Hamlin Secures Top Seed in Chase; Busch Narrowly Misses Out
Team Interstate Racing Wrap-up for Sept. 8-9, 2012:
What should have been a memorable weekend for Team Interstate turned into one to forget.
Kyle Busch finished 16th in the Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The 16th-place finish, coupled with Jeff Gordon’s second-place result, caused Busch to miss the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by a mere three points as Gordon ended NASCAR’s regular season with 777 points to Busch’s 774.
In NHRA Pro Stock drag racing, Team Interstate’s Mike Edwards exited in the first round of the MAC Tools Nationals. And JGRMX rider Davi Millsaps suffered an early accident in the final round of the 2012 AMA Motorcross season.
NASCAR: Hamlin in the Chase, Busch out
Team Interstate’s Denny Hamlin grabbed the top seed in this year’s Chase, thanks to his four wins this season. But it was Busch’s struggles at Richmond that grabbed most of the attention.
The top-10 drivers in points are eligible to compete for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup along with two wild-card drivers – Kasey Kahne and Gordon – who were admitted to the Chase field by having the most wins among the drivers who were between 11th and 20th in the standings. Kahne had two wins, which gave him the 11th spot, while Gordon claimed the 12th, as he had a higher point total than fellow one-race winners Busch, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano, who were all between 11th and 20th in the standings.
The race was delayed for more than two hours by rain and started just past 8:30 p.m. CDT. Busch started 15th and was a top-10 mainstay for much of the first 275 laps. But while a rain shower on lap 152 gave Busch and the other competitors a nearly one-hour break, it was the third rain shower of the night that ultimately affected his Chase hopes.
Rain began falling on lap 277. Several of the lead cars had the option to make pit stops, including Busch, who was in eighth place. Crew Chief Dave Rogers made the call to keep Busch on track, just as the cars ahead had done, but the cars immediately behind him headed to pit road for four tires and fuel.
Busch restarted fourth, but the cars behind him had much fresher tires. Those cars quickly took advantage of the situation by motoring past Busch once the race restarted on lap 282. Gordon, who had been behind Busch much of the night, suddenly was in the top-10 and a contender for the win thanks to his fresh tires and a better handling car. That, coupled with the race going caution-free the rest of the distance, left Busch no time to make up the ground. He finished outside the top-15 one lap down, while Gordon took the runner-up spot.
“The Chase is more than one race, but we certainly were in a position to capitalize and make it, but that call – I blew it,” Rogers said. “There’s no two ways to look at it. I’m pretty honest. I evaluate myself as hard as I evaluate my guys, and I gave one up today.
“I’m tough on myself. I just gave up a chance at a championship for this team, for Kyle and for everyone at M&M’s, 450 employees at Joe Gibbs (Racing) that worked so hard this year. Had a lot of confidence and really hoping for some good things in the Chase, and I feel like I let them down. That hurts. It’s always personal. But you know what? They are great guys, and I know they’re going to stand behind me. Great managing staff is going to stand behind me, a great driver, and we’re just going to stand behind the 11 (Denny Hamlin) car and the MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) guys and try to make sure Toyota wins this championship.”
JGR owner Joe Gibbs shared in the disappointment of missing the Chase.
“I think for all of us here you just feel bad because of all that was put into this,” Gibbs said. “Again, this is pro sports and the best people in the world competing at this level. It can happen to you. Just very disappointed.
“We love Dave Rogers. I think he’s one of the brightest and the best. I think we have a great, tight-knit team here. We all go up together and if we have a tough night, we all have a tough night together.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry, and Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry – finished 18th and 30th, respectively. Hamlin led a race-high 202 laps.
Hamlin will represent Team Interstate in the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Hamlin is seeded first among the 12 Chase drivers, as his series-high four regular-season wins give him 12 bonus points (three points per win) to begin the 10-race Chase.
Clint Bowyer won the Federated Auto Parts 400 to score his seventh career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Richmond.
NASCAR recalibrated the points for the 12 drivers when the Richmond race ended, with each driver getting 2,000 points. With the exception of the wild-card entrants of Kahne and Gordon, drivers also received three bonus points for each of their respective wins during the 26-race regular season. For drivers starting the Chase with identical point totals, their seed was determined by the traditional tiebreaker of best finishes beyond race victories.
|2.||Jimmie Johnson||2,009 (-3)|
|3.||Tony Stewart||2,009 (-3)|
|4.||Brad Keselowski||2,009 (-3)|
|5.||Greg Biffle||2,006 (-6)|
|6.||Clint Bowyer||2,006 (-6)|
|7.||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2,003 (-9)|
|8.||Matt Kenseth||2,003 (-9)|
|9.||Kevin Harvick||2,000 (-12)|
|10.||Martin Truex Jr.||2,000 (-12)|
|11.||Kasey Kahne||2,000 (-12)|
|12.||Jeff Gordon||2,000 (-12)|
AMA Motocross: Millsaps Suffers Early Crash
Team Interstate rider Davi Millsaps crashed on just the second lap of the first moto at the inaugural Red Bull Lake Elsinore National in Lake Elsinore, Calif., scoring an official finish of 36th. Because he was unable to start the second round, he was credited with a 38th place finish overall on the day. Millsaps was able to walk from the track under his own power and will be evaluated further by his doctors this week. The race was the final of the 2012 AMA Motocross season.
Millsaps, who missed several rounds of the series due to injury, still finished ninth overall, after recording the best Supercross season of his career, where he finished second in overall series points.
NHRA Pro Stock: Edwards Exits in Round One
Team Interstate’s Mike Edwards qualified in the No. 2 spot in this weekend’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, but a severe shake in the first round of eliminations forced him to abandon his run.
Edwards and his Penhall/K&N/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP team are currently sixth in points heading into the Countdown to the Championship.
|PRO STOCK STANDINGS|
|10||Jeg Coughlin Jr.||2000|
Next Week: NASCAR begins the Chase with the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday. NHRA drag racing heads to zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C.
- Regular Season Wrap-Up (joegibbsracing.com)
- Team Interstate Sweeps Bristol; Kyle Busch Back in Wild-Card Picture (blogbattery.com)
- Hamlin Takes Atlanta! (joegibbsracing.com)
- JGR Signs Matt Kenseth (joegibbsracing.com)