2010-06-24 / Sports

Johnson Wins At Infieon

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Jimmie Johnson Jimmie Johnson SONOMA, Calif. – Jimmie Johnson has four NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, but until Sunday, he had been winless on road courses. That’s all history now, as he won the Toyota/Savemart 350 ahead of Robby Gordon.

Marcos Ambrose was leading the race when the caution came out with eight laps remaining. Ambrose, trying to save fuel, cut off his engine under caution and accidentally stopped on the course. He ended up rejoining the field in seventh. Johnson inherited the lead.

“I thought Marcos (Ambrose) was really going to give us a hard time,” said Johnson. “I don’t know what happened to him, I just saw him pulling off.

“We had the fastest car at the end, but it was because Chad (crew chief Chad Knaus) kept on me to save my tires. It really paid off.

“It really feels good to finally win on a road course. I’ve worked hard to be a better road course driver and it finally paid off.”

The win was Johnson’s 51st, and it moved him from sixth to second in Chase points.

Robby Gordon’s runnerup finish was his best since 2005 at Watkins Glen.

“We came up about 10 laps short on tires,” said Gordon. “The team did a great job, and if we could have had a few more caution laps, it might have been a different race for us. The tires were the difference in winning the race and finishing second.”

There were lots of incidents between different drivers. One of them involved Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. Gordon got into Truex and knocked him off the track.

Truex was furious.

“There he (Gordon) is, out there still racing and I’m wrecked,” said Truex.

Gordon, who finished fifth, said afterwards that he did some things on the track that he wasn’t proud of.

“We had an awesome race car on the long runs,” said Gordon. “But it was wild out there. On the restarts there were guys making it three wide. I’m as guilty as they are. When they started doing it to me, I started doing it to them.”

“I completely messed up Martin, and I’m going to try and patch that up with him.”

Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Boris Said, Tony Stewart, and Juan Montoya were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Top-12 Chase contenders after 16 of 36: 1. Harvick-2334, 2. Johnson-2194, 3. Kyle Busch-2193, 4. Hamlin-2183, 5. J. Gordon-2142, 6. Kurt Busch-2118, 7. Kenseth-2092, 8. Burton-2027, 9. Biffle-2011, 10. Stewart-1983, 11. Martin- 1947, 12. Edwards-1932

Edwards gets Nationwide win

Carl Edwards ended Ford’s winless streak, as he won the Nationwide Series race at Road America for the manufacturer’s first victory of 2010 in any of NASCAR’s top three series.

The remaining top-10 finishers were Ron Fellows, Brendan Gaughan, Brad Keselowski, Owen Kelly, Brad Coleman, J. R. Fitzpatrick, Jason Leffler, Steve Wallace, and Trevor Bayne.

Top-10 points leaders after 15 of 35: 1. Brad Keselwoski 2466, 2. Edwards-2229, 3. Allgaier-2051, 4. Kyle Busch-1945, 5. Menard-1860, 6. Harvick-1852, 7. Gaughan- 1685, 8. S. Wallace-1674, 9. Leffler-1597, 10. Logano-1593

Godfather of racing passes away

Raymond Parks, the godfather of stock car racing, passed away Saturday night at his home near Atlanta, Ga.

Parks teamed with driver Red Byron to win the inaugural modified championship in 1948 followed by the first “strictly stock” – the forerunner to today’s Cup Series – a year later.

In addition, he helped finance many races as well as the fledgling NASCAR organization in its early years.

“The NASCAR community is saddened by the passing of Raymond Parks,” NASCAR Chairman Brian France said in a statement. “Raymond was instrumental in the creation of NASCAR as a participant in the historic meeting at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach. He was also our first championship owner. Raymond is a giant in the history of NASCAR and will always be remembered for his dedication to NASCAR.”

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

No decision on Kahne’s 2011 team

When Kasey Kahne announced he was leaving Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of 2010 and moving to one of Rick Hendrick’s teams, fans were told his car and deal would be finalized within 90 days.

But according to Rick Hendrick, that isn’t going to happen.

ESPN reported that Hendrick has a lot more options for Kahne in 2011 than he expected when he first signed him in April.

“A lot of it is just waiting for the right time and the right deal,” Hendrick said. “I haven’t been in a hurry. We’ve got some good options and there are new deals coming out every day. I get unbelievable calls from people in this garage. We’re just not ready to pull the trigger yet.”

Hendrick downplayed a report that said Kahne would drive the No. 09 car for James Finch and Phoenix Racing next year before replacing Mark Martin in the No. 5 at HMS in 2012. That report also said Martin could take over part ownership of Phoenix Racing in 2012. Phoenix Racing officials said no conversations with Hendrick have taken place.

“I don’t know where that rumor came from,” Hendrick said.

Kahne said he and Hendrick spoke on Friday and that his 2011 situation wasn’t part of the conversation.

“I didn’t even ask anything about next year and he didn’t bring it up, either,” Kahne said. “We were just talking about other stuff, so I would say there is no new news.”

Among the speculated possibilities for Kahne next year, in addition to Phoenix Racing, have been Stewart- Haas Racing and Red Bull Racing. Hendrick did say that Kahne would be in a Chevrolet, and Red Bull currently fields Toyotas.

“The biggest problem with us, with me and the whole situation is I want to make the right decision for him and our company,” Hendrick continued. “I’m not really procrastinating as much as I’m trying to let everything unfold.”

Hamlin sticks by debris statement

Denny Hamlin stood by his previous statement that NASCAR officials sometimes use caution flags for debris just to liven up a race or close up the competition.

Hamlin was leading last week at Michigan when NASCAR threw a caution for debris with 15 laps remaining. Hamlin went on to win the race, but said afterward that NASCAR threw the caution flag because “this is show business.”

“There is always debris around the track,” Hamlin said Friday at Infineon Raceway. “You can call anything debris. ... You could say that anything is debris and that it is a legitimate safety hazard, but I just think it’s the timing. ‘OK, there it is, let’s pick it up and regroup.’”

“For the sake of show, that’s OK, but for the sake of competition, it’s not always the right thing. But, if we weren’t talking about that last week, if NASCAR had let it go, people were going to be talking about a boring race, and that’s something we don’t want, either.”

Hamlin said he expected a caution flag when he had a big lead last week.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston refuted Hamlin’s claims, saying NASCAR throws a caution flag for debris when there is a safety hazard.

“When we identify something, or there is something on the track that can’t be identified, we are going to err on the side of safety and throw the caution,” Poston said. “Cautions exist for the safety of the competitors and our fans and we take that very seriously.”

“At some point, I suspect drivers would have a different point of view if they were to hit that piece of debris, particularly leading the race and it ruined their day, or worse. Our job is to maintain as best as we can the safety on the track.”

Weekend racing: The Cup and Nationwide teams are at the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Speedway in Loudon, N.H. The Truck teams do not race again until July 11.

Sat., June 26, Nationwide Series race, 16 of 35; starting time: 3:30 p.m. ET; TV: ESPN.

Sun., June 27, Sprint Cup Lenox Tools 301, 17 of 36; starting time: 1 p.m. ET; TV: TNT.

Racing trivia question: How many career road course wins does Denny Hamlin have?

Last week’s question: How many Cup teams does Hendrick Motorsports have? Answer. Four. The drivers are Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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

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