The Bucket Report: Hamlin and Kahne Make Good at The Brickyard

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The Bucket Report: Hamlin and Kahne Make Good at The Brickyard

        The Brickyard with her 90-degree corners and 3,330-foot straight-aways never makes it easy on teams racing on her. She demands horsepower putting tremendous strain on engines and doesn’t have much banking to help with grip. As hard as she is, it was Goodyear that crippled the drivers this year. Tires literally melting all over the track; right tires simply never had a chance. NASCAR responded to the problem with competition cautions about every 20 laps. This lead to a frustrating race, but when it was green it was good racing all around.  Indy had her problems on Sunday but drives from the bottom of the Chase bucket like Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne shined as did young blood AJ Allmendinger (#84). Although it wasn’t standard Indy racing the Brickyard is often looked on as a predictor of the Cup, what did she say about those on the Bucket Report?

 

Ranked 12th – Clint Bowyer (#07)

 

Start

Finish

Change in Standing

40

19

+1

 

 

            Last report I mention that Bowyer was one to watch; well he made it, he moved up one spot and is now in the Chase. Bowyer pushed Kevin Harvick out of the Chase, but only by two points.  He started 40th and finished 19th. His team used his pitting well to gain him track position. He and his team will have to be on point at Pocono to stay in it, as hopefully the competition cautions will be gone and he will have to fight for his own track position.

 

 

Ranked 11th – Matt Kenseth (#17)

 

Start

Finish

Change in Standing

10

38

-3

 

            Kenseth made a bad call early on which lead to him finished 38th.  Around Lap 45 Kenseth reports that he feels his back right tire is coming loses but he chooses to stay out there. At Lap 47 he spins with a blown out right rear tire. The tire obliterated the right quarterpanel, bring the score to rubber 1, sheet metal 0.  Lap 48 Kenseth heads to the garage, and it was all down hill from there. Thanks to all the cautions his team had the time to get him back out there to salvage what points he could.

 

Ranked 10th – Tony Stewart (#20)

 

Start

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Change in Standing

14

23

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            Over all Stewart had a disappointing run of things. Ok so the track conditions weren’t ideal by any means but why is Stewart racing like the rookie and AJ Allmendinger like the pro. AJ’s performance can’t all be written off to track position gain from pitting either. The difference between AJ and Stewart at the Brickyard was AJ wanted it more. He fought to keep the lead lap and finished strong at 10th.

 

            Stewart got caught up in traffic early on at Lap 20, telling the crew chief over the radio that he wasn’t that loose but his if he ran any harder he would shake lose. At Lap 90 it looked like Stewart maybe coming alive as he entered the top five after passing Martin Truex Jr.  However, Lap 145 began his decline as after a two tire pit he dropped to 10th. Stewart just never got it back in it after that. With Stewart’s performance of late he is making me start to wonder if he deserves to even be in the Chase.

 

Ranked 9th – Kasey Kahne (#9)

 

Start

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Change in Standing

4

7

+2

 

            Kahne started at the Brickyard in good position (4th), tire issues aside Indy is a very aero-sensitive track and passing is a challenge, so keeping track position is a must. However, keeping track position has been a weakness of Kahne’s in the past so when he started losing position early, my first and yes wrong assumption is it was just that weakness showing. At Lap 22 the crew reports that there is a problem something in the engine is producing an odd noise. By Lap 44 the problem has been identified as a faulty plug wire.

 

            The plug wire’s function is basically what its name implies. The plug wire conducts spark energy from the ignition source, to the spark plug. The more efficient the wire the more spark energy that is transferred to the spark plug. In short no wire, no plug, no cylinder, equals lost of horsepower. As the Brickyard needs the horsepower the #9 team got right on the problem. They used the cautions and implement a work, release, and catch up plan. From about Lap 50 to 69, Kahne dives on to pit row for a quick fix as the spotter watch to keep him from falling off the lead lap. Then he off to fights for position, after a little catching up he start the cycle again by diving back to pit row. Over the radio they call for a welder and a generator. By Lap 69 crew chief Kenny Francis calls no glory; it can’t be fixed, Kahne will just have to make do.

 

            Down on horsepower and covered in rubber that has found its way into the car, Kahne comes to life. Lap 97 he moves up to 15th, for the next 19 lap he fight to stay between 15-17th position.  Lap 121 he pits and takes four tires, and fights his way up to 10th. The last caution is thrown and he heads to pit row.  His team gives him an edge getting out fast gaining one spot. Over the radio you hear Francis tell him to “Be aggressive, but be smart”.  Kahne was both on Lab 157 he takes the inside on Biffle to gain the 7th position. Many would say that Indy isn’t a “Kahne track” so with a lot of “Kahne tracks” still in the schedule I see Kahne moving up in the standing with a bullet.

 

Ranked 8th – Denny Hamlin (#11)

 

Start

Finish

Change in Standing

23

4

+4

 

            Last report I asked if Hamlin was focused on winning in the Sprint Cup Series, well I think I got my answer. Hamlin was definitely the only member of the Gibbs team in the spotlight on Sunday and well deserved.  By Lap 28 Hamlin had worked his way through the field to 9th position.  Lap 77th finds him at 3rd but after pitting he falls to 10th position.  The loss of position after pitting will become Hamlin downfall later in the race. He fights back to 9th before pitting again at Lap 123. His team does him a solid and gains him 8 spots, Hamlin is in the lead!

 

            Hamlin holds off Jimmy Johnson leading by 0.517 seconds at Lap 133. Over the radio begins the discussion about tires at Lap 137.  Hamlin is thinking four tries but crew chief Mike Ford, calls for two, telling Hamlin that is they go for four he will drop to 8th or 9th. Hamlin tells Ford he is game for what ever, you can hear the enthusiasm in Hamlin’s every word he wants this race. Keeping track position is critical at this point; they go with two tires. Hamlin holds onto the lead position, until pitting on the caution at Lap 150. He only takes right-side tires and wedge, but it wasn’t fast enough Johnson gets out first. Hamlin enters the race at 3rd. He will fight the remaining laps out with Elliot Sandler, who will finally get the edge for 3rd Hamlin finishing 4th.  Hamlin’s last top 5 finish was at Pocono, the next race could be his ticket out of the Bucket Report.

 

 

            Who will The Tricky Triangle give the edge to stay in the Chase and who will she push out?  Matt Kenseth owes his team a better performance so I think he will be hungry coming into Pocono, he should be able to gain back at lest one spot. If Stewart doesn’t find his game, look for him to drop further down into the bucket.   

 

             Well until next time, happy cheering for the bottom of the bucket!

 

 

Sources: NASCAR.com, ESPN, and ESPN.com

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