Even with the big wrecks towards the end of the race Saturday night, one of the scariest incidents was on pit road during the first caution of the race. Ryan Newman pulled out of his pit stall and managed to get sideswiped by Jeff Gordon. This caused Newman to slide into Kasey Kahne. The secondary contact spun Newman into the stationary car of Keselowski.
On the final restart, Matt Kenseth started beside Jimmie Johnson but buzzed his tires trying to get up to speed. That allowed Johnson an easy getaway and once the No. 48 car was back in clean air, it was time to put out the fire and call in the dogs.
If there was a prize for tenacity, Kurt Busch would have been in Victory Lane to receive it. Busch, running for one of the most underfunded teams in the elite field, bounced off the wall early and finished near the back of the early segments. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Even with a damaged car, Busch raced like it was for the win, running three-wide and never backing down from anyone’s challenge. And Busch’s perseverance paid off: he finished seventh in the final 20-lap segment and eighth overall. A week after showing the worst of Kurt Busch, Busch showed the best in Charlotte.
One sure way to make people mad at you at a restrictor-plate race is to throw an ill-timed block. It’s by no means a dirty move; it’s instinctually trying to protect position. But the danger lies in the act that there’s a split-second window in which to make the move work. This week, AJ Allmendinger tried to throw a block at Denny Hamlin after that window had already closed. The ensuing multi-car crash ended the hopes of a dozen other teams. It wasn’t the only wreck of the day, but it was the most preventable.
It will be one of the biggest surprises of 2012 if AJ Allmendinger doesn’t win a race in his new Penske Racing ride. Early on, it looked like this could be the week for the Los Gatos, Calif., native as Allmendinger beat the field in qualifying to take the pole for the STP 400, and led handily in the early going. But an engine problem reared its ugly head at Allmendinger’s team as the race approached the 100-lap mark. Allmendinger would stay on track after a lengthy pit stop to address the issue, but it cost four laps and relegated Allmendinger to a finish of just 32nd after starting at the front.
AJ Allmendinger took the pole for the STP 400 by just 0.043 seconds on Saturday at Kansas Speedway. It was Allmendinger’s first pole position of the season and his first for Penske Racing, which will have three cars starting in the top 11 on Sunday when the green flag flies. Teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and …
If there is one word that describes Kasey Kahne’s season to date, it would be snakebit. After waiting an entire year to take over his dream ride, Kahne has a season-best 14th place at Fontana to show for it. This week would be no different for Kahne, who won his second pole of the year, but was forced to watch the end of the race from the infield after his engine detonated on lap 316. Kahne finished a dismal 38th, the worst among all drivers planning to run the full event. The finish drops Kahne to 31st in driver points and the No. 5 to 32nd in owner points.
AJ Allmendinger and the No. 43 team had a number of real nice runs in 2011. The best finish for the team came in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May, a fifth-place result.
Looking for a 2012 Chase darkhorse pick? One driver making a case for consideration in recent weeks is AJ Allmendinger. Allmendinger qualified on the outside pole at Phoenix and kept it in the top 10 all day long, finishing a solid sixth and making a case for himself as a Chase hopeful for next year. Allmendinger has just one top-five finish in 2011, but he has a career-high 10 top 10s and has appeared several times to be knocking on the door of a first victory. His 16th-place points ranking is also a career high, and he could grab one more spot on the charts (he sits just three points behind 15th-place Greg Biffle) before he’s done. Not bad for a guy who was almost out of a job this time last year.