Roughly an hour after the trip to victory lane, the No. 3 car failed the inspection for being too low in the rear. NASCAR announced it would issue a ruling early next week. A similar situation took place earlier this season at Iowa where a car also failed a postrace inspection. The crew chief was fined $10,000 and six points were subtracted from the team. Reached at the garage, Dillon's crew chief, Danny Stockman, wiped sweat from his forehead as he left a meeting with officials. "We've had an issue before. We addressed it in a meeting," Stockman said. "It should have been addressed. That's the only comment I've got." ()
Austin Dillon Wins Nationwide Race at Kentucky Speedway
In his 26th NASCAR Nationwide Series start -- in his first full season in the series -- pole-sitter Austin Dillon administered an emphatic, definitive, no-doubt-about-it beating to 42 also-rans in Friday night's Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway. How decisive was Dillon's first Nationwide victory? Dillon led 192 of 200 laps, most ever by a Nationwide race winner at the 1.5-mile track. He beat runner-up Kurt Busch to the finish line by 9.828 seconds. Also Dillon and seven other drivers finished on the lead lap, despite a mass wave-around for a restart on Lap 150 after the second caution of the race. When that caution interrupted a series of green-flag pit stops, after Dillon had built a lead of more than seven seconds, he simply ran away from the field after the restart.
Just after the halfway point, on Lap 106, Dillon put Elliott Sadler, the series leader entering the race, a lap down. With his dominating win, Dillon wrested the points lead from Sadler and carries a two-point cushion to Daytona, site of a July 6 Nationwide race. Dillon's first taste of the Nationwide points lead may not last for long. His car failed post-race inspection after being ruled too low in the rear. Potential penalties -- which could include a deduction of points -- are expected to be announced early next week. Kevin Harvick, Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier completed the top five. For Annett, it was his first top-five finish in 120 Nationwide starts. "I was loose the whole race," said Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress. "I'd just get looser and looser, and I was really driving as straight as I could not to slip the tires. I just kind of back-steered the whole race. That last adjustment, he (crew chief Danny Stockman) got me tight enough to fire off (the corners) really good. We knew Kurt was good, but our car was just stronger."
The car Dillon drove was a black No. 3 Chevrolet, reminiscent of the car Dale Earnhardt Sr. drove for Childress until his death in the 2001 Daytona 500. "Dale would have been proud," an emotional Childress said after the race. --/-- Busch thought he would be able to gain ground on Dillon during the final green-flag run, but it didn't work out that way. "Austin Dillon, he was in his own zip code," Busch said. "So congratulations to him, Richard Childress, those guys. It's neat to see that kid develop. I thought we could battle with him. I expected to lose some ground to him early in the run. I expected he would be quicker than us for 20 laps. "I thought that we would level out after 10 more, and I thought we could reel him in with 20 to go and put on a show for the fans here in Kentucky -- and he was just too strong tonight. He just had that car dialed in. There was nothing that we could do." --/-- In fact, Busch got as close as 4.1 seconds behind during the final 51-lap run, but he dropped a cylinder in the closing laps and fell back but held second place. (NASCAR Wire Service)
Jimmie Johnson On Kentucky Sprint Cup Pole
At a track that used to eat up his race cars, Jimmie Johnson was fastest of the fast in Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session at Kentucky Speedway. The 43rd of 44 drivers to make a timed run, Johnson toured the 1.5-mile speedway in 29.700 seconds (181.818 mph) to win the pole for Sunday's Quaker State 400, the second Cup race at Kentucky. Johnson claimed his first Coors Light pole award since Sept. 26, 2010 at Dover and the 26th of his career. Kyle Busch (181.421 mph) qualified second, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin (181.147 mph). Kevin Harvick will start fourth after a lap at 180.367 mph, one spot ahead of Ryan Newman (180.337 mph). Series leader Matt Kenseth earned the 20th starting position. Clint Bowyer, last week's winner at Sonoma, will take the green flag from the sixth position, one position better than that of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Violent winds interrupted the session for 17 minutes after 20 cars had made qualifying attempts. After the wind subsided, drivers began running significantly quicker laps on a cooler track. Tony Stewart, the first driver to make a run after the delay, was more than a full mile per hour faster than the top qualifier before the wind storm, Scott Speed. "My motor home was swaying so hard, I thought somebody had run into me in the motor home lot," said Johnson, who took refuge in his coach during the storm. As qualified progressed, speeds continued to escalate, as the fastest cars in Friday's opening practice took their turns in inverse order, slower to faster. Greg Biffle, the 25th driver to attempt qualifying, toured the 1.5-mile track in 30.041 seconds (179.754 mph), but his reign at the top of the chart was short-lived. Jeff Gordon, the 29th qualifier, was the first to run a sub-30-second lap (29.994 seconds) and the first to top 180 mph (180.036 mph), but Newman soon knocked him off the provisional pole with a lap at 180.337 mph. J.J. Yeley and Mike Skinner failed to make the 43-car field. (NASCAR Wire Service)
Jack Roush Surprised and Disappointed' With Matt Kenseth's Departure
There was more than a suggestion of regret in Jack Roush's voice and manner as he addressed reporters in the wake of Matt Kenseth's impending departure from Roush Fenway Racing. Roush also indicated that, had he focused as much on the business side of his operation as he routinely does on the competitive side, Kenseth's exodus to a rival NASCAR Sprint Cup team might have been averted. When Kenseth asked for a meeting with Roush and told his owner of 13 years that he was leaving at the end of the 2012 season, the news came as a shock to the owner who on several occasions had referred to the 2003 Cup champion as a "cornerstone" of his organization.
"It was a surprise and was a disappointment," Roush told a handful of reporters after a general question-and-answer session with the media Friday at Kentucky Speedway. "There's just not a lot I can say. Certainly, Matt's a friend, and I'm not mad at Matt. I'm not mad at my own organization for the fact that they interacted with Matt, and we didn't get to a satisfactory result. This sport has taken on many of the vestiges of big-time stick-and-ball sports, and so, historically, typically, teams move around their priorities, and athletes move around. So I guess this is the unavoidable consequence of the big-business aspect of what we do." --/-- With Kenseth leading the Cup points, performance clearly wasn't the tipping point in his decision to leave Roush. "Technology, performance and the team and the people -- the engineers and the support group we've got around him -- have never been referenced in any concern he's expressed to me," Roush asserted.
So was money the deciding factor? "I can't go there -- I won't go there," Roush said. --/-- Until recently, Kenseth was considered a lifer with Roush Fenway, but that changed within the last few weeks. "If I had been as vigilant and diligent and interested in that side of the business as I am on finding why a fuel pump broke or why a connecting rod bearing failed or how we could get the next pound of downforce â€“ if I had been taking care of the business side of the business as hard as I tried to take care of the technical side, I might have been able to stop that," Roush said. Kenseth's defection doesn't mean Roush won't try to win a championship with his long-time driver, if that's in the cards. "We're going to go out and win a championship if we can," Roush said. "Of course, he's going to have to beat the other two Roush Fenway cars (of Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards), hopefully, as well as the rest of the field. But if things fall so that Matt has the hot hand, we'll try to win the championship with him and wish him well -- but not the very best of luck going forward."
As far as Kenseth's next destination goes, Roush referred to Kenseth going to the "dark side," fueling rampant speculation that Kenseth has signed with Joe Gibbs Racing, which fields Toyotas. Roush's aversion to certain foreign manufacturers is well-known. One oft-heard story tells of the car owner paying an employee who drove a Japanese-made car to work in yen. "Matt and I -- and I think everybody on the team -- the friendship part will survive," Roush said. "I have not lost respect for Matt, and I hope he hasn't for me. I won't have the same sense of wishing for his success on the race track next year that I will for the balance of this year and have in the past. He will, from my point of view, be moving to the dark side. We will get through that. Personally, we will be fine." (NASCAR Wire Service)
Ricky Stenhouse Will be Paired With Jimmy Fennig
Roush left little doubt that reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who succeeds Kenseth in the No. 17 Ford next year, will work with veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig and the rest of the current 17 team. "As far as crew chiefs go, the 17 program is a championship level program, and for Ricky to have all the guidance and expertise and support that Jimmy Fennig and the guys can provide is essential," Roush told the NASCAR Wire Service. "We will have a full-time Nationwide program next year, and the plan is now for Trevor (Bayne) to be the driver for that program, although that has not been announced -- and I am not announcing it here today -- but that's our plan. "In the same vein, we have a championship-level Nationwide program in place with Mike Kelley (Stenhouse's current Nationwide crew chief) and my hope is to keep that together so that we can compete effectively toward a (Nationwide) championship with Ricky this year but also be able to do the same thing with Trevor next year." (NASCAR Wire Service)
Keselowski and Montoya Tussle on Track
In scorching hot weather at Kentucky, Juan Pablo Montoya lit Brad Keselowski's fuse in Friday's first practice session, and Keselowski retaliated in Happy Hour. Contact between Montoya's Chevrolet and Keselowski's Dodge in the first session sent Keselowski's car into the outside wall, forcing the Penske racing driver to a backup car. In a SPEED interview after the incident, Montoya explained the sequence of events from his point of view. "I came out of the pits," Montoya said. "They told me he had a big run. I put my hand out to wave at him. I started turning and running high. I think he thought he'd cleared me, and he was probably going to run high and ran straight into me. We didn't even do a lap. I wasn't even up to speed. I was really shocked. I saw him coming, I waved, I saw him beside me. I left two grooves on the bottom and he still hit me. It's just what it is."
Keselowski made his presence felt in the second practice session, giving Montoya a succession of taps on the left-rear quarter panel as the cars ran through Turns 3 and 4. Montoya took his No. 42 Chevy to the garage for repairs of cosmetic damage. Of his own accord, Keselowski paid a visit to the NASCAR hauler between Happy Hour and qualifying for Friday night's Nationwide race, ostensibly to head off an escalation of the conflict. He declined to discuss what was said in the hauler. "I'm looking forward," Keselowski said when asked to describe the incidents with Montoya. "I've got to go qualify my car, I've got to go make it race, so I don't have time to worry about that." --/-- To a question as to whether NASCAR had given him advice, Keselowski would only say, "Yes, they did. I'll leave it between them and me." (NASCAR Wire Service)
NASCAR Hotpass Lineup At Kentucky Speedway
NASCAR Hotpass on DirecTV is free to all DirecTV customers. Four dedicated driver channels offering viewers multiple camera angles, real-time statistics and audio of the network broadcast augmented by live communication between the drivers and their pit crews are available for all 36 point-paying races during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The NASCAR Hotpass lineup for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta is as follows:
DIRECTV Channel 795: Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota team of Joe Gibbs Racing
DIRECTV Channel 796: Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet team of Stewart-Haas Racing
DIRECTV Channel 797: Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet team of Richard Childress Racing
DIRECTV Channel 798: Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet team of Hendrick Motorsports
James Buescher Wins Kentucky Truck Race
Streaking away from Ty Dillon and Brad Keselowski after a restart with 36 laps left, James Buescher recorded his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in Thursday night's UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway. Keselowski passed Dillon with two laps left to run second, 3.805 seconds behind Buescher. Dillon came home third, followed by pole-sitter Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters, who grabbed the series lead from Justin Lofton. Johnny Sauter recovered from a pit road penalty to finish sixth, followed by Joey Coulter, Jason Leffler, Ron Hornaday Jr. and 19-year-old Kyle Larson, who was making his series debut.
Buescher drove the same No. 31 Chevrolet he drove to his first NCWTS victory at Kansas in April. "I think this race especially -- both the truck wins we have were won in the shop," Buescher said. "This is the third time I've raced this truck, the second time I've gone to Victory Lane with it. The truck was phenomenal. We unloaded a little bit off and made some changes right away in practice this morning, and the truck came to life pretty good. We worked on it throughout practice, and I knew halfway through the first practice that we had a truck capable of running up front, possibly a truck capable of winning. Then, in the second practice, we found some more speed. I'm so excited to be able to get (sponsor) Exide Batteries to Victory Lane, to lead that many laps and dominate like that."
A three-car wreck on Lap 69, involving two-time series champ Todd Bodine, Lofton and last week's Nationwide Series winner Nelson Piquet Jr. put Lofton's points lead in peril. With a strong run to the inside in Turn 1, Bodine dived beneath Lofton, broke loose and knocked Lofton's truck into the Chevrolet of Piquet, who slammed into the outside wall. Bodine blamed Lofton for not giving him enough room. "I thought Justin was blowing up," Bodine said. "I caught him so fast -- I didn't know what was going on, if he got loose off of (Turn) 4 or what. I caught him so fast, thought he was blowing up, so I went under him, and, obviously, he wasn't blowing up. "He's got plenty of room outside -- he's got to learn to give some space here. When you get that close and that tight on somebody, you're just taking all their air, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it."
Both Bodine and Piquet retired from the race at that point, but Lofton was able to continue. Taking a wave-around under the sixth caution -- called on lap 102 because of Tim George Jr.'s spin into the Turn 2 wall -- Lofton regained a lap lost during repairs to his truck and salvaged a 14th-place finish to limit his damage in the standings. Dillon took the lead briefly with a two-tire pit stop under that caution, but Buescher regained the top spot moments after a restart on Lap 108. All told, Buescher led 119 of 150 laps. Peters leaves Kentucky with a four-point lead over both Lofton and Dillon, with Buescher in fourth place, nine points back. (NASCAR Wire Service)
Matt Kenseth Out, Ricky Stenhouse In For 2013
Roush Fenway Racing announced today that 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will compete for the team full-time in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition beginning in 2013, while Matt Kenseth and Roush Fenway will part ways at the conclusion of the 2012 season. “Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has more than proved his abilities on the race track,” said team co-owner Jack Roush. “We feel that he is not only a key piece of our team’s future, but a key piece of the future of the sport. Roush Fenway is an organization with a wonderful past and present, as well as an extremely promising future, and I can’t think of a better candidate than Ricky to usher in the next era of success for the team. “Of course, I’d like to thank Matt Kenseth for his many years of loyal service,” added Roush. “Matt has been an integral part of this organization for well over a decade, and we are extremely appreciative of his accomplishments and contributions to the team, and will always consider him a part of the Roush Fenway family. We’re fortunate that we were able to tap into Matt’s potential and bring him on board many years ago, and I’m proud that together we were able to combine the tools and the resources of Roush Fenway with his talent and determination to forge a partnership that yielded a championship at the Cup level and all of his 22 Cup victories, including two Daytona 500 wins. The No. 17 is positioned extremely well this season, and I’m committed to providing the team the best resources to continue their run for the 2012 championship. I have no doubt that Matt will do his part.”
“Matt and I broke into this sport together, learned the ropes and were able to bring home a championship,” said Roush Fenway general manager Robbie Reiser, who as crew chief of the No. 17 guided Kenseth to Roush Fenway’s first Sprint Cup title in 2003 before moving into his current role. “Over the 20 years we have worked with each other, Matt has been a fierce competitor and become a close friend, not only for me, but as a mentor to young drivers like Ricky. I wish Matt nothing but the best for the next phase of his career, and know that we’ll remain close.” Stenhouse Jr. is one of three drivers currently in development for Roush Fenway Racing. Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion and Chris Buescher, who has won seven races in only 42 starts in ARCA competition are also being groomed for Sprint Cup competition for Roush Fenway in the future. “We take great pride in the depth of the bench here,” noted team president Steve Newmark. “The organization’s ability to identify and develop new talent is part of our DNA and a cornerstone of our success. I’m excited about the opportunity to bring Ricky into the Sprint Cup Series and get him into victory lane. He has an incredible opportunity to continue his winning ways, just as Matt did nearly 15 years ago.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Mad At Himself For Sonoma Run
Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't have the speed to hang with the contenders in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350, but perseverance and astute pit calls had him in position to escape the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road-course race of the season with a top-15 finish. That's when a multicar wreck after the final restart quashed his prospects. His No. 88 Chevrolet damaged in the melee, Earnhardt struggled home with a 23rd-place result, one week after ending a 143-race drought with a victory at Michigan. He fell one notch to third in the Cup standings, 14 points behind series leader Matt Kenseth. "We had new tires, and we were running good and restarted 13th (for a green-white-checkered-flag finish)," Earnhardt said. "So, if it had been somebody else getting wrecked at the end, maybe we would have finished in the top 10. I'm just mad because we didn't run better -- I've run better here. We weren't good all weekend. We've got to put a better car on the racetrack. I ain't the best road-course racer out there, but I can damn sure do better than that." (NASCAR Wire Service)
Excellent Audition For Brian Vickers
Brian Vickers is making his role as a spot starter for Michael Waltrip Racing pay dividends. Fresh from a sixth-place finish in the GTE-Am class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans -- in a Ferrari 458 he co-drove with MWR principal Rob Kauffman and Rui Aguas -- Vickers came home fourth Sunday at Sonoma, overcoming a pit road speeding penalty to post his second top-five in three starts this season as a fill-in for Mark Martin. "I haven't had many Cup races this year, but we've made the most of them," said Vickers, who signed on for six races this season -- two each at Bristol, Martinsville and New Hampshire -- and had his schedule extended to include the road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen after finishing fifth at Bristol in March.
The road racing at Le Mans was a positive for Vickers, but he had to adjust to the heavier stock cars when he returned to the United States. "It was great to run Le Mans and then come here to road race," Vickers said. "I learned a lot about road racing. I kind of had to undo some of what I learned (at Le Mans) to get back in these cars. It took me a couple of runs to get back to the heavy car with all the horsepower." It was another excellent audition for Vickers, who is looking for a full-time Cup job. Team owner Michael Waltrip allowed after the race that MWR might consider adding a fourth team with Vickers as the driver. According to Waltrip, that would be a better option than waiting for Martin, 53, to retire. "I wouldn't wait around for Mark to quit, if I was him," Waltrip quipped. "I would put something else in my contract if I was him, because Mark is probably going to do it for a while." --/-- "He might live forever," added Clint Bowyer, Sunday's race winner. "He might be doing this at 110." (NASCAR Wire Service)
Disappointing Day For Marcos Ambrose
Marcos Ambrose's roller-coaster weekend ended on a frustrating note. After winning the pole in Friday's time trials, Ambrose didn't have the handling or pace he needed in Sunday's race. Arguably the most talented road racer in the Cup series, Ambrose led the first 11 laps but fell back through the field after Jeff Gordon passed him for the top spot. "We really missed it," said Ambrose, who rallied to finish eighth but was bitterly disappointed with his run. "We missed it bad, and we did good to recover and get a top-10 out of it. We'll take it and move on. We got the pole and had a lot of speed. We just missed it for the race. We were slow. It was just terrible. We had no speed in the car, and we paid the price." (NASCAR Wire Service)
Clint Bowyer Wins Toyota/Save Mart 350
Clint Bowyer's victory in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma was a surprise to the driver who chased him for more than 20 laps -- Kurt Busch -- but in retrospect, history may have been on Bowyer's side. "I just kept thinking, 'He's a dirt Late Model racer from the Midwest -- there's no way he can be able to run the road course,' but he did," said Busch, who finished third despite hitting a tire barrier in Turn 11 at the 1.99-mile track and breaking the panhard bar on his No. 51 Chevrolet. With Busch's car damaged and vulnerable to a pass during a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the event two laps beyond its scheduled 110 laps, Bowyer held off charging Tony Stewart to claim his first victory of the season and the sixth of his career.
Stewart passed Kurt Busch for the second position after the final restart and finished .829 seconds behind Bowyer's No. 15 Toyota. Busch held the third spot, followed by Brian Vickers -- doing spot duty in Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 55 Toyota -- and Jimmie Johnson. Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, pole-sitter Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger and Joey Logano completed the top 10 in a race that began with a record green-flag run of 82 laps and featured a record-low two cautions. After a look at Bowyer's record at Sonoma, the road-course victory seems much less surprising than Busch might have thought at first blush. In six previous starts, the dirt-tracker from the Midwest had finished fourth three times and eighth once. "He's shown consistency, so it was a matter of time before he would get one," said Stewart, who caught a break when the caution flag waved for the first time on Lap 82. Stewart's crew hadn't filled the fuel cell in the No. 14 Chevrolet, and the caution gave him a chance to pit for fuel and tires.
Bowyer did a majestic job of driving in the closing laps to hold off Busch, who harried him lap after lap until Busch hit the tires on Lap 102. Bowyer pulled away to a lead of more than one second before Kyle Busch and Paul Menard spun in Turn 7 to cause the second caution. "Without a doubt I thought I could have pressured Bowyer into a mistake," Busch said. "He was there for the taking -- and I couldn't do it when my panhard bar broke. The rear end was too unstable under braking. So I just look back at that one moment, and it's just tough -- but solid top three." --/-- Even though the contact with the tires took Busch out of contention for the win, his handling of the wounded car impressed Stewart. "I was watching him, and it was -- honestly -- I don't know how he kept it on the race track with how much the rear end was moving around on that car," Stewart said. "I thought he did a really phenomenal job of just hanging on to what he had."
Busch's handling of defeat impressed Bowyer, especially after Busch came to Victory Lane to congratulate the race winner. The actions of the 2004 champion on Sunday were a far cry from the blow-ups that had resulted in probation and ultimately suspension for the embattled driver earlier this year. "For him to come to Victory Lane spoke volumes about his character," Bowyer said. "He's a champion of the sport -- you can't lose sight of that. I know there have been a lot of negatives around him, but there were a hell of a lot of positives today for Kurt Busch. "He had an extremely good run -- That boy can drive, and when you give him the confidence and the direction and, sometimes, I guess, the discipline to get the job done, he's certainly capable of it. He had me on my toes. He had me scared to death today, and things worked out. "When you can beat that guy -- you know, the two guys behind me were champions of this sport, and that's big, to be able to hold them guys off."
Notes: Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the victim of a last-lap crash and finished 23rd, dropping to third in the series standings, 14 points behind Matt Kenseth, who ran 13th . . . Greg Biffle took over second in the standings with a seventh-place result. He's 11 points behind his Roush Fenway Racing teammate . . . Bowyer was the sixth straight driver in six years to score his first road course win at Sonoma and the eighth straight different winner at the 1.99-mile road course.
Nelson Piquet Wins His First Nationwide Series Race
Nelson Piquet Jr. enjoyed a lot of firsts during the NASCAR Nationwide series Sargento 200 race weekend at Road America. A regular in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series, Piquet Jr. used his first career pole and laps led to earn his very first NASCAR national series win on the Wisconsin road course. In his third career NASCAR Nationwide start, the native of Brazil drove a flawless final 17 laps with the lead, earning a 2.258-second victory over runner-up Michael McDowell. He led a race-high 19 laps and also becomes the first Brazilian to win a NASCAR national series race. "It's difficult to put into words what I'm feeling," Piquet Jr. said. "I think we had a great week since the first practice. I learned the track quite quickly and the team helped me out quite a bit."
Piquet didn't fight too hard for the lead until after the halfway mark, but that was a strategic move in order to save fuel in case there was a green-white-checkered finish like last year where the 4.048-mile course caused mayhem on pit crews trying to have enough fuel to finish the race. "I could have fought harder in the middle of the race but there was no reason why," Piquet said. "I wasn't going to accomplish anything. I just held back a little bit and when it was the right moment I attacked. It was on one of the restarts where I passed Jacques [Villeneuve] and moved quick through the field and led the race at the end."
McDowell and Ron Fellows finished where they started, at second and third respectively. Max Papis and Sam Hornish Jr. rounded out the top five. "We had a really good car," McDowell said. "The problem was I used up my car a little too much to get into second and then on that final restart I tried to be a little smart and anticipate Nelson trying to go a little early and tuck in behind him but Danica [Patrick] was right there. I kind of knew if I gave up a little bit to be at the bottom it would be worth it, but I just never got to the bottom. I tried to run down Nelson but his car was fast. I don't know if we would have had anything for him if we would have stayed with him on that restart. I think he was saving a little bit on fuel, because when he needed to go it seemed like he could."
The Sargento 200 had a tamer finish than last year, which had three green-white-checker finishes. Things did get a little interesting when one of the big names from last year, Villeneuve, made contact with Danica Patrick in Turn 5 on the final lap, which spun Patrick, dropping her from fourth to 12th, her eventual finish. Villeneuve finished sixth, followed by Brian Scott, Kurt Bush, Cole Whitt and Justin Allgaier. Patrick had a near-flawless day up until her greeting with Villeneueve on the last lap. Villeneueve said after the race though that he was not trying to wreck Patrick at all. "We were racing hard and I wasn't fighting with Danica," Villeneuve said. "I was fighting with Max Papis and just before the braking, I guess he was wanting to cross over and go to the inside of Danica. He probably didn't know I was there, so it pushed me in the grass. You don't slowdown that much in the grass, so by that time I was on the racetrack again, I was going a little bit faster than Danica. That's all."
The race started with Piquet leading, but that didn't last long as McDowell took the lead on Lap 3. Busch, who had to start 34th after having unapproved adjustments made to his car, made his way all the way up to 17th. McDowell and Piquet Jr. would end up pitting on Lap 6 for fuel, allowing Fellows to grab the lead. With Fellows starting to pull away from the pack, a punctured tire slowed down all of Fellows' momentum, causing him to enter the pits on Lap 9. Brian Scott was the beneficiary of that, allowing him to take the lead. Patrick, who started 10th, would make her way up to second place by Lap 11 and stay in the top five for most of the race. T.J. Bell had a problem in Turn 14 on Lap 13, leading to the first caution of the day. Many of the drivers made their way to the pits, with Allgaier having to spend some extra time there while his pit crew had to help remove a water bottle that had fallen underneath his gas pedal.
With the caution lasting multiple laps, Scott was one of the last drivers to pit, surrendering his lead to McDowell. Papis would end up taking the lead from McDowell on Turn 3 of Lap 16. It wouldn't be long until the next caution, however, as loose debris would cause another yellow flag. After that caution, Miguel Paludo was the new leader, with Patrick running in second place. Patrick would make her move on Paludo on Turn 3 of Lap 21 to take the lead, but a little slide by Patrick in Turn 5 would give the lead right back to Paludo. Another caution would take place when Kenny Habul went into the tire wall at Turn 5. Villeneuve was in the lead at the time. With the leaders pitting, Papis would be hit with a stop-and-go penalty and would have to return to the pits. Hornish Jr., who like many was trying to manage fuel, took the lead in Lap 33.
Turn 5 had some more action a little after that when Villeneuve was bumped in the back by McDowell. Villeneuve would drop from the top five all the way down to 22nd. Another caution involving Bell would slow everything down again. The leaders would pit again, hoping to make it the rest of the way with the fuel they had. This time Piquet Jr. would take the lead for the final time. Allgaier would have an issue with his front left tire and wound up in the gravel on Turn 5 on Lap 37, hitting Busch on his way there. Points leader Elliot Sadler would get spun on Lap 39 and finished in 15th place. The series' top rookie Austin Dillon remained second in the points with an 18th place finish. Dillon, who is 11 points behind Sadler, had issues with his car, which kept him out of contention. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who has been in the middle of a major slump, finished 11th and remains third in points, 23 behind Sadler. Hornish Jr. and Whitt round out the top 5 in the standings, with Patrick holding firm in the 10th spot. (NASCAR Wire Service)