Qualifying resulted in a mix of Chase drivers and non-Chase drivers scattered across the top five
Non-Chaser Elliott Sadler topped qualifying with twelfth in points Greg Biffle on the outside of row number one. The second row was also split with Chaser Carl Edwards starting third and non-Chaser Juan Montoya in fourth. Non-Chaser David Ragan rolled off fifth.
None of the three drivers who came into the race in a virtual dead heat at the top of the points qualified very well.
Point leader Jimmie Johnson started 17th. In second, trailing Johnson by just 14 points, Denny Hamlin started way back in 28th. Third in points Kevin Harvick started 26th.
Drop Of The Green
Greg Biffle and Elliott Sadler stayed side-by-side for the entire first lap with Biffle nipping Sadler by a nose to lead lap one. Biffle got down in front of Sadler on the backstretch of lap two and they stayed single-file until the first caution on lap 12.
Jimmie Johnson had a tire get away from them during the first pit stop. This would normally be a penalty but NASCAR ruled that it wasn't their fault.
Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton were the highlight of the day after they tangled on the race track under caution. Burton made a mistake on the race track which cost both drivers their cars.
Gordon was upset after the smoke cleared. Gordon jumped out of his wrecked car and walked down to where Burton's car came to a stop on the track. When he got there he didn't say a word but simply started throwing his fists.
Now *this* is what NASCAR meant at the beginning of the season when they said "have at it boys." NASCAR had better not penalize either driver. Emotion like this is exactly what the sport needs more of.
Not only the highlight of the race, this may be the highlight of the entire 2010 season. This was fun to watch!
The drama didn't end there. When it appeared that Jeff Gordon's car wouldn't be able to be fixed Rick Hendrick sent his pit crew down to Jimmie Johnson's pit and took over pit stops for the 48. This was a shocking change to make in the middle of the race.
This had to be demoralizing for the 48 crew. It will be interesting to see how they respond to this over the final two races of the year. Will the 24 crew stay with Johnson while he battles for the Cup? This story is not over.
Chasing The Checkers
The final green flag flew with just three laps to go. Denny Hamlin was out front with Matt Kenseth running second. Kevin Harvick in ninth was the first car that pitted under this late caution.
Hamlin and Kenseth battled side-by-side for the lead with neither driving giving. Kenseth finally made the pass in turn one but had to lift in turn two in order to avoid the wall allowing Hamlin to get back by. Hamlin held on to the end taking the win and the point lead.
- Denny Hamlin
- Matt Kenseth
- Mark Martin
- Joey Logano
- Greg Biffle
- Kevin Harvick
- Clint Bowyer
- David Ragan
- Jimmie Johnson
- Paul Menard
This was the closest three-way Chase in history coming into today's race with Denny Hamlin trailing Jimmie Johnson by 14 points. Denny Hamlin's big win moved him to the Chase lead with two races remaining.
Every driver who lead the Chase with two races to go has gone on to win the Championship. Denny Hamlin is in a great position to end Jimmie Johnson's Championship streak.
The top twelve are:
- Denny Hamlin
- Jimmie Johnson -33
- Kevin Harvick -59
- Carl Edwards -317
- Matt Kenseth -325
- Jeff Gordon -331
- Kyle Busch -339
- Tony Stewart -363
- Greg Biffle -372
- Clint Bowyer -397
- Kurt Busch -435
- Jeff Burton -473