NASCAR: Round 20 – Allstate 400, Indianapolis – 26 July

Juan Montoya dominated the first three quarters of the Allstate 400, until a pit lane penalty upset the script and gave others the chance to claim victory in an otherwise remarkably unremarkable race.

A calm start lasted barely a lap before a yellow came out for Robby Gordon, who got loose and spun coming off turn 4 and gave a tap to Bobby Labonte, Elliott Sadler also got black flagged after smoke was seen pouring out of the back of the number 19 and went to the garage area with a fluid leak. In other early race news, Joey Logano started at the rear of the field due to an engine change, having qualified 18th.

Mark Martin got loose at the restart, allowing Juan Montoya to take the lead and Dale Earnhardt Jr. slot into second place, with Brian Vickers, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson making up the rest of the top six. The race ran without further cautions through the first round of pit stops, which took place earlier than expected from lap 30 and proceeded without incident although Denny Hamlin suffered a broken driveshaft exiting the pits and had to return to the garage, and Kurt Busch having to pit a second time with a loose wheel which put him a lap down. The best pit stop came from the team of the number 18 car, which gained Kyle Busch seven spots and saw him take up 7th place behind the leaders.

Unfortunately Kyle was the cause of the second caution that came out on lap 58, when he blew his right front tyre shortly after complaining about severe vibration, ending up smashing into the wall and doing heavy damage to the front of the car. He limped back to the garage to park up alongside his team mate Hamlin, the crew doing its best to effect repairs but a bad result devastating to his Sprint Cup chase standings.

At least Kyle’s misfortune allowed the field to take their second round of pit stops under yellow; positions stayed mainly the same, although Stewart dropped out of the top six due to a track bar adjustment and was replaced by Greg Biffle who needed no changes and gained three positions with a fast stop. At the restart, Montoya led Martin, Vickers, Biffle, Johnson and Earnhardt Jr.

Sam Hornish Jr. got loose and brushed the wall on lap 69, requiring a pit stop to deal with a tyre going down as a consequence; and Michael Waltrip also was forced onto pit road by the 55 car suffering serious overheating problems. But neither incident brought out a full course yellow, allowing Montoya to continue dominating at the front, pulling out a 4s lead as the race passed the half way mark having led 74 of the 80 laps.

With the race running exceptionally smoothly – little sign of the tyre issues that caused such mayhem here last year – the drivers cycled through another round of green flag pit stops from lap 91 onwards which left the running order at the front essentially undisturbed, although Earnhardt Jr. was now dropping out of the top spots as the race wore on. The lack of yellows meant that the teams were lacking the opportunity to work on the cars in the pits for any length of time, and so the status quo was able to continue.

As we hit lap 124, green flag stops commenced – on the ragged edge for making it the fuel distance, but some crews such as Montoya’s were convinced that they could make it stretch. Montoya himself came in on lap 126 and pitted for a slight air-pressure adjustment fo the right-rear, a rare bit of fine-tuning for the 42 all afternoon. But then on the exit from the pit lane, disaster struck the Colombian when the NASCAR officials called a speeding violation – Montoya was clocked at 60.1mph where the maximum allowed was 60mph allowing for a margin of error over the nominal 55mph stated limit. They served him a drive-thru penalty; Montoya was complaining bitterly over the radio, adamant that there was no way he had exceeded the speeding limit.

As Montoya’s complaints and the pit stops both continued, the third yellow of the afternoon came out as Dale Earnhardt’s car disappeared in a cloud of smoke coming off turn 4, a spectacular internal engine failure that left the 88 limping into the garage area and the officials cleaning up oil deposited on the track. But it was a minor break of sorts for Montoya, who was able to emerge back on track from the drive-thru he’d been served with in 12th place rather than a lap down.

So with 25 laps to go, Martin led Johnson, Biffle, Stewart, Vickers and Kasey Kahne, but Johnson made the outside lane work at the close, tense restart to take the lead from Martin for the first time all afternoon. And once he got there, he wasn’t giving it up – taking everything Martin could throw at him, weaving to break any draft Martin might be getting up, and driving for all his worth to the chequered flag to take the win.

It would be unfair to say that Johnson’s victory was against the run of play: he’d been at the front all afternoon and always looked dangerous given the opportunity, and Montoya’s cruel penalty gave him exactly that opportunity. You have to feel sorry for the Colombian, however, who ultimately finished just 11th after a long closing battle for the position with Joey Logano, after having dominated the entire race up to that point. He was at least calmer and more philosophical at the post-race interviews, but it was surely the most bitter 11th place of his career.

Still – that’s motor racing. Albeit a slightly unremarkable, by-the-book motor race (save for one penalty) in this case.

Race result

FIN ST  CAR  DRIVER              MAKE        PTS/BNS  LAPS STATUS
1   16  48   Jimmie Johnson      Chevrolet   190/5    160   
2   1   5    Mark Martin         Chevrolet   175/5    160   
3   7   14   Tony Stewart        Chevrolet   170/5    160   
4   12  16   Greg Biffle         Ford        160/0    160   
5   6   83   Brian Vickers       Toyota      160/5    160   
6   19  29   Kevin Harvick       Chevrolet   150/0    160   
7   8   9    Kasey Kahne         Dodge       146/0    160   
8   5   00   David Reutimann     Toyota      142/0    160   
9   22  24   Jeff Gordon         Chevrolet   138/0    160   
10  25  17   Matt Kenseth        Ford        134/0    160   
11  2   42   Juan Montoya        Chevrolet   140/10   160   
12  18  20   Joey Logano *       Toyota      127/0    160   
13  9   43   Reed Sorenson       Dodge       124/0    160   
14  17  39   Ryan Newman         Chevrolet   121/0    160   
15  41  99   Carl Edwards        Ford        118/0    160   
16  21  12   David Stremme       Dodge       115/0    160   
17  13  1    Martin Truex Jr.    Chevrolet   112/0    160   
18  10  33   Clint Bowyer        Chevrolet   109/0    160   
19  27  07   Casey Mears         Chevrolet   111/5    160   
20  33  44   A.J. Allmendinger   Dodge       103/0    160   
21  24  26   Jamie McMurray      Ford        100/0    160   
22  11  47   Marcos Ambrose      Toyota      97/0     160   
23  31  96   Bobby Labonte       Ford        94/0     160   
24  29  6    David Ragan         Ford        91/0     160   
25  38  31   Jeff Burton         Chevrolet   88/0     160   
26  4   21   Bill Elliott        Ford        85/0     160   
27  40  2    Kurt Busch          Dodge       82/0     160   
28  32  7    Robby Gordon        Toyota      79/0     160   
29  28  98   Paul Menard         Ford        76/0     158   
30  37  171  David Gilliland     Chevrolet   78/5     158   
31  26  82   Scott Speed *       Toyota      70/0     157   
32  35  34   John Andretti       Chevrolet   67/0     156   
33  43  08   Terry Labonte       Toyota      64/0     154   
34  14  11   Denny Hamlin        Toyota      61/0     144   
35  23  55   Michael Waltrip     Toyota      58/0     139   Out
36  3   88   Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Chevrolet   55/0     127   Out
37  15  77   Sam Hornish Jr.     Dodge       52/0     118   
38  20  18   Kyle Busch          Toyota      49/0     112   
39  36  78   Regan Smith         Chevrolet   46/0     108   
40  42  19   Elliott Sadler      Dodge       43/0     45    
41  39  36   Mike Skinner        Toyota      40/0     35    Pit
42  34  66   Dave Blaney         Toyota      37/0     23    Pit
43  30  187  Joe Nemechek        Toyota      34/0     21    Pit 

Sprint Cup standings

Kyle Busch drops out of the Chase standings as a result of his disastrous Allstate 400 showing, with Greg Biffle climbing into the Chase thanks to his top 4 finish.

    +/- DRIVER              PTS     BEHIND  ST  P   W   T5  T10
1   --  Tony Stewart        3054    Leader  20  0   2   12  16
2   +1  Jimmie Johnson      2862    -192    20  0   3   9   14
3   -1  Jeff Gordon         2847    -207    20  0   1   10  14
4   --  Kurt Busch          2608    -446    20  0   1   6   10
5   +1  Carl Edwards        2556    -498    20  0   0   5   9
6   -1  Denny Hamlin        2518    -536    20  0   0   6   8
7   --  Ryan Newman         2506    -548    20  1   0   5   9
8   --  Kasey Kahne         2482    -572    20  0   1   3   8
9   +2  Mark Martin         2471    -583    20  4   4   6   10
10  -1  Juan Montoya        2461    -593    20  1   0   0   9
11  +2  Greg Biffle         2445    -609    20  0   0   6   9
12  --  Matt Kenseth        2429    -625    20  1   2   4   8
CHASE FOR THE Sprint CUP - CURRENT CONTENDERS
13  +1  David Reutimann     2361    -693    20  2   1   4   6
14  -4  Kyle Busch          2347    -707    20  1   3   4   6
15  +1  Brian Vickers       2309    -745    20  5   0   3   9
16  -1  Clint Bowyer        2278    -776    20  0   0   3   7
17  --  Jeff Burton         2201    -853    20  0   0   2   6
18  --  Marcos Ambrose      2175    -879    20  0   0   2   5
19  +1  Joey Logano*        2083    -971    20  0   1   1   4
20  -1  Jamie McMurray      2060    -994    20  0   0   0   3
21  +1  Casey Mears         1998    -1056   20  0   0   0   2
22  -1  Dale Earnhardt Jr.  1983    -1071   20  0   0   1   3
23  +2  Kevin Harvick       1939    -1115   20  0   0   2   3
24  --  Martin Truex Jr.    1932    -1122   20  1   0   0   3
25  -2  Elliott Sadler      1924    -1130   20  0   0   1   3
26  +2  Reed Sorenson       1883    -1171   20  0   0   0   1
27  --  A.J. Allmendinger   1873    -1181   20  0   0   1   3
28  -2  Bobby Labonte       1873    -1181   20  0   0   1   1
29  --  Sam Hornish Jr.     1806    -1248   20  0   0   0   4
30  --  David Ragan         1799    -1255   20  0   0   0   1
31  +1  David Stremme       1699    -1355   20  0   0   0   0
32  -1  Michael Waltrip     1642    -1412   19  0   0   0   1
33  --  Paul Menard         1638    -1416   20  0   0   0   0
34  --  Robby Gordon        1608    -1446   20  0   0   1   1
35  +1  Scott Speed*        1343    -1711   19  0   0   1   1
36  -1  John Andretti       1341    -1713   18  0   0   0   0
37  --  David Gilliland     1142    -1912   19  0   0   0   0
38  --  Regan Smith          989    -2065   11  0   0   0   0
39  --  Brad Keselowski      787    -2267   7   0   1   1   3
40  --  Joe Nemechek         752    -2302   16  0   0   0   0
41  --  Dave Blaney          693    -2361   17  0   0   0   0
42  --  Bill Elliott         622    -2432   7   0   0   0   0
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  1. screw this

    of course jimmy boy won the brick again. nascar wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m through watching scripted racing. this is worse than f1. poor montoya should have stayed in f1.. he’s a foreigner and nascar won’t let him win.. unless it’s a warm fuzzy story line that will increase ratings! you all have fun watching the newest, biggest soap opera.. I think i’d rather watch golf.. or maybe lawn bowling!




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