The Frontstretch: Frontstretch Breakdown: O'Reilly Challenge 300 by Toni Montgomery -- Monday November 7, 2005

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Frontstretch Breakdown: O'Reilly Challenge 300

Toni Montgomery · Monday November 7, 2005


In A Nutshell: Kevin Harvick had one of the fast cars on Saturday, but clearly not the fastest. However, bad luck and pit strategy bit his biggest competitors and Harvick was in position to capitalize and take the victory in a race he very much wanted to win to dedicate to the memory of his father-in-law, John Paul Linville, a former Busch Series competitor who passed away last week. While Harvick ran near the front all day, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne were by far the strongest. Newman was a victim of strategy after a decision to stay out on older tires while the rest of the field pitted proved wrong and he had to pit out of sequence. Just a few laps later, Kasey Kahne hit the wall after a blown tire and brought out a caution. With Kahne out and Newman pinned a lap down, Harvick and the No. 21 Reese’s team seized their chance. Harvick’s team made a fast stop to put their driver in the lead and allow him to drive off to his fourth win of the season. Biffle came home second for the seventh time in the Busch Series this year, with Carl Edwards, Reed Sorenson, and Kyle Busch rounding out the top five finishers.

Who Should Have Won: Ryan Newman. No question about it, Newman was on his way to a record sixth consecutive Busch Series victory. As has been the norm for this team, no one could do anything with the No. 39 Alltel Dodge under green-flag conditions. But then, the mysterious call not to pit when the rest of the leaders did happened under caution, forcing the out-of-sequence stop near the end of the race. That was Newman’s undoing. As if on cue, the caution just a few laps later pinned him a lap down. It’s hard to get that sixth consecutive win when you’re a lap behind the leaders.

Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend
1) Why did Newman’s team elect not to pit on lap 106 with the rest of the leaders?

I’m just not sure what the strategy was there. He was leading, so he didn’t need to gain the track position. Perhaps it had something to do with the limited number of tires available in the Busch Series and saving a set for the end, but it just seems like a huge risk for a guy who easily had the most dominant car. Since the other fast cars all pitted for tires at that point, no one else was holding back a set. Again, Newman had the dominant car and would have been equal to his competitors on tires. He didn’t need the advantage of the fresh tires to beat them. I just don’t see the advantage of gambling on another caution to make his stop later.

2) Clint Bowyer, Reed Sorenson, and Denny Hamlin have all stated intentions to run the full Busch and Cup Series schedules next season in addition to Cup veterans Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards. With all of these drivers not planning the traditional move up that includes leaving the Busch Series in addition to the returning veterans, what kind of opportunity does that leave for new talent to come into the Busch Series, traditionally a training ground for upcoming drivers?

3) Six of the top ten finishers were Buschwhackers, and two of the remaining four are moving to Cup next season. The remaining two were Jason Leffler, who recently moved back to the Busch Series after an unsuccessful Cup run, and Johnny Sauter, who also occasionally makes a Cup start. Will there be any actual Busch veterans in the near future?

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:
Clint Bowyer chipped away a little more of Martin Truex Jr.’s points lead with a seventh place result compared to Truex’s 11th. The margin now stands at 84 points with two races remaining. While the 16 point sway is in Bowyer’s favor, he will have to do a lot more if he hopes to catch Truex in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, it was a stable week for the rest of the Top 10 this weekend as no one changed points positions after the race.

“I’m kind of happy to see Kevin win out here. He lost his father-in-law this week, so it was a big week for him and a big weekend, and I hope that will ease pain a little bit, winning the race." Greg Biffle, after a runner-up finish to Harvick

"It’s been the hardest week I’ve ever had to go through. This win has been a little release to help heal things, but you’ve just got to take it day by day." Kevin Harvick

“Most of the guys running in the top 10 were Cup guys. That’s why we enjoyed this race, we were right there competing with the best of the best.” Jason Keller, who finished 13th and was one of the few Busch regulars running near the front most of the day.

"To me, they just grab all of the money quicker. It’s not fair, and I’ve been politically correct all of these years, and it’s about come to a head. What’s going to happen next year, it’s going to get 10 times worse. Every one of them will be over here running, and they need to make a limit. If, however, many of them want to come, let them come, but they’ll have to fight over five positions or 10. Put those fastest five in the race and go from there. You’ve got the best of the best over here. The pit crews come over here and help, and the crew chiefs come over and help, and it’s just tough for teams like us. But, we keep digging. It just takes the money quicker, I think, and the points quicker." David Green, when asked if he thinks the Cup drivers speed up the pace of the race because they are racing for wins, not points

Next Up: The Western swing for the Busch Series continues with a trip to Phoenix International Raceway for the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 this Saturday. Television coverage begins at 3:30 PM ET on TNT.

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