NASCAR & Auto Racing

Race rewind | Who could have seen this coming?

Kansas race rewind for Monday

REAR-VIEW MIRROR

No, hard racing isn't strictly past-tense

The next time somebody tells me how much harder people used to race than the guys in the Sprint Cup Series do these days, I might actually scream.

Last week at Dover three guys from Roush Fenway Racing fought each other for a win like hungry dogs fighting for the last scrap of meat. Then on Sunday at Kansas, Carl Edwards tried to make an impossible move work on the final lap so he could beat Jimmie Johnson a track where Edwards, a Missouri native, wants to win so badly he can taste it.

Nobody - I don't care who it was, from Red Byron to Fireball Roberts to Cale Yarborough to Dale Earnhardt - could put it on the line more than these guys have the past two weekends.

That's why they actually hold the races

If people say they have some kind of logical explanation as to why the three Joe Gibbs Racing cars in the Chase for the Sprint Cup are now 10th, 11th and 12th and a collective 900 or so points out of first place they're pulling your leg.

There's no logic to it. That's sports, and that's why so many people pay so much attention to it.

Handling issues upstage Dodge engine's debut

Dodge had its new R6 engine in a Cup race for the first time Sunday in the No. 2 car driven by Kurt Busch. Busch finished 30th with an ill-handling car.

"We got a full race on the engine," crew chief Pat Tryson said. "We just didn't have the car working the way we needed to get a better evaluation."

PIT STOPS

No. 1 - Jimmie Johnson (leads by 10)

Jimmie Johnson is happy to have the points lead three races into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but he said it's not yet time to really worry about that.

"When I started out I was really concerned about every point," Sunday's Kansas race winner said. "Somebody would have a problem and I'd get excited. ...But somewhere in those first couple of years when we would see something happen to someone and get excited, something would happen to us."

Johnson said it's almost taboo for anyone on his team to talk about what's happening to anyone else in a Chase race. "You just focus on your game, your car, your pit stops, your stuff," he said. "On the plane ride home, you take out the points sheet and look at it."

No. 2 - Carl Edwards (10 points behind)

Carl Edwards said that as close as things are at the top of the Chase standings his strategy next weekend at Talladega might be a little different.

"I'll probably just stay glued to Jimmie (Johnson), no matter where he's at," Edwards said. "If he and Greg and I can stay together and make sure we either all avoid the wrecks or all get in the same wrecks, we'll probably be all right."

Edwards said if somebody told him he could have a 10th-place finish at Talladega without running there, he'd take the offer. "I'd pay $1 million for it," he said. "You don't know what's going to happen there."

No. 3 - Greg Biffle (30 points behind)

After his third-place finish Sunday Biffle said he thinks the championship battle will come down to who has the fewest problems.

"I don't think it will come down to who runs the best," Biffle said. "I think it's going to come down to who has the fewest little hiccups here and there - small stuff that happens, like a pit-road penalty or something. ... I doubt it will go all 10 races this tight. But it might."

No. 4 - Jeff Burton (121 points behind)

Jeff Burton finished seventh Sunday, but said that what his team needs to get back into the championship fight is pretty simple. "We just needed to find more speed," he said. "We have good race cars 20 laps into a run, but not fast race cars. We've got to find a way to make more speed."

No. 5 - Kevin Harvick (136 points behind)

Kevin Harvick continued his streak of good runs with a sixth-place finish. He's now finished in the top 10 in nine straight races and in 10 of the past 11. "Our car was strong all day except in the middle of the race," he said.

"We started to fall back a little and the car was a little loose. The last adjustment we made was great and the car was a lot better."

No. 6 - Jeff Gordon (143 points behind)

Jeff Gordon was sick all weekend but pushed through it to finish fourth Sunday. "I know if I had been healthy I would have gotten more out of it," he said.

"That was a tough day. ...I am just aching all over, but when you've got a car and a team that's as good as this one you can't let somebody else get in there and drive it."

No. 7 - Clint Bowyer (174 points behind)

Clint Bowyer finished 12th despite getting black-flagged for jumping the start of the race and then getting a pit-road speeding penalty later in the day. "I just kept making mistakes and paid for them all day," said Bowyer, a Kansas native. " ... I was just trying too hard."

No. 8 - Dale Earnhardt Jr. (190 points behind)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 13th and said he had to work hard fighting a loose race car to do that well. "I think an average driver would have finished 35th," he said. "I told my guys that. We made light of it - I told them they were lucky to have me."

Earnhardt Jr. said he doesn't believe the Chase is down to a three-way battle. "I hope not," he said, "unless you are counting me in that."

No. 9 - Matt Kenseth (192 points behind)

Matt Kenseth fought hard to finish fifth after getting spun out and then having to make a return trip to pit road later for a lug nut problem. "There was just too much ground to make up," he said.

No. 10 - Denny Hamlin (243 points behind)

Denny Hamlin salvaged an 11th-place finish on a tough day for Joe Gibbs Racing. "We went from loose to tight and back and forth," he said. "I've had bad luck all year. I'm used to it."

No. 11 - Tony Stewart (255 points behind)

Tony Stewart finished 40th, seven laps down, after spinning through the infield. That incident damaged the splitter on the front of his No. 20 Toyota and the crew had to make a repair on pit road.

No. 12 - Kyle Busch (311 points behind)

Three weeks, three disasters for the team that led the points when the Chase began.

"I think it's pretty self-explanatory to everybody out there," Busch said when asked how he felt after finishing a lap down in 28th. He fell back because his engine wasn't running right - a problem that apparently was related to the fuel system in his No. 18 Toyota.

"We checked all the line and everything, and we couldn't find anything," crew chief Steve Addington said. "We'll go back and just dissect the whole car ...and see if we can find anything."

PIT STOPS II

David Ragan finished eighth, tops among non-Chase drivers. "It's kind of what we needed," he said. "We've had some pretty good cars the last few weeks and haven't had the finishes we deserved."

In what might have been his final ride in the No. 84 Toyota, A.J. Allmendinger had his career-best Cup finish. "We had a great car," Allmendinger said after finishing ninth despite being penalized once for having a tire get loose on pit road. "he racing is so tough out there. Everybody was slipping and sliding. With 24 laps to go my arms felt like Jell-O."

Elliott Sadler had the best finish, 10th, among Dodge drivers and his first top-10 finish since Michigan in August. "That's a great day for us," Sadler said. "We did a lot of work at the Charlotte test (this week) and found out a lot of things this car liked."

KEY MOMENTS

Lap 50

Carl Edwards is coming off pit road in his No. 99 Ford when Brian Vickers dives in front of him coming to his pit stall. Edwards has to stop and there is contact, but Edwards avoids doing major damage to his Ford and doesn't have his afternoon ruined.

Lap 107

After having led the first 16 laps but falling back a bit, Jimmie Johnson powers past teammate Casey Mears to reclaim the lead and re-establish his No. 48 Chevrolet as a contender for the victory.

Lap 220

Johnson comes off pit road first ahead of Edwards on what proves to be the leaders' final pit stops. Edwards had pulled away on the previous run, so if he'd brought the lead back onto the track Johnson may never have the top spot to defend in what was to come.

Lap 267

Edwards makes his move in Turn 4, diving in as low and as hard as he can to get underneath Johnson's car. Edwards hopes he'll be able to slide up across the track, kiss the wall and keep going fast enough to win. But Johnson sees the move happening and counters effectively, backing off just enough to let Edwards slide by before hammering back on his throttle and taking back the lead and the victory.

NEXT RACE

AMP Energy 500

Where: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

When: 2 p.m. Sunday.

TV: ABC.

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

Last year's winner: Jeff Gordon.

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