|By Jason Schultz
The race that didn’t end until after 1:00 AM Eastern Time sent Clint Bowyer to victory lane for the second time this season.
Bowyer had previously won at Sonoma in June, earlier this season. This win gave Bowyer more bonus points heading into the Chase that will begin at Chicagoland Speedway next weekend.
Bowyer had to bounce back from a spin that occurred on lap 235, and Bowyer came back and showed his skill in the car. In a post-race interview Bowyer said “thanks Juan Pablo for wrecking me than winning me the race.” Bowyer was referring to Juan Palo Montoya who cut Bowyer’s tire down when Bowyer spun earlier in the race.
The race ended up starting until after 9:30 PM eastern time, due to rain that moved through the area. The race started under a green/yellow condition allowing cars to finish drying areas of the track the jet dryers couldn’t dry. A green/yellow condition is when the race laps are counting but cars are not allowed to advance their position as they follow the pace car.
The first seven laps were run under green/yellow conditions and since Dale Earnhardt Jr won the pole he led the first seven laps. On lap 7 the green flag officially came out and the cars roared off into turn one.
Wild Card contender Jeff Gordon passed his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr to lead the next few laps. But on lap nine, Earnhardt Jr retook the lead. Prior to the race, the second wild card position belonged to Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon was chasing Busch down for the spot. In the beginning of the race, Gordon started losing positions and Busch charged toward the front.
The competition caution came out on lap 46 due to the rain that washed out the track earlier in the day.
On lap 52 David Ragan brought out the third caution when he spun on the frontstretch. Soon after the restart Denny Hamlin took the lead from Earnhardt Jr.
For the next thirty laps, Earnhardt Jr and Hamlin kept swapping the lead. Hamlin took the lead for a while on lap 94.
The next caution came out on lap 138 for more rain, followed by the red flag, delaying the race for 57 minutes. Once the cars restarted, Dale Earnhardt Jr took the lead.
Finally, at lap 200, the halfway point arrived, marking the race as official. Hamlin led followed by Bowyer, Truex Jr, Kahne and Johnson.
On lap 224 a round of green flag pit stops began.
On lap 235 eventual race winner Clint Bowyer spun on the frontstrecth after contact with Juan Pablo Montoya cut Bowyer’s tire down.
Martin Truex Jr took the lead for the first time on lap 242 but Hamlin took the lead again just seven laps later.
More rain moved into the area bringing out another caution on lap 276, but the cars remained on the track and the race restarted quickly.
Wild card contender Jeff Gordon was back on the lead lap under this caution.
Stewart-Haas Racing moved to the front on lap 265 when Tony Stewart went three-wide for the lead. Soon Ryan Newman would move up to second and then take the lead from Stewart on lap 300. Newman needed a win to make the Chase.
The final lead change took place with 87 to go when Bowyer took the lead from Newman.
As wild card contender Jeff Gordon started moving forward, Kyle Busch started to move back. Gordon needed a finish more than thirteen spots ahead of Busch to make the Chase. Busch made his final pit stop with 66 laps to go and went three laps down when he finally came back on the track.
With 42 laps to go, Jeff Gordon made his final pit stop.
Busch eventually got one lap back but it wasn’t enough to catch Gordon. Jeff Gordon went onto finish second to race winner Clint Bowyer and Gordon earned the second wild card spot, gaining him entry into the Chase.
Busch was extremely disappointed that he didn’t make the Chase and said after the race “we missed.” Even though Busch is not in the Chase, he could still be a big threat to win some races within the ten Chase races.
Gordon said his team “made this car good enough to run up front.” Gordon needed to run up front if he wanted a shot at making the Chase and he did everything he needed to to make it happen.
Kasey Kahne kept the first wild card position and will make the Chase after missing out on it last season.
The Chase field is now reset by victories earned by each top-ten driver this season. Denny Hamlin leads the way with four wins and gets the top spot for the Chase. Jimmie Johnson is the second, Tony Stewart third, Keselowski fourth, Biffle fifth, Bowyer sixth, Earnhardt Jr seventh, Kenseth eighth, Harvick ninth and Truex Jr tenth.
Both Wild Card drivers’ wins will not give them bonus points for the Chase. So Gordon and Kahne will start out tied.
A very late night had the twelve Chase drivers celebrating along with Clint Bowyer earning his second win of 2012.
The final ten races of the season will be exciting and interesting. The Chase for the Sprint Cup kicks off next Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Results and Point Standings via Nascar.com