Waitin’ On a Rainy Day

Dustin WoolridgeCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2008

Nobody likes to see a sporting event shortened by inclement weather, but in some cases, you can’t help but smile.


Just ask Kurt Busch, who won Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after the impending rain arrived, washing out the remaining 16 laps.


Kurt Busch, much like younger brother, Kyle, the week before at the treacherous Infineon Raceway road course, may not have had the fastest car, but instead went gambling and hit the jackpot.

Following a caution on Lap 271, twenty-nine miles from the finish, Busch’s Miller Lite Dodge, and a handful of other cars running at the tail end of the lead lap, elected not to stop for gas.


These drivers and their crew chiefs weren’t idiots – they realized that not a single car on the track had enough fuel to make it the full 300 laps.


What they were banking on was a rainstorm, and a torrential one at that.


It didn’t seem like a bad plan, considering a band of rain showers had New Hampshire Motor Speedway completely surrounded.


Under this yellow flag, the race leaders, including Tony Stewart; Jimmie Johnson; Jeff Gordon; and Denny Hamlin, all pitted and filled up their gas tanks.


Stewart, who was in first before coming to pit road, took right-side tires and fell all the way down to 14th.


The only cars that didn’t pit were the ones that simply had nothing to lose – Kurt Busch, Michael Waltrip, J.J. Yeley, Martin Truex Jr., Elliott Sadler, Casey Mears, Reed Sorenson, and Bobby Labonte – none of these guys had any shot at winning unless they were to take a tremendous gamble, and that’s exactly what they did.


As a result, the running order was completely reshuffled when the green flag came back out on Lap 278.


Kurt Busch led the field around the one-mile oval the next two laps, until yet another caution paused the race.


The seventh yellow flag of the race was brought out by a crash involving Clint Bowyer and Sam Hornish Jr., but that’s not what the fans were paying attention to.


The biggest story of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 wasn’t Kurt Busch winning; it was the on-track feud between Kyle Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya.


Under this caution, Montoya blatantly drove into the side of Busch’s Interstate Batteries machine, spinning him out, and then got clipped by Busch as the lime green Toyota whirled around.


Montoya, without any reservations, stated that he “intentionally” took out Busch, because he was angry about how Busch had gotten around him earlier in the race.


Busch, however, talked as though he was blind sighted by Montoya’s bumper.


The Busch-Montoya fiasco will be something that’s watched closely by NASCAR fans for weeks to come.


After the field drove around the track for a couple of caution laps, the red flag came out as the rain began to fall persistently. The race was then called and Busch was declared victor.


To rounding out the top five was Waltrip, Yeley, Truex and Sadler.


Who would’ve thought that a rainy day would bring such joy?


Let’s start with Busch.


For a guy that won two races and made the Chase a year ago, his performance leading up to New Hampshire had failed to meet expectations.


Entering Sunday’s event, Busch found himself sitting 22nd in the standings with only one top-five and two top-tens. His win vaulted him four spots in the standings to 18th.


Waltrip, the runner-up, had been disastrous ever since moving to Toyota and starting his very own race team.


Last season, during Toyota’s maiden voyage in the Sprint Cup series, Waltrip compiled two top-tens the whole entire season and probably more DNF’s than finishes.


Waltrip has not scored a victory in five years— his last one coming at Talladega in the fall of ’03— his second-place finish was his best since 2005.


Yeley wound up third.


This is the guy who was the lame duck at Joe Gibbs Racing after being released to make room for Kyle Busch in the “18 car.”


He then headed to Hall of Fame Racing, an organization owned by two relatively famous former NFL players, Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach.


Until New Hampshire, 2008 had been a disappointment for Yeley as well. This was his first top-ten finish of the season.


Truex, similar to Kurt Busch, qualified for the Chase in 2007 and was competitive in just about every race.


Even though he has not been quite as bad as the three drivers that finished ahead of him on Sunday, Truex probably expected a lot more from his team this year.


His fourth-place was his best finish of the season.


Nevertheless, he still finds himself on the outside looking in when it comes to the grand Chase picture, in 14th, 71 points behind 12th-place Kevin Harvick.


Sadler has had unbelievably terrible luck this season.


Despite having fast cars week in and week out, he does not have the finishes to show for it, due to the misfortunes that seem to plague him.


Take for example last week at Infineon: Sadler was essentially robbed of a top-five when his tire went flat with two to go.


He would go on to finish the race 19th, as opposed to third or fourth. His luck was actually able to hold up for 284 laps on Sunday, and the result was a fifth-place finish.


And how about Mears?


He announced earlier in the week that he would be leaving Hendrick Motorsports at the end of 2008.


By looking at his list of finishes this season, one would never guess that Mears drove for one of NASCAR’s top-tier teams.


The “five car” seems to be miles behind its teammates – the 48, 88, and 24 – every week, and his subpar results are a big reason why Mears finds himself mired back in 23rd in the Sprint Cup standings.


It must’ve been nice to be Hendrick’s top dog for a weekend, as Mears’ seventh-place finish was the highest of the super-team’s quartet.


It might’ve been a race that produced results no one could’ve imagined, but the rain-shortened Lenox Industrial Tools 301 and hopefully served as a “change of tide” for some drivers who have experienced their fair share of struggles.



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