NASCAR: Round 7 – Subway Fresh Fit 600 – April 10

A two-tyre gambit in the final round of pit stops with four laps to go to the chequered flag gave Ryan Newman an unexpected first victory of 2010 at Phoenix International Raceway. Newman lined up second at the restart, alongside Jeff Gordon who had also taken two tyres, but when Gordon got too much wheelspin it gave Newman all the opening he needed.

At the start, AJ Allmendinger had made good his first-ever pole position, leading for the first 14 laps with Sam Hornish Jr., the two of them working a decent 1s lead over the rest of the field. That was brought to an end by the first caution, caused by a collision between Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch which also saw Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick get some light contact.

At the restart it was Newman in the lead (trying out the two tyre strategy for the first time that evening) leading Tony Stewart, Allmendinger, Hornish Jr. and Matt Kenseth to the green, but it was a shortlived restart as Clint Bowyer hit Jamie McMurray, spinning McMurray around although fortunately without contact with the wall. Newman had lost the lead to Stewart in the brief seconds of green flag racing, and at the next restart dropped even further back to 4th as the outside line got the better of the two-lane restart, putting Juan Montoya up to second and Joey Logano in third. Newman was to lose another position to Allmendinger and was down to eighth by lap 42, the two tyre gambit not looking too successful at this point of the afternoon.

Montoya took the lead from Stewart on lap 38, and maintained it for nearly ninety laps thereafter except for a brief period during pit stops triggered by the third caution of the afternoon on lap 56 for Brian Vickers hitting the wall after blowing a tyre. Allmendinger started to fade and slip back through this period, while Denny Hamlin complained of electrical issues and Dale Earnhardt Jr slipped from a promising 5th to a poor 16th with vibration problems. Matt Kenseth was making the best of this part of the race, slowing rising though the pack.

The next round of pit stops were made under green, but almost immediately after they were done the yellow was out for debris resulting from Kurt Busch hitting the wall on lap 134. Most cars didn’t need to pit so soon, but Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and AJ Allmendinger all had problems to resolve and came in. Hamlin in particular needed a lot of work, and then managed to stall the car at the end of pit road, all of which put him two laps down. Kurt Busch was even further down – six laps off the lead – as a result of major damage limitation work on the blue deuce.

Jimmie Johnson took the lead from Montoya at the restart, with Tony Stewart out of sorts and losing multiple places to Kyle Busch, Hornish Jr., Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards to put him back in 9th. Jeff Gordon also started to charge up the running order at this point, until the fifth caution on lap 188 for oil in turn 2 allowed everyone a relatively calm round of pit stops; unfortunately not calm enough for Jeff Burton who was penalised a lap for pitting outside his box.

The restart was brief, Brad Keselowski immediately in the wall after contact with Martin Truex Jr., before racing resumed properly on lap 201, Jimmie Johnson leading Montoya, Busch, Kenseth and Edwards to the green which lasted for 56 laps before the seventh caution of the night, caused by David Reutimann getting loose and brushing the wall causing some rear end damage before spinning. At the restart on lap 261, Kyle Busch got the best of things and jumped past Johnson to take the lead, but Johnson was clamped to the back of the 18 until Busch finally started to pull away to a more comfortable lead of 1.4 seconds by lap 300.

The next caution was on lap 314 when Travis Kvapil lost his engine in turns 1 and 2. At the restart, Busch was still in front of Johnson: Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon battled for third and got very loose, while Juan Montoya and Ryan Newman went side-by-side for fifth place. It was looking very good for Busch, who led by 2s with 30 laps to go, but Johnson looking threatening in second, himself 2s ahead of Jeff Gordon. Things were looking settled, unless there was another caution to shake things up.

The caution came on lap 372, thanks to Scott Riggs losing his front-right tyre and slamming into the wall with three laps to go. Now it all hinged on the tyre strategy: whether to take four or two? Busch and Johnson opted for four and ended up 8th and 7th at the restart respectively, but Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and AJ Allmendinger were among those who opted for two – as did Ryan Newman, who jumped from fifth place before the caution to taking the restart in second alongside Jeff Gordon.

When Gordon spun his wheels, Newman needed no second invitation to take the lead and the win: “I kind of threw [crew chief Tony] Gibson under the bus because he wanted to put four on and I said just give me two, I like the track position,” Newman said about his key strategy choice. “I would rather block.”

“I just couldn’t get it done for our team,” admitted Gordon. “I spun the tyres on the restart and Ryan had a good jump on me getting in to one. It was pretty much game over at that point.”

Race result

Pos  Driver             Car        Laps
 1.  Ryan Newman        Chevrolet   378
 2.  Jeff Gordon        Chevrolet   378
 3.  Jimmie Johnson     Chevrolet   378
 4.  Mark Martin        Chevrolet   378
 5.  Juan Montoya       Chevrolet   378
 6.  Matt Kenseth       Ford        378
 7.  Carl Edwards       Ford        378
 8.  Kyle Busch         Toyota      378
 9.  Clint Bowyer       Chevrolet   378
10.  Joey Logano        Toyota      378
11.  Marcos Ambrose     Toyota      378
12.  Dale Earnhardt Jr  Chevrolet   378
13.  Kevin Harvick      Chevrolet   378
14.  Robby Gordon       Toyota      378
15.  A.J. Allmendinger  Ford        378
16.  Brad Keselowski    Dodge       378
17.  Martin Truex Jr    Toyota      378
18.  Sam Hornish Jr     Dodge       378
19.  David Ragan        Ford        378
20.  David Reutimann    Toyota      378
21.  Scott Speed        Toyota      378
22.  Greg Biffle        Ford        378
23.  Tony Stewart       Chevrolet   378
24.  Jamie McMurray     Chevrolet   378
25.  Jeff Burton        Chevrolet   378
26.  Regan Smith        Chevrolet   378
27.  Bobby Labonte      Chevrolet   378
28.  Scott Riggs        Chevrolet   377
29.  Paul Menard        Ford        377
30.  Denny Hamlin       Toyota      376
31.  Elliott Sadler     Ford        375
32.  David Gilliland    Ford        374
33.  Kevin Conway       Ford        371
34.  Terry Cook         Dodge       367
35.  Kurt Busch         Dodge       366
36.  Travis Kvapil      Ford        309
37.  Brian Vickers      Toyota      288
38.  Joe Nemechek       Toyota      281
39.  Kasey Kahne        Ford        276
40.  Max Papis          Toyota      214
41.  Johnny Sauter      Chevrolet   161
42.  Dave Blaney        Toyota      160
43.  Michael McDowell   Toyota      149

Sprint Cup standings after round 7

Jimmie Johnson continues to lead the Sprint Cup standings ahead of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Top ten finishes for Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Mark Martin helped propel them up the leaderboard, while Kurt Busch’s woes send him crashing out of the Chase positions.

POS +/-  DRIVER                 PTS   BEHIND  ST  P  W  T5  T10
1   --   Jimmie Johnson         1073  Leader  7   0  3  4   5
2   +1   Matt Kenseth           1037  -36     7   0  0  3   6
3   -1   Greg Biffle            981   -92     7   0  0  2   6
4   --   Kevin Harvick          961   -112    7   0  0  2   4
5   +2   Jeff Gordon            948   -125    7   0  0  3   3
6   +3   Clint Bowyer           885   -188    7   0  0  1   5
7   -2   Jeff Burton            873   -200    7   0  0  1   2
8   +6   Carl Edwards           873   -200    7   0  0  0   4
9   -1   Tony Stewart           869   -204    7   0  0  1   3
10  --   Dale Earnhardt Jr.     866   -207    7   1  0  1   2
11  +2   Joey Logano            862   -211    7   1  0  2   4
12  +4   Kyle Busch             855   -218    7   0  0  0   2
======= CHASE FOR THE Sprint CUP - CURRENT CONTENDERS =======
13  +4   Mark Martin            844   -229    7   1  0  3   3
14  -8   Kurt Busch             834   -239    7   1  1  2   3
15  -4   Paul Menard            811   -262    7   0  0  1   1
16  +6   Ryan Newman            802   -271    7   0  1  2   2
17  -5   Brian Vickers          786   -287    7   0  0  0   2
18  -3   Denny Hamlin           783   -290    7   0  1  1   1
19  -1   Martin Truex Jr.       780   -293    7   0  0  1   2
20  -1   Jamie McMurray         745   -328    7   1  1  1   2
21  +4   Juan Montoya           723   -350    7   0  0  2   3
22  -1   Scott Speed            716   -357    7   0  0  0   1
23  +3   A.J. Allmendinger      682   -391    7   1  0  0   1
24  +5   Marcos Ambrose         673   -400    7   0  0  0   0
25  -1   David Reutimann        671   -402    7   0  0  1   1
26  -6   Kasey Kahne            666   -407    7   0  0  1   2
27  --   Brad Keselowski        666   -407    7   0  0  0   0
28  --   David Ragan            657   -416    7   0  0  0   0
29  -6   Elliott Sadler         644   -429    7   0  0  0   0
30  --   Sam Hornish Jr.        625   -448    7   0  0  0   0
31  --   Bobby Labonte          586   -487    7   0  0  0   0
32  --   Regan Smith            580   -493    7   0  0  0   0
33  --   Travis Kvapil          553   -520    7   0  0  0   0
34  +1   Robby Gordon           528   -545    7   0  0  0   0
35  -1   David Gilliland        525   -548    6   0  0  0   0
36  +1   Kevin Conway*          408   -665    6   0  0  0   0
37  -1   Mike Bliss             364   -709    5   0  0  0   0
38  --   Max Papis              333   -740    6   0  0  0   0
39  +1   Joe Nemechek           300   -773    7   0  0  0   0
40  +1   Dave Blaney            277   -796    6   0  0  0   0
41  -2   Boris Said             252   -821    4   0  0  0   0
42  --   Michael McDowell       248   -825    6   0  0  0   0
43  --   Bill Elliott           202   -871    2   0  0  0   0
44  --   Aric Almirola          154   -919    4   0  0  0   0
45  --   Michael Waltrip        149   -924    2   0  0  0   0
46  --   David Stremme          143   -930    2   0  0  0   0
47  +2   Terry Cook*            118   -955    2   0  0  0   0
48  --   Scott Riggs            79    -994    1   0  0  0   0
49  -2   Casey Mears            73    -1000   1   0  0  0   0
50  -2   Robert Richardson Jr.  70    -1003   1   0  0  0   0
* Denotes Rookie 
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