|Several Chasers struggle at Fontana|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 10 October 2010 15:32|
Not for who'll win, but those who probably won't.
Five Chase drivers struggled through a series of engine blowups, crashes and mishaps to see their Chase championship chances take a serious dent.
Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch all had their engines blow up. Kurt Busch was knocked out by a late wreck. Matt Kenseth just didn't have it all day.
When it was over, none of them were within 140 points of leader Jimmie Johnson.
``That shows has fast things can change out here,'' Kurt Busch said.
Eighth in the Chase after winning at Kansas last week, Biffle was running eighth on Lap 41 when his engine blew and started spewing white smoke from the sides of his car. Biffle drove straight to the garage and was done for the day. He's 10th in the Chase, 215 points back.
``It's unfortunate for us,'' Biffle said. ``This was our opportunity to get back in the Chase and it doesn't look that's going to happen.''
Edwards, fourth in the Chase heading in, had his car sputter to a stop on Lap 57 and needed help to get going again. His crew pushed the No. 99 car to the garage and ended up changing out the fuel pump, a fuel line and the distributor.
By the time he made it back to the track, Edwards was 14 laps down. He ended up finishing 34th and dropped 162 points back in the Chase in seventh.
``You've got to run well enough to absorb these kind of days,'' he said. ``We've run really well. We've got six races left and we're 162 points back, so over six races that's not a lot of points per race, but I think we can do it. We just have to keep digging.''
Kyle Busch dropped from ninth to 28th on the fourth caution after he was forced into a second pit stop due to a part vibrating off. His day took a turn for the worse with 46 laps left when his engine blew, sending smoke from the sides and the car to the garage.
Kyle Busch finished 35th and is ninth in points, 187 behind Johnson and had a blunt assessment of his championship chances: ``It's over,'' he said.
His brother had even worse luck.
Kurt Busch struggled in qualifying, starting 38th, but found something on race day and quickly moved up the grid. He was within reach of the top 10 when he was involved in a late accident and came back out to finish 30th.
``With 20 to go, it looked like we were going to come out of here with a solid top-10 finish, but it was not to be,'' said Busch, now sixth in the points, 140 behind Johnson.
HAMLIN'S DAY: Denny Hamlin entered the weekend just eight points behind Johnson in the Chase, but got it off to a horrible start. He struggled in qualifying to 34th and was bumped all the way to the back after switching out transmissions.
Once the race started, Hamlin could hardly be stopped.
He moved up 16 spots in the first 14 laps and was up to sixth with about 75 laps left. Hamlin passed the one car he needed to most with 65 laps left, dipping below Johnson to move into fourth, but fell back. He got Johnson again with about 35 laps left to move into sixth, but Johnson returned the favor.
Johnson ended up finishing third to pad his lead to 36 points, but Hamlin wasn't too disappointed after getting a top-10 finish.
``A little bit frustrated, but all in all it's a decent day,'' said Hamlin, who finished eighth. ``Can't be too disappointed, especially from where we started.''
BURTON'S CHIEF: Jeff Burton had to do without his crew chief for a little while.
Todd Berrier became ill before the race and went to the hospital, but checked out fine and returned to the track after the race started.
Richard Childress Racing was already without one crew chief. Clint Bowyer's chief, Shane Wilson, has been suspended four races - lowered from six - after his car failed inspection at New Hampshire.
Team owner Richard Childress sat atop the pit box and called the race for Burton with the help of team engineers until Berrier arrived about midway through. Burton struggled early and continued to even after Berrier arrived, finishing 23rd to drop 177 points behind Johnson.
BUSCH VS. REUTIMANN: A week ago, Kyle Busch and David Reutimann went through a bump-me, bump-you dustup at Kansas that still hadn't cleared up at Fontana.
The feud didn't continue.
The two drivers met privately Friday night after qualifying and apparently cleared the air - even after Busch called Reutimann an expletive during a media session.
On the track, there were no bumps or jostling, just plenty of room. They came together midway through the race while battling for seventh and gave each other a wide berth and didn't cross paths again.
There's always next week, though.