NASCAR & Auto Racing

Rewind | Maybe it's because bad races are no fun to talk about

Rewinding Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the first of 10 racecs in NASCAR's Chase:

REAR-VIEW MIRROR

Poor performance a poor excuse for petulance

If NASCAR wants to promote the heck out of the 12 drivers competing in its Chase for the Sprint Cup, that's entirely their prerogative.

But it's easy to provide opportunities to speak with championship participants when things are going right. The real test is providing access when things go wrong. On that count NASCAR and its championship Chase failed on Sunday.

Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer were all integral parts of the storyline in the first race of the Chase. All bailed out of New Hampshire Motor Speedway without allowing any meaningful opportunity for the media - or their fans through the media - to ask them about the race they had.

I know it's tough to talk when the chips are down, but it can be done. Drivers like Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle do it on a weekly basis without fail.

Harvick's team stays after it, gets another top 10

There may be few teams that work harder - and more successfully - at making their car better during the course of a race than Kevin Harvick's.

When Sunday's race started, Harvick's car was junk and fell almost immediately to the back. By the end, it was manageable and he finished 10th, retaining his streak of seven consecutive top-10 finishes.

Pushing the prize envelope

In July, as part of Victory Lane festivities here, the track gave away a 25-pound lobster to the race winner.

This time, the winner received a new Segway PT, built in New Hampshire. Wha'’s next? Perhaps a 50-pound piece of maple sugar candy.

THE CHASE DRIVERS

No. 1 Carl Edwards (leader)

Considering how bad Edwards felt that his No. 99 Ford was during practice sessions on Saturday, his third-place finish almost felt like a win.

"To be tied with Jimmie (Johnson) there in the points, it's a huge day for us. It was really cool that Greg (Biffle) got the win. It was really fun to watch him and Jimmie race, man. That was wild."

No. 2 Jimmie Johnson (tied)

Johnson appeared in prime position to earn his third consecutive victory, which could help catapult him to his third consecutive series championship. His runner-up finish still pushed him to a tied atop the standings.

"The short runs are what hurt me the most," said Johnson, who was passed for the lead by Biffle with 11 laps remaining. "I felt a little vulnerable and, sure enough, (Biffle) he got by."

No. 3 Greg Biffle (-30)

At California, Biffle had the pit stops to win but not the car. This time, it all came together and at the perfect time, thrusting Biffle into the thick of the championship hunt.

"I feel better than I ever have about running these next (nine) races," Biffle said. "I'm physically, mentally prepared for what we got coming up."

No. 4 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-50)

Earnhardt Jr.'s fifth-place finish came with a lot of help, from his team, from crew chief Tony Eury Jr. and a lot of talk on the radio from team owner Rick Hendrick.

Earnhardt Jr. at times Sunday became very frustrated with the performance of his No. 88 Chevrolet.

No. 5 Jeff Burton (tied)

The final 100 laps were the best for Burton, who never left the top five after the final 79 laps. Burton said the performance was surprising.

"We had no idea what we had coming into the race today and the guys did a great job getting us ready. One down, nine to go," Burton said.

No. 6 Denny Hamlin (-72)

Hamlin's team knew it couldn't run the final 79 laps without stop for fuel if the race stayed green, so crew chief Mike Ford elected to bring Hamlin in early for gas.

Had the race remained green, Hamlin may have capitalized with a win. But four cautions in the final 70 laps allowed the rest of the lead-lap cars the opportunity to conserve fuel and his advantage was lost.

No. 7 Tony Stewart (-73)

Stewart went a lap down midway through the race when he was tagged by NASCAR for speeding while exiting pit road during a green-flag pit stop. He eventually got back on the lead lap and rallied for an eighth-place finish.

"Last week it was a mistake in the pits. This week it was a mistake on the driver's part," Stewart told a Toyota representive after the race.

No. 8 Kyle Busch (-74)

How far the points leader entering the Chase has fallen. He had a 30-point lead over his nearest rival before Sunday's race and now trails new co-leaders Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson by 74 after a disastrous day.

No. 9 Clint Bowyer (-83)

Bowyer's 12th-place finish was particularly disappointing considering he led all three practice sessions over the weekend before the race.

He never actually took the lead and late in the race his team elected to leave him on the track, while those cars behind him took fresh tires, which made him easy pickings on the restart.

No. 10 Kevin Harvick (-86)

Harvick's No. 29 Chevrolet was terrible for most of the early part of the race, but he and crew chief Todd Berrier worked through the race to get it better. He ended up 10th and preserved his streak of seven consecutive top-10s.

"If we had a long run we were fine, but we were pretty much terrible from the drop of the green flag," Harvick said.

No. 11 Jeff Gordon (-99)

Lapped traffic and near-misses with Robby Gordon, who was pitting next to Jeff, made for a difficult day, but Jeff Gordon was able to salvage a 14th-place finish.

He appeared headed toward a top-10 finish but had to slow dramatically when Patrick Carpentier wrecked on Lap 284.

"Once we lost the track position, just couldn't ever get it back," Gordon said.

No. 12 Matt Kenseth (-177)

Kenseth got collected in the six-race incident started with Chad McCumbee and Sam Hornish Jr. on Lap 229, which ended his race early. Until then, he actually was making pretty good progress in the race.

"We've got to get running better," Kenseth said. "If we can get out cars better and run up front, most of the time things like this won’t happen."

PIT STOP

Joey Logano's Cup series debut was not what he had hoped. He ended up 32nd, three laps down. "We started so back in the hole trying to get this car good and we just got close to it too late," he said.

KEY MOMENTS

Lap 38

Kyle Busch is penalized one lap for "pulling up to pit" while trying to pit to fix a broken sway bar. It is the first of many incidents that end up sending the points leader out of contention early.

Lap 66

Jimmie Johnson passes Carl Edwards to take his first lead of the race. Johnson would end up leading the most laps (96), but not collect the win.

Lap 160

Greg Biffle takes the lead for the first time, if only briefly. He leads four laps before Dale Earnhardt Jr. runs him down and moves out front.

Lap 230

A six-car wreck, nearly 11-minute red flag and related yellow-flag laps provide enough for the lead-lap cars to reach the end of the race without stopping for fuel. Johnson gets off pit road first, but Biffle is right on his rear bumper.

Lap 289

Leaving nothing to chance, Biffle gives it his all on the final restart and takes just one lap to set Johnson up for a clean pass for the lead, which he holds the remainder of the race.

NEXT RACE

Camping World 400

Where: Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

When: 2 p.m. Sunday.

TV: ABC.

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

Last year's winner: Carl Edwards.

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