Sunday, September 21, 2008

Live on Type Delay: Camping World RV Sales 400

Saturday night's Craftsman Truck Series race at Las Vegas was not only the highly competitive event which trademarks that series, but was a good illustration of how fast things can change in a championship points chase. Johnny Benson was leading in the points standings by 70 or so points. A cut tire just before the halfway point of the race retired the # 23 team from the competition, while they were leadint the race, and Mike Skinner took the checkers in a hard fought battle with Matt Crafton. Meanwhile Ron Hornaday needed to finish fifth to take the points lead, He finished sixth and now trails Benson by one point. Note that the points chase in the truck series is the entire season--there is no Chase format in the CTS.

Jeff Gordon starts on the pole in today's race at Dover, and is 99 points out of the lead. This in itself has us anticipating a great race. Most of the race will be about catching the leader.

Gordon takes the lead, and Denny Hamlin quickly moves into second, taking that spot from Mark Martin, who got trapped while going to the inside. A wreck involving Kurt Busch, who started in fourth, and David Gilliland, brings out the caution on lap 2. Things are already happening. There could have been much more carnage on the Monster Mile, as the cars were still close together after the start.

Lap 6 restart, and Gordon and Hamlin get a gap on the rest of the field. Greg Biffle is in third and is challenging Hamlin before the end of the lap. Biffle overdrives turn three and loses some ground, and now has to protect his position from Mark Martin, who started second on the grid.

Martin is serious about taking that third spot, and there is some heavy racing between third and sixth. On lap 12, Carpentier spins and makes contact with Edwards, but the damage seems minimal. Most of the cars from fifth place on back pit, and the front five stay out.

Restart on lap 18, and Earnhardt takes sixth from Clint Bowyer, but Jamie McMurray is moving up as well. After a few laps, Bowyer has moved back to tenth. On lap 29 there is a great battle for third, between Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin, and Matt Kenseth. Jamie McMurray has moved up all the way to second, and passes Jeff Gordon on the back stretch.

David Reutimann and Kyle Busch are now making the battle for third a five car affair. McMurray has gained a big lead over Jeff Gordon, and is about to meet up with the rear of the field, where there have already been some near misses among the cars trying to get out of being at the rear of the field.

Lap 49 and Bowyer takes the tenth spot from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Stewart has moved up from his starting spot of 33rd to 21st place. He is the furthest back of the Chase drivers. It is now lap 54, and many of the cars are looking as if they need tires. We can expect the dreaded Dover green flag pit stops within 20 laps.

The top five on lap 61 are McMurray, Gordon, Martin, Kenseth, and Kyle Busch. Busch takes fourth on lap 63. On lap 64, Joe Nemecheck pops a tire and brings out a much needed caution. Needless to say, everybody pits. Kenseth gains four positions in the pits and exits pit road first. Jimmie Johnson gets caught up in pit road traffic and loses some spots. He was running in sixth before the caution. Mark Martin is second, Jeff Gordon third, McMurray fourth and Edwards fifth. Hamlin exited pit road fourth, but had to serve a pit road speeding penalty.

Restart on lap 70, and Gordon immediately takes second from Martin. Earnhardt, Jr is falling back and is back to 20th. By lap 85, McMurray has made it up to second. Mark Martin takes third from Gordon, and Edwards moves into fourth. Jeff Gordon maintains fifth. McMurray still seems to have the fastest car in the field.

McMurray and Martin aren't the only party crashers in the top ten, they are joined by David Reutimann. In seventh and eighth place, we are seeing another great race between Johnson and Biffle. It looks like Biffle is catching Johnson. Remember, the 16 car is not one of the two cars Jack Roush wants to win the championship. He is doing well for being the Roush black sheep and the Chase dark horse. He completes the pass during the commercial.

Matt Kenseth is having trouble getting around Robby Gordon, who is at the end of the lead lap, and McMurray has caught up to him. But, he too has trouble in the lapped traffic, and Martin takes second. There is some intense racing between second, third, and fourth, as Carl Edwards is also in the mix. McMurray retakes second.

On lap 128, things have settled down a bit, with Kenseth still leading, McMurray in second, Martin in third, Edwards in fourth, and Gordon in fifth. Biffle is in sixth. Two weeks in a row, and Kyle Busch has another problem with a blown engine this time. Meanwhile Jr cuts a tire while trying to stay on the lead lap. This is a well timed caution, as green flag pit stops were expected to begin.

Everybody on the lead lap pits. Kenseth stays in first, Edwards is second, Mark Martin is third. Earnhardt, Jr is still having problems, and is now a lap down. The 88 car is not holding the turns well at all. Jeff Gordon is fourth, and Greg Biffle is fifth. Another caution on 157 as the 84 car and the 9 car make contact. That's AJ Allmendinger and Kasey Kahne. None of the lead cars pit at this time.

Robby Gordon and Jamie McMurray bring out a caution almost immediately after the restart. It looks as if Gordon lost the handle on his car, and McMurray, who was having a great day up to this point, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

During the pit stops, it seems that Hamlin may be having mechanical problems as well. If it isn't one thing, it's another. The 11 team is looking at a possible oil leak from the rear-end gear housing

Matt Kenseth still leads. Edwards is second, Martin third, Jeff Gordon fourth, and Biffle is fifth. Kenseth gets away from the lapped car of Paul Menard at the restart, but Edwards is momentarily held up. Edwards and Martin also get around Menard, but Gordon is being held up, as Kenseth pulls further into the lead. Hornish wrecks for nearly half a lap, and the caution comes out on lap 172.

Bad news for McMurray--he has had to take his car to the garage. That was a good car, but luck did not smile on him today.

Now the 18 car has stopped completely, and Kyle Busch is out of the race.

Hamlin is the only other Chase driver to pit. Stewart has moved up to 11th. The top five remain the same as it was before the seventh caution, except Greg Biffle is in fourth, and Clint Bowyer has moved into fifth. Kevin Harvick is now in sixth, Jimmie Johnson in seventh, and Jeff Burton is in eighth. Stewart has entered the top ten, and is moving on ninth place Ryan Newman. Jeff Gordon is trapped in a three wide melee, and wisely falls back to avoid a possible catastrophy. Hornish has another incident and there is another caution. We may see some takers to pit road this time, and, the race being just over the halfway point, pit strategies should begin to come into play.

Nearly all the cars on the lead lap pit when pit road opens. Three Roush cars, Edwards, Kenseth, and Biffle lead the field off of pit road in that order. Jimmie Johnson stayed out during the pit stops, and is scored in the lead. Ryan Newman has moved into the second spot. Dave Blaney also stayed out and fills out the top three. Allmendinger is fourth and Montoya restarts fifth.

On MRN, they are reporting that the 18 team may be able to patch up the engine to allow the car to finish the race.

Jeff Gordon takes fifth from Montoya on lap 196 and is about to pass Allmendinger. He does, and now Montoya is challenging for fifth, and he also passes Allmendinger. Meanwhile, Edwards and the former leaders are making their way up from 12th spot.

At this point there is not reason for the 18 car to return to the track, even if they can get the motor running, as the best they could do would be a 42nd place finish. This isn't the driver's fault, for two weeks in a row, mechanical problems have taken that team out.

Jeff Gordon has moved up to third. and Carl Edwards to fourth. Edwards takes third with 164 laps to go. Kenseth is fifth. Johnson has to pit on lap 239. Now Carl Edwards leads, Jeff Gordon is second, but Kenseth takes that spot from him. Biffle takes third, and Gordon stays in fourth. Kevin Harvick is the next chaser back in eighth spot. Hamlin's rear end troubles are getting worse, he loses a rear tire, and has to take his car to the garage. Meanwhile Harvick, Bowyer, Stewart, and Burton have moved into the top ten, while Edwards leads, Biffle is second, and Kenseth is third. It's looking like as good a day for Roush as it is a bad day for two of the Gibbs teams.

Lap 269 is where the green flag stops start for much of the field. Harvick and Bowyer each lead a lap before they pit. The leaders are now Johnson, Carl Edwards is second, Kenseth is third, Biffle fourth, and Ryan Newnan is fifth. Gordon's car is coming around, and he takes fifth from Newman, as Martin follows Gordon and takes fifth. Blaney, Reutiman and Harvick fill out the top ten as we get a debris caution with 109 laps to go.

You know the 48 team is loving this, as this caution will put all the teams on the same pit sequence. The top four cars all pit. Johnson, Edwards, Biffle, and Kenseth leave pit road in that order. Those are the same positions in which they will restart on lap 298. Biffle and Edwards are both battling Johnson for the lead on lap 299 and Biffle takes the lead on lap 302. Mark Martin is still playing the part of the party crasher and has moved into fifth.

With around 65 laps to go, things pick up as everybody is trying to move up in position. there is some hard racing as everybody wants to move up to the lead at once. Martin has taken second, Edwards still leads.

With 49 laps to go, Montoya cuts a tire and hits the wall, bring out the caution, which everybody seemed to need. This will be the "money stop," as there will be no need for scheduled pit stops. unless somebody decides to take a gamble. Edwards comes out first, Mark Martin second, Greg Biffle third, Matt Kenseth fourth, and Jimmie Johnson fifth. Edwards only took two tires, while everyone else took four. Kevin Harvick is sixth, Jeff Gordon seventh, and Ryan Newman is eighth. Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer fill up the top ten.

Kenseth gets second before the lap is finished Fun watching Biffle and Martin race each other for third. These two drivers are having as much fun racing each other as we are watching them.

Between Edwards and Kenseth, Kenseth seems to have the stronger car. This may be the difference between two and four fresh tires. Kenseth doesn't seem to have enough horsepower to complete the pass, and stays in second.

With 35 laps to go, Stewart begins making his move toward the front. He may have been just conserving his car to this point. That is probably a good idea, as his team mates have both had car problems. Hamlin is 37 laps down, and Busch is out of the race.

29 laps to go and Kenseth is right on Carl's bumper. We are getting a great race for the lead, and Kenseth is being more aggressive than we are used to from him. Biffle is making it a three way race for the lead now. Kenseth makes a move to the inside, but is chopped off by Edwards, while Biffle moves to the ouside and does some serious racing for the lead. Now Kenseth takes the lead, but that race is not over with. Biffle moves to the inside of turn one with 21 laps to go, but Kenseth holds him off. Edwards has used up his tires, and is falling back, but we are still seeing some exciting wheel to wheel racing. Edwards isn't out of it yet, either.

Right now it looks like we are into a race for the lead that will last for the remainder of the race. This is the kind of racing we love in the finishing laps. Biffle and Kenseth are nearly door panel to door panel with 14 laps to go, and they approach lapped traffic .Biffle makes a move to the inside in turn three, and Kenseth holds him off again. Still, Da Biff stays right with Kenseth, and Edwards is re-entering the fray. He is now on Biffles rear bumper. Wow! Now the lapped traffic is just in front of the three leaders, and Biffle is still door to door with Kenseth. Biffle almost gets into Kenseth, and Edwards tries to take the lead. Team mates mean nothing here, Kenseth is trying hard to keep the lead. Biffle finally completes the pass in turn three with 8 laps to go. We have completely forgotten about the rest of the field.

Da Biff looks like he may make it two in a row, if the tire rub on the right front doesn't cause something worse, he will. Another race, another exciting shoot-out at the end. We love this sport.

Final thoughts:

It was a bad day for the Gibbs teams. Stewart finished the best of the three in eleventh, after being unable to break into the top ten by passing Michael Waltrip. There are some fans on the forums who actually believe Waltrip is running a Ford engine that he stole from the Roush-Yates engine shop. That is a joke, folks.

It was a lot of fun watching the three top Roush drivers race each other hard for the lead. It also would have been fun if Carl Edwards had wrecked all three of them. I like Matt Kenseth, and I definitely have nothing against Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray or David Ragan. However I can't stand Jack Roush, and I like Carl Edwards even less, so it would have been interesting to see Roush's reaction if Carl had become impatient and screwed up.

All three of the RCR teams finished in the top ten. That organization is doing what they need to do to stay in contention, with all three of their contenders on a consistant streak of top ten finishes.

Johnson finished fifth, and Gordon seventh, but it wasn't a good day for Earnhardt, Jr. The 88 team may be a victim of trying too hard.

What was really great about this finish is that it has been too long since we have seen Biffle show us what he can really do. We have had faith in Da Biff, and have been following his career since he was in the Truck Series. He is an exciting racer to watch, especially when he is wheel to wheel with another driver of his caliber.

Dover was the site of my first experience at a Cup race. The track has changed since then, but it holds a sentimental spot in my heart because it was my first Cup race. Today's race was one of the best of the season, and my love for Dover has gone up a notch.

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