2009-08-06 / Sports

Hamlin Wins At Pocono

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

LONG POND, Pa. - Denny Hamlin led six times for 91 laps to win Monday's rain-postponed Sprint Cup race over Juan Montoya at Pocono Raceway.

"We've come close in a lot of races and wound up short this year," said Hamlin. "We definitely had some angels with us today."

This is Hamlin's first victory since Martinsville Speedway in March 2008, and he strengthened his bid for a spot in the Chase for the championship.

The race had been delayed a day because of rain. Usually not known as a track that produces exciting races, this one was unpredictable almost from the start.

Juan Montoya's second-place finish moved him up from 10th to eighth in Chase points.

"Last time we came here, we didn't have a good car, but this time we had a good car," said Montoya."

Clint Bowyer finished third.

"We could have had a better finish if (Ryan) Newman hadn't bounced off the wall and taken all four fenders off," said Bowyer. "We had track position, and I felt like we had a lots better car than our finish showed."

Sam Hornish finished fourth, for his best career finish.

"We had a really good car, then we got loose during the middle portion, and kind of ran out of things to try," said Hornish. "We did get some track position and held on. With a car that was probably a 15th-place car, I'd say we did good."

Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Tony Stewart used a backup car and had to go to the rear of the field before the start of the race.

Jimmie Johnson had engine problems and was down three laps at one point in the race, but his crew fixed the problem and Johnson was able to use four Lucky Dog passes to finish 13th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had an illhandling car and finished 28th.

Top-15 Chase contenders after 21 of 36: Note, only 12 drivers will be eligible for the Chase For the Championship. 1. Stewart 3188, 2. Johnson-2991, 3. J. Gordon-2989, 4. Kurt Busch- 2751, 5. Hamlin-2713, 6. Edwards- 2665, 7. Kahne-2642, 8. Montoya- 2631, 9. Newman-2627, 10. Martin 2622, 11. Kenseth-2564, 12. Biffle-2563, 13. Kyle Busch-2462, 14. Vickers-2459, 15. Bowyer-2448

Hornaday gets fifth straight win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - By winning Saturday night's Camping World Series Truck race at Nashville, Ron Hornaday became the first driver in any of NASCAR's national series to win five races in a row since 1971, when Richard Petty and Bobby Allison each did it in the Cup Series.

"That's unheard of (five straight) in this time and age," Hornaday said. "Five, can you believe that?"

Top-10 points leaders after 14 of 25: 1. Hornaday-2293, 2. Crafton-2077, 3. Skinner-2045, 4. Bodine-1927, 5. Scott-1920, 6. Starr-1867, 7. Malsam-1831, 8. Setzer-1815, 9. Braun-1804, 10. Crawford-1785

Keselowski outduels Kyle Busch

NEWTON, Iowa - Brad Keselowski passed Kyle Busch with eight laps remaining to win Saturday's inaugural Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway, in one of the best races of the season.

Busch had pitted for two tires late in the race, while Keselowski chose to keep his No. 88 Chevrolet on the track during the caution period. It was a risky move on the part of Keselowski's team, but it paid off as he won his second Nationwide Series race of the year.

Top-10 points leaders after 21 of 35: 1. Kyle Busch-3471, 2. Edwards 3264, 3. Keselowski-3099, 4. Leffler-2955, 5. Allgaier-2493, 6. Bliss-2479, 7. S. Wallace-2423, 8. Logano-2395, 9. Keller-2394, 10. Gaughan-2365

Stewart considering third team

While there might be doom and gloom for many big racing teams, Stewart-Haas Racing is not one of them. Tony Stewart, the current Sprint Cup points leader, told reporters at Pocono that his two-car operation was looking to form a third team.

"We are definitely open to it for sure," said Stewart. "We are interested for sure. We feel like it is a matter of timing, it is everything. I don't know that something would happen for next year. I think we are getting close to the stage of the season where it may get too late to have that opportunity to add a third car for next year. It is something that at least as a company we feel comfortable with and feel like with the right opportunity that it is definitely possible."

Stewart's teammate, Ryan Newman is seventh in points.

Will it be Lowe's or Charlotte

Lowe's Home Improvement Stores announced it would not renew its naming-rights deal at Lowe's Motor Speedway after the present contract expires.

Last week the retailer informed Speedway Motorsports Inc., the track's parent company, of its decision. The initial 10-year, $35-million deal ran through 2008. Last year the two sides agreed on a one-year extension through 2009.

The two sides have not been able to reach an agreement. Sources said it's possible for Lowe's to change its mind, given that five months remain on the current deal and the unpredictable nature of the economy.

Barring a late agreement with Lowe's or the signing of a new corporate partner, the track is expected to go back to its former name, Charlotte Motor Speedway, in 2010. Industry sources say that SMI initially came to the table asking for close to $9 million annually, and while that number dropped over the course of their discussions, the two sides could not reach agreement.

Lowe's is also evaluating its future with driver Jimmie Johnson, who has won three straight Cup championships. Their deal with Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports expires at the end of 2010 and those renewal talks are expected to begin later this year. Industry sources say that Lowe's will be expected to pay a hefty increase to maintain its position as the only primary sponsor on Johnson's No. 48 car.

The most expensive sponsorships go for the mid-$20 million range annually. Probably the most expensive sponsorship would be that of the No. 88 driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. The total package is in the $30-million range.

Lowe's earnings fell 22 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in the final quarter.

SMI officials said they are not presently talking with any other companies on the naming rights.

Correction: In last week's column, we should have reported, Jimmie Johnson was a repeat winner at the Brickyard.

Weekend racing: The Cup and Nationwide teams are at Watkins Glen, N.Y., for their second road course race of the season. The Camping World Trucks do not race again until Aug. 19.

Saturday, August 8, Nationwide Series Zippo 200, race 22 of 35; starting time: 2:30 pm (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Sunday, August 9, Sprint Cup Series At The Glen, race 22 of 36; starting time: 1 pm (EDT); TV: ESPN.

Racing trivia question: BMW is leaving Formula 1. Which series are they considering moving to?

Last week's question: Which RCR driver took over Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s Cup ride after his death? Answer. Kevin Harvick.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@ earthlink.net

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