Saturday Night in Charlotte we potentially saw a fourth front runner for the championship emerge.
Bowyer didn’t lead at all until the final twenty-five laps and saved enough fuel to lead every one of those final laps. Bowyer is pretty good at saving fuel because he has now won three races where he has had to save fuel at the end of the race. It seems that saving fuel comes naturally to Bowyer and has proved to be a very important asset. With his win at Charlotte, Bowyer continues to creep up in the points standings and with another great run at his home track of Kansas, he could find himself in the championship hunt.
The race began with three cautions in the first forty-one laps, then with two cautions in the remainder of the race.
Greg Biffle started out on the pole and had a tough battle with Mark Martin in the beginning of the race, but Biffle propelled ahead as the leader.
The first caution of the night came out on lap eleven for Chaser Matt Kenseth, who spun in turn four.
The next caution came soon after, before the cars reached turn one on the restart. On the restart there were cars going very slow in the front of the field and created a chain reaction of cars backing into each other back in the pack. Marcos Ambrose couldn’t see the cars slowing ahead, so he restarted normally, getting into the back of Jeff Burton and turned Burton’s car. Burton then spun down, getting into David Ragan, turning Ragan’s car. After the restart, many cars needed to pit for repairs, including Chaser Tony Stewart.
This time around, the field had a great restart and began racing again.
The next yellow-flag waved on lap 37 for the No.27 of Paul Menard. Menard got into the turn three wall hard and left debris scattered across the track. Marcos Ambrose didn’t pit under the caution and took the lead on the restart. Just three laps later, Brad Keselowski took his first lead of the night.
Keselowski led up until lap 73 when he was passed by Jimmie Johnson.
The first round of green flag pit stops began on lap 83. Denny Hamlin had a great stop and gained the lead after the cars cycled through their stops.
The next caution came out on lap 167 for debris, which also happened to be the halfway mark of the race. Hamlin was the leader, followed by Johnson, Keselowski, Kahne and Biffle. The leaders took the caution as an opportunity to come down the pit lane, with Jimmie Johnson coming off pit lane first.
The restart got a little wild when Greg Biffle went three wide into turn one to take the lead. Biffle had the lead for a few laps before he was passed by Brad Keselowski.
The fifth and final caution of the night came out on lap 224 for debris, occurring just as a round of green flag pit stops concluded. During the stops, Chaser Jeff Gordon received a speeding penalty and went a lap down. This penalty cost Gordon a shot at a good finish and broke his streak of top three finishes.
Another round of green flag stops began with 69 laps to go. This round of stops put drivers very close to making it on fuel, forcing most drivers to need another stop before the race concluded.
After the round of pit stops, Greg Biffle cycled through as the leader.
With 26 laps to go, the drivers who were close on fuel started to pit. Leader Greg Biffle made his pit stop with 25 laps to go and handed the lead to Clint Bowyer. Bowyer was one of the later cars to pit on the previous pit cycle, so he could stretch his fuel tank to the end.
Bowyer was challenged on the last lap by Denny Hamlin, but Hamlin couldn’t get to him. Bowyer then crossed the finish line first for the third time this season.
Bowyer continues to have a great year with Michael Waltrip Racing. It’s been a year of firsts for him and his team. Bowyer got his first road course win earlier this season and Saturday night in Charlotte, Bowyer got his first intermediate track victory. Bowyer made it to victory lane without his car, which ran out of gas before he did a victory burnout. Bowyer said in victory lane that “I wanted to do a burnout.” Bowyer has yet to do a burnout after a win because he has won three fuel mileage races where he ran out of fuel after the race and therefore couldn’t do a burnout.
Brad Keselowski appeared to have the dominant car of the day, but he failed to find victory lane. If Keselowski won the race, it would have been his third in the Chase. Keselowski said after the race that he’s “Not going to win them all.”
Denny Hamlin had a great night and finished second. Hamlin said after the race that he is going to “Take second and move on.”
All the Chasers managed to finish in the top twenty, but not even half of the Chasers finished in the top ten. Jimmie Johnson finished third, Biffle fourth, Kahne eighth, Truex Jr tenth, Keselowski eleventh, Stewart thirteenth, Kenseth fourteenth, Harvick sixteenth and Gordon eighteenth.
The Chaser who had the worst day was Jeff Gordon, after a speeding penalty in the race put him a lap down and he was never able to recover. Gordon came into Charlotte with three straight top three finishes, but that streak ended Saturday night. Gordon also fell from sixth to ninth in the points standings.
Brad Keselowski still leads the point’s standings by seven points over Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin remains in third, fifteen points behind Keselowski. With the win, Bowyer is now in fourth in the standings, twenty-eight points behind Keselowski.
Another fuel mileage race played out Saturday night at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and once again, Bowyer won the fuel mileage race. Bowyer is sneaking up in the standings with another win and could be in contention for the championship.
The next round of the Chase takes place at the Kansas Speedway. Kansas Speedway’s newly re-paved surface creates an unknown factor heading into the race. Championship contenders will continue to fight for the championship next Sunday in Kansas.
Results and Point Standings via Nascar.com
|1||4||15||Clint Bowyer||Toyota||5-Hour Energy Benefiting Avon Foundation for Women||47/4||334||Running|
|2||9||11||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||FedEx Ground||43/1||334||Running|
|4||1||16||Greg Biffle||Ford||3M / IDG||41/1||334||Running|
|6||2||55||Mark Martin||Toyota||Aaron’s Dream Machine||39/1||334||Running|
|8||10||5||Kasey Kahne||Chevrolet||Time Warner Cable||36/0||334||Running|
|9||12||20||Joey Logano||Toyota||The Home Depot||35/0||334||Running|
|10||6||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||NAPA Auto Parts||34/0||334||Running|
|11||20||2||Brad Keselowski||Dodge||Miller Lite||35/2||334||Running|
|13||32||14||Tony Stewart||Chevrolet||Mobil 1 / Office Depot||31/0||334||Running|
|14||7||17||Matt Kenseth||Ford||Best Buy||30/0||334||Running|
|15||14||22||Sam Hornish Jr.||Dodge||Shell / Pennzoil||0||334||Running|
|16||11||29||Kevin Harvick||Chevrolet||Jimmy Johns||28/0||334||Running|
|18||13||24||Jeff Gordon||Chevrolet||Drive to End Hunger||27/1||332||Running|
|19||22||42||Juan Montoya||Chevrolet||Target / Kellogg’s||25/0||332||Running|
|20||3||39||Ryan Newman||Chevrolet||Quicken Loans||24/0||332||Running|
|21||21||78||Kurt Busch||Chevrolet||Furniture Row / Farm American||23/0||332||Running|
|22||16||21||Trevor Bayne||Ford||Good Sam Club / Camping World||0||332||Running|
|23||36||38||David Gilliland||Ford||Glory Foods||21/0||331||Running|
|24||38||51||AJ Allmendinger||Chevrolet||Phoenix Construction||20/0||330||Running|
|25||41||93||Travis Kvapil||Toyota||Burger King / Dr Pepper||19/0||330||Running|
|26||37||83||Landon Cassill||Toyota||Burger King / Dr Pepper||18/0||329||Running|
|27||24||27||Paul Menard||Chevrolet||Menards / Pittsburgh Paints||17/0||328||Running|
|30||34||10||David Reutimann||Chevrolet||Tommy Baldwin Racing||14/0||327||Running|
|31||33||98||Michael McDowell||Ford||K-Love / Curb Records||13/0||326||Running|
|32||15||47||Bobby Labonte||Toyota||Scott Products||12/0||324||Running|
|34||25||34||David Ragan||Ford||Glory Foods||10/0||287||Running|
|35||29||6||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||Best Buy||0||190||Engine|
|36||40||32||Timmy Hill||Ford||U.S. Chrome||0||182||Engine|
|37||31||30||David Stremme||Toyota||Inception Motorsports||7/0||62||Rear Gear|
|38||26||88||Regan Smith||Chevrolet||AMP Energy / National Guard||6/0||61||Engine|
|39||28||119||Mike Bliss||Toyota||Plinker Tactical||0||53||Rear Gear|
|40||23||195||Scott Speed||Ford||B&D Electrical||4/0||50||Vibration|
|41||43||191||Reed Sorenson||Toyota||Aquaria USA||0||32||Vibration|
|43||42||36||Dave Blaney||Chevrolet||Tommy Baldwin Racing||1/0||25||Transmission|