Persistent rain on Saturday resulted in the Quaker State 400 being postponed to Sunday, and drivers had to factor in that their cars that had been set up for night racing and would handle differently in Sunday’s daytime weather conditions, with its intermittent cloud cover and sunshine. The Kentucky Speedway stadium was packed with fans when the race started on Sunday, and on-track action provided plenty of excitement, with Matt Kenseth crossing the finish line in first place and claiming his fourth victory of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Teammate Denny Hamlin was not quite so fortunate and blew a right front tire – his second blowout in the race – on Lap 147, sending him into the outside wall near Turn 4’s exit. Having missed four Cup races due to a compression fracture of his first lumbar vertebra from a similar wreck in late March this year, Hamlin was no doubt relieved to find that his back was unaffected by this wreck.
Other incidents during Sunday’s race included Kurt Busch hitting a large bump in the asphalt with his No. 78 Chevrolet, knocking Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford into the path of other contestants near the start/finish line. The resulting multicar crash included Greg Biffle, Travis Kvapil and Dave Blaney. While not directly blaming Busch for the accident, Keselowski reportedly commented that everyone is aware of this bump in the asphalt and Busch should not have gone there.
The top ten finishers at the Quaker State 400 on June 30, in order, are Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick. The top ten in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, in order, are Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Greg Biffle and Joey Logano.
Breaking his 30-race dry spell at Dover on Sunday, Tony Stewart later revealed that as the owner of his team it did cross his mind that pushing for a win might wreck his car, leaving him with repairs to pay for. But with a couple of laps left in the FedEx 400, when crew chief Steve Addington reportedly told him to ‘use it up’, he passed Juan Pablo Montoya to cross the finish line in first place. While it was generally expected among fans that Jimmie Johnson would continue his winning streak, he notched up a penalty for prematurely pulling ahead of Montoya off a restart with just 19 laps to go. Johnson was moved to the back of the field and finished the race 17th. Third place was taken by Jeff Gordon, with Kyle Busch in fourth and Brad Keselowski in fifth.
Johnson voiced his displeasure at the penalty, explaining that he had tried to give the position back to Montoya after the restart, and ran half-throttle for the first half a lap before pushing ahead. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president disagrees with Johnson, saying that the penalty was ‘a very easy call’. Up until the penalty it appeared that Johnson had a good chance of taking the victory at the so-called ‘Monster Mile’, despite the fact that he had started 24th and had some difficulty moving up in the field initially. An early pit-stop by Johnson on Lap 71 allowed him to regain lost time before the caution for debris in Lap 80 and after that he moved up rapidly in the field and was in sixth place by the time a caution for debris was called in Lap 160. A seventh caution was called when Denny Hamlin’s tire blew on Lap 382 and Montoya took two tires before beating Johnson to the pit road exit, with Johnson passing the start/finish line ahead of Montoya and collecting the race-changing penalty. While emphasizing that he disagreed with the call, Johnson noted that his team will ‘just come back and try to win in the fall’.
While Kyle and Kurt Busch dominated the first four segments of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night, Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line in first place, adding another victory to his impressive record which now includes four All-Star victories. Fans turned out in their thousands to watch the race, with millions watching on live television, but although supporting the NASCAR event, there’s a growing consensus that something needs to be done to liven up what has become a predictable race. Even Johnson conceded that some changes need to be made to the race, noting that in the first four segments of the race drivers were using different strategies which made the race exciting, adding that on the last segment options are limited to make the multiple passes needed to win. Johnson also gave credit to his pit crew for their speedy work on a mandatory four-tire pit stop prior to the final segment which put him beside Kasey Kahne for the last green flag.
With the Coca-Cola 600 up ahead, it has been noted that the recent resurfacing of the track at Charlotte changes the handling of the cars. Johnson revealed that the previous track was so familiar to him and his team that they knew what adjustments needed to be made to the car at each stage of the race and time of day, all of which has changed now. Johnson is being cited as the favorite to win the Coca-Cola 600, with other top contenders including Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards.
Among the strategies being put forward to liven up the competition for future All-Star events, has been to move the race to Bristol Motor Speedway – quite a drastic step when considering that 28 of the 29 editions of the event have been held at Charlotte. The suggestion to move the race came as a result of a Twitter survey conducted by Clint Bowyer on Sunday. Johnson’s crew chief Chad Kraus offered another possible solution, which he admitted would not likely be seen as viable by Goodyear, and that is to make a softer tire compound to wear more quickly on the track surface at Charlotte, thereby compensating for the track being less abrasive than others.
Driving for Font Row Motorsports, David Ragan crossed the finish line in first place in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. Ragan was closely followed by teammate David Gilliland in what is widely being described as a “surprising” finish and a “David and Goliath” type battle and victory. Carl Edwards took third place followed by Michael Waltrip and Jimmy Johnson in fourth and fifth places.
Talladega has been the scene of a number of devastating crashes over the years, and Sunday’s race included two crashes which may have changed the outcome of the race, but thankfully didn’t cause any major injuries. The first crash took place 44 laps into the race and involved 16 cars. Kyle Busch’s car tapped the back of Kasey Kahne’s sending him into the wall and resulting in a chain reaction which Busch later accepted responsibility for triggering. The second crash came following a three-hour delay caused by heavy rain and a restart with only six laps to go, raising questions by some as to why NASCAR didn’t just call the race and avoid the last restart, with others supporting NASCAR’s decision. Danica Patrick, Terry Labonte, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and JJ Yeley were among the drivers involved in the second crash.
The latest NASCAR Sprint Cup standings has Jimmie Johnson (383 points) in the lead, followed by Carl Edwards (342 points), Dale Earnhardt Jr (324 points), Clint Bowyer (316 points), Brad Keselowski (314 points), Kasey Kahne (299 points), Aric Almirola (293 points), Paul Menard (290 points), Kyle Busch (285 points) and Greg Biffle (280 points).
Born on December 24, 1985, in Unadilla, Georgia, David Ragan started racing at the age of 12 in the Bandolero Series. He has been racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since 2007 when he replaced Mark Martin in the #6 for Roush Fenway Racing. His first career NASCAR Sprint Cup series victory came on July 2, 2011 in the Coke Zero 400 held at the Daytona International Speedway. Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 victory was his second NASCAR Sprint Cup win.
After leading for fifty laps of the eighty lap Toyota Grand Prix at Long Beach on Sunday, Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver ever to win an IndyCar championship race. Driving the #14 car for AJ Foyt Racing, Sato crossed the finish line ahead of Graham Rahal, with Justin Wilson, Dario Franchitti and JR Hildebrand taking third, fourth and fifth places. Sato started the race in fourth position and clocked up an average speed of 85.763 mph, scoring 53 points for the race. In a post-race interview Sato noted that it had been a perfect weekend, commending his team for doing a tremendous job and saying that he had been comfortable in the car and was able to “push everything”.
Born in Toyko in January 1977, Takuma Sato started his racing career on two wheels, winning a number of national junior championships for bicycle racing. He was 19 when he starting karting in Japan, moving up into the All-Japan Formula Three Championship for part of a season before moving to England in 1998 in pursuit of a European racing career. After competing in the British Formula Three Championship for two full seasons during which time he won the championship in 2001, Sato graduated to Formula One in 2002, enjoying a measure of success during his seven years, but losing his seat when Super Aguri withdrew from F1 due to financial difficulties. Sato signed with KV Racing Technology, driving for the team in both 2010 and 2011, finishing the season 21st and 13th respectively. In 2012 he drove for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, finishing 14th for the season, and signed with AJ Foyt’s team for 2013.
The current top five in the 2013 IndyCar Championship are Helio Castroneves (99 points); Takuma Sato (93 points); Scott Dixon (89 points); Marco Andretti (87 points); and Justin Wilson (81 points). The next IndyCar Series event is the Sao Paulo Indy 300 in Sao Paulo, Brazil – the home country of Helio Castroneves.