Sunday, September 12, 2010

Winning Hamlin Headlines JGR Domination at Richmond

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

26 Races into the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup series season, the stock car racing tour arrived in the state of Virginia to compete on the 0.75 mile Richmond International Raceway. Seeking not only a thrilling short-track battle amongst 43 cars, the Saturday night show for NASCAR's premier division would resolve who will make up the 12 drivers composing the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Compared the previous seasons, the fight for the Chase's 12th and final place spot was somewhat anti-climatic in 2010. Heading into Richmond, a 117-point gap separated Ryan Newman from Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray sat 14th back by 128 points. Qualifying 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup's Air Guard 400 at Richmond, Bowyer also heads into a track where he averages a finish of 10.22 for this Sprint Cup career.

However, the battle for point positions within the top-12 left several opportunities to shake up the Chase standings. An added incentive, drivers holding Chase qualifying spots held an opportunity to gain 10 bonus points in the Chase points by winning this Richmond race.

As night became to dawn on the Richmond International Raceway surface, the Air Guard 400 started with a pre-race ceremony vividly and somberly reminding of the September 11th terrorist attacks 9 years after just under 2,800 innocent lives were taken on the day. As the pre-race concluded, 43 cars started for the Saturday night event.
Upon the start of the Air Guard 400, the #99 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford of Carl Edwards took an early lead over the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. Looking strong early, Edwards led the first 47 laps before surrendering the position to the Hendrick Motorsports #48 Chevy of Jimmie Johnson on the 55th lap. As Johnson swept by Edwards, the #48 car stayed out front for just two laps before the race's first caution flag flew. The #00 Aaron's Toyota of David Reutimann was spun by Kurt Busch driving the #2 Dodge.
With the first yellow on the field, the pit crew shined for the first time. Despite a 13.4 second pit stop from Hendrick Motorsports' Lowes crew and a 13 second-flat time provide by the Richard Childress Racing crew for Clint Bowyer #33 Chevrolet, the race off the Richmond pit road was won by the #99 pit crew members. The Carl Edwards car pit efforts were aided by the Roush Fenway Racing receiving first choice of pit road stalls.

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/ Getty Images
Pulling away on the restart on lap 59, Carl Edward's #99 Ford Fusion jumped to a healthy lead early in the run. However, the long green flag runs appeared to be the undoing for Edwards and the Roush Fenway Racing team. With Jimmie Johnson bypassing Edwards for 1st just prior to the first caution, Clint Bowyer took the lead away from Carl Edwards on lap 101. Bowyer led just a few circuits until the #11 Fed-Ex Toyota unseated the #33 Chevy from the top position. With his #99 Ford clearly not as fast on this second long, green flag run, Edward's car will eventually backslide to 9th place before lap 145.
The second caution followed on lap 146 when Terry Labonte's #55 Toyota suffered a tire failure. A likely consequence to the intense brake heat, the Air Guard 400 Sprint Cup race would result with only one more caution on lap 224 for rain tying a Richmond International Raceway record for fewest cautions in a NASCAR Sprint Cup event.
On the lap 154 restart, Johnson drove aggressively on Hamlin immediately. After a 1-lap battle, the #48 Chevy prevailed to lead. Another brief time out front of the Air Guard 400, Hamlin dived back for 1st place on turn 4 ending Jimmie Johnson's time out front which lasted just 2-laps. Thought Johnson's time ended with the 1st place battle, this spot was not a lock for Hamlin as the #33 Richard Childress Racing car of Clint Bowyer emerged to challenge the #11 Toyota. Bowyer and Hamlin see-sawed leading the race for a handful of laps prior to the halfway point.
Because of these long green flags making up 372 laps of the event, many team did not have opportunities to fix ill-handling race cars. Two of the cars which suffered badly in the Air Guard 400 race was the #88 AMP Energy Chevy of Dale Earnhardt Jr and the #16 Ford of Greg Biffle. Falling to the basement of the running order early, both cars left Richmond with terrible results. Four laps down, Greg Biffle come home 32rd while Dale Earnhardt Jr fell 5 laps behind to a 34th place result. Needless to say, both drivers and teams were not happy about those Saturday night runs.
Encountering the opposite situation was the #18 Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing. Having started 32rd, the Kyle Busch wheeled race car surged to a 11th place by lap 136 and would break into the top-5 on the 161st lap. As the race endured, the #18 car of Joe Gibbs Racing arose eventually making a run for his teammate Denny Hamlin driving #11 Toyota comfortably in the lead on the Air Guard 400's final 50 laps.
Into the final 20 laps, Kyle Busch's pace had allowed him to close on Denny Hamlin through lapping traffic to the point the #18 was permitted to touch the #11 Toyota. Sadly through, the battle between the Joe Gibbs Racing cars were be short-lived as Kyle Busch lost pace with his teammate Hamlin. Admitting he no longer had the brakes and tires to keep up with Hamlin, Busch would easily hold on to the runner-up position.

At the checkered flag, Denny Hamlin won Air Guard 400 at Richmond International Raceway after leading 251 of the event's 400 laps. Hailing from nearby Chesterfield, Virginia, Hamlin repeated victory at the 0.75 mile oval's September event. With Kyle Busch's #18 Toyota following the #11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin across the line for a Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2 finish, the team's 3rd car, the #20 Home Depot Toyota, piloted by Joey Logano listed 4th on the night's final running order just behind the #48 Lowes Chevy of Jimmie Johnson.
Quietly running up front as the Chase consumed much of the race's focus, the Tasmanian driver Marcos Ambrose gave his #47 Toyota a 5th place finish on the night. Sixth through tenth in the Air Guard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup lists Clint Bowyer, Juan Montoya, A.J. Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

With Clint Bowyer finishing 6th in the event, every driver who entered the race in the top-12 in points left as the contender for the 2010 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. A benefit of 6 wins which included the just concluded Richmond Sprint Cup event, Hamlin was jumped to the lead of the 2010 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup heading into the 10-race play-off. As a harsh reality to the Chase's points realignment, Kevin Harvick sees his over 200-point lead evaporate. In fact, the Richard Childress Racing-owned #29 Chevrolet will start the Chase in 3rd place 30 points behind Hamlin.

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Richmond International Raceway
Air Guard 400
Race Results


1) 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Office Toyota
2) 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
3) 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
4) 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
5) 47 Marcos Ambrose Kingsford/Kroger Toyota
6) 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
7) 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
8) 43 A J Allmendinger Insignia HDTV Ford
9) 29 Kevin Harvick Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet
10) 99 Carl Edwards Kellogg's/Cheez-It Ford
Other Notables
11) 39 Ryan Newman U.S. ARMY Chevrolet
12) 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont/National Guard Military Intelligence Chevrolet
13) 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
14) 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
16) 14 Tony Stewart Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet
18) 2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite Dodge
29) 9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser Ford
32) 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
34) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet

No comments:

Post a Comment