Bumper TagJul 1 2010 - 2:31pm
A week after going slightly bonkers with the bumpers, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars crossed the country and lined up at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with expectations of more payback in their minds.
For 270 of the 301 laps, those expectations went unmet...but the last 31 laps were kind of like Infineon...without the right turns.
It all boiled down to the final few laps between Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson, and Johnson won the battle. Emphatically, to be sure.
Busch started it with a bumper job to get the lead in Turn 3, and Johnson had the red mist slide across his helmet visor.
Busch said later that he was sure Johnson wasn't going to spin him out for the bump-and-run. Johnson disagreed.
"I hate that he [Kurt Busch] felt that I wasn't going to wreck him because that was my goal was to wreck him," Johnson said later. The reason he didn't, he said, was because he managed to remember what he was trying to do.
"I usually get caught up in it [a crash], so I knew what my thought process was, "Wreck his a-.' And my end result was like: 'You can't do that, you'll wreck yourself, look like a fool. You still have a chance to win the race.'
"It made it easier for me to get off the brake a little earlier and nudge him."
He did, easy as pie, with two to go. Tony Stewart, who had struggled back from an early stop which saw his crew not get the car full of fuel, dived right in there and took second, bouncing off the side of the Miller Lite Dodge.
In another interesting development, Smoke cheerfully accepted the blame for the incident, saying the contact was 100 percent his fault. He still took second, but he admitted he used Busch up to get there. Fascinating.
Speaking of the Busch brothers, Kyle got used up by Jeff Burton and spun out of contention. Burton also lost a lot of spots, to no apparent purpose.
Perhaps the biggest spin-job of the day happened to Juan Montoya, who tussled with Jeff Gordon-again-and ended up being punted hard by Reed Sorenson, driver du jour in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota.
Sorenson was seen turning hard right as Montoya swept past on the outside. Contact had already been made at that point, and Sorenson did what any self-respecting driver would do: he finished the job.
Big story was Kasey Kahne, more for what he didn't do than for what he ended up doing.
"We had a fast Budweiser Ford," Kahne said, with a bit of a rueful tinge to his voice. "It was nice to drive, but we just had another mechanical failure. It's tough. We've been doing pretty good points-wise and that hurts again, but we can keep going for it."
After leading a race-best 114 laps, Kahne suddenly pulled to the bottom of the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway oval and puttered around, dropping from third to fifth. The culprit was a sour cylinder in his new FR9 engine, and he stayed right there on the bottom, hoping for a caution.
He got one on lap 237-when his engine expired heading to Turn 3.
When he went down a cylinder, it was like letting the air out of a balloon. Kahne had the dominant car for much of the first 200 laps, and it looked as if the Budweiser Ford Fusion was on rails.
The engine didn't give him any warning, either.
"It's [the new engine] been out for a while as far as preparing it and being prepared and ready," Kahne said. "When you put it on the track, they're not supposed to break. I don't care. That engine could have broke. One of the old engines could have broke. It's probably just something small inside that happened, but when we brought it here we had no idea that it would break. It's ready. It's prepared. It's ready to go on the track."
Ford still has yet to win this year, and we're halfway this weekend. This is a little more than luck of the draw, I'm thinking. There's something wrong with the Ford camp, and if I knew what it was, I'd be driving a new Roush Mustang once I told them.
Engines are good, for the most part, and the drivers didn't forget the way to Victory Lane. It's a chassis-setup-simulation situation, and those take a while to fix.
Had a blast in New Hampshire with all the ONMC Members up in the Northeast. Thanks, folks, for a great couple of days!
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