2011-10-13 / Sports

Johnson Runs Away With Kansas Cup Race

By Gerald Hodges

Jimmie Johnson Jimmie Johnson KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jimmie Johnson was all but written off two weeks ago when he finished 18th at Loudon and slipped to 10th in points, but after leading 197 laps on his way to Sunday’s win at Kansas, he is in good position for a sixth Chase title.

Johnson survived two restarts in the last 25 laps of the 272-lap race. The last was a green/white/checkered after teammate Jeff Gordon’s car blew an engine. Johnson pulled away from the secondplace car of Kasey Kahne and went on to his second win of the season.

“We had a really strong race car all day long,” said Johnson. “It was just hard racing. I had a problem. I knew that the quicker I got around those at the end, the better off I’d be. Kasey was coming, but this was just our day.”

Johnson moved up three Chase positions to third, and is now just 4 points behind Carl Edwards, the leader. Despite the recent success, Johnson is not taking anything for granted.

“There are six more races, 43 guys on track, 500-mile events, and there’s a lot that can go right and wrong, and it’s not over until Homestead,” he continued.

“We needed longer runs,” said runner-up Kasey Kahne. “We needed to get our momentum going, and we couldn’t do it there at the end. We just ran out of laps, and all I can say, is, ‘we’ll keep working on it.’”

Brad Keselowski’s third place finish dropped him two spots in the chase to 4th.

“We were close on fuel, but it was an up and down day,” said Keseloski. “We got to be about a second or third-place car, but we weren’t quite with Jimmie today.”

The remaining top-10 finishers were Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, and Mark Martin.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 14th.

Tony Stewart had to fight a poor-handling car throughout the race and finished 15th.

Jeff Gordon’s DNF relegated him to a 34th-place finish, and he dropped to 10th in Chase points.

Top-12 Chase leaders after 30 of 36: 1. Edwards-2161, 2. Harvick-2160, 3. Johnson- 2157, 4. Keselowski-2150, 5. Kenseth-2149, 6. Kurt Busch- 2145, 7. Stewart-2142, 8. Kyle Busch-2141, 9. Earnhardt- 2118, 10. J. Gordon-2114, 11. Newman-2107, 12. Hamlin- 2082

Keselowski dominates Kansas Nationwide race

Brad Keselowski dominated Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway to win his fourth Nationwide Series race of the year and the 16th of his career.

The reigning series champion passed runner-up Carl Edwards with just over 13 laps left and pulled away to win by 2.795 seconds. Elliott Sadler ran third, followed by Paul Menard and Nationwide points leader Ricky Stenhouse, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Brian Vickers, Trevor Bayne, and Ryan Truex.

Top-10 leaders after 30 of 34: 1. Stenhouse-1064, 2. Sadler-1044, 3. Sorenson-994, 4. Almirola-984, 5. Allgaier- 972, 6. Leffler-916, 7. K. Wallace 866, 8. S. Wallace-839, 9. Scott-838, 10. Annett-832

Rising costs hurting big NASCAR teams

The poor economy and high cost of racing is affecting even the strongest of NASCAR teams.

Jack Roush announced last week that he might downsize from a four- car Cup operation to three.

“We’re looking for a sponsor for the No. 6-David (Ragan) car, but right now I can’t tell you who that’s gonna be,” Roush said on Sirius Radio. “I’ll say that I’m not real close on it. So David has been encouraged to talk to other teams that might have an interest, because right now I don’t see how I’m gonna run the fourth car unless things turn dramatically.”

The other three Roush teams driven by Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards appear safe, but Edwards No. 99 team is still seeking associate sponsors.

Roush also operates two Nationwide teams (Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse), which he has selffunded in large part during 2011.

Richard Childress Racing that currently fields four fulltime Cup cars will also shrink to three in 2012 with the departure of driver Clint Bowyer. The sponsor General Mills has cancelled its fulltime sponsorship.

Bowyer has signed to drive the No. 15 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, which was able to land a major sponsor for a third car.

But it’s not as sweet as it sounds. 5-Hour Energy, the new sponsor on the No. 15 car is coming over from Rusty Wallace’s Nationwide team. That leaves Wallace without a major sponsor for his son’s No. 66.

Bowyer attempted to bring 5-Hour Energy to RCR, but because Bowyer wanted a reported $7 million a year salary, Richard Childress balked.

“The 5-Hour Energy people came to him, and they were willing for me to stay at RCR,” said Bowyer. “ We talked to Richard about it, but still couldn’t put a deal together. At that point I said, ‘OK, we’ll go somewhere else.’ That’s what ultimately led to leaving RCR. It’s a shame. I owe a lot to Richard.”

According to ESPN, Childress opened the books to Bowyer, showing him the numbers didn’t add up. Childress didn’t feel the money from 5-Hour Energy was enough. And Childress wasn’t going to pay the kind of money Bowyer was wanting without full funding on the car.

Precise figures were not announced, but 5-Hour Energy will be paying Waltrip between $12-$15 million a year to sponsor the No. 15 car.

The closure of these two major teams comes after earlier announcements that Red Bull Racing planned to shut down its two-team Cup operation, and Kevin Harvick was closing his Nationwide and truck series shop.

The economy and the high costs of racing has everyone in the NASCAR garages worried. Racing will survive, but it appears the big racing powerhouses are the biggest losers.

There are fewer major sponsors in today’s market. The ones that do want to stay in racing can’t justify the rising sponsorship costs.

Racing is still going to continue with a 43-car field. Expect less multi-car teams and more ‘start and park’ operations.

Oh yes, if you want to get involved in racing, you can purchase a six-inch round decal on the side of some Cup cars for about $50,000. Of course that’s just for one race.

Weekend racing: The Cup and Nationwide teams are at Charlotte, while the Trucks are out West at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Friday, October 14, Nationwide Dollar General 300, race 31 of 34; Starting time: 7:30 p.m.; TV: ESPN2.

Saturday, October 15 Camping World Trucks Smith’s 350, race 21 of 25; Starting time: 3:30 p.m.; TV: Speed.

Saturday, October 15, Sprint Cup Bank of America 500, race 31 of 36; Starting time: 7:30 p.m.; TV: ABC.

Racing trivia question: Where is Michael Waltrip’s hometown?

Last week’s question: Which Cup team will Mark Martin drive for in 2012? Answer. He has not decided, but said he plans to drive a partial Cup schedule.

Contact the Racing Reporter at hodges@race500.com.

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