It was kind of a quiet weekend, with many of the big series taking a well-deserved break. NASCAR was, of course, in action with the Nextel Cup and Busch series at Joliet, Illinois’ Chicagoland Speedway, while the Craftsman Truck Series was at the popular Kentucky Speedway. Meanwhile, the Champ Car World Series and Atlantics were at the Toronto street course, where the open-wheel cars have been a popular attraction for the past two decades.
NASCAR: Gordon Bumps and Runs to Win at Chicagoland
With five laps to go at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, it looked like Matt Kenseth was on his way to his third victory of the year. He had played his cards right to get the front and led the most laps in the race. But it all went wrong when four-time series champ Jeff Gordon bumped the 2003 series titlist out of the way and went on to claim his second win of the season, on one of the four tracks on which he has never won. It was Gordon’s 75th career win, moving him one behind the late Dale Earnhardt, who is sixth on the all-time list.
It was déjà vu all over again for Kenseth, who dominated this race last year but got beat on a late-race two-tires-vs.-four-tires decision in which Dale Earnhardt Jr. took two and won. To make matters worse after being punted by Gordon this year, Kenseth was in ninth place initially but then ran out of fuel, then tangled with rookie David Stremme at the checkered flag and pounded the wall, plummeting down the order to a 21st-place finish.
There was no question that Gordon had a good car, coming up through the pack from 13th on the grid and running in the top five throughout the race. Polesitter Jeff Burton led through the first round of pit stops at Lap 60, but Gordon beat him out of the pits to lead nine laps. On the first yellow, at Lap 69, various strategies played out as Gordon and Burton pitted and Kevin Harvick took the lead for 38 laps. As pit stops came around again, a number of drivers led laps before Kenseth took command at Lap 174. He led, except for the final round of stops, through Lap 264 and tangled with Gordon on the next lap.
Burton wound up second, ahead of Kyle Busch, Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Points leader Jimmie Johnson, Reed Sorenson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and J.J. Yeley filled out the top 10.
Two-time and defending series champ Tony Stewart was in position for a third-place finish but ran out of fuel in the closing laps and wound up two laps down in 32nd.
Had Kenseth won, he would have taken the points lead from Johnson, but Johnson now has a 48-point lead over Kenseth with eight races remaining until the cutoff for the Chase for the Championship. Burton’s second-place finish vaulted him to fourth in the points behind Earnhardt, and Kasey Kahne dropped one position to fifth.
The teams will be back in action next weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway.
NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:
1) Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 270 laps
2) Jeff Burton, No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 270 laps
3) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 270 laps
4) Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 270 laps
5) Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 270 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Jimmie Johnson, 2651; 2) Matt Kenseth, 2603; 3) Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2394; 4) Jeff Burton, 2327; 5) Kasey Kahne, 2303.
NASCAR Busch Series: Mears Gambles and Wins His First at Chicago
Casey Mears captured his first victory in a major NASCAR series on Saturday by winning the Busch Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. His team took a gamble on fuel to get track position at the front of the pack, where he could run in clean air, and it paid off nicely. In fact, the fuel calculation was so close that Mears rolled to a stop on the cool-off lap with an empty tank.