NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup: Toughest Lessons of Round 9 at Phoenix

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent INovember 14, 2011

NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup: Toughest Lessons of Round 9 at Phoenix

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    Victory finally came to Kasey Kahne as his stint at Red Bull Racing comes to a close, but on the way to the checkered flag others suffered the agony of defeat during the Kobalt Tools 500.

    Kahne had been winless for 81 races and his one hope was to prove he wasn't just wasting time at RBR until his contract with Hendrick Motorsports begins in 2012.

    Kahne and his crew chief, Kenny Francis, have steadily been building momentum for RBR, which faces closure at the end of the season.

    The driver of the No. 4 was sunglassed and emotional in Victory Lane as he remembered his maternal  grandfather who had recently passed.

    The 312 kilometer race was expected to possibly wreak havoc on the field including the Chase contenders because of the new surface on the reconfigured track.

    It was predicted to be a race of wrecks because drivers would be forced to the low groove with problems passing.

    There were some wrecks, spins, and really bad luck involving some of the drivers who had hopes to improve their slots in the Chase.

    When it was all over the two drivers fighting for the series championship, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, left Phoenix with Edwards three points to the good, just as it was when they arrived there.

    Let's take a look at some of the more troubling moments of the ninth race in the 10-week Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

1. Kyle Busch Has More Problems

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    After a tumultuous week, Kyle Busch took the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota out for the first practice session on Friday only to lose oil pressure before making a lap.

    The engine was changed and Busch started the race in 34th position, but fought his way to the third position and looked strong.

    Around lap 188, smoke began trailing the car and Busch radioed his team that he thought the engine was going and sure enough it did as he headed to the garage on lap 195. He finished in the 36th position.

    Busch spoke with the ESPN reporter and appeared as the team cheerleader, praising his team for their efforts through the trying times.

2. Paybacks Always Come

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    Race car drivers have great memories and Brian Vickers just knew the moment would come when he could pay back Matt Kenseth for the spin he got at Martinsville.

    The moment was just right and Vickers made an obvious retaliatory move that caused Kenseth to have to take the No. 17 Crown Royal car to the garage area with serious damage.

    Kenseth was fourth in the point standings heading to Phoenix, but his 34th place finish dropped him to sixth in the Chase with any title hopes gone for this year.

3. The End Is Near

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    It's been a great ride for Jimmie Johnson, driver of the Lowe's No. 48, as he celebrated his five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships.

    Johnson knows that ride is over, but his achievements will hold a place in the history of the sport that likely no other driver will ever be able to match.

    Despite having the race sponsor on his car, Johnson was never a contender for the win or even the top-five positions.

    It was a lackluster event for the No. 48 team with Johnson's 14th place finish. The only bright spot was his move from sixth to fifth in the point standings, 68 markers out of the lead.

4. Kurt Busch's Day

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    Kurt Busch was doing his best to make the weekend a sweep for Penske Racing after Sam Hornish won the NASCAR Nationwide race on Saturday.

    Busch did his usual complaining, but thought things weren't too bad when he was leading the race and running in the lead pack of cars.

    There were only 33 laps to go and Busch looked to be a contender for the win, but then he ran out of gas, stalled the car on pit road and had trouble getting rolling again.

    The driver of the No. 22 was then assessed a speeding ticket for going too fast on pit road. His tachometer wasn't working, so he had no way to know his speed.

    Busch finished in the 22nd position and was able to move from ninth to eighth place in the Chase standings, 107 points out of the lead.

5. Another Crew Swap

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    It was a dramatic turn of events when Chad Knaus replaced the crew for the No. 48 team mid-race last year.

    Today the crew for A.J. Allmendinger and his No. 43 Ford was misbehaving with problems during the pit stops including missing lug nuts.

    Allmendinger started on the front row in second position and had a strong car. David Ragan, who drives the UPS Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, went for a slide early in the race and was down numerous laps.

    The crew in the UPS brown uniforms was suddenly swapped out for the boys in Best Buy blue who had been pitting the Richard Petty Motorsports car.

    Allmendinger then finished sixth in the Kobalt Tools 500, but no doubt there was a little humiliation for the No. 43 crew.

6. Some Retaliation Is Okay

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    After the drama of Kyle Busch crossing the line drawn by NASCAR last week at Texas Motor Speedway for his retaliatory actions, some may wonder why Brian Vickers was able to execute his dirty deed on a Chase contender with no penalty.

    Kenseth actually had no chance at the title after he basically took himself out of the run for the title when he lost patience with Vickers at the Martinsville race.

    Vickers received considerable condemnation for his numerous encounters at Martinsville several of which were with Kenseth who booted Vickers in a calculated racing incident.

    Vickers promised his retaliation and today was the day when he took deliberate action that forced Kenseth to the garage and caused some damage to the No. 83 Red Bull car.

    The difference was this incident was under green-flag conditions and it was just "boy's having at it."

    With the planned closing of Red Bull Racing at season's end, Vickers apparently will be looking for a ride. His on-track behavior isn't winning friends and he is causing a lot of damage to equipment.

    Odd behavior for a young man looking for a job, one would think. Vickers was able to finish 23rd at the Phoenix race.

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