The first race in NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup spelled trouble for Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson; but calamity for some is always providence for another. Today the God's of Fortune smiled down on the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing...
The first race in NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup spelled trouble for Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson; but calamity for some is always providence for another.
Today the God's of Fortune smiled down on the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team of Kevin Harvick. For the second week in a row all the luck was squarely in Harvick's pocket. He sat on the pole, dominated the event, won the race and is leading Nextel Cup point standings for the first time in his career.
Here is how things shaped up now that the first Chase event in is the NASCAR history books:
Point Leader - Kevin Harvick (5,230): Pole sitter Harvick was the class of the field all day. He led a race high 196 laps winning the first Chase race. Harvick's domination the last few weeks moves him to the frontrunner for the championship. He has ten consecutive top-15 finishes.
This is Harvick's second consecutive victory and fourth of the season.
"We sure have momentum right now," Harvick said. "We just have to keep doing what we are doing at this point. If we keep winning, we aren't going to get out of the points. We know we have to score all the points we can when we can."
2. Denny Hamlin (-35): It was a clean quiet day for rookie Denny Hamlin. He stayed out of trouble, drove a smart race and that combined with a two tire pit stop helped the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Chevrolet pull off a fourth place finish.
"It's very important," said Hamlin of getting a good start in the Chase. "We've seen in the past that if you falter here you struggle for the rest of the Chase. It's good for our whole FedEx team to come out of here with a great finish and hopefully this is just a building block for things to come."
3. Matt Kenseth (-41): The No. 17 Roush Racing Ford didn't have a chance to compete for the win but he had a solid top-ten car all afternoon. He finished 10th.
"The result was actually good for how we ran," Kenseth said. "I kind of messed up that last restart or maybe we could have gained a couple spots, but we were good on the short run. We were kind of good on the long run, but then we just didn't have any brakes. We've been fighting brake issues all year. I don't really understand why. We never used to have them, but we've been having them all year. I drove the last half of the race with basically zero brakes, so that was a good finish for all the problems we had."
4. Jeff Gordon (-50): Solid day for the four-time series champion finishing third. He sits fourth in points.
"I think as bad as our run was at Richmond it was pretty important for us to make some kind of statement," said Gordon. "You want to be competitive. We were today. It is fun to up there and take the lead and have a strong car like that. Like I said, we lost the handling on it in the middle of it a little bit, but all I can ask for every single weekend is to have the type of race car and the kind of effort we had here today. If we can do that, we are really going to give these guys a run for their money."
5. Jeff Burton (-64): Good top ten run for the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet coming home with a seventh place result. Burton ran in the top five most of the day but a late race stop cost him track position.
"We ran really good," said Burton. "We just got put in a bad spot. And running the way we were, we couldn't afford to pit and some guys got by us the last couple of laps on that last caution because they had tires. But I am happy with the way we ran. We just lost track position and never could make it back up. We ran well all day but we just lost track position."
6. Mark Martin (-75): Martin finished 11th. Martin is supposedly in his last year of full time Cup series racing which makes this his last chance to earn a championship before he retires. He ran a smart, consistent race.
"We had a really good car and it's a shame that we didn't finish higher than that," said Martin. "It's good that we had a fast race car at least. I was real pleased with our race car. Pat and the guys did a super job on getting it where it was and keeping it where it was all day."
7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-81): If the No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Incorporated team would have made some better decisions the complexion of this day may have looked differently. He had a clean race that allowed him to grab 13th but he didn't seem too happy with that. Earnhardt admitted that if he is going to contend for this championship that some things are going to have to change.
"It's really frustrating," Earnhardt explained. "We were tight in the middle all weekend. We just never figured it out all weekend. We didn't figure it out during the race. We made a lot of changes and just hurt it and got really, really tight at the end. It was just a frustrating day. I am a good driver and when I get decent equipment and we can work on it and do it right we will go to the front - we just didn't do it right today."
8. Kasey Kahne (-110): Kahne grabbed a good finish despite tire issues. Kahne reported to his team on lap 132 that he had a tire going down and dropped from the top-12 to a lap down in 32nd. He managed to get his lap back on 195 and earn 16th.
"We didn't qualify that well, but we worked our way into the top ten in the first half of the race," Kahne said. "Then, we had a tire going down and had to make an unscheduled pit stop under green. That put us two laps down, but we overcame that, got those laps back and we were running the top-10 with 50 laps to go. On the last pit stop, we got blocked in and had to back up, so that cost us a couple of spots in track position. I still thought we could get a top-10, but the car was just too tight at the end and we couldn't go anywhere."
9. Jimmie Johnson (-139): The choke is on for the No. 48 Hendrick Chevrolet team. Engine issues started early with the Johnson dropping swiftly through the field just 40 laps into the Sylvania 300. The crew was struggling to repair the car under cautions, but on lap 88 they were the caution.
Heavy damage took away Johnson's chances of a good finish. They did get the No. 48 Chevy back out to run around for points but it did little good. He finished 39th.
"The big thing we've got to figure out is what's wrong with the engine and then make sure it doesn't happen again," said Johnson. "Then just go out and put together nine good ones and hope that it works out."
10. Kyle Busch (-146): Seems like maybe the pressure of the Chase is eating at youngster Kyle Busch. On lap three, the No. 5 Hendrick Chevrolet suffered heavy damage after making contact with Jeff Green. The car was never the same and on lap 199 they careened into the wall damaging their ride beyond repair.
He finished 38th.
"This car has never finished out of the top ten," commented Busch. "Not a good way to start the Chase by wrecking not once but twice. The sad part is that we rode around and were coming to back when we got wrecked again. I had no friends out there for sure. I'm just disappointed we didn't have a chance to go get them."