Monday, June 24, 2013

Truex Jr. Wins at Sonoma

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Martin Truex Jr. picked up his second career Sprint Cup Series victory when he won the Toyota Save Mart 350 from Sonoma, California on Sunday afternoon.

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates his first win in over 6 years (Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Truex led 51 of 110 laps on his way to victory on Sunday.  He took the lead for the final time on lap 85, and he ran away from Juan Pablo Montoya over the final 25-lap run.  

The win was Truex's first trip to victory lane since June 4, 2007 at Dover.  Truex said he was speechless after the victory, and he thanked his team for sticking behind him while he was in victory lane.

"I can't even put it into words," Truex told TNT.  "The team, they're just phenomenal.  We've been close a lot, and it feels damn good."

Juan Pablo Montoya was headed towards a runner-up finish, but he ran out of gas on the final lap.  Montoya's problems allowed Jeff Gordon to finish second after Gordon had problems of his own during the race.  Gordon was about to hit pit road when the caution came out, and he was penalized for pitting while pit road was closed.

The race hadn't even started when the trouble started for some teams.  While the cars were pulling off pit road, Paulie Harraka, who was making his Sprint Cup Series debut, crashed into the back of Alex Kennedy, causing both drivers to get serious damage to their cars.

Once the race went green, Marcos Ambrose and Kurt Busch both took their turns at the front of the field, until Brad Keselowski used pit strategy to take the lead on lap 34.  Less than 10 laps later, Truex took the lead for the first time.

Truex led until the caution came out on lap 70 and Joey Logano took the lead.  Jeff Gordon took the lead on lap 79, but when the caution came out again on lap 82, Truex was back in the lead and headed toward the victory.

Here are the unofficial results:

1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Carl Edwards
4. Kurt Busch
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Kasey Kahne
7. Marcos Ambrose
8. Greg Biffle
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Joey Logano
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
13. Brian Vickers
14. Paul Menard
15. Ryan Newman
16. Casey Mears
17. Travis Kvapil
18. Boris Said
19. Matt Kenseth
20. Aric Almirola
21. Brad Keselowski
22. Ron Fellows
23. Denny Hamlin
24. David Gilliland
25. Jamie McMurray
26. David Reutimann
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
28. Tony Stewart
29. Danica Patrick
30. Justin Marks
31. Jeff Burton
32. Josh Wise
33. David Ragan
34. Juan Pablo Montoya
35. Kyle Busch
36. David Stremme
37. Victor Gonzalez Jr.
38. Tomy Drissi
39. Paulie Harraka
40. Alex Kennedy
41. Jacques Villeneuve
42. J.J. Yeley
43. Bobby Labonte

Next week, the Sprint Cup Series races under the lights for a rare Saturday night race.  Next Saturday's race will be the third Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway, and the first in the new Gen 6 car.  The Quaker State 400 can be seen next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EST, only on TNT.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Biffle Wins the Quicken Loans 400

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Greg Biffle won the Quicken Loans 400 from Michigan International Speedway on Sunday after holding off a challenge from Jimmie Johnson.

Will Schneekloth/Getty Images
Biffle started the day in 19th, and slowly worked his way to the front.  Biffle finally worked his way to the lead on lap 150 when he passed his teammate Carl Edwards for the lead.  After a caution on lap 167, Biffle re-took the lead on the following restart, and he led the final 28 laps on his way to victory.

The win was the 1,000th win for Ford in NASCAR, and it was Biffle's first victory of the season.  Biffle said that he knew Johnson was going to be strong in the final laps.

"We knew the 48 was really fast," Biffle told TNT.  "I was really worried about the 48, but when this thing got into clean air it was over."

Jimmie Johnson had a strong car for most of the day, and until the final laps he was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to not have a problem.  Jeff Gordon was involved in an accident with Bobby Labonte on lap six.  Kasey Kahne cut down a tire and slammed into the outside wall on lap 104 while he was leading.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. was also leading when his engine dropped a cylinder on lap 127.

Johnson looked like he was headed towards a solid finish, but then he cut down a right-front tire with just three laps to go.  Johnson said that while the day was a struggle, his car was very good.

"We had a great racecar," said Johnson.  "We just struggled maintaining track position, but we drove back up through there."

Carl Edwards started the race on the pole, but Kurt Busch got him loose heading into Turn 1 to take the lead.  Gordon and Labonte wrecked in Turn 2 to bring out the first caution on lap six.  Busch was able to maintain the lead on the following restart, and he led until the competition caution on lap 20.

The race restarted on lap 25, and Joey Logano took the lead away from Edwards, who came out of the pits in first.  Kurt Busch spun on lap 29, ending his chances at a victory, and bringing out another caution.   Logano led on the following green flag, and Edwards took the lead under the next caution on lap 40. 

Jamie McMurray took the lead on the restart on lap 45, and Johnson took the lead away from him on lap 65.  The fifth caution of the race came out on lap 76, and this time Earnhardt won the race off pit road.
Earnhardt pulled away from Johnson on the restart on lap 81.  Kahne took the lead on lap 90, and on lap 104 he blew a right-front tire and hit the wall to bring out the caution.  Kahne's car caught on fire, but he was able to get out of the car safely.

Earnhardt led the race on the following restart, but on lap 127 his engine dropped a cylinder.  That allowed Johnson to take the lead, and the caution came out on lap 130 when Earnhardt's engine let go.

Edwards took the lead on lap 136, and Biffle was able to get the lead away from his teammate on lap 150.  Biffle would only lose the lead under the next caution on lap 167, but he was able to get it back on the next restart, and he went on to win the race.

Here are the unofficial results:

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

Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the west coast to race on the road course in Sonoma, California.  The Toyota Save Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway can be seen next Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET, only on TNT.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Johnson Crashes the Party

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Jimmie Johnson dominated the Party in the Poconos 400 on Sunday afternoon, leading 129 of 160 laps on his way to his third win of the season.

Nick Laham/Getty Images
Johnson's dominance started as soon as the green flag fell.  He started on pole after qualifying was rained out on Friday and the starting order was set by points.  Johnson quickly jumped out to the lead, and he only ever lost the lead during pit stops.

Johnson was flawless all day, beating everyone on the restarts with the race on the line.  Johnson said that while he had a great racecar, his engine was also very good.

"That's the best car I've had in a long time," Johnson told TNT.  "Not just a good racecar, but a good engine.  It's been a long time since I've won here, and I'm excited to do it."

Last week, Johnson lost the race after a questionable penalty on the final restart.  While it didn't make up for last week's frustration, Johnson said that it helped them move on.

"It doesn't make up for much, but we're a great race team and things don't keep us down," Johnson said.
The race started with long green flag runs, with the first caution not coming until lap 66.  The next caution fell on lap 125, and that kicked off a group of cautions that helped drivers save enough fuel to make it to the finish.

The final restart came with five laps to go, and Greg Biffle tried to get the lead away from Johnson, but Johnson drove away from Biffle's No. 16 car.  Biffle knew that he probably couldn't have done anything to get the lead.

"I really didn't have anything for Jimmie," Biffle said.  "I just wanted to get to his bumper and rough him up.  Jimmie was in a league of his own."

Biffle wound up finishing second, holding off a charge from Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ran up front all day.

Here are the unofficial results:

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

Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the first of two races there this season.  The Quicken Loans 400 can be seen next Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET, only on TNT.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Stewart Wins at Dover

 Originally written for CLNS Radio.
Tony Stewart won the FedEx 400 after a late-race pass to get around Juan Pablo Montoya allowed him to pick up his first win of 2013.

Courtesy Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Stewart passed Montoya with just three laps to go, and he was able to run away from Montoya over the last few laps.  Stewart had to work on Montoya over the last 10 laps, and he was able to get around Montoya for the lead going into Turn 3.

For Stewart, the victory was his first Top 5 of the season.  Stewart has had a terrible start to the season but he hopes he can start to turn things around with this victory, especially because he had to outrace Montoya to do so.

"It's been such a tough year," Stewart told FOX Sports.  "Hopefully we'll build that momentum back up.  It's not many times you get to outrace Juan Montoya."

For most of the race, it seemed as if Jimmie Johnson would pick up his eighth career victory at Dover.  Johnson led 143 laps, but a late-race penalty cost him a chance at the win.  Johnson jumped out to the lead on the final restart, beating leader Montoya to the line.  It is illegal to beat the leader to the line on a restart, so Johnson was issued a pass-through penalty.  Johnson told FOX Sports that there was nothing he could have done.

"I was half-throttle for the whole frontstretch and at some point you just gotta go," Johnson said.  "I'm running half-throttle down waiting for him, and he just never came."

The race was dominated early by Kyle Busch, who led 150 laps throughout the day, the most of any driver.  He took the lead from pole-sitter and teammate Denny Hamlin on lap 25, and he led until his other teammate Matt Kenseth beat him off pit road on lap 127.  Kenseth led until lap 160, when his engine blew up to bring out the third caution.

Kenseth's engine wasn't the only Toyota engine to blow up over the long 400 mile race.  On lap 279, Martin Truex Jr., who was also running up front at the beginning of the race, also had his engine blow up.  

Johnson took the lead after Kenseth's engine let go, and he led for most of the race until his penalty.  The penalty relegated Johnson to a 17th place finish, the first car one-lap down.

Here are the unofficial results:

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

Sunday was FOX's last Sprint Cup Series race of the season.  Next week the Cup Series will roll into Pocono Raceway, and TNT will take over TV duties.  The Party in the Poconos 400 can be seen next Sunday at 1:00 p.m.