Sunday, May 13, 2007
Jeff Gordon wins at Darlington
The big story at the Dodge Avenger 500 at Darlington in the NASCAR Nextel Cup should have been the Hendrick Motorsports domination of the COT races. But that all changed when Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced on Thursday that he would leave the company created by his late father at the end of the 2007 season. This is seemingly unthinkable to his fans but it became clear during the off season that the animosity between Dale Jr., his sister/business manager Kelley Earnhardt Elledge and DEI owner/stepmother Teresa Earnhardt was getting worse. Teresa brought in Max Siegel to try and smooth things over but it didn't work. It remains to be seen what Dale Jr. will do but I wouldn't be shocked if he does his own deal with Hendrick Motorsports support similar to Bobby Ginn & Gene Haas. Meanwhile, there was still a race. Clint Bowyer won the pole and it rained last night so the race was this afternoon.
The theme of the race was overheating engines and mistakes by guys who should be winning races. Darlington is rough on tires and rubber from those tires can gum up the radiator. Clint Bowyer's #07 Jack Daniels Chevy led the start but was passed for the lead by Carl Edwards' #99 Office Depot Ford on lap 18. Meanwhile, Ricky Rudd's #88 Snickers Ford was the first of many cars to overheat on lap 20. Denny Hamlin's #11 FedEx Chevy is moving up and he takes the lead on lap 37. NSACAR calls a competition caution on lap 40 and Hamlin continues to lead after pit stops.
Green flag pit stops begin on lap 98. Denny Hamlin has a slow pit stop and Carl Edwards takes the lead. Reed Sorenson's #41 Target Dodge hits the wall to bring out a caution on lap 116. Everyone pits and Hamlin takes tires only to get the lead. Green flag pit stops begin on lap 173. A debris caution comes out on lap 184. Carl Edwards is penalized for missing the commitment line when entering pit road for his green flag pit stop. He was sent to the back of the pack and was never able to get to the front again. He finished fifth.
Denny Hamlin continues to lead. Tony Stewart's #20 Home Depot Chevy has a flat tire on lap 214. He never gets back to the front and finishes sixth. Ryan Newman's #12 Alltel Dodge takes the lead on lap 222. Green flag pit stops begin on lap 233. They are interrupted when David Ragan's #6 AAA Ford spins to bring out a caution on lap 238. Among those on pit road is Martin Truex Jr.'s #1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy. He has a fast car but this kills him and he finishes 11th. Matt Kenseth's #17 DeWalt Tools Ford has a quick pit stop and takes the lead. Jeff Gordon's #24 Dupont Chevy is fourth but seems to be overheating. Kenseth says his brakes are overheating.
Ken Schrader's #21 Motorcraft Ford blows a tire and hits the wall to bring out a caution on lap 255. Jeff Gordon's crew tries to cool the water and clean the grille during his pit stop but he's still in third. Ryan Newman takes the lead on lap 271 and then Denny Hamlin takes the lead on lap 291. Jimmie Johnson's #48 Lowe's Chevy takes the lead on lap 300. Tony Raines' #96 DLP Chevy suffers engine failure on lap 313. A debris caution comes out on lap 334. Jeff Gordon's crew takes more tape off the grille as his car is spewing water out of the overflow. David Reutimann's #00 Dominos Pizza Toyota is overheating on pit road.
Jimmie Johnson leads and Jeff Gordon is second. It seems that Gordon's overheating isn't as bad when he's running full speed. But he doesn't think he'll makle it to the end of the race. Casey Mears' #25 National Guard/GMAC Chevy blows an engine on lap 344. Half the leaders including leader Jimmie Johnson pit but Jeff Gordon & Ryan Newman stay out. Fresh tires could be a big advantage. David Stremme's #40 Coors Light Dodge blows an engine to bring out a caution on lap 351. Gordon continues to lead. Dave Blaney's #22 Caterpillar Dodge blows his engine on lap 356. While Johnson, Newman & Hamlin are racing each other for second, Gordon gets a big lead. Hamlin finally takes second but there's not enough time for him to catch Gordon. Jeff Gordon wins and his engine fails in victory lane.
Congratulations to Jeff Gordon, crew chief Steve Letarte and car owner Rick Hendrick for the win. Non unusual top tens but Ryan Newman's top five is a breakthrough for him. Gordon continues to lead the points. He is on a major roll. But a lot of guys are making mistakes and he's taking advantage of that. Next Saturday is the Nextel Allstar Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway followed by the Coca Cola 600 on May 27. Here's the top ten of the race and video review of the race.
1.24/Jeff Gordon/Dupont/Chevy/Rick Hendrick
2.11/Denny Hamlin/FedEx/Chevy/Joe Gibbs
3.48/Jimmie Johnson/Lowe's/Chevy/Rick Hendrick
4.12/Ryan Newman/Alltel/Dodge/Roger Penske
5.99/Carl Edwards/Office Depot/Ford/Jack Roush
6.20/Tony Stewart/Home Depot/Chevy/Joe Gibbs
7.17/Matt Kenseth/DeWalt Tools/Ford/Jack Roush
8.8/Dale Earnhardt Jr./Budweiser/Chevy/Teresa Earnhardt
9.07/Clint Bowyer/Jack Daniels/Chevy/Richard Childress
10.31/Jeff Burton/Cingular/Chevy/Richard Childress