 125, Keselowski came in to start another round of green flag pit stops.  Denny Hamlin was the leader after the stops had cycled around on lap 137, followed by Keselowski and Johnson. 

On lap 141, Johnson was able to get a run on Keselowski for second place.  Johnson quickly caught Hamlin for the lead, but he wasn't able to make a move for the lead.  The fourth caution of the night came out on lap 166 for debris in Turn 1.  The leaders hit pit road, putting Keselowski back on the same cycle as everyone else.  Johnson led the field back to the green flag, and he chose the high side.  Greg Biffle, who restarted fourth, jumped to the outside at the green flag, and he got around Johnson and raced side-by-side with Hamlin for a lap before taking the lead.  Keselowski was able to follow Biffle past Hamlin for second. 

Biffle wiggled on lap 180, and it allowed Keselowski to get the lead, and Hamlin followed for second place.  On lap 189, Kyle Busch got around Biffle for third, and set his sights on Hamlin and Keselowski.  On lap 215, Martin Truex Jr. hit pit road to start another round of green flag pit stops. 

The caution came out for debris on lap 222 just as pit stops had ended.  Under the caution, Hamlin and Johnson came in to make another pit stop for fuel only.  The race restarted on lap 228, and Keselowski chose to restart on the inside, alongside Kyle Busch.  Keselowski was able to clear Busch coming off of Turn 2. 

Johnson leads Keselowski (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
On lap 259, Martin Truex Jr. made his pit stop to start another round of green flag stops.  With 59 laps to go, Brad Keselowski ran out of fuel while leading trying to stretch it on fuel.  Denny Hamlin took over the lead, and Johnson ran out of fuel trying to save it as well.  Hamlin was the final car to pit, and Greg Biffle was the leader when stops cycled around.  Keselowski ended up in 14th after running out of gas.  Keselowski still needed help to make it to the end, as did Johnson and Hamlin. 

With 25 laps to go, Kyle Busch and Mark Martin pitted from second and third place, respectively, for a splash of fuel.  Biffle gave up the lead to get a splash of fuel as well, and gave the lead to Clint Bowyer.  Keselowski made a pit stop for fuel with 23 laps to go.  After pit stops, Bowyer led Hamlin and Johnson, who all should have been good on fuel.  Hamlin started charging towards Bowyer, but Bowyer was able to hold him off, and won his third race of the season.

Denny Hamlin was able to save enough fuel, and finished second.  Jimmie Johnson slowed drastically to save enough, and he finished third.  Greg Biffle was strong all night, and finished fourth.  Kyle Busch finished fifth.  Mark Martin had a strong car throughout the weekend, and finished sixth.  Carl Edwards had another strong race, and finished seventh.  Kasey Kahne finished eighth, and was followed by Joey Logano.  Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the Top 10.  Brad Keselowski's fuel gamble didn't pay off, and he finished 11th.  Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth finished 13th and 14th, respectively.  Kevin Harvick finished 16th.  Jeff Gordon finished 18th, the first car two laps down.  Kurt Busch finished 21st in his first race with Furniture Row Racing.  AJ Allmendinger, in his first race back from his drug suspension, finished 24th with Phoenix Racing.  Regan Smith filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is out with a concussion, and finished 38th after blowing an engine early in the race. 

Keselowski's points lead was cut in half, and he now leads Jimmie Johnson by only seven points.  Bowyer was able to move up with his win, but he is still 28 points out of first.  Here is how the points stack up, unofficially, courtesy of

Clint Bowyer won his third race of the season, and it came at the most perfect time in the Chase.  Bowyer now finds himself 28 points out of first, just on the brink of a Championship rally.  Everyone beneath him in the points, in my opinion, are out of the Chase for the Championship.  Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400, where Keselowski, Johnson, and Hamlin should all be strong once again.  The race can be seen at 1 p.m. next Sunday, only on ESPN.

John Harrelson/Getty Images

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