After seven months peppered with near misses and a night wrought with fuel mileage drama, car owner Rick Hendrick reached a milestone that only one other team has ever reached: 200 Cup Series wins. Only Petty Enterprises has more (268).
Talk about quiet. Sam Hornish Jr. is quiet off the track, and on Friday night, he slipped under the radar until the end. But that’s where the quiet ended, as Hornish waged a furious battle with Austin Dillon for a fourth-place finish, beating Dillon by inches at the line. Hornish is showing steady improvement after being given a chance to start over in the Nationwide Series after a less-than-stellar couple of years in a Sprint Cup car. If he continues to race like he did on Friday, he’ll have another chance in Cup… and this time he’ll be ready.
Clint Bowyer out drag-raced teammate Jeff Burton out of turn 4 to the flag, on the final lap to win what some pundits will allege to be a race.
Joey Logano was so close to victory he could smell it, and it smelled a lot like rain on a humid summer day. Unfortunately for Logano, who had grabbed his third career pole on Saturday, the rains let up, the race ran its complete distance, and the third-year driver faded to a disappointing 26th. For Logano, who is breathing a sigh of relief now that Edwards is no longer a threat for his ride, Silly Season isn’t quite over until other potential replacements like Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers and Mark Martin have contracts somewhere else. Good finishes still have extra importance for the No. 20 right now.
Ryan Newman managed to clear Clint Bowyer on fresher tires immediately following a lap 229 restart and never looked back, scoring his third career victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with ease.
While David Ragan was collecting his first win (anyone else see that coming after his near-miss in the Daytona 500?), a longtime friend and competitor of Ragan’s was racing amid a swirl of rumors about his future and came up big this weekend. Joey Logano showed that his win on Friday in the Nationwide Series was no accident, finishing third on Saturday night for the weekend’s best average. Logano and Ragan grew up racing together, starting in Legends cars, and both find themselves at a career crossroads, subjects of intense speculation about their futures in the series. Both delivered at a critical point this week.
Employing strategy similar to the Penske Racing cars, David Gilliland had to scratch and claw for his 12th-place result at Infineon. Gilliland ran in the top 10 much of the afternoon and held off stiff challenges from Juan Pablo Montoya and others to score a commendable top-15 effort. This track has been good to Gilliland in the past, with a second-place finish back in 2008. With a solid effort today, he gives his Front Row Motorsports team a bit of breathing room in the Top-35 owner points battle.
Matt Kenseth took two tires and Mark Martin stayed out while leaders Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer all took four during pit stops under caution on lap 364 after Juan Pablo Montoya backed into the turn 4 wall. Hey, being on probation and unable to hit other drivers, he needed to hit something.
Nothing about racing is easy, but Dover can really throw teams and drivers for a loop. Toss into that mix one of the most difficult pit-road entrances on the circuit and it makes for an interesting day. Both David Ragan and Andy Lally had trouble navigating the sharp turn off turn 3, spinning out right at the top of pit road. Ragan didn’t hit anything, but was lucky he wasn’t hit by Jamie McMurray as McMurray made his own approach to pit road during a round of green-flag stops. They don’t call it “The Monster Mile” for nothing.
Outside of the Chase for the Championship drama, the end of the 2010 NASCAR season was pretty entertaining. Drivers certainly ‘had at it’ (isn’t that the most overplayed quote of the year), but now have more than 80 days to cool off before the unofficial start of the 2011 season. Here’s some rivalries that need …