Monday, September 20, 2010

Fuel Gamble Nests Bowyer Sprint Cup Victory at New Hampshire

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/ Getty Images for NASCAR

The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is on! While every NASCAR Sprint Cup race starts with 43 cars, the final 10 races of the 2010 schedule will see a special focus placed on 12 cars and their respected drivers. Denny Hamlin leads this 2010 Chase grouping on virtue of points scored in the first 26 races. The first race, the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, commemorated the start of this year's championship battle intriguing NASCAR fans if Jimmie Johnson will go on to win a 5th straight Sprint Cup or if another name will be connected to the 2010 honours.

In prep to run 300 laps around the 1.058 mile oval, the non-Chase #1 Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray reminded spectators the other teams are not prepared to be cycled out of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup picture. As the green dropped for New Hampshire's Sylvania 300, McMurray recorded a lap 1 lead just before the 3rd place starting #14 Chevy of Tony Stewart hurried to the front to collect his 5 bonus points.

The first caution of the flew on lap 26 as the #09 Chevrolet driven by Bobby Labonte and the #82 Toyota of Scott Speed spun down the frontstretch. As the Sylvania 300 was restarted on lap 30, a see-saw battle between two Chevrolets for the lead captivated early interest at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing #1 car of Jamie McMurray fought with Clint Bowyer's Richard Childress Racing-fielded #33 vehicle. As Bowyer took the field back to green, McMurray charged his #1 Chevrolet to successfully lead the next green flag lap before the #33 Chevy rolled back around for the top spot. A second caution for a lap 41 accident between Marcus Ambrose's #47 Toyota and the #98 Ford of Paul Menard allowed the lead fight to resume on the following restart. Each time, Clint Bowyer demonstrated more consistency in the 1st place position at New Hampshire during the first 1/3 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup event. Into the later stages of the event, Jamie McMurray would suffer a slow pit stop to legitimately injure his chances of winning but the #1 Chevrolet would still rise to finish in the top-5.

Outside of the lead fight, one popular NASCAR Sprint Cup driver had been putting in the best run of a long while. Dale Earnhardt Jr day at New Hampshire started in 32nd place. So a great time trial outing for the #88 Chevrolet, the whole Hendrick Motorsports cars struggled in the Friday qualifying session as Jeff Gordon was the closest to the front in 17th place. As the green flag for the Sylvania 300, the difference was night and day for Dale Earnhardt Jr's car right off the early laps. By the 1/4 distance, the #88 Chevy of Earnhardt Jr was running in the top-10. His Hendrick Motorsports team pit crew would fumble in an fuel and tire change dropping Earnhardt back spot into the mid-teen positions. However, a fast car as well as solid pit stops sealed what would be a fanastic effort through the rest of the New Hampshire event.  

Showing patience through the first 2/3 distance of the event, tensions heated as the checkered flag lap drew closer. Within 35 laps, 5 cautions slowed the NASCAR Sprint Cup Sylvania 300 after the lap 200 mark. The most dramatic of these caution resulted on lap 224. Involving 5 cars, the incident resulted as Kurt Busch's #2 Miller Lite Dodge was running along the inside of the #31 Catapilar Chevy of Jeff Burton entering turn 1. Being pinched slightly by Burton to the bottom line, Busch's Dodge slid up and made contact with the #31 Chevy. Touching Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch would be the only one of the two to start spinning through the second turn. As drivers took evasive actions in avoidance of the Penske Racing Dodge, Chase contender Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch were caught up in the haste to react. Johnson taps the #18 of Kyle Busch sending the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and the #48 Chevrolet sliding. All three cars proceeded through the spins roughly unscathed as other competitors past by with skill as well as luck on their side. The #99 Aflac Ford of Carl Edwards conducted the most amazing move skating between the sideways #48 Chevy and the #18 Toyota.

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/ Getty Images for NASCAR

As Kyle Busch recovered from has slide on the turn 2 apron, The #9 Ford of Kasey Kahne proceeded through the turn but could not brake soon enough to avoid a coasting Toyota. Inflicting minor damage to the rear of Busch's Toyota as well as to his own Ford, two of those cars were even able to continue racing.

Into the latter stages, the Tony Stewart not only found his way back to the front but established himself in front for 76 of the final 88 laps. However, because of the timing of the #14 Stewart/Haas Racing team's last pit stop, fuel calculations predicted a daring gamble was required to bring the Chevrolet to victory. Accepting the challenge, Stewart drove in the lead through 51 laps approaching the white flag ahead of Clint Bowyer. Just then, his #14 Chevrolet sputtered out of turn 4 allowing the #33 Chevrolet of Bowyer to sail by with himself carefully managing his fuel mileage. As Denny Hamlin lurked behind, Clint Bowyer gamble paid off as the Richard Childress Racing driver won the Sylvania 300.

After fighting for his spot in the 2010 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, Clint Bowyer  His third victory in the top NASCAR series, Clint Bowyer's Sylvania 300 win ends a 88-race winless streak through NASCAR Sprint Cup competition stretching from the Spring Richmond race of 2008. Shooting up 10 spots in the Chase standings, Clint Bowyer is 35 points behind Denny Hamlin as 9 races remain in the 2010 Chase.

With Chase contenders Bowyer and Hamlin taking top-2 spots in the race, Kevin Harvick earned 5th place behind non-chase driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. The finish for Earnhardt Jr was the first top-10 finish since the Daytona race in July.
On the other side of the fence for both Hendrick Motorsports and the Chase, four-time Sprint Cup title winner Jimmie Johnson endured a long and hard New Hampshire race. Caught in at least two on-track incidents, Johnson's #48 Lowes Chevy suffered further insult with a loose wheel. Out of championship defense form, Jimmie Johnson finished 1 lap down in 25th place.
For Tony Stewart, the only thing that separated 'Smoke' from a 2nd checkered flag in 3 races was about a quarter gallon of Sunoco race gasoline. Often a victor in tight fuel mileage runs to the finish, Stewart found very few positive things to say about the 24th place result saying in a PRN radio interview the situation "sucks".

2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Sylvania 300
New Hampshire Motor Speedway


1)  33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
2)  11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Small Business Toyota
3)    1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet
4)  88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy / National Guard Chevrolet
5)  29 Kevin Harvick Shell / Pennzoil Chevrolet
6)  24       Jeff Gordon             DuPont / National Guard Facebook Chevrolet
7) 00        David Reutimann     TUMS Toyota
8) 39        Ryan Newman        U.S. Army Chevrolet
9) 18        Kyle Busch              M&Ms Toyota
10) 77      Sam Hornish Jr.       Mobil 1 Dodge
Other Notables

11 99 Carl Edwards     Aflac Ford
13 2 Kurt Busch     Miller Lite Dodge
14 9 Kasey Kahne         Budweiser Ford
23 17 Matt Kenseth     Crown Royal Ford
24            14            Tony Stewart               Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet
25            48            Jimmie Johnson             Lowe's / Johns Manville Chevrolet

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