2011-10-06 / Sports

Kurt Busch Is Dover Winner

By Gerald Hodges

DOVER, Del. – Kurt Busch got the jump on Jimmie Johnson during the last restart of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Dover and held off the five-time champion for his second win of the season.

“It was a perfect execution of pit stops, changes to the car, and work by the team,” said Busch. “This is what it’s all about. I think this shows we are a championship caliber team.”

Busch moved from 9th to 4th in the Chase with seven races left.

Johnson appeared to have the dominant car, but after the last round of pit stops, Johnson allowed Busch to pull away from him on the restart and was never able to catch him.

“I just got a poor restart after that last caution,” said Johnson. “Our cars were about equal. Even though I would have liked to win, this puts us right back in the thick of things.”

Johnson moved up five spots from 10th and is now only 13 points out of first.

Carl Edwards finished third and is tied with Harvick for first place.

Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, A. J. Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-10.

Jeff Gordon was never a factor and finished 12th. He dropped from 5th to 9th.

Brad Keselowski came home 20th and fell three positions to 6th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished two laps down and is 10th in the standings.

Tony Stewart, who led the points standings coming into the race, struggled all day and fell three laps down at one point. He finished 25th and dropped to third in the standings.

Top-12 Chase contenders after 29 of 36; 1. Harvick-2122, 2. Edwards-2122, 3. Stewart- 2113, 4. Kurt Busch-2113, 5. Johnson-2109, 6. Keselowski 2108, 7. Kenseth-2108, 8. Kyle Busch-2107, 9. J. Gordon 2103, 10. Earnhardt- 2088, 11. Newman-2081, 12. Hamlin-2054.

Edwards rolls to Nationwide win

Carl Edwards pulled away from Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer after a restart on Lap 168 of the 200 lap Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway, for his seventh win of the year and 36th of his career.

“Everything went great, except my back flip, which was terrible – I was nervous about doing it on the banking,” Edwards said. “But it was just an awesome day.”

Bowyer and Keselowski were able to gain on Edwards at various stages of the race, but passing him was another matter.

“It didn’t matter who it was,” Bowyer said. “When you got up to ’em, you’d get in their wake, and it would take the air off your car, and you’d get really, really loose. I about turned it around with four or five (laps) to go right there behind Brad.

“It’s definitely not worth junking a car over passing for second. I don’t know if the tables would have been turned if I was in front of him, if he would have had the same trouble, but, certainly, as you got up to him, you got loose.”

“We weren’t as good as Carl was – that’s for sure. I thought for a minute we were going to steal one with some strategy when that yellow came out, but it wasn’t meant to be. Carl’s car was a lot faster, and he deserved to win the race.”

Kasey Kahne finished fourth, one spot ahead of series leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who extended his margin to 22 points over polesitter Elliott Sadler, who ran 14th. Trevor Bayne, Reed Sorenson, Ryan Truex, Mike Bliss and Justin Allgaier were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Top-10 leaders after 29 of 34: 1. Stenhouse-1025, 2. Elliott 1013, 3. Sorenson-976, 4. Almirola-951, 5. Allgaier- 929, 6. Leffler-884, 7. K. Wallace 841, 8. S. Wallace-815, 9. Scott-811, 10. Annett-804.

Hornaday gets 50th truck win

SPARTA, Ky. – Ron Hornaday Jr. recorded his 50th Truck Series win Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Hornaday held off the late-race charges of runnerup and polesitter Austin Dillon during the final 10 laps. Dillon, who protected his lead in the series points standings, pulled to within two-tenths of a second of Hornaday but could get no closer. “It will mean a lot when I sit on the front porch in the rocking chair with my grandkids and I can tell them that I won 50 races,” Hornaday said.”

James Buescher, Nelson Piquet, Brian Ickler, Ricky Carmichael, Todd Bodine, Cole Whitt, Dakoda Armstrong, and David Starr were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Top-10 leaders after 19 of 24: 1. A. Dillon- 704, 2. Buescher-701, 3. Sauter-685, 4. Peters-664, 5. Hornaday- 662, 6. Coulter-634, 7. Whitt- 632, 8. Crafton-631, 9. Bodine 631, 10. Kligerman-608.

NASCAR TV ratings on rise

While attendance continues to drop at practically all NASCAR tracks, the same cannot be said for those watching the races at home on television.

Viewership for the 2011 season is up 4 percent from last year.

After more than two years of steady decline, the ratings are definitely on a rebound.

Ask 10 different people why this is happening and you’ll probably get ten different answers.

According to Nielsen, the television rating company, there has been a huge jump in the18- to 34-year old males watching, along with a 20 percent increase in the male 18-49 demographic and a 33- percent upswing in viewers age 55 and older.

It’s hard for me to understand all that. I prefer to look at the overall picture, and not try to apply some kind of scientific statistic I know nothing about.

Here’s my take on it.

The actual racing hasn’t been all that exciting this season, but there have been a number of new faces in victory lane. The first race of the season, the Daytona 500, was won by young Trevor Bayne.

Who in the world would have thought the Wood Brothers with a young unknown driver like Bayne would win the prestigious event? I didn’t.

Then there was Paul Menard sweeping the field at Indianapolis. Most reporters thought Menard was only in racing because of his family’s money. But he proved that given a good car he could win races.

Tony Stewart, winner of the first two Chase races has been like a breath of fresh air.

Brad Keselowski, David Ragan, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman, and Regan Smith have all added excitement to the pot because they are drivers outside the elite teams.

This season’s turnaround is also about who hasn’t been winning. Specifically, that means five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. I think the fans have tired of him and crew chief Chad Knaus’ cut and dried type of racing. It’s boring watching Johnson win.

If Carl Edwards wins, everyone knows they are going to see something out of the ordinary; his backflip, which makes his wins more personable.

Whenever Dale Earnhardt Jr. moves to the front, the fans erupt with cheers. I had one fan tell me after a Talladega race, “I’m not a real Junior fan, but when he passed the leader, I had to cheer. It was just something about seeing him out front again.”

We will continue to see a drop in the number of fans at actual races because of the high costs associated with a race weekend. Many of them are choosing the TV over the race track, simply out of necessity. As long as fans don’t have to watch the same old movie, with the same actors, NASCAR TV ratings should climb. We need the actual drama of racing.

Weekend racing: The Nationwide and Cup teams are at the 1.5- mile Kansas Speedway. The trucks do not race until Oct. 15.

Sat., Oct. 8, Nationwide Kansas Lottery 300, race 30 of 34; Starting time: 3:30 pm; TV: ESPN2. Sun., Oct. 9, Sprint Cup Hollywood Casino 400, race 30 of 36; Starting time: 2 pm; TV: ESPN.

Racing trivia question: Which Cup team will Mark Martin drive for in 2012?

Last week’s question: Where is Paul Menard’s hometown? Answer. It is Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

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