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How the Chase drivers fared and more notes

- dscott@charlotteobserver.com
Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012

Notes

Charlotte event turns into a fuel-mileage race

Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway turned into a fuel-mileage race.

That meant winner Clint Bowyer didn’t have enough gas at the end to do a burnout for fans. Instead, he had to have his car pushed to victory circle by his crew.

“I wanted to do a burnout,” Bowyer said. “Will I ever get to do a burnout?”

Gas issues played a big part in the outcome. Brad Keselowski, who finished 11th and saw his Sprint Cup points lead drop to seven over Jimmie Johnson, ran out of gas while leading the race on Lap 275. He coasted onto pit road and wasn’t a factor after that.

“It was like playing blackjack,” Keselowski said. “Sometimes you get a good deal. But you can’t win them all. It was a respectable day. You’re not going to catch the breaks every time.”

Denny Hamlin finished second and remains third in the standings, 15 behind Keselowski. He also had to worry about gas mileage.

“You’re just running the race backward,” Hamlin said. “You’re basically seeing how slow you can go and maintain track position.”

•  Chase drivers took the top four spots, but places 5-7 went to Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and Carl Edwards.

•  With the Chase half over, the top three – Keselowski, Johnson and Hamlin – are tightly bunched.

“I feel great,” said Johnson said. “The three cars are this tight, it’s good, hard competitive racing with a lot of respect for each other.”

How the Chase drivers fared

1. Brad Keselowski (2,214): Ran out of gas on Lap 276 after dominating the race. He led the most laps, 115, but not the one he wanted most. He finished 11th.

2. Jimmie Johnson (-7): Finished third, but had to slow down near the end to have enough fuel to make it to the finish, eliminating his chance to win. Still, he cut the margin between him and points leader Keselowski. “It’s weird running so long saving fuel. But there are some tracks and some conditions where that’s the game you have to play,” he said. A two-tire call early in the race hurt his chances.

3. Denny Hamlin (-15): Finished second to Bowyer, and stayed in third place in the Chase. Said postrace it was good to have a fuel mileage race go his way. “We slowed down just enough to finish second,” he said.

4. Clint Bowyer (-28) : Won at Charlotte by 0.417 seconds, his first win at NASCAR’s home track. His car ran out of fuel during the victory celebration, and had to be pushed to Victory Lane by his crew. It was his third victory of the season.

5. Kasey Kahne (-35): Finished eighth, the second car a lap down, but was never much of a factor. Fell a spot in the Chase standings, from fourth to fifth.

6. Greg Biffle (-43): Finished fourth, the best he could have done with an extra stop. That was good enough for a three-spot jump in the Chase standings.

7. Martin Truex Jr. (-49): Finished 10th, a lap down, and jumped from eighth to seventh in points.

8. Tony Stewart (-50): A 22-second pit stop on a green-flag pit stop cost him. He ended up 13th. Dropped one spot in the standings.

9. Jeff Gordon (-51): A pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road during a late round of green-flag stops put him a lap down, and he was never able to get that lap back. He finished 18th, worst of the 11 Chase drivers in the race, and fell three spots in the standings.

10. Kevin Harvick (-56): Finished 16th, a lap down.

11. Matt Kenseth (-67): Fell off the lead lap after a spin on Lap 11, fought back to the lead lap after a caution on Lap 222, but ended up 14th, a lap down.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-86): Announced Thursday he would miss Charlotte and Kansas races with a concussion he suffered in last-lap melee at Talladega. He was not at the track, so as not to be a distraction. Regan Smith, driving the No. 88 in his place, finished 38th, falling out with engine trouble.

By the numbers

4 Of the 12 drivers in the Chase, the number who finished on the lead lap.

4 Bonus points for Bowyer, more than anyone else in the field.

6 Drivers on the lead lap at the finish.

9 Drivers who were listed as “out” at the race’s end.

Quotes

•  “We could have left a race win on the table, but still in the big picture a good day.” – Denny Hamlin, who finished second.

•  “We started saving with double the distance. We were just being cautious.” – Jimmie Johnson, who trails points leader Brad Keselowski by seven points.

•  “We didn’t lose too much. We got 11th out of a day when things didn’t go our way.” – Points leader Brad Keselowski, who finished 11th..

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