NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Editor’s Note: With the 2007 Nextel Cup season complete, it’s now time to take a look back. This week, veteran writer Matt McLaughlin winds up the process started last Monday with his annual race review, analyzing each event of the season and giving us his take on how good – or bad – they really were.
Remember when introducing the Car of Tomorrow concept, NASCAR said the new car would allow for more side-by-side racing and passing? Well, anyone watching this Fall's Dover race knows the new car has failed to meet that design goal.
Typical of what’s getting to be the norm these days, there wasn't much racing going on early. Around lap 335, NASCAR officials decided to spice things up by throwing a debris caution. About that time, the drivers decided it was finally time to race; and with passing at a premium, a slew of wrecks ensued. Carl Edwards and the No. 99 team elected to go with two fresh tires on their final stop, while the majority of the field elected to go with new rubber all the way around. Despite the advantage of four new tires, passing was at such a premium Greg Biffle could not find a way around his teammate Edwards to take the win. After the race, Edwards’ winning No. 99 car was found to be too low; but of course, he got to keep his trophy. You just can't explain how that works to people not familiar with our sport. I usually sum it up like this: “NASCAR officials are morons.”
In a season full of bizarre races, this one takes the cake. With bad weather in the area, it seemed most teams and drivers decided they'd be lucky if this race got to the halfway point. In a refreshing change, there was actually some good racing early on in an event as most teams bet on bad weather. Tony Stewart was leading when the rains finally came, staying out on a fuel-mileage gamble and hoping the water would wash out the race. And oh, Lord, did it rain, in big overflowing soul-sucking buckets full that seemed to indicate that not only was this race over, but that Kansas was soon to become a Great Lake.
But the clouds parted, no twisters were sighted, and no houses fell on Brian France. Somehow, they got the track dried … and racing resumed. Well, actually it took awhile for the racing to get going – there was a lot of wrecking the drivers wanted to get out of the way first. One notable victim was Tony Stewart, who drove into the back of the No. 1 car on a restart. Just like that, the guy who had been poised to win the race if the rain had ended it wound up 39th. As a result, Tony Stewart's 2007 title aspirations left Kansas in the back of a wheezing Greyhound bus, seated beside a dying cowboy with a graveyard cough.
As daylight declined, Mr. Juan Pablo Montoya had a hard encounter with the outside wall, which is backed by the whole state of Kansas – the wall won. Caution flew, and NASCAR officials decided rather than having the green/white/checkered finish fans expected, they'd end the race early because it was dark out. It was so dark Mike Helton needed a five cell flashlight just to find his ego – and that's when it got really weird. Greg Biffle was leading the race, but his car was on fumes. Coming off the fourth corner, the No. 16 car sputtered and seemed to die, out of gas. Mr. Biffle's version of events was that he'd cut off the engine to save gas for the burnouts … which nobody would have seen. Because it was dark out – and Mike Helton's flashlight beam doesn't reach that far. What we do know is Biffle pulled onto the grass, and several cars crossed the start/finish line before him – at which point, NASCAR decided that Biffle won the race despite not having kept up with the pace car.
Hmm. Perhaps Biffle couldn't see the pace car because it was dark out? Or maybe he was just planning those burnouts and forgot he had to cross the Start/Finish line. Or maybe ol' Greg just stole a win right before the disbelieving eyes of the fans on hand and at home.
Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see, lately it occurs to me, what a long strange trip it's been.
Alice, pass the hookah, please? The bizarre just kept rolling along. At Talladega, the drivers who posted the ninth, tenth, and eleventh fastest speeds in qualifying had to go home because of the top 35 rule.
Come Sunday, Talladega was typical of a modern day restrictor plate race, as drivers tended to hang back and try to stay out of trouble until the final 15 laps. Some did so with considerably better success than others; for when it came time to race, it was as if someone had thrown an Ozark in the cesspool. Those cars that were left running after the "Big One" vied savagely for the lead. Jimmie Johnson had the front position, but Jeff Gordon knows a thing or two about plate racing. Dave Blaney gave the No. 24 a nice little push and Gordon swung out to pass the No. 48. What probably sealed the deal was Tony Stewart; trying to pass all three of those drivers, he inadvertently ran into the back of Gordon. As our late friend Benny Parsons might say, "Gordon looked like he'd been shot out of a canyon!" Gordon edged Johnson to the line by .066 seconds, while Johnson got second and Blaney third. Stewart slid back to eighth and did that scary walking around thing, muttering under his breath like a schizophrenic about to start using a McDonald’s as target practice. But most importantly, the fourth restrictor plate event of the year was over, and no drivers had been killed at Daytona or Talladega. That counts for something.
Jimmie Johnson seemed to have this event in hand, just as he nearly always has things in hand at Charlotte. But his crew chief Chad Knaus was so certain that Johnson could pass anyone, he played his pit strategy conservative. That turned around and bit the No. 48 team, as Johnson was back in the pack when an incident put him into the wall. He salvaged a fourteenth place finish after what could have been a disaster – but his chances of winning were over.
Late in the race, Jeff Gordon emerged as the leader; but – at least according to team scanner traffic – he was desperately low on fuel. Clint Bowyer was positioned in second, looking for another win, but when Gordon bogged on the final restart, Bowyer ran into the back of the No. 24 car, propelling it forward rather than making the pass. D’oh. You've got to hate when that happens.
Beating and banging and caution flags are part and parcel of Martinsville. But the new cars were so ill-handling that a record 21 caution flags slowed the action in a 250-mile race. Yeah, it was ugly at times. Early in the race, it seemed the field was unable to run more than ten miles without carnage ensuing.
Still, a late caution set up a good ol’ fashioned short track-style sprint to the finish. Jimmie Johnson had the lead, but Ryan Newman seemed to have his number. Just as Newman set Johnson up for the pass, though, David Ragan spun out for what had to be the hundredth time this season to help ensure him the “Not Ready For Prime Time” driving award. Johnson won the race under caution, the teams packed up what was left of their ugly new cars, and everyone went home.
Jeff Gordon's fifth championship seemed almost a foregone conclusion despite Johnson's win at Martinsville. But at Atlanta, Jimmie put everyone on notice he still had a dog left in the fight.
As was normal this season, the first three quarters of the race were pretty sedate – but they heated up nicely late in the event. In fact, things got outright bizarre. Denny Hamlin was leading the race, but his team had badly miscalculated how much gas was left in the tank of the No. 11 car. On a restart, Hamlin ran out of gas and set off a field-decimating wreck. It was later learned that Hamlin and several other drivers had water in their gas tanks rather than fuel because of contamination issues in the pits.
With the sophomore in the garage, the field lined up for an all out shootout green/white/checkered finish … but it was not to be. Moments after the pack took the green flag, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s rear tire took an unexpected detour towards Decatur. The race then finished under yellow, with Jimmie Johnson once again hoisting the hardware.
He's baaaaa..ck. Matt Kenseth seemed to have this race in hand after a fierce duel with Denny Hamlin. While battling for the lead, Hamlin managed to wreck himself out of the race, seemingly handing the win to the No. 17 team. But a certain someone in a blue and silver Chevy with a big number 48 painted on the sides had something to say about that. Johnson dogged Kenseth in what might have been his best race of the season to take the lead with eight laps to go. And once Johnson had the lead, trying to take it from him was like trying to pry a T-bone steak out of the jaws of a pit bull. Johnson’s victory moved him into the points lead – and he wasn't done yet. This driver was out to prove he was one very, very bad doggie.
Johnson's three race streak seemed to finally get the better of the seemingly imperturbable Jeff Gordon. Gordon had a fast car, but got into an on track squabble with Kevin Harvick – after which, the No. 24 car was never up to speed again. In the meantime, Martin Truex, Jr. had the lead; but Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson had faster cars. Once again, it was up to Kenseth to keep Johnson honest; but even the driver of the No. 17 car seemed daunted by the task, having asked over the radio whether to settle for second at Texas the week before. Once again, Johnson eventually got his number, driving on to his fourth straight win. After the race, Jeff Gordon conceded the title as well despite a spectacular season for him and his team. Gordon tried to backpedal away from his comments that week, but my guess is his surrender speech didn't help boost ratings for Homestead much.
It was all over but the shouting at Homestead, and there wasn't much shouting, either. With a whimper rather than a bang, the unseemly less than spectacular spectacle came to a preordained end at Homestead. Jimmie Johnson knew he didn't have to win five straight races to win the title, and he adjusted his level of aggression accordingly. But Matt Kenseth had nothing to do but run for pride, and he did so accordingly… dominating the race. With no on-track drama to speak of, the media had a field day with an off-track incident in which Kasey Kahne put a security guard on his butt for denying his brother admittance to the motor coach lot. The fans let out a collective yawn. Doubtless, an out of court settlement will cost Kahne a bundle of cash; but as the newly anointed Bud Man, he has plenty to spare.
As the laps clicked off, Kurt Busch tried to run down Kenseth late – but it was not to be. Kenseth finally won a race, and Johnson took the championship for the second straight year. With that, the 2007 Cup season came to its long overdue end about a month too late based on the TV ratings for the last four weeks of the season. It remains to be seen how many fans will tune in next year to see Johnson vie for his third straight title, Gordon vie to win his fifth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. try to finally win another race with his new team, and the rest of the field try to chase down the Hendrick Juggernaut like yappy little terriers in pursuit of a semi.
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