NASCAR: Round 12 – Autism Speaks 400, Dover International – May 16

A rare mistake under pressure by Jimmie Johnson gifted the win of the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover to Kyle Busch, his second win of the 2010 season.

Johnson’s 48 had looked the better car all afternoon, only vulnerable to Busch at restarts, but the two were tied together for much of the race. However, it was Kasey Kahne who stole the lead from polesitter Marin Truex Jr. at the start and who led the first 26 laps with Kyle slotting into second, until Johnson was able to get past them both and take the lead.

Johnson and Kahne stretched out a lead of nearly 5s by the first caution on lap 54 for San Hornish Jr. hitting the wall in turn 1 on lap 54. Hornish was able to continue but would later bring out another caution, the fourth of the day, on lap 245 when he spun coming out of turn 4.

At the restart, Johnson headed the field but for the first time in what would become a pattern, Kyle Busch passed him for the lead first time around. Johnson allowed Busch to take the front spot for 25 laps before Busch’s paces started to drp away and Johnson finally claimed it back for himself. Busch also lost second to a strong showing by AJ Allmendinger, who started to make in roads into Johnson only to have Johnson then able to pull away with effortless control when he got too close.

Kyle was having problems with his comms, unable to hear his crew chief and spotter on the radio although they could hear him. In the end, the cris was averted – the radio had simply come unplugged from his helmet, quickly fixed. However, it all meant that third-placed Kyle was now 7s behind Johnson and Allmendinger.

Johnson kept his lead after green glag pit stops, but Kyle’s crew put him back out in second ahead of Allmendinger. Allmendinger’s luck was no better when a caution came out soon after on lap 165 when Marcos Ambrose hit the wall in turns 3 and 4 – AJ had just pitted for four tyres and fuel and was caught on pit road when the yellow was called and dropped from 3rd to 28th two laps down. Ouch.

Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch briefly skirmished for the lead before Johnson took charge again, and remained in front as Kyle slipped back behind Jeff Burton, until the third caution on lap 225 – again triggered by another blown tyre and trip to the wall by the luckless Marcos Ambrose. At least it gave AJ Allmendinger a lap back on the free pass.

Green flag pit stops did nothing to change the top three, and the race briefly restarted before another caution came out on lap 245 this time for Sam Hornish (his second incident of the day) who spun coming out of turn 4. Whie most of the leap lap cars pitted again, Matt Kenseth opted to stay out which gave him the lead ahead of Kurt and Kyle Busch, with Johnson down to fourth – but briefly, as he was swiftly back on front on lap 261.

Allmendinger was continuing his climb back up the field during this stretch, and was up to 13th, while team mates Juan Montoya and Jamie McMurray both retired within minutes of each other (broken suspension to blame for McMurrary’s exit) and Marcos Ambrose conceded defeat and also exited the race after his two crunching accidents. Kurt Busch was unable to stay with the leaders and slipped back through the field, until finally he had a tyre go out which put him into the wall hard in turn 4 on lap 287.

Another round of pit stops, and more ill fortune for Allmendinger who’s recover was set back by a penalty for exiting the pit lane too fast. At the green flag, Johnson once again headed the field, and once more Kyle Busch got the better start and took the lead on the first lap around. This time, however, he was able to hold it for far longer (over 50 laps of green flag running) and by a bigger margin (half a second) than at any time previously. Johnson still looked to have the measure of the 18, but Kyle was improving and set to back the reigning champion fight for it at least.

As if to mark his territory, Johnson briefly surged into the lead ahead of green flag pit stops. The two came into pit lane together, and despite Johnson’s best efforts it was Kyle Busch who emerged from pit lane first. But even more sensationally, Johnson’s “best” efforts proved to be his worst – he had overegged it in his attempts to get out ahead of Kyle, and broke the pit pane speed limit. A drive thru penalty was handed down and suddenly Jimmie Johnson, instead of fighting for he lead, was a whole lap down. Surely not even Johnson’s luck and huge skill could salvage this situation? What Johnson needed more than anything else is one of those last ten laps cautions to enable him to claw back the gap. Without that, he was doomed.

There was no caution; the race ran rather unremarkably all the way t the finish, and sure enough Johnson was back in 16th place, still a lap down. Kyle was easily able to stretch out a huge lead over second placed Burton, and without Johnson chasing him to the chequered, this proved to be the easiest win Kyle’s had in some time – and a huge boost to his Sprint Cup standings, as he climbs to second in the Chase, coincidentally overtaking Johnson for the first time this season as the champion drops to fourth.

Has Jimmie’s dominant lucky streak run its course? Or is this just a brief hiatus in his winning ways?

Race result

Pos  Driver              Car        Laps
 1.  Kyle Busch          Toyota     400
 2.  Jeff Burton         Chevrolet  400
 3.  Matt Kenseth        Ford       400
 4.  Denny Hamlin        Toyota     400
 5.  David Reutimann     Toyota     400
 6.  Greg Biffle         Ford       400
 7.  Kevin Harvick       Chevrolet  400
 8.  Carl Edwards        Ford       400
 9.  Tony Stewart        Chevrolet  400
10.  Joey Logano         Toyota     400
11.  Jeff Gordon         Chevrolet  400
12.  Martin Truex Jr     Toyota     400
13.  Ryan Newman         Chevrolet  400
14.  AJ Allmendinger     Ford       399
15.  Mark Martin         Chevrolet  399
16.  Jimmie Johnson      Chevrolet  399
17.  Clint Bowyer        Chevrolet  399
18.  Brad Keselowski     Dodge      398
19.  Kurt Busch          Dodge      398
20.  Kasey Kahne         Ford       398
21.  Paul Menard         Ford       398
22.  Casey Mears         Toyota     397
23.  Scott Speed         Toyota     396
24.  Regan Smith         Chevrolet  396
25.  David Gilliland     Ford       395
26.  David Ragan         Ford       395
27.  David Stremme       Ford       395
28.  Elliott Sadler      Ford       394
29.  Travis Kvapil       Ford       393
30.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Chevrolet  390
31.  Robby Gordon        Toyota     386
32.  Jamie McMurray      Chevrolet  354
33.  Kevin Conway        Ford       351
34.  Sam Hornish Jr      Dodge      312
35.  Juan Pablo Montoya  Chevrolet  283
36.  Marcos Ambrose      Toyota     222
37.  JJ Yeley            Dodge      127
38.  Joe Nemechek        Toyota     67
39.  Bobby Labonte       Chevrolet  65
40.  Mike Bliss          Chevrolet  36
41.  Dave Blaney         Toyota     36
42.  Michael McDowell    Toyota     33
43.  Johnny Sauter       Chevrolet  29

Sprint Cup standings

POS  +/-  DRIVER                 POINTS  BEHIND  ST  P  W  T5  T10
1    --   Kevin Harvick          1768    Leader  12  0  1  4   9  
2    +1   Kyle Busch             1699    -69     12  1  2  3   7  
3    +2   Matt Kenseth           1642    -126    12  0  0  4   7  
4    -2   Jimmie Johnson         1637    -131    12  0  3  5   7  
5    +1   Denny Hamlin           1618    -150    12  0  3  5   5  
6    -2   Jeff Gordon            1605    -163    12  0  0  5   5  
7    --   Greg Biffle            1581    -187    12  0  0  2   8  
8    +1   Jeff Burton            1569    -199    12  0  0  3   5  
9    -1   Kurt Busch             1531    -237    12  1  1  4   6  
10   +1   Carl Edwards           1487    -281    12  0  0  1   6  
11   -1   Mark Martin            1475    -293    12  1  0  4   5  
12   +1   Martin Truex Jr.       1434    -334    12  1  0  1   4  
CHASE FOR THE Sprint CUP - CURRENT CONTENDERS 
13   +1   Ryan Newman            1404    -364    12  0  1  2   4  
14   +4   Tony Stewart           1397    -371    12  1  0  1   4  
15   --   Clint Bowyer           1392    -376    12  0  0  1   6  
16   -4   Dale Earnhardt Jr.     1391    -377    12  1  0  1   3  
17   -1   Jamie McMurray         1346    -422    12  2  1  3   4  
18   +1   Joey Logano            1332    -436    12  1  0  2   5  
19   -2   Juan Montoya           1322    -446    12  0  0  4   6  
20   +4   David Reutimann        1262    -506    12  0  0  2   2  
21   +1   Kasey Kahne            1237    -531    12  0  0  2   3  
22   -1   David Ragan            1227    -541    12  0  0  0   1  
23   --   Paul Menard            1217    -551    12  0  0  1   1  
24   +1   Brad Keselowski        1210    -558    12  0  0  0   0  
25   +2   A.J. Allmendinger      1202    -566    12  1  0  0   1  
26   --   Scott Speed            1185    -583    12  0  0  0   1  
27   -7   Brian Vickers          1158    -610    11  0  0  0   3  
28   --   Marcos Ambrose         1068    -700    12  0  0  0   1  
29   --   Elliott Sadler         1050    -718    12  0  0  0   0  
30   --   Sam Hornish Jr.        1013    -755    12  0  0  0   0  
31   --   Regan Smith            1010    -758    12  0  0  0   0  
32   --   Travis Kvapil          985     -783    12  0  0  0   0  
33   --   Bobby Labonte          945     -823    12  0  0  0   0  
34   --   Robby Gordon           899     -869    12  0  0  0   0  
35   --   David Gilliland        817     -951    10  0  0  0   0  
36   --   Kevin Conway*          743     -1025   11  0  0  0   0  
37   --   Mike Bliss             621     -1147   9   0  0  0   1  
38   --   Max Papis              499     -1269   9   0  0  0   0  
39   +1   David Stremme          474     -1294   6   0  0  0   0  
40   -1   Joe Nemechek           463     -1305   11  0  0  0   0  
41   --   Dave Blaney            422     -1346   10  0  0  0   0  
42   --   Michael McDowell       348     -1420   9   0  0  0   0  
43   --   Bill Elliott           290     -1478   3   0  0  0   0  
44   +3   Casey Mears            255     -1513   3   0  0  0   0  
45   -1   Boris Said             252     -1516   4   0  0  0   0  
46   -1   Michael Waltrip        200     -1568   3   0  0  0   0  
47   -1   Terry Cook*            164     -1604   3   0  0  0   0  
48   --   Robert Richardson Jr.  155     -1613   2   0  0  0   0  
49   --   Aric Almirola          154     -1614   4   0  0  0   0  
50   --   Reed Sorenson          120     -1648   3   0  0  0   0  
* = rookie
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  1. chuckraw

    jimmie has mistakes and bad luck lately. i think he comes back

    http://tinyurl.com/dog-loves-cars




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