The 2006 NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup got a little more interesting after the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Jeff Burton's bid to earn his first career championship fell short after an engine failure on the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing...
The 2006 NASCAR Chase for the Nextel Cup got a little more interesting after the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Jeff Burton's bid to earn his first career championship fell short after an engine failure on the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet cost him the lead in Chase standings.
His loss was Matt Kenseth's gain as he climbs to the top of the 2006 Chase class.
Just when some drivers had counted themselves out of the championship after Charlotte they suddenly can count themselves back in.
The top five is separated by just 48 points.
1. Matt Kenseth: Leader
Kenseth spun on lap 281 after getting punted by the No. 07 Chevy of Clint Bowyer. He managed not to hit anything but lost several positions on track. After the ensuing pit stops, he restarted 15th and climbed back to grab a solid top-11 finish.
"We haven't run well in the Chase," said Kenseth. "It's great to be the leader, but we've got to start running well. It's been pretty sloppy so far."
2. Kevin Harvick: (-36)
He reported on lap 86 a bad vibration. He motored on until lap 231 when he was involved in a crash damaging the driver's side of the No. 29 Chevy. Neither incident slowed the No. 29 Chevy.
"We got in a lot of stuff today and our car wasn't that good. We had great pit stops and that kept us up front and gave us a good finish," commented Harvick.
3. Jimmie Johnson: (-41)
He led a race-high 189 laps. Johnson gave up the lead on lap 401 when he pitted and restarted 10th. With 55 to go, Johnson earned the lead back. Cautions slowed Johnson's attempt to win the Subway 500 but in the end he triumphed.
"We'll just keep racing," Johnson said. "This team has a done great job. We've got a lot of speed and haven't had the finishes to show for it. Regardless of how this year finishes out, I'm very proud of this race team. Lowe's and all the team have worked really hard to get us what we need. Hendrick Motorsports has given Chad everything we need at the race track. I also want to point out that a couple years we lost a very close friend at this race. This is in memory of all of them. There were 10 people on that airplane that went down. We miss them and love them and got to keep this streak going."
4. Denny Hamlin: (-47)
He reported on lap 47 that the No. 11 Chevrolet had a "miss" in the engine. Running on seven cylinders all day long didn't seem effect Hamlin.
He was running second with five to go and tried to put the screws to leader Johnson but came up short of being able to make the pass.
"That was the last shot," said Hamlin of his late race charge. "He had a better car than we did and that was our last chance to get him. I would have loved to get that grandfather clock but it is going to have to be another day."
5. Jeff Burton: (-48)
Burton did not have a good day at Martinsville. He made slight contact with Joe Nemechek during the first caution and it went downhill from there. On lap 58, the hood pins became loose and the crew had to tape the hood under the next caution on lap 66. That restarted him 27th, he was lapped on 102.
On lap 216, Burton's issues became critical when the No. 31 car began to freefall through the field with engine problems. He finally pulled the RCR Chevy into the garage on lap 220 for repairs.
"Something broke in the valve train, that's just a guess I am not much of an engine guy," said Burton. "These things happen, everyone has had an issue in the Chase and we had ours today. This thing is not over for us by any means, the Cingular Chevrolet team is really fast.just a bad day for us.I guarantee you this team will not lay down."
6. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: (-94)
He was running second when he pitted on lap 244 but some of the leaders stayed out. He restarted 21rst. On lap 282, he stayed out when several of the lead lap cars pitted to earn second spot.
He was running seventh with 24 to go when he tried to pass Kasey Kahne and spun out. That put him 25th on the restart.
"That was my mistake," explained Earnhardt. "I was tryin' too hard. I felt like we were quicker than (Kasey) Kahne, so I was anxious to get all I could and get around him. I was under him but the rear brakes locked and the wheels started hopping and I spun out. We had a great car and we had something for 'em all except for the 48 (Johnson). It got down the end of the race and I got greedy. I can't blame it on nobody but myself."
7. Mark Martin: (-96)
Martin had late race radiator issues.
"We had a great car today. We survived it, luckily," Martin said. "We didn't get a good finish, but these guys did a super job. We had a fight."
8. Kasey Kahne: (-99)
He went a lap down on lap 144, but got the lucky dog on lap 157. He raced his way back to a solid top-10 result.
"We had a pretty decent car, but we had to keep loosening it up to go fast," Kahne commented. "I couldn't get off the corners as good as the other guys. I'd slide the nose in the center, and it was loose off. The team did a good job and it ended up being a pretty good day. We did everything right. We just didn't have the car we needed to run in the top five, but we had a good finish and gained some points, so that's about all you can ask for I guess. Things happen and that's the way it goes (when asked about Jeff Burton's problems). I've had plenty of problems and so has everybody else in The Chase."
9. Jeff Gordon: (-141)
He started second but passed pole sitter Kurt Busch to lead first lap. He led much of the first half of the event, but when the sun came out and the track temperature changed, the No. 24 Chevy fell off just a bit.
"We were incredible the first half of the race," Gordon said. "When the sun came out, we just got a little loose we just couldn't really dial it back in. I have to congratulate Jimmie Johnson and all those guys. When the sun came out, his car came to life. I don't think there was anybody who could catch him today. That is a great tribute to the Hendrick Family, this is a really tough weekend for them. Our hearts are with them, but hopefully this brightened their day a little bit."
10. Kyle Busch: (-171)
Busch was running tenth when he spun and hit the wall on lap 448.