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Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

Polesitter Kvapil wins at Vegas
Sporting News

LAS VEGAS -- Travis Kvapil found an outside groove that hooked up with his Roush Fenway Ford late and made two passes that carried him to victory Saturday night in the Smith's Las Vegas 350 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kvapil, who started from the pole, was running third behind Jon Wood and Johnny Benson on a restart with 29 laps remaining.

"I didn't think I had much for them because we were all running the same lap times," Kvapil said. "I knew I had to try something different. I'd been running the outside in (Turns) 1 and 2 and decided to test the waters in 3 and 4. I had clean air out there, it stuck good for me, I had momentum, and I was able to make the passes."

Kvapil went around Benson exiting Turn 4 to take second 11 laps later and made the same maneuver on Wood four laps later to take the lead on Lap 133 of 146 on the 1.5-mile superspeedway.

Benson passed Wood for second following the final restart on Lap 139 and challenged Kvapil, edging him for the lead with four to go, but Kvapil was too strong and won by .718 seconds.

"Travis got that outside groove working," Benson said. "He had a great truck and we had a great truck and we finished one-two. I'm pretty happy."

Wood was third, followed by Terry Cook and Erik Darnell. It was the best finish of the year for both Wood, who has run only six NCTS races, and Cook, who has run the entire schedule.

Mike Skinner regained the points lead despite a lackluster 13th-place run because Ron Hornaday Jr. blew a tire on Lap 135. Hornaday was fourth when his right-front went down in Turn 3, forcing him to pit. He was able to rejoin the race and finished a lap down in 22nd.

Skinner has a three-point lead over Hornaday with six races remaining. Kvapil's victory, his fourth of the season, rekindled his hopes of a second NCTS championship. He's 181 points behind.

Jacques Villeneuve became the first Formula One world champion to drive in a NASCAR race in nearly 40 years and the second ever. The Canadian started seventh, fell to 15th in two laps and then began holding his position. Villeneuve damaged the front of his truck in making contact with Brian Scott on Lap 47, but managed to bring it home one-lap down in 21st.

Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, also made his NASCAR debut and finished 24th.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

Hamlin battles flu, wins Busch race
Sporting News

DOVER, Del. -- Fighting off the effects of the flu, Denny Hamlin passed Martin Truex Jr. with 14 laps left in the 200 NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday at Dover International Speedway and pulled away to win his third race of the season.

Hamlin, who had to take on fluids intravenously before the race, pitted for four tires and fuel under caution on Lap 167. He restarted eighth on Lap 170 and gained two positions before the caution flag flew for a track-record-tying 13th time because of AJ Allmendinger's spin in Turn 2 on Lap 171.

After the race restarted on Lap 175, Hamlin picked off the five cars ahead of him, passing third-place finisher Matt Kenseth for second on Lap 183 and Truex, the race runner-up, in a drag race through Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 186.

Hamlin beat Truex to the finish line by 1.797 seconds to claim his fifth career Busch victory. Mike Bliss finished fourth, and Reed Sorenson came home fifth.

Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Jason Keller, polesitter Greg Biffle and David Reutimann completed the top 10.

"I need a nap," Hamlin said after climbing from his No. 20 Chevrolet in victory lane. "I hated to stay in it and maybe risk tomorrow (in Sunday's Nextel Cup Series race), but I don't think I did.

"When the car handles that well, you're able to find something down in you that maybe you can't normally find."

Truex's car started out tight, and with the spate of cautions that interrupted the action, the No. 8 Chevy couldn't take advantage of its strength on long runs.

"We almost pulled one off there, but we didn't have the car to hold off the 20," said Truex, who stayed on the track and inherited the lead when Hamlin pitted on Lap 167. "Our car was off all day, but we did pretty well with what we had."

With enough carnage on the racetrack to cause 13 cautions, Dover produced its customary share of raw emotion. After Robby Gordon clipped the No. 33 Chevrolet of Tony Raines on Lap 58 and turned the car into the wall, Raines climbed from his car under caution and threw his helmet at Gordon's No. 27 Ford.

"I want to thank for sponsoring (my) racecar and sponsoring the race," Raines said. "Unfortunately, they can't keep idiots like Robby Gordon from driving in the race."

To his credit, Gordon took responsibility for the accident after spinning his own car in Turn 2 on Lap 93.

Jason Leffler wasn't as gracious in his criticism of Richard Johns, after the two wrecked on a restart on Lap 141. Running consistently in the top five before the crash, Leffler said it was a shame to be wrecked by a driver "who doesn't have the credentials to be in the Busch Series."

With Scott Wimmer finishing 32 laps down in 29th place, Edwards' Roush Fenway Ford regained the lead in the race for the Busch Series owners' championship by 39 points over the No. 29 of Richard Childress Racing.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

Busch Breakdown – 200

In a Nutshell The start of the race looked a lot more like an ARCA race than a Busch series race, with three yellow flags flying in the first 20 laps. Ultimately there were 13 cautions during the race which made a run at the record number of cautions for the race and tied the highest total of cautions for the year. In between all of the carnage, there was some racing that took place, although Denny Hamlin made a shambles of most of the event. Greg Biffle led after the drop of the green flag, but only held the point for the first four laps, after that Hamlin dominated the race leading 138 of the 200 laps. His only real challenge came late in the race when Martin Truex stayed out on a late race caution and tried to use track position to his advantage. Hamlin restarted sixth but quickly moved back to the front and assumed the lead for the final time on lap 186. Truex was able to hold onto second, Matt Kenseth finished an unassuming third, Mike Bliss had a strong effort to finish fourth and Reed Sorenson put in a workmanlike fifth place run.

Rounding out the top 10 were Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Jason Keller, Greg Biffle and David Reutimann.

Who Should Have Won: Denny Hamlin was the class of the field all day. He came in for tires during a caution flag with 34 laps to go and had to restart sixth while Martin Truex stayed on the track to assume the lead and try to use the track position game to steal a victory. Truex was the strongest of the rest of the field with 21 laps led during the event, but Hamlin should have won the race and ultimately did.

Three questions you should be asking after the race this weekend.

Does throwing your helmet at a competitor’s car accomplish anything?

Tony Raines was spun out by Robby Gordon as the race approached the halfway point. Raines took a wicked hit in the right front corner as his car barreled uncontrollably into the outside wall in turn 3. Raines’ spotter told him that Gordon had made the contact on purpose, so when Raines got out of the car, he threw his helmet at Gordon’s car as it passed under caution. The helmet bounced off of the pavement before striking the grill area of Gordon’s car. The only thing that accomplished was most likely bringing a fine from NASCAR and caused Raines to have to purchase a new helmet before the next race because NASCAR won’t allow him to use a damaged helmet. It puts on a great show for the fans, but it doesn’t do anything productive for the driver or the team.

*2) Are NASCAR drivers athletes?

Denny Hamlin was suffering from the flu, taking IVs before the race and finding a possible replacement driver in future teammate Kyle Busch. Once the green flag dropped, Hamlin went straight to the front of the pack and raced the entire day without any assistance. The argument can be made that it doesn’t really take an athlete to drive a car in circles, and seeing someone do it while suffering from the flu just might justify that argument. While there is certainly a lot of skill needed and physical demands put onto a driver, Hamlin certainly made it look easy.

*3) Should damaged cars be allowed to restart near the front of the lap down line next to cars that are competing for the win?

Jason Leffler was taken out on a restart at the three quarter point of the race by Richard Johns who had a damaged race car and was starting next to Leffler. Johns was multiple laps down and Leffler was on the lead lap, sitting fourth in the point standings and trying to keep his position as the highest standing Busch regular driver. NASCAR needs to work on a system that keeps damaged race cars from being in the middle of the pack on restarts with cars that are competing for a race win.

Worth noting/points shuffle:

The 29 was involved in two separate incidents and lost the points lead in the owner’s championship race. Scott Wimmer finally brought the car home in 29th position, but that allowed Jack Roush’s No. 99 to take the owner’s points lead back by 39 points.

Brad Keselowski’s seventh place finish in the JR Motorsports No. 88 car tied his career best Busch series finish and continued his strong performance since taking over that ride in Chicago.

Carl Edwards points lead grew slightly over David Reutimann and now stands at 754 points. The rest of the top five include: Kevin Harvick, Jason Leffler and David Ragan.

Buschwhacker watch:

Buschwhackers in the race: 14
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 524 of 1240
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10: 7
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10 YTD: 207 of 290
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 25 of 28
Buschwhackers ranked in the top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 5


“We moved up the track and pinched him down a little bit. We were tight all day and just couldn’t run with those guys on fresh tires. We got closer as the tires wore, but it was our only shot.” Martin Truex

“They changed every spring, shock and sway bar and everything this morning. Without any practice we were pretty good.” Matt Kenseth

“I need a nap. This car was great all day. I hated to stay in it and risk tomorrow. I don’t think I did. Its easier to do it when the car handles so great.” Denny Hamlin

Next up:

The series heads to the heartland of America next week for the Lifelock 400 at Kansas Speedway. The race will air Saturday September 30th at 1pm on ABC and MRN.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

Tracking the Trucks : Smith's Las Vegas 350

In a Nutshell: Travis Kvapil took the checkered flag ahead of Johnny Benson to win the Smith’s Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday night. Kvapil outran Benson and Jon Wood, who finished third, in a couple of great side-by-side battles during the final six laps to score his fourth win of the season and ninth of his career. Terry Cook and Erik Darnell rounded out the Top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Kvapil. Kvapil scored his third pole of the season with a speed of 175.387 mph. He ran in the Top 10 the majority of the night, and crew chief Mike Beam was able to make the right calls and adjustments to turn the power on in the end. The driver of the No. 6 K&N Ford passed Jon Wood with just 13 laps to go and relinquished it only once officially when Johnny Benson led him by 0.09 with four laps to go.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. How did Jacques Villeneuve and Buddy Lazier fare in their truck series debuts?

On August 24th, it was announced that Jacques Villeneuve would drive the last seven races of the truck series season for Bill Davis Racing in preparation for a full-time ride in the Nextel Cup Series in 2008. Villeneuve made his first start in the No. 27 Sonax Toyota Tundra Saturday night after qualifying seventh with a speed of 173.790 mph. Early in the race, he was involved in an incident with Brian Scott, resulting in a little bit of left front fender damage. While Villeneuve was able to finish the race, he crossed the start/finish line in 21st, one lap down. Since track time is so important for any upcoming driver in NASCAR, Villeneuve and Bill Davis Racing should be pleased with what they accomplished in their first race weekend together.

Former CART and IRL driver, Buddy Lazier also made his truck series debut in the No. 15 Flanders Beef Patties Chevrolet. He started 21st after posting a speed of 171.521 mph. The team made unapproved adjustments while the truck was impounded, and they had to start at the back of the pack. Lazier brought the Billy Ballew Motorsports fielded truck home in 24th, one lap down.

2. What happened to points leader Ron Hornaday Jr.?

Going into the Smith’s Las Vegas 350, Ron Hornaday, Jr. led Mike Skinner by 29 points. Hornaday, Jr. started 15th with a speed of 172.128 mph but quickly raced through the field, moving into the Top 10 just six laps after taking the green flag. Late in the race, the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet blew a tire and tore apart the right front sheet metal along with the points leader’s hopes to expand his lead. He ended up with a 22nd place finish and relinquished the points lead to Mike Skinner once again.

Truck Rookie Report
2007 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Willie Allen (No. 13)
Blake Bjorklund ( currently without a Truck Series ride )
Aaron Fike ( suspended indefinitely )
Matt McCall ( currently without a Truck Series ride )
Tim Sauter (No. 07)
Tyler Walker ( suspended indefinitely )
Kelly Bires ( currently racing the No. 47 in the Busch Series )
Joey Clanton (No. 09) ( 16 races )
Casey Kingsland ( currently without a Truck Series ride )
Peter Shepherd (No. 50)
Jason White (No. 7)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 3
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 0

Rookie Of The Race: Tim Sauter (No. 07 – finished 20th after starting 16th)
Current Rookie Point Leader: Tim Sauter

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

Kim Lopez, who usually assists on the inspection line and works as a pit road official during the race became the first female to serve as chief starter in the flagstand Saturday night.

Mike Skinner capitalized on Ron Hornaday, Jr’s 22nd place finish and retook the points lead this week. Skinner now leads by just three points over Hornaday, Jr. in second. Travis Kvapil gained an incredible 90 points on the leader and has stuck himself right back into the points race. He now sits 181 points out of the lead in third. Todd Bodine and Johnny Benson round out the Top 5.

Rick Crawford remains in sixth with a more than 200-point lead over Ted Musgrave in seventh. Erik Darnell moved up one spot to eighth, knocking Matt Crafton to ninth. Jack Sprague rounds out the Top 10.


“We were okay the first three quarters of the race. It took a little while. I’m just so proud of everybody on this K&N Ford. Just couldn’t be happier. It’s amazing.” Travis Kvapil

“We had terrible luck tonight. Our truck was terrible all night. It ran good fo two laps. I don’t know. I think Jeff and I need to go back to what we know how to do. Tis new fangled stuff don’t do too good with us.” Mike Skinner, finished

“That was awful fun. Fans saw a great race. The one time I thought I had him (Travis Kvapil), he pulled the air off my side. He (Kvapil) was better in 3&4.” runner-up Johnny Benson

“It’s frustrating to lead that much and finish third. But, I think that’s a pretty nice night. We definitely had a dominant truck. When you can pull up to Travis Kvapil with eight laps to go for the lead, I think that’s pretty impressive. I’m really proud of everybody and I’m proud of Monsam. I’m looking forward to the Cup race next weekend.” Jon Wood

Up Next:
The Craftsman Truck Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway in two weeks for the Mountain Dew 250 on October 6th. The qualifying record is currently held by Mark Martin with a speed of 182.320 mph. Mark Martin won the only truck series race held at the track last year. Coverage begins Saturday afternoon at 3:30 pm EST on Speed. The race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

Edwards wins war of attrition
September 23rd, 2007

Dover, DE (Sports Network) - Carl Edwards captured the Dodge Dealers 400 at the Dover International Speedway in a race that saw just one other "Chase" driver finish on the lead lap. The No.99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford crossed the finish line 0.617 seconds ahead of teammate Greg Biffle.

The victory, in the second race of the 10-race "Chase for the Nextel Cup," was Edwards' third of the season and seventh of his "Cup" career.

"I wanted this win bad, this is the Chase," said Edwards. "Its just a fun race track."

Co-points leader Jimmie Johnson brought the field to the green flag for 400 laps of tight, side-by-side racing around the "Monster Mile." But he lasted just one lap before yesterday's Busch race winner Denny Hamlin slid around him for the lead on lap two.

Hamlin, who led 138 of 200 laps en route to yesterday's victory, took control opening up more than a one-second lead over Johnson after just 10 laps. Hamlin kept the lead until lap 41 when Matt Kenseth finished a charge to the front by jumping past Hamlin for the lead.

But after a caution flag and a round of pit stops, Hamlin's No.11 Joe Gibbs Racing crew got him back out in first. The two were easily the best cars on the track, building a lead of more than three seconds before Kyle Petty brought out the fourth caution flag on lap 75.

On the next stop, three cars (Kurt Busch, Biffle and Edwards) used a two-tire change to gain track position. Kenseth and Hamlin came out fifth and sixth, but they didn't stay there. The No.17 Ford was a little better getting through traffic than Hamlin and by lap 100 Kenseth was back in first place while Hamlin had only moved up one spot.

Another car on the move was last week's NHIS winner - Clint Bowyer. Though he qualified a very poor 42nd, he was up to 14th just one-quarter of the way through the race.

By lap 130 Kenseth's lead was more than two seconds and climbing. He also had two teammates, Edwards and Biffle, with him in the top-four. As the field approached the 150-lap mark, Edwards began to eat into Kenseth's lead. Bowyer cracked the top-10 for the first time on lap 150.

Then some bad news for the race leader - his alternator began to malfunction. But it didn't seem to effect Kenseth's car as yet since he still held a two- second lead.

On lap 187 Johnson (right-tire failure) slapped the outside wall sending him down pit lane and down two laps to the leaders. Tony Stewart also had a problem as did Kevin Harvick (loose wheel) and the three "Chase" drivers were in trouble.

More "Chase" problems as Hamlin collided with Kyle Petty and had no brakes as he pulled the car into his garage for major repairs. And Bowyer's charge was interrupted when he was collected in the accident which crumpled the right- front fender.

With all the attrition, the race was now between Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Biffle and Edwards.

On lap 252, Kenseth clinched the "most laps led" bonus as he continued to pace the field. But on lap 266 Edwards got around Kenseth for the lead. Ever so slowly Edwards began to expand his lead. Meanwhile, Kenseth continued to fade as Mark Martin got around him.

With 112 laps to go, Edwards led Martin by 1.413 seconds, just before he headed to pit road for four tires and fuel.

The fastest car on the track was Kyle Busch, who was in fifth place. He also had the advantage that he could run until about lap 315 and from there reach the checkered flag on one tank of fuel.

Martin finally pitted from the lead on lap 310. Biffle inherited the lead, then Reed Sorenson, but with no caution flags everyone cycled through without incident.

Kenseth and Edwards were once again one-two, but they likely had to make one more stop. Meanwhile, Biffle, Kyle Busch and Sorenson might have made there last stop of the day.

Edwards went underneath Kenseth for the lead with 80 laps remaining. He was also the "de facto" points leader. The No.99 Ford's lead was 2.642 seconds with 60 laps remaining and just nine cars on the lead lap.

In fact, there were just two other cars within 14 seconds of Edwards (Kenseth, Martin). Biffle was fourth, more than 14 seconds back, but if he could go the distance, he would still have a shot at the win. Edwards lapped both Kurt and Kyle Busch and now just six cars were on the lead lap.

A caution flag with 46 laps to go set up a decision for the crew chiefs - pit or stay out.

Edwards, Kenseth and Martin would certainly pit, but Biffle and the others who pitted after lap 310 had an important decision to make. Biffle stopped too. Kenseth's 12.8-second stop trumped the 14.8-second stop of Edwards' crew and he became the race leader with 42 laps remaining.

With 38 laps to go Edwards retook the lead just as an accident took place behind them involving John Andretti, Tony Raines and David Reutimann to slow the race to a crawl.

Surprisingly, Kenseth came down pit road. He called in that he was running on only seven cylinders and overheating. They checked it out, but sent him back onto the track without making any repairs. it put him in fifth place.

The cleanup took some time and the race restarted with just 27 laps to go after a short "red flag" period.

Edwards got a great jump on the restart and Martin, in second got caught behind Kyle Busch. But half a lap later Kenseth's engine exploded bringing out caution number 10 and slowing the field.

"Some things you just can't do anything about," said Kenseth. "I don't have a bad thing to say about Roush Yates engines, they've won more races for me than they can ever lose...I think this is the first one I've blown up in probably two years."

The green flag dropped with 22 laps to go and again Edwards got off to a great restart and again a caution flag slowed the race. This time it was Robby Gordon getting "aero-loose" and hitting the outside wall.

Edwards began the 17-lap shootout by jumping to a six-length lead. Then came Dover's version of the "Big One" as Kurt Busch got sideways, bounced off the wall and Ryan Newman and started a chain-reaction melee behind him that collected a total of 12 cars. Thus started the second red flag of the afternoon.

After the cleanup, there were just 11 laps remaining to be run. Edwards again got a great restart, but NASCAR spotted some debris, probably from the Truex Jr. car, and slowed the race one more time.

The final restart came with four laps to go. Edwards' main competition was from Biffle in third, but with four fresh tires. Biffle easily got around Martin for second and was just five lengths behind Edwards. But Edwards was not to be denied and he held it together over the final laps for the win.

"That was a lot of fun, but those red flags were killing me," said Edwards.

Jeff Gordon (5,340), who finished 11th, holds on to the points lead, but just barely. Behind him is Tony Stewart (-2), Edwards (-3) and Johnson (-4). The next race in the "Chase" is scheduled for Sunday at the Kansas Speedway.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

RacingOne Rewind: Dover

A look back at Carl Edwards' seventh career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win in Sunday's Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway including news, notes and observations by the RacingOne staff.

Inside Line
Edwards outran his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle to pick up his second win on a concrete track with victories at Bristol and Dover in 2007.

Keys to Victory Lane
Edwards survived the troubles that hit many of the other racers, and Chase contenders, to score the win.

Zero to Hero
DEI teammates Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved their way to the front of the field and were in contention for the win before finishing third and fourth.

Hero to Zero
Matt Kenseth had a strong car and led most of the first half before mechanical problems knocked him from contention. Hamlin was trying for a Dover sweep after Saturday's Busch win but was involved in several incidents including a tangle with Kyle Busch on lap 204.

Rookie of the Race
Juan Pablo Montoya started outside the front row and came home tenth in the Texaco Havoline Dodge.

Jeff Burton started 36th and fell even further behind in the early going before coming back to finish seventh. Jamie McMurray began the day eighth and spun early, but rebounded to finish eighth. And Tony Stewart took the green flag 28th and brought the Home Depot Chevy home ninth.

Dodge Dealers 400 Loop Data Leaders

# Average Running Position: Greg Biffle - 4.7
# Fastest Early In a Run: Greg Biffle - 143.324 mph
# Fastest Late In a Run: Carl Edwards - 139.215 mph
# Fastest in Turn 1: Carl Edwards - 138.082 mph
# Fastest in Turn 2: Martin Truex Jr. - 133.550 mph
# Fastest in Turn 3: Carl Edwards - 140.773 mph
# Fastest in Turn 4: Martin Truex Jr. - 135.691 mph
# Fastest Laps Run: Matt Kenseth - 93
# Fastest on Restarts: Matt Kenseth - 144.648 mph
# Most Passes During Green Flag Conditions: Michael Waltrip - 76

Pit Stops
# Carl Edwards captured his seventh career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win in his 113th start. Detailed Active Driver Wins
# Edwards won the 100th race for car owner Jack Roush. Detailed Active Car Owner Wins
# Edwards became the fourth driver to win at Dover from the 15th starting position. He also became the 31st driver overall to win a race from that position. Starting Position Facts
# Edwards led three times for 95 laps. Lap Summary
# Edwards won the fifth race of the season for Ford. It was also the 581st overall win for the manufacturer. All-Time Manufacturer Wins
# Greg Biffle's second-place finish was his best finish of the season.
# Dale Earnhardt Jr's third-place finish was his first top five at Dover since 2004.
# Mark Martin's fourth-place finish was his 20th top five at Dover.
# Kyle Busch captured his eighth top five of the season with a fifth-place finish.
# Casey Mears' sixth-place finish was his best in 10 starts at Dover.
# Jeff Burton finished seventh for his third top 10 with Richard Childress Racing at Dover.
# Jamie McMurray's eighth-place finish was his fourth top 10 in 10 starts at Dover.
# Tony Stewart captured his first top 10 at Dover since 2004 with a ninth-place finish.
# Juan Pablo Montoya's 10th-place finish was his fifth top 10 of 2007.
# The 400-lap race saw 14 lead changes among nine drivers and an average speed of 101.846 mph.
# 13 caution flags were thrown for 66 laps.
# The Dodge Dealers 400 lasted 3 hours, 55 minutes, 39 seconds.

Lug Nuts
# Denny Hamlin and Kyle Petty could use a sit down, as they say on "The Sopranos." Things started to get nasty there for a while.
# Johnny Sauter's fiancee will have to cut down on something at the big wedding coming up if he keeps having days like Sunday.
# Casey Mears continues to be silently impressive.
# Fans missed the kind of crashing we saw at Dover this weekend last month at Bristol? Huh?

Garage Talk
# "Don't smack me on the helmet. You smack me on the helmet and I'm going to punch you in the face, bottom line." - Denny Hamlin on Kyle Petty
# "It is a celebration of great effort and friendship." - Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on his third-place finish
# "Oh gosh, I was on suicide watch for the first 200 laps." - Tony Stewart

RacingOne Rating
On a scale of one to ten bags of concrete, we'll give Sunday's Dodge Dealers 400 at "The Monster Mile" a seven. Head and shoulders above last week's Chase opener in New Hampshire, Sunday's slam bang affair sure tightened up the standings in its aftermath. Apparently Dover has become the new Bristol, with yellow fever permeating the day. Now it's off to the great Midwest for a trip to Kansas Speedway, back to the current car and a chance for the Chase contenders who were battered in Dover to rebound.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

No. 99 Fails Inspection

Carl Edwards' No. 99 Ford failed post-race inspection for a height issue following his win in Sunday's Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway.

After taking the checkered flag, the Roush Fenway Office Depot Ford did not pass the usual post-race inspection process and NASCAR could levy a fine and penalties this week.

"This is a height violation. There was no evidence of the manipulating the structure and the integrity of the body of the car," said Ramsey Poston, NASCAR Managing Director of Corporate Communications.

The expected points that Edwards will be docked will drop him from the front of the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup leaders. He trails Jeff Gordon by three points in the standings after his Dover win.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Dover Edition

2007 Dover Two Race Recap

The Key Moment
– Carl Edwards and the 99 team elected to stay out on worn tires during the penultimate caution period and he was able to hold off his teammate Greg Biffle on four fresh tires.

In a Nutshell
– A race that had had the excitement level of a Smurf’s picnic turned into a WWF event at the end.

Dramatic Moment – As with any Cars of Tomorrow race passing is at such a premium drivers root and gouge like barbarians on every restart trying to get one or two positions. Sometimes it goes badly awry. Ask the dozen drivers swept up in Kurt Busch’s wreck.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

The CoT concept seems to have turned Cup racing into a No Passing Zone. During extended green flag periods the drivers separated by intervals of several seconds unless they were battling to get by obviously slower lapped cars. Why? The CoT was supposedly designed to eliminate the (dreaded) “aero push.” (The phenomenon where a driver in a faster car can get to the bumper of the car he’s trying to pass but can’t complete the pass because he loses the air off the nose of his car when directly behind the car he’s trying to pass.) But if anything it seems to have made things worse. Earlier in the race fresh tires had proven to be .6 of a lap faster than old tires but Greg Biffle just couldn’t get around the 99. Compare that to Saturday’s race where eventual winner Denny Hamlin pitted for fresh tires and restarted fifth then quickly passed the four cars ahead of him. The advantage goes to the older (and prettier cars).

People smarter than me tell me that the above challenge could be quickly fixed if NASCAR would allow the teams to run wider front fenders. (Like our friends at Pontiac used to advertise “Wider is better”) Of course that would negate millions of dollars of wind tunnel data collected to date but it might improve what NASCAR likes to call “the core product”, the racing. Coming off the New Hampshire TV broadcast which drew the worst ratings in the history of the Chase NASCAR needs to do something quick. After all you can’t count on Kurt Busch to set off a field decimating wreck every week.

So Carl Edwards car was found too low in post race inspection after the win? How many points is that going to cost him and Jack Roush. Precedent seems to say it will be 25 points and a bunch of cash. The latter is inconsequential but the former would drop him down to seventh in the standings. And once again fans of the sport will be forced to try to explain to non-fans and casual fans how a car that is found illegal after a race gets to keep the win and the big check. Edwards claims the rear end sheetmetal of his car was damaged when teammate Greg Biffle ran into the back of the 99 to offer his congratulations after the race. How ironic would it be if that damage actually earned Biffle the race win?

Speaking of Kurt Busch, has anybody else noticed he’s working hard at remaining calm and reasonable even when he’s frustrated? He actually showed a lot of class in his post race interview. Hopefully his younger brother is watching.

When are Cup drivers going to realize if you’re going to hit a guy you have to wait until he takes his helmet off. It was a rare but not unprecedented display of bad temper by Kyle Petty.

They’ve been promising to fix pit road at Dover for years now and it remains one of the most dangerous such places on the circuit. Hopefully a close call with one of the 55 team’s crew members being struck by a tire today will move the renovation to the front burner. Several drivers also damaged their cars in pit road collisions. Frankly the fact two drivers have to share a stall at the start of the race is a genuine embarrassment to the sport.

What was Tony Stewart thinking when he decided to start slamming the 15 car on pit road and at pit exit early in the race? It seems he damaged his own car to the point it wasn’t competitive. Considering the days the drivers of the 20 and 11 cars endured it might seem wise for Joe Gibbs racing to switch the coffee over to decaf on race mornings.

What is it about these concrete tracks that Carl Edwards has figured out? Five of his six wins in NASCAR’s two top divisions have come on concrete.

Even as the University of Delaware across the street was in lockdown after a tragic double shooting the NASCAR nation continued to party on campus and at the track. It was a jarring disparity of cultures to say the least. My best wishes and those of the Frontstretch staff go out to the two college students injured in the shooting.

It is widely rumored that Mars candies and its M and M brands will be the new sponsor for Kyle Busch’s 18 car out of Joe Gibbs Racing next year. Talk about an opportunity for Chun King or some other mass producer of Chinese food. That’s a sweet and sour pairing if I’ve ever heard one.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is probably a shoe in for Most Popular Driver as long as he competes but based on what I saw in Wednesday’s press conference he isn’t likely to win any awards for “Best Looking Car” anytime soon. And as for the 9 car I can’t help but feel Budweiser and Allstate insurance are the most awkward sponsor pairing since Junior ran the Bud and Remington decals. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. They shoot em.

You want to talk about ways to spice up a title drive? Look at the NHRA Funny Car championship. Funny car points leader Robert Hight failed to qualify for this weekend’s event at Texas. Why? Because he didn’t go fast enough and the NHRA doesn’t offer Mulligans into an event based on the points standings like NASCAR does. If the same system (the fastest 43 make the race) was used in the Cup series Clint Bowyer would have gone home and Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart would have been sweating bullets late in the qualifying session. Oh, but you can’t have big name drivers not making the race. It disappoints their fans. Well you know what? I have a buddy who is a Jeremy Mayfield fan and he’s pretty disappointed that he went to Dover and didn’t get to see Mayfield compete.

Tragedy was narrowly avoided at that NHRA meet in Texas today when Funny Car veterans John Force and Kenny Bernstein collided at the big end of the track. Force is said to have suffered two broken legs and a broken arm in what might be the worst (and final) wreck of his career. Best wishes go out to both drivers and their teams. Force’s daughter Ashley was so shaken by the incident she elected not to compete in the semi-final run she was scheduled to make. Remember, the Force team already had a driver killed this season.

If I have to endure one more Tim Brewer explanation (with graphics) of a dropped valve I might blow one myself. My guess is in the post-race gathering ABC executives will ask the term “that’s the dead puppy in the litter” not be used again. Or as Rusty Wallace might say, they will ask that that phrase not not be used not again.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Matt Kenseth dominated the race leading 194 laps but he blew an engine with 27 laps left to run.

Denny Hamlin seemed a little too wound up a little too early at Dover. An attempt to force a pass on the lapped car of Kyle Petty ended badly for both Hamlin and Petty.

Clint Bowyer was also caught up in the aftermath of Hamlin’s bad decision.

Lug nuts left loose during a pit stop forced Kevin Harvick to pit under green and lose a couple laps. A flat tire later just added insult to injury but a pit crew can’t make that sort of rookie mistake if their driver is to a championship contender.

Penske South had two cars running in the top 10 most of the day until on lap 485 they had two cars running into the wall. A hard luck award goes out to the dozen drivers involved in the melee.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Race winner Carl Edwards had to overcome a sticking throttle early in the event. Usually a driver with a throttle stuck at Dover winds up in a Bambulance not in Victory Circle. Edwards day was saved by a household can of WD40.

Jeff Burton’s car was flat out horrible early in the race. A timely caution kept him from going a lap down. He eventually did fall off the lead lap but another caution put him back on the lead lap. He managed to escape the carnage and come away with a seventh place finish.

I think Mark Martin’s fourth place run proves an old man can compete in the new cars.

Jamie McMurray was hit by the 42 car, rapped the wall and cut down a tire. He still left Dover with a top 10 finish.

Kyle Busch slapped the wall hard and got a piece of the lap 485 wreck but soldiered on to a top 5 finish.

Worth Noting

* Carl Edwards has finished first or second in three of the last five races.

* Greg Biffle scored his best finish of the season and his first top 5 finish since Sonoma. His second place result was his best since he won at Homestead in last year’s series finale.

* Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his best finish since Pocono in July.

* Mark Martin had his best finish since the Daytona 500.

* Kyle Busch has top 5 finishes in three of the last four races.

* Jamie McMurray earned his first top 10 since he won at Daytona in July.

* Tony Stewart has top 10 finishes in nine of the last ten Cup races.

* Juan Pablo Montoya scored his first top 10 finish since Indianapolis. He had the best finish among this year’s crop of rookie contenders.

* Michael Waltrip had his best finish since Michigan.

* The top 10 finishers drove six Chevys, three Fords and a Dodge.

What’s the Points?

Jeff Gordon remains atop the heat but he is just a single point ahead of second place Tony Stewart, three points ahead of third place Carl Edwards, and four points ahead of fourth place Jimmy Johnson. Fifth place Kyle Busch is just ten points out of the lead.

Within the Chase there was the typical radical reshuffle the contrived points system is intended to provide. Carl Edwards moved up five spots to third. Jeff Burton moved up three spots to eighth. Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch all moved up a single spot. They are now second, ninth and eleventh respectively.

Hamlin’s bad call led to a bad fall. He falls three spots to twelfth. Jimmie Johnson also lost three spots and is now fourth. Matt Kenseth lost three positions as well and is now tenth in the standings. Clint Bowyer fell two spots to sixth while Martin Truex Jr. fell as single spot to seventh.

Outside the Chase Greg Biffle wrested fourteenth spot from Casey Mears and Juan Pablo Montoya took nineteenth spot from J.J. Yeley.

Under the old points system Jeff Gordon would still be leading but by considerably more than one point. Tony Stewart would still be second while Jimmie Johnson would have overhauled Denny Hamlin for fourth. Carl Edwards would have taken over fifth in the points from teammate Matt Kenseth.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) We’ll give this one three cans of lukewarm Lone Star. The race had its moments but they were few and far between.

Next Up – Start crafting your “Wizard of Oz” puns because the series heads off to Kansas, a track that has often provided Toto-ally boring events.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

Dodge Dealers 400 Recap    
So much for the Car of Tomorrow being boring. In a wreck filled event, Carl Edwards emerged victorious at Dover on Sunday afternoon. “There’s no room for error at this track,” he said. “So, to start the Chase off with a 12th and win, that’s about as good as we could’ve hoped for. That’s good. I’m proud of it.” He survived a record 13 caution flags that waved for 66 laps. There is a bit of controversy surrounding the victory though as the #99 car was found to be too low in post-race inspection. Penalties could be coming later this week. His teammate Greg Biffle was 2nd, followed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Mark Martin, and Kyle Busch. There were 14 lead changes among 9 drivers. It was career win number 7 for Edwards, and the 100th trip to victory lane for his owner Jack Roush.

Not a bad day

The oval type track racing is starting to become easier for Juan Pablo Montoya. The rookie started on the outside pole and stayed out of trouble enough to post his 5th top 10 of the season. “It’s incredible,” he said with enthusiasm. “It’s good. I’m pretty happy. This week we finally figured something out.” It was his best finish since he took 2nd at the Brickyard at the end of July. Other notables: Casey Mears (6th) had his 2nd top 10 finish in a row, and Michael Waltrip started last but managed ended up leading his 2nd lap of the season before placing 15th.

Not a good day
Several title contenders were bitten by the Monster Mile. Taking one of the worst hits was Matt Kenseth who led the most laps (192) but saw his day come to an end when his engine gave way with only 26 laps to go. “Some things you just can’t do much about,” said the dejected former Cup winner. “We were in a good spot to win the race and we were in a good spot to gain some points for the championship. It just wasn’t to be today. We all did the best we could. We just came up short.” Other notables: Denny Hamlin was involved in a wreck just past the halfway mark and ended up 38th, and Kurt Busch also got caught up in what turned out to be the biggest crash of the day on lap 386 when 10 cars were entangled.

Eyes for the prize
Don’t think every point matters in this sport? Take a look at the top of the standings. Only 4 points separate the top 4 drivers with Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart (-2), Carl Edwards (-3) and Jimmie Johnson (-4) all battling for position. Not too far behind is Kyle Busch (-10), Clint Bowyer (-18) and Martin Truex, Jr. (-46) The rest of the field includes Jeff Burton (-75), Kevin Harvick (-115), Matt Kenseth (-116), Kurt Busch (-151), and Denny Hamlin (-158).

The next turn
It’s another Busch/Cup doubleheader weekend upcoming at one of the so-called “cookie cutter” tracks, Kansas Speedway. The action begins on Saturday afternoon when the Busch series runs the Yellow Transportation 300. Last season Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag. Then on Sunday afternoon it’s race 3 of The Chase and it has a new sponsor this year. It’s now called the LifeLock 400. Tony Stewart ran out of gas on the last lap last season but had built up such a big lead he coasted across the line in first. The Craftsman Truck series is silent and will be back at it in two weeks at Talladega.

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Re: Racing Roundup: September 22 - 23

Cool Down Lap: Chase was decided at Dover

DOVER, Del. -- Just in case you missed it, the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup was decided Sunday amid the mangled sheet metal and Car of Tomorrow carcasses left in the wake of the Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Yes, one driver turned a struggle for survival into a Nextel Cup championship by salvaging a respectable finish at the Dover salvage yard. The only catch is that we won't know for a few weeks who that driver is.

The obvious choice would have been race winner Carl Edwards, one of the few Chase drivers who avoided major problems Sunday. After his crew fixed an annoying glitch with the throttle linkage on the No. 99 Ford, Edwards became the race's dominant car, particularly after teammate Matt Kenseth blew an engine on Lap 374.

Edwards jumped to third in the Chase standings, three points behind leader Jeff Gordon. Just one problem, though. NASCAR busted Edwards' Ford in postrace inspection after discovering that the right rear of the car was too low. A potential point penalty could undo the good work Edwards accomplished Sunday.

Speaking of Gordon, the four-time champion fought through a frustrating afternoon when the handling of his No. 24 Chevy did a disappearing act. Gordon kept his nose clean and came home 11th, one lap down, but he managed to emerge the points leader by two over Tony Stewart, who had an equally frustrating day.

Stewart's No. 20 version of the COT lived up to the "Flying Brick" nickname Smoke gave it after testing the car for the first time. Stewart started 28th at Dover and quickly dropped five positions, but simply by avoiding the many wrecks that punctuated the race, Stewart finished ninth and affirmed his status as a force in the Chase.

Reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson had more adversity to deal with than either Gordon or Stewart. A punctured right rear tire on Lap 187 had Johnson heading south, two laps down. But by picking off positions from the other cars two laps down and by steering his way through Dover's version of "The Big One" on Lap 386 with less than critical damage, Johnson limped home in 14th place.

That finish was good enough to hold fourth in the standings, four points behind Gordon. After the race, Johnson radioed to his crew: "Thank you for never quitting today. That might win us a championship."

"Might?" answered crew chief Chad Knaus. "What's that? It will."

Not so fast. Martin Truex Jr. stayed within shouting distance of the leader (46 points back in seventh place) without being able to avoid the Lap 386 melee. Truex finished the race with his No. 1 Chevy dripping debris and his motor blowing up on pit road, after all the fluid drained from his punctured radiator. But the point is that he finished, one lap down in 13th position.

After starting 42nd, Clint Bowyer powered his way through the field but caught a piece of the Denny Hamlin-Kyle Petty wreck on Lap 203. Nevertheless, Bowyer managed a 12th-place result to keep his title hopes alive. Though Bowyer dropped two spots in the standings, from fourth to sixth, he's only 18 points behind Gordon and very much a factor.

The same goes for Jeff Burton, who is 75 points back in eighth place. Driving a pig of a car in early going, Burton twice had to use free passes under caution to get back on the lead lap, but by the end of the race, his No. 31 Chevy was undamaged and again the first car one lap down -- but in seventh place. Who knows what one more Lucky Dog might have accomplished, but realistically, Burton needs to find some speed to compete for the title.

And what of Kyle Busch? Despite minor damage in the Lap 386 crash, the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Chevy finished fifth to back up his fourth-place showing in the first Chase race at New Hampshire. Obviously, that's a substantial improvement over his 38th- and 40th-place results in the first two Chase race last year. Fifth in the standings and 10 points back of Gordon, Busch is a sleeper for the title in his last year with Hendrick Motorsports.

The other four Chase drivers were among Dover's many victims, whether or not by their own design. Kevin Harvick made two unscheduled pit stops with tire problems and finished 20th. Despite the pleadings of his crew chief, Mike Ford, to calm down and look at the big picture, Hamlin crippled one of the best cars in the race -- his own No. 11 Chevy -- when he ran over Petty out of Turn 4.

Kenseth's blown motor was his first since the 2005 Daytona 500, and Kurt Busch reprised the bad luck he experienced at New Hampshire when his No. 2 Dodge hopped into the Turn 2 wall and triggered the 10-car accident on Lap 386.

Harvick, Kenseth, Hamlin and Kurt Busch all are more than 100 points out of first place and will need the kind of trouble they experienced at Dover to afflict every one of the drivers ahead of them at least once in the final eight races. That's a long shot.

But the other eight drivers all staked their claims to the championship in the maelstrom that was Dover.

Who won the title Sunday night?

I'll get back to you in two weeks -- after Talladega.

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