Dickies 500 Brings Competition Back to the Chase

Sean CostelloContributor INovember 9, 2009

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 08:  Kurt Busch, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, poses with the trophy on victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 8, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway reintroduced something to the Chase for the Sprint Cup that has been sorely lacking for the past few races: competition.

For the past few weeks it seemed as if Jimmie Johnson was home free to his fourth consecutive NASCAR championship and his place in the record books.

However, an early mistake by David Reutimann and Sam Hornish Jr. on lap three sent Johnson careening into the inside wall of turn two and into the garage for over an hour.

112 laps later, the No. 48 re-entered the race and Johnson finished in 38th position, knocking 111 points off of his lead.

Johnson was not the only driver to come on hard times though.

On lap 174, Chase contender Juan Pablo Montoya got loose and slid up the track into the tail of fellow Chaser, Carl Edwards, sending them both into the outside wall of turn two.

This ended the day for Edwards who was also hit by Brad Keselowski, causing terminal damage to his car.

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Montoya eventually re-entered the race on lap 261 and finished just ahead of Jimmie Johnson in 37th position.

The race wasn't all heartache though. For some it was the chance they had been waiting for all season.

Jeff Gordon, the pole-sitter for the Dickies 500 had a relatively good race. He led 10 laps and narrowly avoided the altercation between Montoya and Edwards. Despite a penalty for coming down pit road while it was closed, he finished the day with a top-20 finish in 13th place.

It was also a great day for second-place Chase contender Mark Martin. Martin finished fourth and due to Jimmie Johnson's troubles early in the race, ended with a mere 71 points separating him from the Sprint Cup with two races left to run.

And then, there were the Busch brothers...

Together, Kyle and Kurt Busch owned the track. While drama was unfolding behind them, Kurt and Kyle were fighting for the lead.

Kyle had high expectations for this race. After winning both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck races at Texas Motor Speedway, Kyle was hoping to win the Dickies 500 and become the first driver to achieve the "NASCAR Trifecta"—a win in all three of NASCAR's national series in one weekend.

For most of the day it seemed as if his dream was within reach. And then his day fell apart.

After lapping most of the field and leaving only six cars on the lead lap, Kyle's new crew chief, Dave Rogers, told him to cool it and conserve fuel. It was too late however. With three laps to go, Kyle's No. 18 Toyota ran out of fuel and coasted down pit road to his stall.

This left his brother, and Sprint Cup Chaser, Kurt Busch open to claim the lead and the checkered flag. Kurt had conserved his fuel and brought himself within 171 points of Chase leader Jimmie Johnson, gaining two positions in the Chase standings.

Denny Hamlin was another Chaser who maximized on his opportunities this weekend. After a DNF made last week's race hard to swallow, Hamlin came back this weekend for a top-five finish, following Kurt Busch over the line for second place and a gain of three positions in Chase standings.

So what does this mean for the final two races of the Chase for the Sprint Cup?

It means Jimmie Johnson is going to have to fight to maintain his lead.

It means Mark Martin is hungrier than ever to take the lead.

It means Chasers who were once dismissed as out of the running are as competitive and ready as ever to win.

It means to expect an exciting, high-drama finish to the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

And finally it goes to show, anything really can happen in our sport.

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