The Cool Down Lap: Texas Edition
The Samsung Mobile 500 finally got underway on Monday and pole sitter Tony Stewart led the field to green. Stewart was strong all day but the competition was intense.
Teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were up front much of the day and raced each other aggressively, making contact at one point.
Dale Earnhardt Jr led 46 laps but lost the handle of his car and wasn’t a factor by the end of the race.
But the most excitement came suddenly on lap 318 when Carl Edwards and Stewart made contact coming off Turn 4. Stewart then hit Gordon and after the dust cleared, a total of nine cars were involved.
Jeff Gordon saw another win slip away and Denny Hamlin saw his chance.
The race was restarted and Denny Hamlin pulled ahead for the lead. With two laps to go, Jimmie Johnson was in second place trying to close in on Hamlin, but he ran out of time.
This is Hamlin’s second win this season and his 10th Sprint Cup victory.
More importantly, this win brings him one step closer to his ultimate goal of becoming a championship contender.
Rounding out the top five finishers were Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne.
Movers and Shakers
Hamlin won the race and gave himself a fighting chance in the Chase for the Championship. He gained seven spots and is now in 11th place in the points standings.
The Busch brothers both struggled but ended the day up front.
Kyle Busch’s patience paid off with a third place finish, gaining six positions to sixth place.
Kurt Busch was in the right place at the right time and benefited from the crash that took out some of the race leaders. He moved up five spots to ninth.
Snoozers and Losers
Thanks to the wreck on lap 318, several drivers took a nose dive in the points standings.
From my viewpoint, it’s impossible to place blame on any one driver. However, Tony Stewart accepted responsibility for the accident and apologized to all those caught up in the incident.
Asleep at the wheel, his victims include:
Carl Edwards lost four positions, dropping to 12th.
Tony Stewart lost five spots and now sits in 14th place.
Clint Bowyer was the biggest loser moving down nine positions to 15th.
Jeff Gordon remains in fifth place in the standings but once again failed to deliver.
Heroes and Villains
At the end of the 2009 Sprint Cup season, Denny Hamlin’s name was on everyone’s lips. “This guys going to contend for the championship next year,” they said.
Fast forward to 2010 and the news that Hamlin had a torn ACL in his left knee that would require surgery and suddenly almost everyone in the media wrote him off.
It wouldn’t be the first time that the media got it wrong.
Hamlin’s win at Texas propelled him from 18th to 11th in the points standings. He still has a long way to go but the season has just begun.
The media may have written him off, but Hamlin obviously didn’t get the memo.
Keep your eye on this “hero.”
The two villains of the race were brought to us courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports.
Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson provided the entertainment with their version of the Texas Two-Step. They may be teammates but that didn’t stop them from exchanging sheet metal during the race and thinly veiled insults afterwards.
Both tried to downplay the significance but I think these two will continue to duke it out as Gordon tries to reclaim his top dog status.
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