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ThatsRacin.com


Looking back at the Good Sam 500

- dscott@charlotteobserver.com
Monday, Oct. 08, 2012

Observations

• It’s the blessing and curse of restrictor-plate racing at Talladega and Daytona. With cars bunched up as much as they are, there’s always the chance for, shall we say, excitement that fans love. But it also restricts free-flowing racing and that’s become frustrating for many drivers.

• Lost in the commotion of the race’s end is the fact that Brad Keselowski heads to Charlotte with a healthy 14-point lead in the standings over Jimmie Johnson.

• Nice way for Kurt Busch to end his time with Phoenix Racing and owner James Finch. NASCAR parked Busch’s car after he ran out of gas while leading because he drove away from the scene without his helmet on and a safety worker’s bag on his car. Will he still drive the Furniture Row Chevy at Charlotte next week?

How the Chase drivers fared

1. Brad Keselowski (2,179 points)
It could have been much worse for Keselowski, who finished seventh and wasn’t involved too dramatically by the final-turn lap. He increased his lead over Jimmie Johnson to 14 points.

2. Jimmie Johnson (-14)
Johnson’s car was in flames for a while as it went down the frontstretch after the wreck. His 17th-place finish dropped him further behind Keselowski, but he’s still within shouting distance.

3. Denny Hamlin (-23)
His strategy to race in the back until a big wreck happened paid off, sort of. Hamlin avoided the wreck, ended up and stayed in third place.

4. Kasey Kahne (-36)
The pole-winner led nine laps and eventually finished 12th. More importantly, he moved up two spots and is now 36 behind Keselowski.

5. Clint Bowyer (-40)
Bowyer had one of the race’s strongest cars, leading three times for eight laps before being swept up into that final wreck.

6. Jeff Gordon (-42)
His second-place finish was gratifying, but didn’t do him much good in the points standings, as he only picks up five on leader Keselowski.

7. Tony Stewart (-46)
He caused the final-lap wreck that cost him a shot at a victory and ultimately landed him in 22nd place. He also took a hit in the points standings, losing two places and 14 points to Keselowski.

8. Martin Truex Jr. (-48)
Truex stays in eighth, thanks to a 13th-place finish. He couldn’t avoid the wreck, either.

9. Greg Biffle (-49)
Biffle led for six times and 16 laps and clearly had one of the race’s stronger cars. He was also in the wreck, but managed a sixth-place finish that moved him up two spots in the standings.

10. Kevin Harvick (-49)
Harvick finished 11th after being involved in the wreck. He dropped one place in the standings and has a steep hill to climb.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-51)
Earnhardt had one of the race’s stronger cars, leading 18 laps early on. But Earnhardt was caught speeding coming off pit road and was assessed a pass-through penalty.

12. Matt Kenseth (-62)
Kenseth won by avoiding the big accident at the end. He saved his Ford on at least two occasions earlier though and led eight times – most of any driver except for Jamie McMurray.

3 keys to victory

1. By luck or skill – probably both – Kenseth avoided the big wreck on the final turn of the race.

2. Kenseth was able to save his car from trouble on more than one occasion, including once when he was turned onto the apron between Turns 1 and 2.

3. Roush Fenway Racing’s commitment to restrictor-plate racing – Kenseth has been on the lead lap on all four restrictor-plate races this season, winning Sunday and the Daytona 500 but falling short at the other Daytona and Talladega races.

Turning point

When Tony Stewart turned into Michael Waltrip on Turn 4 of the final lap causing a 25-car accident, it allowed Matt Kenseth to spring to the front and win.

Things would have been different if …

Stewart, who had no partner at the time, had allowed Waltrip to pass him for a potential victory, it might have turned into one of the more unlikely stories of the season.

Next race

Bank of America 500

Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord

When: 7 p.m., Saturday

TV: ABC (WSOC-TV, ch. 9)

Radio: Performance Racing Network

Last year’s winner: Matt Kenseth

More racing news, blogs, photos and more at www.ThatsRacin.com.