2010-11-11 / Sports

Hamlin Leads The Sprint Cup Battle

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Denny Hamlin Denny Hamlin FT. WORTH, Texas – There’s a new NASCAR Sprint Cup leader and his name is Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin won Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway to take the point lead away from Jimmie Johnson with just two races left.

“What a run,” said Hamlin. “We didn’t have a good car at the beginning of the race, but we kept working on it. The team stayed focused and we got it done.”

Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Jimmie Johnson, and Paul Menard were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Jimmie Johnson’s 10thplace finish dropped him to second, 33 points behind Hamlin.

“It was a long day,” said Johnson. “We gave away so many positions early in the race. It didn’t work out today. We’ll just try to come back next week. We’re doing the best we can.”

Jeff Burton got into the rear of Jeff Gordon during a caution on lap 200, knocking Gordon into the outside wall, and wrecking Burton’s No. 31.

After the two drivers emerged from their cars, Gordon’s temper flared and he shoved and even swung a fist at Burton, before officials were able to restrain him.

Both drivers wound up with DNFs. “Out of all the drivers out there, I never thought Jeff would do something like that.”

After the incident, Gordon’s entire pit crew was transferred to Johnson’s No. 48, replacing that team.

“You’ve got to remember, we are all Hendrick teams,” said Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus. “We’re doing the best we can to win a championship. The 24-team was a little faster today, and that’s why we brought them over to the 48-car.”

Kyle Busch finished 33rd, three laps down. He was penalized a lap for giving a NASCAR official the “bird.”

Top-12 Chase contenders with two to go: 1. Hamlin- 6325, 2. Johnson-6292, 3. Harvick 6266, 4. Edwards-6008, 5. Kenseth-6000, 6. J. Gordon- 5994, 7. Kyle Busch-5986, 8. Stewart-5962, 9. Biffle-5953, 10. Clint Bowyer-5928, 11. Kurt Busch-5890, 12. Burton-5852

Carl Edwards derailed Kyle Busch’s drive for a sixth straight NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday.

Busch dominated early in the 205-lap race, which was extended five laps from its originally scheduled distance by a green-white-checkered finish, as he lead four times for a race-high 107 laps. But with less than 50 laps remaining, Busch’s once dominant car began to tighten up around the 1.5-mile oval, opening the door for polesitter Edwards to take the lead on lap 155.

Busch hung tough in second, holding off a hard- charging Brad Keselowski. Joey Logano, Martin Truex, Jason Leffler, Reed Sorenson, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, and Steve Wallace rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Keselowski’s third-place finish was enough to insure him the 2010 Nationwide championship.

Top-10 points leaders after 33 of 35: 1. Keselowski- 5314, 2. Edwards-4849, 3. Kyle Busch-4619, 4. Allgaier- 4402, 5. Menard-4205, 6. Harvick 4044, 7. Bayne-3765, 8. Leffler-3743, 9. Logano-3717, 10. S. Wallace-3688

TEXAS truck race goes to Busch

Kyle Busch blew past Todd Bodine on a restart on lap 127 and held off Johnny Sauter over the final 20 laps to win Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Bodine chose the outside lane for the final restart, but Busch cleared Bodine’s No. 30 Toyota through turns 1 and 2 and held the lead the rest of the way.

Sauter came home second, followed by Matt Crafton and Bodine, the series points leader. Bodine increased his margin to 230 points over seventh-place finisher Aric Almirola with two races left in the season. Bodine can clinch his second series championship by finishing fourth or better next week at Phoenix.

Busch’s seventh win in 14 starts this season gives him 23 career victories in the series.

“On that last restart there I got a good jump,” Busch said. “I got a good jump and didn’t beat Todd to the line and ended up kind of being alongside him into turn 1, and I don’t know if my lane just had a better draft or what—we pulled away down the backstretch and held on there.”

Top-10 points leaders after 23 of 25: 1. Bodine-3645, 2. Almirola-3415, 3. Sauter- 3341, 4. Crafton-3237, 5. Dillon- 3153, 6. Peters-3107, 7. Hornaday 3059, 8. Skinner-2964, 9. Starr-2898, 10. White-2813

NASCAR’s Brian France talked about possible changes coming to the sport and why TV ratings are down last week on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Question: This is what the Chase was supposed to be like (with three drivers so close this late in the season).

Brian France: “It is. It’s supposed to, obviously, be very competitive and make it where the driver who is at his best when it really matters, which, of course, is down the stretch. That’s what everybody wants to see. We’re thrilled that it’s turning out that way. This is going to be a telling weekend. Looking forward to kicking off the final three here in Texas this weekend.”

Question: With the Chase going as well as it is are there still discussions going on at NASCAR about further tweaks to the Chase or have those been put on the backburner now?

Brian France: “No, I don’t think so. I think it’s this time of the year when we do a lot of things in terms of looking at what is the best rules package or format in the case of the Chase or whatever it might be. We’ve announced a few weeks ago going to ethanol and our first biofuel, which is really important for us to keep a slow steady step in the green space and doing what’s best for the environment and energy independence. When it comes to the Chase, what we want is big moments where drivers and teams have to be their very best on a given day, that’s what creates the atmosphere we want and we’ll be looking to make sure we have the perfect format going into 2011.”

Weekend racing: NASCAR’s three major series will be at the one-mile Phoenix track for the next-to-last race of the season.

Fri., Nov. 12, Camping World Trucks Lucas Oil 150, race 24 of 25; starting time: 7:30 p.m. ET; TV: Speed.

Sat., Nov. 13, Nationwide Arizona 200, race 34 of 35; starting time: 4 p.m. ET; TV: ESPN2.

Sun., Nov. 14, Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 500, race 35 of 36; starting time: 3 p.m. ET; TV: ESPN.

Racing trivia question: Where is the first Sprint Cup race of the season held?

Last week’s question: Where is the last Sprint Cup race of the season held? Answer. It is held at Homestead, Fla.

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

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