Fifth chase race trims down competition

The fifth race of the NEXTEL Chase for the Championship pretty much trimmed the field to a three man race for the series title. Lousy luck didn't necessarily mean bad finishes, as Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon both battled back from misfortune to...

The fifth race of the NEXTEL Chase for the Championship pretty much trimmed the field to a three man race for the series title. Lousy luck didn't necessarily mean bad finishes, as Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon both battled back from misfortune to gain stellar finishes. Jeremy Mayfield, however, could not overcome damage sustained to the No. 19 Dodge and falls an unrecoverable 349 points behind the leader.

1. Kurt Busch: Spun during lap one accident, had to come to pit road for valance repairs. Busch's night continued to go sour. Pit strategy helped Busch back to the front; by lap 132 he had wheeled the No. 97 Ford to the 11th spot.

Busch continued his charge forward, working his way to the second spot by lap 233. On lap 313, however, Busch got swept up in an incident between Jimmy Spencer and Brendan Gaughan causing him to dip down pit road to avoid an accident.

"Tall order of adversity to overcome early, once we worked our way back to the front it got better," said Busch. "We had a busy day."

He finished fourth and stays at the top of the charts.

2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Earnhardt put the bumper to Ryan Newman on lap 83, to continue his charge to the front grabbing second. He floundered around the top five all night, before finishing third.

"It was a good point's day for us," said Earnhardt. "We just want to try and concentrate on being consistent. We had a good run today, and not a great car. We need to keep having finishes like this."

He stays second in rankings, 24 points behind the leader.

3. Jeff Gordon: Gordon suffered rear damage and nose damage in an incident in turn one on lap one. He managed to stay in the rear of the field on the lead lap for about sixty circuits, before falling one lap down to the leaders. Things just kept going downhill for the four time Cup series champion, Gordon got caught up with the No. 2 of Rusty Wallace on lap 75 in turn 4, suffering rear end damage on the No. 24 Chevy.

That put the 24 car, two laps down in 36th place. Gordon was the lucky dog recipient on lap 209, getting back on the lead lap.

"I'd like to think that our experience has something to do with it," said Gordon. "When that race is over our guys had the biggest smiles on their face. This was a big confidence booster.we needed a top five, and needed to get up there and battle like that."

Despite a night of adversity, Gordon's car seemed to come alive after they got back on the lead lap. By lap 248, he had worked himself up to ninth spot.

In an effort that only a former champion could have handed in, Gordon miraculously finished second, and remains third in standings; 74 points short of the lead.

4. Elliott Sadler: Sadler gained the lead of the race on lap 30, after taking two-tires to gain track positions on a round of pit stops after the red flag. Sadler ran solidly in the top five all evening, until lap 249 when the No. 38 Ford began to experience handling issues.

"We had a great race car all night until the last three runs," said Sadler. "We got the car a little bit too tight."

He slipped back to 11th, and was only able to work his way back to seventh place result. He stays fourth in rankings, 157 markers out of first.

5. Mark Martin: Martin looked poised to either win the race or finish second until lap 312, when the No. 4 of Jimmy Spencer and the No. 77 of Brendan Gaughan wrecked in front of him. Martin caught a piece of it causing left front fender damage on the No. 6 which was running in second place at the time of the incident, and 15th afterwards.

"You saw it," said Martin. "It's hard for me to believe that some of these guys could pass a driver's test. I can't believe they've got driver's licenses."

He placed 13th, and slips 186 points from the lead.

6. Tony Stewart: He went a lap down early, but was the lucky dog on lap 120; gaining his lap back, but the No. 20 Chevy never seemed to find its groove Saturday night.

They struggled with their set-up all evening, but finished 10th. He sits 204 points out.

7. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth blew a right tire on lap 171 falling from a top ten spot, to 19th one lap down.

"All in all you've got to look at this as a championship team and they put in a championship effort," said No. 17 crew chief Robbie Resier. "We had an opportunity at winning this race tonight. We were up in the top three all night long and cut a tire down. That cost us big."

He finished 11th. He now trails Busch by 215 points.

8. Jimmie Johnson: Race winner! The win propels him up one spot from ninth to eighth, 227 points out.

"I don't know if we are still in it," Johnson said. "We have had two bad races, right now, I think it is just out of our control."

9. Ryan Newman: Pole sitter Ryan Newman posted the first 188 mph lap every recorded at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Thursday, and led a good portion of the beginning laps of the event.

Newman's car was not quite as good on the long runs, however, which slipped him back to a 14th place result.

He is the only chase driver to loose a spot in standings; he drops from eighth to ninth, 271 points from first.

"We had a fast car," said Newman. "We just got back on that last pit stop, but we had a car that could have won."

10. Jeremy Mayfield: Mayfield slid through oil on lap 222 backing the No. 19 Dodge into the wall. Mayfield had to take the No. 19 Dodge into the garage for extended repairs.

"We had an awesome car," said Mayfield. "I hate it for all the guys, we had a great car and we just got in something. I am not sure what happened."

He wound up 30th. Mayfield stays 10th in standings, 349 markers from the lead.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Jimmy Spencer , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Brendan Gaughan , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin