Monday, May 27, 2013

Harvick Wins the Coca-Cola 600

Written for CLNS Radio.

Kevin Harvick won the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night after using late pit strategy to get around Kasey Kahne on the final restart with 11 laps to go.

Stretter Lecka/Getty Images
Harvick only led 28 laps, while Kahne and Matt Kenseth had the dominant cars all night, combining to lead 268 of 400 laps.  It looked as if Kahne was going to run away with the victory late in the race, but a late caution  proved to be the deciding factor.  Harvick was able to get around Kahne on the final restart, and he led the final 11 laps on his way to victory.

Harvick is now a two-time winner of the Coca-Cola 600, but the last time he won was in 2011.  In that race, Harvick beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a fuel mileage race.  Harvick knew that this time was different.

"We just went out and won it this time," Harvick told FOX Sports.  "It was a good strategy call there, and Kahne stayed out and we were able to have a little fresher tires and get in front of him on the restart."

The race was marred by bizarre events throughout the night.  On lap 122, NASCAR threw the caution for debris.  It turned out that the debris was some cable from FOX's camera that ran along the frontstretch.  The cable had damaged multiple cars, including Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, and Marcos Ambrose.

The race was red-flagged while NASCAR cleaned up the cable from off the track.  The race was then red-flagged for another 15 minutes while teams were allowed to work on their cars if they were damaged by the cable.  

The cable also injured 10 fans who were in attendance.  7 fans were treated and released from the infield care center, while 3 fans were sent to a local hospital for further evaluation.  They were all later treated and released.

The race continued until lap 259, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. blew an engine, and Greg Biffle hit the wall after getting caught in Earnhardt's oil.  Dave Blaney and Travis Kvapil also got together after sliding through Earnhardt's oil.

The next major caution came on lap 319 for a crash between Danica Patrick and Brad Keselowski.  Patrick and Keselowski were three-wide with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. when he got loose in the middle of the corner.  Stenhouse got into Patrick, and she and Keselowski made hard contact with the outside wall.

The race was red-flagged again on lap 326 after a big crash that started when Mark Martin and Aric Almirola got together going through the trioval.  Martin turned Almirola into Jeff Gordon, and they both made hard contact with the outside wall.  Stenhouse and Bobby Labonte also spun through the corner.

The final caution came out with 16 laps to go, and everyone pitted except for Kahne.  When the race restarted, Kahne was no match for Harvick's fresher right-side tires.  Harvick ran away from the field, while Kahne had to hold off a tough challenge from Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Joey Logano.

Here are the unofficial results:

1. Kevin Harvick
2. Kasey Kahne
3. Kurt Busch
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Joey Logano
6. Ryan Newman
7. Tony Stewart
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Martin Truex Jr.
10. Marcos Ambrose
11. Carl Edwards
12. Jeff Burton
13. Paul Menard
14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
15. Matt Kenseth
16. Trevor Bayne
17. Regan Smith
18. Juan Pablo Montoya
19. Jamie McMurray
20. David Gilliland
21. David Reutimann
22. Jimmie Johnson
23. Casey Mears
24. Bobby Labonte
25. David Ragan
26. Josh Wise
27. Timmy Hill
28. J.J. Yeley
29. Danica Patrick
30. Dave Blaney
31. Greg Biffle
32. David Stremme
33. Aric Almirola
34. Mark Martin
35. Jeff Gordon
36. Brad Keselowski
37. Landon Cassill
38. Kyle Busch
39. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
40. Travis Kvapil
41. Joe Nemechek
42. Michael McDowell
43. Scott Speed

Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the Monster Mile, Dover International Speedway.  The FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks can be seen at 1:00 p.m. ET, only on FOX.

Kanaan Wins the Indianapolis 500

Written for CLNS Radio.

For 11 years, Tony Kanaan went to Indianapolis with hopes of winning the Indianapolis 500, but every year something went wrong and he was kept out of victory lane.  On Sunday afternoon, he was finally able to break through and win the Indianapolis 500.

Tony Kanaan drives under Marco Andretti (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kanaan started 12th, but he quickly worked his way to the front and took the lead on lap nine.  He ran up front most of the day, but it was not an easy race to win.  This year's race nearly doubled the old record for lead changes, with the lead changing hands 68 times among 14 drivers.  

Kanaan also had a good luck with him in the car on Sunday.  9 years ago, he gave a little girl his lucky medal before she went in for surgery.  The girl, now 24, mailed the medal back to Kanaan, and it was with Kanaan in the car during the race.

When Kanaan was in victory lane, he couldn't find the words to describe how he felt after winning the race that had eluded him his whole career.

"I'm speechless," Kanaan told ABC.  "Finally I'm going to put my ugly face on that trophy."

Rookie Carlos Munoz finished second, and was followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay.  Hunter-Reay was leading when the race restarted after a late-race caution, but he was passed on both sides by Kanaan and Munoz.  Kanaan was leading when the final caution of the race came out just two laps from the finish.  The race never went back green, and Kanaan won the race under caution.

Here are the unofficial results:

1. Tony Kanaan
2. Carlos Munoz
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay
4. Marco Andretti
5. Justin Wilson
6. Helio Castroneves
7. AJ Allmendinger
8. Simon Pagenaud
9. Charlie Kimball
10. Ed Carpenter
11. Oriol Servia
12. Ryan Briscoe
13. Takuma Sato
14. Scott Dixon
15. Ana Beatriz
16. Tristan Vautier
17. Simona De Silvestro
18. EJ Viso
19. Will Power
20. James Jakes
21. James Hinchcliffe
22. Conor Daly
23. Dario Franchitti
24. Alex Tagliani
25. Graham Rahal
26. Katherine Legge
27. Townsend Bell
28. Josef Newgarden
29. Sebastien Bourdais
30. Pippa Mann
31. Buddy Lazier
32. Sebastian Saavedra
33. JR Hildebrand

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jimmie Johnson Wins the Sprint All-Star Race

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Jimmie Johnson won the Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday night, becoming the first driver to win it four times in his career.

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Johnson did not lead until the final segment, but he only needed to lead 10 laps to win the All-Star Race.  To win, Johnson had to beat his teammate Kasey Kahne, who had a strong car over the fourth and fifth segments.  Kahne fought with Johnson on the final restart, but he was no match for Johnson, who pulled away over the final eight laps to take the win.

With his win, Johnson became the only driver to win four career All-Star Races.  Johnson's other All-Star Race wins were in 2003, 2006, and 2012.  The win broke a three-way tie with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, who were the only other drivers to win three All-Star Races.

"To beat Jeff and Earnhardt, two guys who I looked up to my whole life, and two massive icons of this sport, this means the world to me," Johnson told FOX Sports.  "I didn't think we had a shot to win tonight, starting 20th, but we had a great racecar and worked our way through there to get the job done."

Right after the green flag fell, it seemed as though they might not be able to get the race in on Saturday night.  The caution came out for rain just eight laps into the race, and the red flag eventually came out. The red flag lasted 41 minutes, but the race eventually got back underway.  

Kurt Busch won the first segment, and that meant that he was in the running for an extra $1 million.  If the same driver won all five segments of the race, Charlotte Motor Speedway president Bruton Smith promised to award that driver an extra $1 million to go with the $1 million that the driver gets for winning the race.  Kurt fell back during the second segment, and his brother Kyle Busch won that segment.

During the caution between Segments 2 and 3, everyone pitted except Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, and Mark Martin.  Bowyer was able to keep the lead for a few laps, but Kyle Busch eventually got back around him to take the lead, and he won the segment again.  Kurt Busch won his second segment of the night when he won Segment 4.

Before Segment 5, the field would be re-ordered by average finishing position during the four segments, and Kurt Busch was the leader when he brought the field down pit road for a mandatory four-tire pit stops.  Kahne won the race off pit road, and he was followed by Johnson.

When the race restarted for the final 10-lap segment, Kahne and Johnson raced side-by-side for two laps, but Johnson was able to get the position and set sail to win his fourth All-Star Race. 

Here are the unofficial results:
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Joey Logano
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kasey Kahne
5. Kurt Busch
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Jamie McMurray
9. Matt Kenseth
10. Carl Edwards
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Jeff Gordon
13. Ryan Newman
14. Tony Stewart
15. Greg Biffle
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
17. Marcos Ambrose
18. Clint Bowyer
19. David Ragan
20. Danica Patrick
21. Mark Martin
22. Brad Keselowski

Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series will return to Charlotte Motor Speedway to race in the longest race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600.  The Coke 600 will be next Sunday at 5:30 p.m., only on FOX.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Kenseth Wins at Darlington

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Matt Kenseth has had a good week.  On Wednesday, Kenseth's appeal was heard, and his punishment was lessened for an engine infraction  at Kansas.  On Saturday, he ran up front all night before he overtook his teammate Kyle Busch late in the race to win the Bojangles' Southern 500.

Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images
Kurt Busch led the field to the green flag after he broke the track's qualifying record on Friday.  Busch was able to clear Jimmie Johnson going into Turn 1 to take the lead.  Kyle Busch was able to get around Johnson for second coming out of Turn 2, and he closed up to the back bumper of his brother.  

On lap 46, Marcos Ambrose hit pit road, and that started off the first round of green-flag pit stops.  Kurt Busch pulled onto pit road on lap 52, and Kyle Busch pitted on lap 55.  When Matt Kenseth pitted on lap 56, Kurt Busch had become the leader once again.

Kyle Busch had been catching his brother Kurt since the last set of pit stops, and on lap 73 he took the lead away.  Kurt Busch fell to third on lap 80 when he was passed by Kenseth.  

On lap 98, Ambrose was once again the first person to pit, and he started another round of green-flag pit stops.  On lap 106, Kyle Busch gave up the lead to make his pit stop.  Kenseth pitted from the lead on lap 107.  By lap 108, Kyle Busch was once again the leader.  

The first caution of the night came out on lap 125 for debris in Turn 2.  Under the caution, Busch brought the field down pit road, and he was able to win the race off pit road.  

The race restarted on lap 132, and Busch was able to get in front of Denny Hamlin going into Turn 1 to take the lead.  Hamlin only took two tires during the caution, and he quickly fell back to eighth.  Hamlin was one of the first cars to hit pit road on lap 179.  Busch was the last person to pit, on lap 185.

Following pit stops, Jeff Gordon and Johnson were the new leaders because Busch waited so long to pit.  Busch was in third place, but he quickly overtook Johnson for second.  On lap 202, Busch was able to work his way around Gordon for the lead heading into Turn 1.

On lap 233, another round of green-flag pit stops started when Travis Kvapil hit pit road.  Busch gave up the lead on lap 242 to make his pit stop, and he was the leader after pit stops had cycled around.  

On lap 286, Johnson caught Busch for the lead.  Johnson got a good run through Turns 1 and 2, but Busch was able to hold him off to keep the lead.

The second caution of the night came out on lap 301, when Regan Smith had a flat left-rear tire.  Smith spun coming off Turn 2, but he was able to get around to the pits without hitting anything.  The leaders brought their cars down pit road, and Busch was able to win the race off pit road.

Busch led the field back to the green flag on lap 308, and he got a good jump on Johnson going into Turn 1.  Kenseth was able to work his way around Johnson coming out of Turn 2 for second place.  

Casey Mears wrecked on the frontstretch on lap 311 to bring out the third caution.  Mears got hit by Paul Menard, turning him into Kurt Busch.  Brad Keselowski got into the back of Mears as he spun down the track.  Johnson was the first driver to bring his car down pit road, and he won the race off pit road.

Busch led the field to the green flag on lap 317, and he was able to get ahead of Kasey Kahne for the lead.  The caution came back out on lap 329 for Josh Wise, who hit the outside wall.  Busch led the field down pit road, and he was able to beat Kahne off pit road.  

Busch restarted on the outside line on lap 332, and Kahne was able to beat Busch down into Turn 1.  Kahne couldn't clear Busch for the lead, but he was able to get around Busch going into Turn 3.  Busch fought back on the inside, and Busch got Kahne loose in Turns 1 and 2.  Kahne got loose and up into the outside wall.  Kahne's car shut off, bringing out the caution on lap 335.

The race restarted on lap 337, and Busch was able to beat Kenseth down into Turn 1.  With 20 laps to go, Kenseth started to catch Busch for the lead.  Busch couldn't get through Turns 3 and 4, and on lap 354 Kenseth completed the pass.  Kenseth ran away from the field, while Busch fell to sixth, to win his first career race at Darlington.

Here are the unofficial results:
1. Matt Kenseth
2. Denny Hamlin
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Kyle Busch
7. Carl Edwards
8. Juan Pablo Montoya
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
10. Ryan Newman
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Martin Truex Jr.
13. Greg Biffle
14. Kurt Busch
15. Tony Stewart
16. Jamie McMurray
17. Kasey Kahne
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
19. Paul Menard
20. Aric Almirola
21. Jeff Burton
22. Joey Logano
23. Travis Kvapil
24. Regan Smith
25. Mark Martin
26. Bobby Labonte
27. Dave Blaney
28. Danica Patrick
29. David Gilliland
30. Landon Cassill
31. Joe Nemechek
32. Brad Keselowski
33. Timmy Hill
34. Marcos Ambrose
35. J.J. Yeley
36. David Reutimann
37. Casey Mears
38. Josh Wise
39. David Ragan
40. David Stremme
41. Scott Speed
42. Michael McDowell
43. Mike Bliss

Kyle Busch had the best car all night, leading 265 of 367 laps.  He faded late in the race, and his team said that he had a cut right-rear tire that caused Busch to lose the handling on his car.  The cut tire allowed Kenseth to win at Darlington without his crew chief, who was serving a suspension by NASCAR. 
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Charlotte for another Saturday night race.  The second non-points event of the season, the Sprint All-Star Race, can be seen next Saturday at 7:30 p.m., only on SPEED.