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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2009 Sylvania 300 at Loudon

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

My shoutout for this week goes to TRG Motorsports. They came into the weekend lacking the necessary funding to actually compete on Sunday. However, after Bobby Labonte qualified the No. 71 in a season-best eighth spot, the team convinced a series of small companies (Commonwealth Foreign Exchange, Velocity Simulators, CBR Motorcars, Employinit.com and others) to sign on to sponsor the No. 71 for this weekend so that Labonte could race through a series of sit-down meetings and meals. The result of all that wheeling and dealing? A 22nd-place finish on the lead lap for Labonte, and the fact that they showed those sponsors (and other potential ones) that they can run competitively on the lead lap all day.

What… was THAT?

Somewhat lost in Juan Pablo Montoya’s charge up through the field late in the race was the fact that he had a “coming together” with Jeff Burton where he got into turn 3 a little hot and hit Burton in the driver’s door. Both cars then got loose in the corner, allowing Dale Earnhardt Jr. to stick his nose into the battle. Very aggressive and much more like the Montoya of the past two seasons as compared to the Montoya of the first 26 races of this season. Burton was not pleased with this maneuver and bumped Montoya under caution to make his point known.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

Solidly in the top five at the end of the race, but thinking that he should have been in victory lane. Montoya led four times on Sunday for 105 laps. He had the fastest car in every practice session all weekend. However, the way the race played out, he had to come back from outside the top 10 late in the race to challenge Mark Martin for the win. Unfortunately, his car was good for only so long before it began to fall off, so he was unable to get by Martin and Denny Hamlin snuck by for second. Montoya was then forced to settle for a rather disappointing third-place finish.

When… will I be loved?

Seemingly out of nowhere on Sunday, Earnhardt arose as a potential threat to, if not win, put his No. 88 AMP Energy Chevrolet in the top five at least. However, it was simply not to be once again. With 16 laps to go, David Reutimann got loose and had contact with Earnhardt in turn 3. This contact spun Earnhardt into the wall rear-first. The car had significant damage in the wreck, including a busted radiator. As a result of the crash, Earnhardt finished 35th and still remains outside the top 20 in points.

How… did the top Non-Chasers do on Sunday?

Basically, it was a mixed bag. Kyle Busch, after dropping back well into the 20s early in the race, made a run up to finish fifth on Sunday. However, in post-race technical inspection, his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota was too low. Points penalties may be coming later this year. For now, his margin over Matt Kenseth is 91 points.

Kenseth had another off day at Loudon, similar to his run at Richmond last weekend. Kenseth ran most of the race back in the 20s and was invisible. A late free-pass put him back on the lead lap and allowed him to finish 23rd. Clint Bowyer had a fairly good run on Sunday, finishing in 10th position after starting 17th. It was a solid outing that was completely overshadowed by the Chase. But, this could be good for Bowyer’s future because it shows a return to form.

Who… made their Chase much more difficult on Sunday?

Through no fault of his own, Kasey Kahne’s Chase to the Sprint Cup just got a lot harder on Sunday. 66 laps into the Sylvania 300, the engine let go in the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge. Kahne admitted afterward that he had gotten a very slight warning (some vibrating) half a lap before it blew. Kahne finished 38th on Sunday and as a result, is already nearly a full race out of the lead.

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