It was a tough race for a number of title contenders. Matt Kenseth, who entered the race second in points, broke a brake rotor that then puncture his oil tank, costing him many laps in the pits and relegating him to a 35th-place finish. Jeff Gordon, who entered the race sixth, ran in the top five early but faded to mid-pack before his engine shut off inexplicably. He eventually retired, being credited with 40th place. Kasey Kahne, who started the race fourth in points, went to the garage early with suspected engine problems that turned out to be only a missing spark plug wire and lost five laps, finishing 34th. Points leader Jimmie Johnson had a mediocre night, finishing 12th.
As a result, Stewart leapfrogged Kenseth to take second in the points, just 55 behind Johnson. Both Kahne and Gordon lost three spots each in the standings, falling to seventh and ninth, respectively.
The teams got a rare Sunday off before getting ready for next weekend’s race at “The Lady in Black,” legendary Darlington Raceway.
NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:
1) Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 400 laps
2) Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 400 laps
3) Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 400 laps
4) Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, 400 laps
5) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 400 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Jimmie Johnson, 1521; 3) Tony Stewart, 1466; 3) Matt Kenseth, 1422; 4) Mark Martin, 1345; 5) Kevin Harvick, 1313.
NASCAR Busch Series: Harvick Hot at Richmond
Kevin Harvick is on a definite roll. The 2001 Busch Series champ, now a minor mogul with full-time Nextel Cup and Busch rides, plus fielding his own Busch and Craftsman Truck series teams, won his third Busch Series race out of the last four at Richmond International Raceway on Friday night (actually, Saturday morning by the time it was over after two rain delays). On the same day he announced a three-year extension of his contract with Richard Childress Racing. With the Richmond win, he further extended his points lead (which was trimmed by 25 points due to a post-race penalty after last week’s Talladega race – see news) to 313 points.
Harvick took the lead with 48 laps to go in the 250-lap race by passing Paul Menard, whose gamble on tires left him with insufficient grip to withstand the challenge. Harvick held off a challenge by Matt Kenseth, but then had to deal with teammate Jeff Burton with 10 to go. Burton, who had fought back from a lap down after a penalty for a loose tire in the pits early in the race, pulled alongside Harvick a couple of times, but was unable to complete a pass and had to settle for second.
Kenseth wound up third, ahead of Greg Biffle, who started last and worked his way through the field, and Ryan Newman. Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Menard, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin (racing with 19 stitches in his hand after a mid-week accident) rounded out the top 10.
The series will accompany the Nextel Cup Series to Darlington next weekend.
NASCAR Busch Series Top Five:
1) Kevin Harvick, No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 250 laps
2) Jeff Burton, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 250 laps
3) Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, 250 laps
4) Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, 250 laps
5) Ryan Newman, No. 39 Penske Racing South Dodge Charger, 250 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Kevin Harvick, 1799; 2) Clint Bowyer, 1486; 3) Carl Edwards, 1417; 4) Denny Hamlin, 1381; 5) Paul Menard, 1359.
Grand-Am: Angelelli/Magnussen Break Through at Laguna Seca
The defending series champion team in the Rolex Sports Car Series, SunTrust Racing, has had a long dry spell since its last win at Watkins Glen last September. They snapped the spell on Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, as Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen (sitting in for Wayne Taylor) used smart pit strategy and good, old-fashioned hard racing to claim victory in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac/Riley.
The SunTrust team was frustrated two weeks ago at Virginia International Raceway, when Angelelli got snookered on the last lap by Mike Rockenfeller in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche/Crawford. The Job team looked ready to repeat its dominance at Laguna Seca, winning Saturday’s qualifying race to claim the pole for Sunday’s feature race, and leading handily in the early laps. However, the team had trouble on its first pit stop and fell deep in the pack, and later had a long stop to replace a transmission sensor, leaving them laps down and out of contention.