Despite crash damage and a penalty from NASCAR, after the smoke cleared, Carl Edwards, who laid down his pole-winning qualifying run more than a week ago, was able to coast home to an eighth-place finish. Edwards was penalized after the red-flag period when a crew member removed a windshield tear-away under the red. Crewmen had been given permission to assist drivers in hooking up radios and window nets, but not to work on the racecars, and removing the tearaways falls into that category. Edwards then suffered heavy damage in one of several late-race crashes, and also got lucky on a yellow-line call by NASCAR before he survived to the checkers for that eighth spot.
Despite not scoring any wins in 2011, Juan Pablo Montoya and his No. 42 Chevrolet accomplished something perhaps even more impressive: he completed 99.5% of the total laps run during the Sprint Cup season.
On the first green-white-checker restart, Kyle Busch overdrove turn 1, was unable to keep his car in the preferred groove on exit, and opened the door for Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose to slip by. That left the two of them to settle the win amongst themselves; through the bus stop, Ambrose pounced, making the pass and riding off into the sunset for his first career Cup win.
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.
*Who…gets my shoutout of the race?*
It was a particularly tough choice this week as drivers battled back from spins and mechanical issues to pull down top finishes, but one driver avoided the drama altogether to simply be there at the end. As he has done so often in his career, *Bobby Labonte* used patience, skill, and experience, to finish seventh, his second top 10 of the year and first since finishing fourth in the Daytona 500. Today’s run was vintage Labonte as the driver flew under the radar to steal a top spot when it counted.
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.
While it doesn’t have much to do with this weekend’s race, it has everything to do with NASCAR history. It was sad enough to hear that a piece of history, Smokey Yunick’s Daytona Beach garage, was lost in a fire, but it’s heartbreaking to hear that that fire was intentionally set. With one act of selfishness, the Best Damn Garage in Town stands no more. Luckily, its legacy will stand for much longer.
Juan Pablo Montoya wants an oval win in NASCAR, and 2001 is looking more and more like the year he could do it. Montoya grabbed and held onto the pole, and when all was said and done, finished 10th, keeping his eighth-place points standing and altogether looking like a legitimate contender early on with three top-10 finishes in five races.
After more than three years, Juan Pablo Montoya racked up his second career Cup win, this one coming on the winding road course in the wine country of western New York.