NASCAR Chevy Rock and Roll 400 [Wrap Up]

Denny Hamlin wins the race, Brian Vickers is in the Chase, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth out

9/12/09 in NASCAR   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

In the hours leading up to the start of the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 my stomach was all butterflies, wondering who would be in and who would be out.  To be perfectly honest, I don't remember being this excited about a single race in a very long time.  It semed unreasonable to think that Matt Kenseth with two wins, or Mark Martin or Kyle Busch with four wins each could be out of the Chase when this race was done, but that's what we were facing.  Part of me was doing the "ninner nanner boo boo" at NASCAR because myself and many, many others have been saying the reward for wins needed to be increased and increased at the time of the win, not after the Chase began.

However, I'll get off my soap-box now and send a thank you to our own Featured Writer, heatherjoy777, who provided live pictures from the track today.  Hopefully, she will give us her take on what it was like to be at the race!

Mark Martin lef them to the green with Kyle starting in 8th.  As Kyle is the winningest current driver at Richmond, we all expected him to make a move to the front as soon as he possibly could.  He did take the lead for the first couple of laps, only to be passed by Denny Hamlin.

The caution flag flew when Tony Stewart got loose and spun, taking Reed Sorenson with him.  Tony would have to pit for repairs and would end up a lap down. 

The Chasers were scattered throughtout the field with Matt Kenseth furthest back in 37th.  Even though his car didn't seem to be to his liking, he moved up, steadily, and by lap 75, just after Jeff Gordon had taken over the lead, was in 29th. His pit stops were challenging, with Michael Waltrip pitting right in front of him, and pitting at the back of his pit box, Matt was having troubles getting out.  By a quarter of the way through the race, Matt had only moved up to 27th.

Just before the halfway point in the race, Denny Hamlin went around Jeff Gordon to take the lead again.  The leaders were quickly lapping the field, even though the "experts" had predicted there would be 30 or so cars on the lead lap by the end of the race. 

The 78 of Regan Smith detonated and brought out the caution right around the halfway mark, and once pit stops were completed and the race got back underway, Denny Hamlin took the point again, but all eyes were again on Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.  Matt was struggling to get past the back runners, running in the 20's. 

At lap 267, Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch were swapping in and out of the final spot for the Chase.  Both were running in or close to the top 10, while Matt Kenseth still couldn't get his car to work the way he needed.  Meanwhile, up front, it was Denny, Jeff, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin and Sam Hornish Jr.

As we raced to the 3/4 mark, the announcers started to get excited.  There were 22 cars on the lead lap, and Matt Kenseth wasn't one of them, running in 26th, just behind his old friend, Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Vickers and Kyle Busch were continuing to battle for the last Chase position, with Vickers running in 9th and Kyle just in front of him in 7th, which wasn't good enough for a Chase spot.  All eyes were on those two on the track and everyone was staying out of their way. 

With 81 laps to go, Stremme got into Jeff Burtons left rear and cut down his tire.  Jeff couldn't get to the inside of the track to get to pit road, and the debris his car put down brought out another caution.  What was anticipated as the final pit stop of the night gave the teams one last chance to adjust their cars, but all Matt could do was hope he could move far enough forward to be the first car one lap down and in line for a lucky dog.

Denny Hamlin came out first again, but on the restart he and Jeff Gordon made contact, sending Jeff back into the nid pack.  Cautions breed cautions, of course, and Michael Waltrip went lawn mowing. 

The next restart saw Kyle Busch moving forward, after having made adjustments that seemd to put his car just the way he liked it, but Vickers had done the same thing and the two were battling for position on the racetrack, and for the spot in the Chase, racing for 5th.  Vickers got by Busch for the position, and with that held on to the last Chase spot.  There were only 60 laps left in the race when Jeff and Jimmie both caught Kyle and one by one, passed him. 

Even though all eyes were on Kyle and Brian, the drivers just ahead of them in the standings still had to race safe, as no one, save the top 4 were safe.  Everyone was racing like they were on eggshells.  No one could afford to make a mistake, have a tire go down, spin their tires, or rub a wall.  Truthfully, this was the culmination of one of the closest races in the year, maybe not for the race itself, but certainly for the Chase positions.

By all accounts, the race for the Chase appeared to be destined for a last lap decision on who would get in and who would be out.  Caution with less than 20 laps to go when Brad Keselowski's engine let go sent the teams to the pits for one last stop.  Kyle's crew did what he needed them to do and got him an excellent pit stop under pressure.  Kyle got out just ahead of Brian, not enough to put him ahead of Brian in the standings, but ahead enough to give him a fighting chance.  A crewman on Reutimann's crew was hit by a tire on that stop, when it got away, but he was fine.

As the final laps wound down to the end of the race, Denny Hamlin, dominant all night long, continued with that domination and won the race on his "hometown track", while Brian Vickers did exactly what he knew he had to do, finishing 8 points ahead of Kyle Busch for the 12th and final spot in the Chase.  Matt Kenseth missed the Chase for the first time since it's inception, by a mere 38 points.

The twelve drivers in the Chase after the end of the race were Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Kasey kahne, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Juan Pablo Montoya, Greg Biffle and in 12th, Brian Vickers.

Thank you once again to Heather for the great pictures!

It's on to Loudon next weekend, where Mark Martin will take over the top spot, by virtue of his four wins.

LET THE CHASE BEGIN!!
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9/15/09   |   HeatherJoy777   |   2 respect

Debi_L wrote:
You HAD to have the funny for the Goooey eyed sigh, but you get a smart for the rest

lol thanks... I gotta tell ya.... these goofy dreams are really gettin to me... like I said in another post, that I finally dream about a guy and it ends up being someone I don't like, and I'm still having to clean up after him!

9/13/09   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

HeatherJoy777 wrote:
I gotta say I think I'm torn on it. I think Martin has a few tricks up his sleeves and will pull a few of them out for the chase, but then, Denny has run so consistently over litereally his entire career.  How many drivers can say they've made the chase every year they've driven including their rookie yr? Then there's Tony, and I'm not a big Smoke fan (and believe me, these dumb vacuuming his house dreams aren't helping much) but I gotta give credit. I don't think business-man Tony is done provin to the world what he can do. I love Kasey, Kasey is my guy (insert goooey-eyed sigh) but I just don't think he has enough team backup with his cars. He was the one that pushed until he got the new R6 and now it's being taken away to become a Ford. I just don't think anyone else will have much else against Martin, Hamlin and Stewart. Gordon runs well, but I'm wondering if his back issues aren't getting to him more than he's letting on.

You HAD to have the funny for the Goooey eyed sigh, but you get a smart for the rest

9/13/09   |   HeatherJoy777   |   2 respect

kramer wrote:
Heather, just for the record, Jimmie Johnson has made the Chase every year it's been around.  He's finished top 10 in points every year of his career as well.  The only reason he hasn't made the Chase every year of his career is because it didn't start until his 3rd year.

Never said he was the only one, I said how many have done that... I was referring to the caliber of a driver he is...

9/13/09   |   cherokee_woman57   |   14 respect

kramer wrote:
I want to see the top 2 guys stay as the top 2 and battle it out for this championship.  Mark Martin has always been the bridesmaid and he's like Earnhardt in the 1998 Daytona 500, if your favorite driver can't win the title this year, how can you NOT be happy if they lose out to Mark Martin.

I would like to see Mark Martin win. He's been a bridesmaid the past 2 yrs. and he deserves the Championship. He has 4 wins and has been very consistant all year so unless the unforseen happens he stands a very good chance of winning it this year.

9/13/09   |   boyzos3

Bashfulblue wrote:
Better Brian than Kyle

shrub got burnt this year! lol

9/13/09   |   kramer   |   11004 respect

Heather, just for the record, Jimmie Johnson has made the Chase every year it's been around.  He's finished top 10 in points every year of his career as well.  The only reason he hasn't made the Chase every year of his career is because it didn't start until his 3rd year.

9/13/09   |   HeatherJoy777   |   2 respect

I gotta say I think I'm torn on it. I think Martin has a few tricks up his sleeves and will pull a few of them out for the chase, but then, Denny has run so consistently over litereally his entire career.  How many drivers can say they've made the chase every year they've driven including their rookie yr? Then there's Tony, and I'm not a big Smoke fan (and believe me, these dumb vacuuming his house dreams aren't helping much) but I gotta give credit. I don't think business-man Tony is done provin to the world what he can do. I love Kasey, Kasey is my guy (insert goooey-eyed sigh) but I just don't think he has enough team backup with his cars. He was the one that pushed until he got the new R6 and now it's being taken away to become a Ford. I just don't think anyone else will have much else against Martin, Hamlin and Stewart. Gordon runs well, but I'm wondering if his back issues aren't getting to him more than he's letting on.

9/13/09   |   sprode   |   52 respect

This pleases me.  I guess we won't have to hear Little Di-I mean Busch, gloating about his greatness until next year.  Somewhere Jr. is smiling.

So I guess I've finally found one thing I like about this inane Chase system.

9/13/09   |   Diablorain   |   4425 respect

wrote:
 I am psyched that there are 3 Dodge cars in the Chase after none made it last year.  Kasey Kahne finished the strong winning last week and running well this week.  Kurt Bush has been consistent and had a great car last night and if they had a bunch of additional laps my have been able to challenge for the win as his car got better and better on long runs..... Juan Pablo.... what can you say?  He has taken a little while to really get the feel of the COT but with the new Dodge powerplant under the hood has been really racey!  This year I will follow the Chase... last year at this time I had watched my last race....

Juan Pablo drives a Chevy

9/13/09   |   Toejam   |   22 respect

you have to hand it to Kurt last night for racing and even passing his brother on the track.....i bet Kyle wished he had a few more friends out there......

9/13/09   |   kramer   |   11004 respect

Shrub missed the Chase for the very same reason Ryan Newman didn't win the championship in 2003.  He was way too inconsistent.  Trying to win every single week and having all those finishes over the summer where he finished outside the top 25 if he couldn't win seriously cost him.  I know a lot of people feel that winning should count more than it currently does, but also, in the last 2 months leading up to the Chase, Vickers scored more points than any other driver.  He earned his way into this Chase.  I hope this is a wake up call to Kyle Busch that he will never win a championship racing the way he did this year.  Yes, wins are important for seeding purposes after the first 26 races, but you also have to realize that you're not going to win every race.

9/13/09   |   knucklebuster   |   79 respect

well what goes around comes around and his attitude gave Kyle what he deserved. He's one driver who on his best day will drive you nuts by th chances he takes and still be oissed off and on his worse day he looks for more excuses than a high school junior cutting class!

9/13/09   |   boyzos3

i think this may be kahnes year. he had a rough start but he is peaking at the right time. go kahne!!!

9/13/09   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

I still say this is wrong.  Kyle should be in the Chase, with 4 wins.  As Ed said, though, with the points awarded the way they are (WRONGWRONGWRONG) he didn't do what he needed to do to get in the Chase, and that is have better consistent finishes to go with the wins.  Mark also has four wins and will start top of the leaderboard with Tony right behind him, but it would have been one helluva Chase to have Kyle right there with him. 
I, too, will watch this Chase faitfully, but I fully expect Kyle and his crew to win a whole bunch of these remaining races.

9/13/09   |   Toejam   |   22 respect

all the drivers played by the same set of rules all season. Sometimes it is the smartest that comes out on top, not the best.....

9/13/09   |   swinsus

gotta support dollar general since they are the ones that pay my bills. retail manager of dollar general store 2900

9/13/09   |   Diablorain   |   4425 respect

SOOOOO happy Kyle isn't in it...nice to see Vickers race his way in..this will be a good chase

9/13/09   |   princess1298   |   3 respect

I saw the race live last night... Kyle Busch, Brain Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth all ran great last night.

9/13/09   |   flaps

kyle deserves the spot. he's beaten every driver in the chase. I mean juan pablo and vickers? what the hell is that? might as well throw truex in there maybe the fans will like it! nascar is scared of kyle busch. scared that kyle will destroy the field in every chase race and do burn outs in piles of beer cans and have thier image tarnished since 75% of nascar fans DONT KNOW WHAT A REAL DRIVER IS. This is just sad. kyle is right there with tony jeff and jimmy all day. grow some balls nascar

9/13/09   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

Glad you got out of there!! Thought you'd be in an all night tailgate party! ;) The pics are AWESOME, and I was trying to post them in order...wish I had room for more, but YOU can give us your take!

9/13/09   |   HeatherJoy777   |   2 respect

You're welcome Debi! You coulda used the burnout, I don't mind!

Ok so the one with the cleaning truck was for Mikey's lawn mowing.... I told Debi in my email with that one, they had to use a manure shovel to clean up after him! lol

I think I work tomorrow, so I'll try to get all the pics from my big camera off the card tomorrow and give details about the day!

9/13/09   |   Bashfulblue   |   7 respect

Better Brian than Kyle

9/12/09   |   SaintDrew   |   31 respect

Congrats to Brian Vickers on racing his way in!

9/12/09   |   kramer   |   11004 respect

I want to see the top 2 guys stay as the top 2 and battle it out for this championship.  Mark Martin has always been the bridesmaid and he's like Earnhardt in the 1998 Daytona 500, if your favorite driver can't win the title this year, how can you NOT be happy if they lose out to Mark Martin.