Winners and Losers: Price Chopper 400

Patti RodischAnalyst IOctober 4, 2009

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 04:  Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet, celebrates with his crew in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Price Chopper 400 presented by Kraft Foods at the Kansas Speedway on October 4, 2009 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Heading into Kansas, most of the drivers who are not battling for a championship want to spoil the Chase drivers' party and steal a win. Would it happen at Kansas?

Check out which drivers were the winners and which were the losers.

 

Winners

Tony Stewart

It has been a rough start to the Chase for Tony Stewart. Stewart had not had a top five finish since his win at Watkins Glen. This was a much-needed win for a team that had been in a slump for the last month.

Stewart started this race fifth and seemed to struggle early in the race with the handling in the car. He knew though that the track conditions would suit him when it counted late in the race.

The team was able to make good adjustments throughout the race and gambled late on two tires and the gamble paid off. Stewart was not up front all day, and it took a good call for them to pull off the win.

Stewart was never out of the Chase, but he was struggling to contend and run up front the last couple weeks. Sunday, though, Stewart proved they will be a factor.

Don’t look now, but Stewart is climbing up the standings.

Points: Fourth

 

Jeff Gordon

It was not pretty for Jeff Gordon and his team on Sunday, the team needed a solid finish. They also needed to gain ground on the leaders. The team did just that on Sunday and then some.

It wasn’t easy for them; the team struggled with a very tight race car throughout the race. On their first few pit stops, they did not want to over adjust on the car. When the handling did not improve, they made drastic adjustments to the car.

Crew chief Steve LeTarte made good adjustments on the car and really kept them in the race. The pit crew had solid pit stops and were able to maintain track position late. A good call for four tires late and a solid second place finish.

The team knew that if they were going to have a shot at the championship, Kansas would be where it started. Gordon is still in this Championship run, but he needs to win races. 

On Sunday, he was one spot short.

Points: Seventh

 

David Reutimann

What a season David Reutimann has had. Reutimann won at Lowe's in May for his first career win. He nearly made the Chase this year and was the class of that organization throughout 2009.

Reutimann started 13th today and quickly began to move forward. He was running in the top five for most of the day. Reutimann was struggling with a very loose race car and the team was trying not to over adjust on the car.

They had solid pit stops throughout the day and were able to gain positions on pit road.

With a solid car, they were able to maintain track position throughout the day. They ran around 10th for most of the day, and with solid stops they finished eighth.

Reutimann is by far Michael Waltrip Racing's best driver each week, and next year look out for this driver to make the Chase.

Points: 15th

 

Losers

David Ragan

Well, a year ago everyone predicted that David Ragan would make the Chase in 2009. Here we are and Ragan is barely in the top 30 in the standings.

He hasn’t qualified very well this year and Sunday was no different. They started 25th and were starting to move forward.  When Paul Menard spun in front of them, they were collected in the wreck.

With major damage to the front of his car, the team headed to pit road, made some repairs, and changed tires. They were forced on pit road under green to make more repairs to the car. They finished 36th on Sunday.

They were out of it before they even could get started today. We know how the Fords have run this year, and Ragan has struggled the most from the beginning of the season.

Ragan did not meet expectations in 2009, but he has the talent and should be running up front in 2010.

Points: 31st

 

Bobby Labonte

This was not exactly the type of day that Bobby Labonte had hoped for. He started 26th deep in the pack, and track conditions were very different from what the drivers had early in the weekend. Early on in the race, drivers were sliding around the top of the track.

Labonte was moving forward but got caught up in Menard's spin across the track. He suffered the most damage and was forced to the garage to make repairs on the car. Labonte was never able to get back on track and finished 43rd.

Labonte whose deal with Ask.com and Yates Racing was only for a year, is one of many drivers still trying to lock down a ride. Labonte did not need another disappointing finish, with no guaranteed ride in 2010.

Labonte is fighting for a ride but seems to keep getting caught up in other driver’s mistakes.

Points: 30th

 

Brian Vickers

Well, if Brian Vickers wanted to be a factor in the Chase, he is going to have to wait until next year. Vickers has not run as well as he was before the Chase, but since the Chase has started, they have been mediocre at best.

They started today in 12th position, which did give them good track position, if the car was handling better.

They quickly dropped back after the green was waved. Under the second caution, the team came down pit road to make adjustments on the car.

Those adjustments had them continuing to drop back in the field. The issues with the car turned out to be an engine issue. They spun out on lap 126 and effectively their day was over. Vickers finished 37th.

I thought Vickers would have run well in the Chase. As many of the tracks in the Chase, Vickers has run well this season.

Vickers will have to play spoiler the rest of the Chase.

Points: 12th

 

Lucky Dog…

Joey Logano

After winning the Nationwide race on Saturday, the attention that Logano obviously did not want was right back on him. On Sunday, Logano started 18th but brought out the early caution when he got loose when he went high on the track.

This time, Logano spun into the grass and was able to continue, they put four new tires on the car worked on the damage from the spin.

They were able to stay on the lead lap, but they struggled with a very ill-handling car and went a lap down to finish 28th.

The media just will not let Logano put behind him the flip at Dover. Logano is ready to move on and he has said that throughout the weekend.

There were some doubts that incident at Dover had scared the teen-age driver, but no, he was right back in there this weekend. That is why he is this week’s lucky dog, for getting right back in the seat.

Points: 20th

 

Final Lap…

I am not a fan of hour-long pre-race shows. Sometimes the pieces they air seem pointless and are time fillers. Not today, ABC aired a special piece about Kyle and Patty Petty’s Victory Junction Gang Camp.

The original camp is in North Carolina and a second camp will be just five miles from Kansas Speedway.

It was a moving piece that aired clips of their late son Adam Petty and his dream. We often criticize the quality of the race coverage, but ABC got it right with this one.

Kansas is a track that can come down to fuel mileage and pit strategies, which makes the last 50 laps always interesting. The race today was pretty good.

There was some great racing all around the track. We saw Chase drivers really pushing the envelope for every position.

Stewart's win and the gap closing on the leaders is proving that this Chase is far from decided. What is clear is that you are going to have to beat Hendrick Motorsports, who have swept the first three races thus far.

Next week is California, where the talk will be more about the lack of fans in the stands than the racing on the track.