Denny Hamlin crossed the finish line in first place at the Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but it was Jimmie Johnson who stole the show by winning his 6th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship in eight years, making him one of the most successful competitors in the history of the sport. Johnson only needed to finish above the 23rd spot to win the championship, and with his only challenge being brief contact with Matt Kenseth following a restart, which put him back in the field, Johnson finished the race in 9th place, beating Kenseth to the Championship title by 19 points.
Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth led for 144 laps of the 267 lap race, finishing the race a close second to teammate Denny Hamlin. Having suffered a fractured vertebra earlier this year, which kept him out of action for more than a month, Hamlin’s victory on Sunday was especially sweet. In a post-race interview, Hamlin noted that racing during the ‘Jimmie Johnson era’ was unfortunate for competitors as Johnson was, in his opinion, the best that there ever was.
Statistics reinforce this viewpoint as Johnson is the youngest driver to win six Sprint Cup Champion titles, beating Richard Petty by 83 days. His record of six titles in the space of eight years is a first in the sport, and his 66 Sprint Cup victories since 2002 put him 30 wins above any other driver in the last eleven years. His crew chief Chad Kraus has a record of 62 wins, all of which have been with Johnson.
Jeff Gordon can be credited for introducing Johnson to Hendrick Motorsports and the Sprint Cup series. He discovered Johnson racing in the Nationwide Series in 2001 and persuaded Rick Hendrick to hire him. Gordon was quoted as saying that as a team – Johnson, Kraus and Hendrick Motorsports – they are “unbelievable”. Many would agree!
The top five places in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship went to (in order) Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Matt Kenseth appears to be on a roll as he took the checkered flag on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – his 500th career start – notching up his seventh win of the season, and his second in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, having held the lead in 106 of the 300-lap race. Teammate Kyle Busch crossed the finish line soon after, giving Joe Gibbs Racing the top two positions in the Sylvania 300. Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray took third, fourth and fifth positions respectively.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup, generally referred to simply as The Chase, has had a field of 12 drivers since first established in 2007. This year is an exception to the rule as the field has been expanded to include Jeff Gordon, who had his opportunity to compete in The Chase snatched away in the controversial finish at the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 7. With only seven laps of the race to go, Clint Bowyer allegedly forced a caution by going into a spin in an effort to help his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr earn the second of the two Wild Card spots in the chase.
After an intensive investigation it was determined that members of the Michael Waltrip Racing team had conspired to manipulate the results of the race and some of the most severe penalties in the history of the Sprint Cup were issued to the team, including probation for the rest of the 2013 season. Citing ‘actions detrimental to stock car racing’, NASCAR docked 50 driver/owner points from all three MWR teams. This knocked Truex out of the Wildcard spot, opening the position up for Ryan Newman.
As the 13th driver in The Chase, Jeff Gordon’s performance is likely to be scrutinized, so his pit road misjudgment at New Hampshire on Sunday was quite widely publicized. In what should have been a routine pit stop, Gordon came to a standstill with the nose of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet touching the white line of the pit box. To avoid incurring a penalty, the pit crew had to push the car back before servicing it, costing valuable time that put Gordon into 22nd place. He finished the race in 15th place, noting that he was highly disappointed in himself.
The next event in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is the AAA400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday September 29. The top five spots in the standings are currently held by (in order) Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.
As the fourth of ten Chase for the Sprint Cup races, the Hollywood Casino 400 will take lace at Kansas Speedway on Sunday October 6. The 2012 event was won by Matt Kenseth driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Be sure to catch this year’s event. For more information visit nascar.com
Date: 6 October 2013
Venue: Kansas Speedway
Country: United States
With only two races to go before the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, competition on the track is at fever pitch, making for some nail-biting action for both competitors and spectators. More than 100,000 fans showed up to watch Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway and saw Matt Kenseth take the checkered flag for the fifth time this season, with Kasey Kahne close behind, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Brian Vickers and Joey Logano in the top five places. That Kahne didn’t make first place was not for lack of trying as he repeatedly tried to pass Kenseth in the last twelve laps of the race, but it was not to be as Kenseth pushed ahead for the win.
Some keen followers of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series appeared to anticipate that Kahne may wreck Kenseth in retaliation for being wrecked by him earlier in the season at Watkins glen, but in a post-race interview Kahne noted that he just doesn’t wreck people and tried to pass as clean as he could, voicing some frustration that he had not been able to make it happen. Nonetheless, he achieved a finish, and in a good position, putting him 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings.
The top twelve in the Sprint cup standings at present are:
1. Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevrolet – 821 points
2. Clint Bowyer – #15 Toyota – 803 points
3. Carl Edwards – #99 Ford – 768 points
4. Kevin Harvick – #29 Chevrolet – 760 points
5. Kyle Busch – #18 Toyota – 739 points
6. Matt Kenseth – #20 Toyota – 736 points
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – #88 Chevrolet – 714 points
8. Kasey Kahne – #5 Chevrolet – 701 points
9. Greg Biffle – #16 Ford – 698 points
10. Joey Logano – #22 Ford – 685 points
11. Brad Keselowski – #2 Ford – 681 points
12. Kurt Busch – #78 Chevrolet – 679 points
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.