You all know the phrase, "Everything's bigger in Texas."
Well, this weekend there could not be anything truer than that. With so much on the line, every lap and every position has never been more important.
Check out the winners and losers for Dickies 500.
The happiest person in Texas has to be Kurt Busch. Busch had the second best car out there all day long, and with $1 million on the line for a fan, Busch not only wanted to win, he needed to win. Busch won in a big way on Sunday.
Busch and his team were not the favorites on Sunday, but they certainly proved a lot of people wrong. Busch took the lead early and began to pull away even though he was struggling with grip. On their first pit stop, the team made adjustments, but lost the lead on pit road.
This would be a pattern that would continue all day long: losing positions on pit road. But Busch had another ace up his sleeve: a perfect pit strategy. On their final stop they ran two laps longer than everyone else and packed the car full of fuel.
While others had to pit for fuel, Busch stayed out and took over the lead when his brother, Kyle Busch, ran out.
Busch's win did not just allow him to gain in the standings; he earned one lucky fan $1 million dollars all in a day's work.
Well, today could have been a lot worse for Mark Martin. After watching teammate Jimmie Johnson crash early, this was the first real opportunity for Martin to gain on Johnson. Martin did just that on Sunday.
After starting in the top 10, Martin fell back early but the team worked on the ill handling race car. The team had solid pit stops and were able to work their way back into the top 10. At one point they were faster than the leaders.
They were going to be a couple laps short, but unlike earlier this year, the team did not gamble with so many points on the line. They pitted and ended up finishing fourth. Martin and his team did exactly what they needed to do on Sunday.
Martin is sitting in the best position to win a championship if Johnson falters again. It will not be easy, but he got the job done this week.
What an eventful weekend for Jeff Burton. It did not start off very good his team. During the first practice Burton hit the wall hard. They were forced to go to a backup car and Burton had to sit out of the Nationwide race on Saturday.
On Sunday, after starting at the rear of the field, Burton’s team worked traffic perfectly. Burton had a loose race car early, but the team worked hard and made solid adjustments on the car. They found themselves in the top 15 by the halfway point.
Burton though never gave up, and while they were forced to pit at the end for fuel, they were able to work their way to a ninth place finish. This was an impressive run for this team after all they went through this weekend.
Give a lot of credit to Burton; it was a very painful and sore top 10 finish.
Most people were talking about how Johnson could clinch the championship next week at Phoenix. Well all of those who were already buying the four-peat gear might want to hold on at least until Homestead.
It took to lap three for the Chase to completely change. Johnson and Sam Hornish Jr. got together after David Reutimann got into Hornish. Johnson nearly saved it, but came right back down in front of Hornish and hit the inside retaining wall. His car was destroyed and his point lead all but disappeared.
Johnson and his team went to work on repairing the car, basically rebuilding it in just over one hour. Johnson looked dejected as he sat in his car, helplessly waiting to get back on track. They did get back out there, but were simply running laps; they finished 38th.
Johnson blamed Hornish for the wreck but once he sees the replay, he might want to blame Reutimann.
Sam Hornish Jr.
An already long day was even longer for Sam Hornish Jr. He was involved in the wreck with Johnson and Reutimann and a very loose race car had them spinning and bringing out the second caution of the night.
Hornish struggled all day long with a very poor handling race car. He could not get the handling on the car. The damage to his car was much more extensive then they originally thought after his second spin.
Hornish headed to the garage to make repairs on the car, but the damage was done and they were listed as "out of the race" by lap 125. They finished 40th.
I am not so sure what to say about Hornish. Some weeks he looks really good and shows a lot of progress; other weeks he looks like he rookie and can barely control the car.
This weekend was supposed to be Carl Edwards’s first victory of the year. In the past Edwards has run well at the Texas track, including winning last year. They started the weekend off pretty well qualifying in the top 10.
They ran well all day long, and after falling outside the top 10 they were battling back. Things though turned for the worse when Juan Pablo Montoya got loose and took out Edwards. With severe damage to his car, their day was over. They finished 39th.
Not what they expected this weekend after having a lot of confidence that he could win. Edwards has got to be looking forward to 2010, hoping to rebound after a disappointing finish.
Edwards was first this weekend...the first to leave Texas.
Well Busch nearly pulled off the weekend sweep, but running out of fuel robbed them of a win. Everything leading up to the final three laps, Busch had the field covered.
Busch started fifth on Sunday but quickly made his way to the front. The team made very little adjustments on the car, and they were consistently the fastest car on and off pit road. Busch was in prime position to win for the third time this weekend and make history.
They were pulling away from his brother, but his crew chief told him to conserve as much as possible. Busch backed off but that was not enough. A miscalculation cost them a chance at history. They finished 11th.
Busch did the Texas two step this weekend but came up one bullet short at the showdown.
What we saw on Sunday is anything can happen in racing. At anytime you could be involved in a wreck and that can change the complexion of the standings. We saw that Sunday with Johnson's early wreck. Nothing is decided, and now you have to imagine Johnson is getting nervous. Instead of hoping to clinch next week, he is hoping to still be the point’s leader at the checkered flag.
Sunday's race was actually pretty entertaining. We got a lot more drama than we expected. The coverage at times left something to be desired, though I thought they did a nice job covering the final 30 laps. There was a lot going on and they really handled it well.
Phoenix should be an interesting race. The point battle has tightened up with Johnson's troubles. Now instead of a three man race, five guys are in the hunt.
I have said it all along: nothing is guaranteed in racing and we saw that on Sunday.