Mike Neff · Monday October 14, 2013
Key Moment – Kasey Kahne was on two tires while Brad Keselowski was on four as the field restarted with 23 laps to go. With 11 to go, Keselowski cleared Kahne in Turn 4, but Kahne pulled the crossover and held onto the lead. Two laps later, he wasn’t close enough to cross him over again and Keselowski pulled away to the win.
In a Nutshell – The Hendrick cars were dominant. They led all but 21 laps. Kasey Kahne led the most, with 138 while Jimmie Johnson led 130. Johnson was on his way to a win, and a lead in the points when NASCAR threw a caution for a piece of debris that was unidentified by television cameras. On the subsequent restart, Johnson fell back, opening the door for Kahne to grab the most laps led bonus point and Kenseth to beat him to the finish line while Brad Keselowski, who had faced adversity and been nowhere for most of the race, led the final nine laps to take his first win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Dramatic Moment – During the final caution of the night, with 25 laps left when the cars came to pit lane, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon took two tires while Jimmie Johnson took four. The resulting track position cost Johnson on the final restart and kept him from winning or even gaining points on Kenseth.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
The folks at NASCAR have issued rules to try and ensure the integrity of the sport, yet they still throw caution flags for debris that no one can see and the television cameras can’t find. If the sanctioning body is going to hold the competitors’ feet to the fire about giving 100%, then they have to step up and develop a means where the fans see whatever debris it is they’re throwing the caution for 100% of the time. If they don’t have the respect for the fans to afford them that common courtesy, then don’t expect the fans to take it lying down. Every caution along those lines is a judgment call; the fans have the right to judge it. Don’t leave it a mystery.
Longtime fans of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have heard this refrain before. The race is going well, Earnhardt looks like he’s going to be in contention to win and then, the right front tire starts chattering. After the race, the driver stated he was positive something was broken on the car due to the rapid pace they fell back through the field. Hopefully, that’s the case because the bad set of tires and chattering right front are old excuses and worn out explanations for failure.
Testing is going to take place at Charlotte Motor Speedway Monday to try some different adjustments to the Gen-6 car in an effort to make the racing better. It is rumored a modification developed by Toyota can virtually eliminate aero push from cars that are following others on track. That development alone could practically save the sport. The folks at Goodyear still need to continue working on tires that fall off, to pair with any positive changes but the people running the show are at least trying.
Darlington Raceway announced last week their race in 2014 will be in April. For those of you uninformed about the history of NASCAR, March and April weather in the low country of North and South Carolina sucks. There is a decent chance it will be cold and a better than average chance it will rain. NASCAR, if you’re going to move the Darlington date, move it to September, run it in the daytime and stop all of this crap you’re trying to pull. Not sure what the logic is to move the race to April, but it would certainly look like it is designed to force Darlington to lose its final race date.
Travis Kvapil was arrested for domestic violence this past week but was released on bond before the at track activities began at Charlotte. He wound up racing the No. 93 and will seemingly continue to do so until the legal system runs its course. As always in America, you are innocent until proven guilty so we will have to see what develops as all of the facts come out in the case. Whatever the end result, the timing couldn’t be worse for Kvapil considering October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. The driver actually had a sticker on his car in support of prevention of domestic violence.
Three cautions for debris or fluid. One for an incident. After last week’s yellow flag extravaganza, it was enjoyable to see multiple opportunities for green-flag pit stops. Tire wear and track age allowed for some on-track passing, although there were only three on-track passes for the lead.
High-wire acts are certainly death-defying when you don’t use a net, but after a guy has walked across a wire over Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, it is a little anti-climactic walking 100 feet above an infield. Maybe next time, they can fire T-Shirt Cannons at the Wallendas in order to add to the excitement.
Breast Cancer awareness is one of the most supported causes in America. While many sports figures sport pink during the month of October, they don’t always put their money where their mouth is. One NASCAR athlete, in particular is bucking that trend. Kyle Busch announced in Victory Lane, after his Nationwide Series win Friday night that he’s donating all of the winnings from the race to his wife Samantha’s Pretty in Pink Foundation.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Mark Martin is keeping the seat warm for injured driver/owner Tony Stewart in his No. 14 car. That’s about it. His blown engine early on Saturday resulted in a 42nd-place result, pushing his average finish since joining SHR to 22.125. There is no question that it is time for Mark to pack up the AARP card, heading down to Florida to spend time with his family while calling it a career.
Kyle Larson made his Cup Series debut for Phoenix Racing Saturday night. After a strong run on Friday night, at the top of the track he spent much of Saturday night running the bottom line but still slowly picking his way forward to the top 15. Unfortunately for Larson, his engine gave up after 247 laps, prematurely ending his inaugural Cup race in 37th.
It is rare that you put someone in this category who finished the race in fourth place, but for Jimmie Johnson, there is no doubt he was handed a foul-tasting fate thanks to the final caution of the night. Johnson was on his way to a win and the point lead when the yellow flew for a still unseen piece of debris. Chad Knaus, who’d earlier said that his car was the same with two tires or four, decided to go for four and was beaten off pit lane by two cars. On the restart, Johnson was jostled around a bit and ended up in seventh position. He fought his way back to fourth, but that was poor consolation when he should have been sitting in Victory Lane.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Brad Keselowski was smiled on quite a bit by the fickle finger of fate on Saturday night. At one point, he was well behind the lead cars after taking the jack out of his pit box, running outside the top 20 and took over 250 laps to work his way into the top 5. He still wasn’t in contention, more than 15 seconds behind until the final 35 laps of the race. But when the final restart occurred, Johnson’s misfortune was Keselowski’s good luck charm. The defending series champ slotted into third shortly after the green, passed Matt Kenseth with 15 to go and took the lead from Kasey Kahne with nine left.
Matt Kenseth did things like he used to at Charlotte Saturday. Kenseth qualified like the Kenseth of old with a 20th-place starting position. He then methodically marched his way forward, broke into the top 5 with a little more than 100 laps to go, and then took advantage of Johnson’s poor final restart to actually gain a point in the standings rather than losing six.
Denny Hamlin’s season has been quite a disappointment, to say the least. His top 10-finish on Saturday night was a bright spot for this half of the season. Hamlin’s ninth place was his best result since Pocono; yes, that would be the first Pocono race in June. This is Hamlin’s second top-17 finish since then after his 12th-place result at New Hampshire last month.
- Jeff Gordon’s pole for the Bank of America 500 is his 74th of his career. Gordon has been in third on the all-time list for a while. He’s 39 behind David Pearson and 49 behind Richard Petty, the all-time leader in pole positions.
- Brad Keselowski’s win at Charlotte was the first win by a non-Chase driver in a Chase race since 2011, when Kasey Kahne won at Phoenix in the next-to-last Chase race of that season.
- Keselowski was tied for the most pit stops of the night Saturday with nine. There were six drivers who made nine stops, but Keselowski and Kyle Busch were the only two on the lead lap to hit the pits that many times during the race.
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was the rookie of the race again, running 13th. Girlfriend Danica Patrick had a decent night, though finishing 20th.
- Keselowski’s win is the 10th of his career. He is tied for 56th all-time with Donnie Allison and Sterling Marlin in that category. He is 190 wins behind Richard Petty for the all-time series lead.
- This victory is the first for Keselowski in 2013. His last win had occurred at Dover, in September of 2012.
- Kahne’s runner-up finish is his seventh top-2 result of 2013 and 22nd of his career.
- Kenseth’s third-place finish was his eighth of the season and 79th of his career. Saturday night was his first top 3 of the year that was not a victory.
- JJ Yeley finished 43rd on Saturday. It is the second time this season he finished last. Both results were caused by crashes.
Top 10 Finishes By Manufacturer
Ford – 2
Chevrolet – 5
Toyota – 3
What’s the Points?
While it looked like it was going to be Jimmie Johnson leaving Charlotte with the point lead Saturday, the last caution caused Matt Kenseth to not only beat Johnson to the checkered flag, but gain a point on his rival to now lead the standings by four. Kevin Harvick came home in sixth place and lost four more points to the leader, leaving him 29 out of the top spot. With Talladega on the horizon, Harvick could close that gap if both Johnson and Kenseth get caught up in some kind of mishap… but that is his only hope at this time. Gaining six points per race on both drivers is a tall order. Rounding out the top five in points are Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch, who are 36 and 37 points away from the leader, respectively.
Greg Biffle had a disappointing Saturday night, posting a 16th-place finish. With that effort, he is 58 points behind Kenseth in sixth place. Kurt Busch was fast in practice and looked to be in contention early but faded late to come home in 14th. That leaves him 59 points in arrears to the leader. Clint Bowyer’s engine went south late in the race on Saturday, but it did keep running enough to let him finish on the lead lap in 11th. That result has him sitting 63 points away from Kenseth and three ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who sits in ninth. The last driver set to go to the banquet in Vegas, at this point in time is Carl Edwards. Cousin Carl is one point behind Earnhardt with 2,158 points in his column.
The last three drivers in the Chase standings are Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, and Kasey Kahne. Kahne is 14 points out of the 10th spot and three points behind Newman to avoid finishing last in the Chase. Keselowski’s win has him two points ahead of Jamie McMurray for best of the rest.
Overall rating (On a scale of 1-6, where 1 is a stinker and six is the finest of brews and a instant classic) — The character of Charlotte Motor Speedway is coming back. There are washboard bumps at the bottom of the turns while there are other bumps scattered around the periphery of the track that can upset the handling of cars. The tires are starting to actually fall off during the runs, which has put a bit of a premium on new tires after double-digit laps. With all of that said… the racing is still lacking with this new car on mile-and-a-half tracks. Hendrick Motorsports leading 313 laps didn’t do anything to enthrall those fans who don’t cheer for the HMS teams. In the end, the late-race pass for the lead salvaged a second can of adult beverage for this one, which had been forfeited by the utterly bogus caution that flew with 26 laps to go. Here’s hoping they figure out something on Monday to make the racing better with this aero dependent car.
What’s Next — Call it the “wild card,” call it the crapshoot, call it the wreckfest. Whatever it is, the roulette wheel that is Talladega begins spinning on Sunday at 2:00 Eastern time. It can be seen on ESPN and heard on MRN Radio.
Connect with Mike!
Contact Mike Neff
©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!