After Jacquelyn Butler, David Ragan’s girlfriend won the ‘Better Half Dash’ and Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne shared a heartfelt invocation, the engines fired under the lights at NASCAR’S home track, Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Surprising: With a surprising show of emotion and his dry sense of humor emerging, the driver of the No. 17 Fluidmaster Ford took the checkered flag with whoops of joy, saying in Victory Lane that it was not too late for departing sponsor Crown Royal to reconsider staying on the car.
Kenseth scored his victory from the outside pole position, qualifying surprising well for a driver not known for the most successful time trial efforts. This was Matt Kenseth’s 21st career victory and his third win of the year.
“It was an awesome win for us,” Kenseth said. “It was a good race.”
“Track position was really important, so qualifying helped,” Kenseth continued. “It made a big difference.”
Kenseth was also surprisingly appreciative of the win, especially after not having been to the winner’s circle for twenty races.
“I’m always thankful to get to victory lane,” Kenseth said. “You never know if you’re ever gonna win another race or when your last win is.”
“I’m thankful for them all and I greatly appreciate being in a position to be able to win races and these guys giving me the cars and the crew and the opportunity to do that.”
Not Surprising: To no one’s surprise, the two drivers finishing second and third had some intense conversation with one another right after the race.
Carl Edwards, who finished third in his No. 99 Aflac ‘Now Hiring’ Ford, almost immediately jumped out his car at the finish to lean into the bridesmaid-yet-again Kyle Busch’s second place No. 18 M&Ms Toyota for a chat.
“We were just talking about the way we were racing there,” Edwards said. “We’re fine. We’ve talked about it and we’ll move on.”
“Hey, this is NASCAR and we’re racing as hard as we can,” Edwards continued. “And we didn’t wreck each other.”
“He just said he didn’t like the way I raced him off Turn Two that one time when he got under me,” Busch said. “He made me loose and it was steering me down the track and I was just trying to hold on.”
“Great run by the M&Ms Camry,” Busch, who not only rebounded from starting last to leading a race high 111 laps, continued. “Best run we’ve had here in a while but still coming up short.”
With his finish, Edwards maintained the points lead by five, with Kyle Busch improving his position by four spots, up to the fourth position, just 18 points behind the leader.
“Overall it was a really good day for our Aflac Fusion,” Edwards said. “We’re trying to have a championship year here and we dodged some bullets.”
“We’ve got to keep finishing like this,” Busch said. “That’s all it takes. If we can finish second here on out, we might win this thing.”
Surprising: At a track often known for Chevy domination, particularly of the Hendrick Motorsports kind, it was surprising to see the Ford brand, primarily the Roushketeers, not only in victory lane but dominating the front of the field. There were four Fords to Chevrolets three in the top ten for this season’s Charlotte fall running.
The win was also significant for Ford team Roush Fenway, marking their 298th overall victory and their 20th NASCAR victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was the first Cup win for owner Jack Roush at Charlotte since 2002.
“All of the Ford cars ran well tonight,” Jack Roush, team owner said. “It was just a matter of time until Matt broke loose from his obscurity in the back and middle of the pack and worked his way to the front.”
As surprising as the Ford dominance was, particularly of Roush Fenway Racing, it was equally surprising to see how poorly the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team ran. The HMS highest finisher was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the 19th position.
“I was not the faster car,” the driver of the No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard/Chevy 100th Anniversary Chevrolet said. “We got a couple wave-arounds and had a loose wheel that cost us another lap.”
“We just have to correct some of those mistakes,” Junior continued. “We just had a couple of little circumstances that cost us a shot at finishing in the top ten.”
Hendrick Chevrolet teammates Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin also had surprisingly, and uncharacteristically, difficult runs at Charlotte. Their poor finishes, 34th, 21st and 37th respectively, was surprisingly poignant for the teams sporting the Chevy 100th anniversary emblems.
Jeff Gordon, in the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger/Chevy 100th Anniversary Chevrolet, went for a wild ride at one point in the race and struggled the rest. Mark Martin in the No. 5 GoDaddy.com/Chevy 100th Anniversary Chevrolet, suffered mechanical problems that left him in the garage for many laps making repairs.
Probably the toughest of the Hendrick finishers was five-time champ Jimmie Johnson, whose No. 48 Lowes/Chevy 100th Anniversary Chevrolet hit hard into the wall, taking his breath away.
“That one stung for sure,” Johnson said of his hit. “Just thankful to have safe race cars, safe walls, softer walls and everything did its job.”
With the wreck and the DNF, Johnson was also the biggest loser in the point standings, dropping five positions to eighth.
“This is not going to help us win a sixth championship,” Johnson conceded. “We will go for every point we can from here on out and hopefully we are still champions at the end of the year.”
Not Surprising: It was not surprising to see the infamous grin of the driver from down under after finishing fifth. Marcos Ambrose, behind the wheel of the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion, could not have been more pleased with his Charlotte run, scoring his third consecutive top-10.
“I ran great,” Ambrose said simply. “I just really appreciate that opportunity.”
RPM teammate AJ Allmendinger, behind the wheel of the No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion, also continued his solid runs, finish seventh.
“It’s not what I wanted, but the end result is good,” Dinger said. “I’m happy there were so many Fords in the top 10.”
Surprising: As surprisingly strong as Brad Keselowski has been, surging forward in race finishes as well as in the points, the driver of the No. 2 ‘Blue Deuce’ had an equally surprisingly tough day at Charlotte.
Keselowski finished 16th, falling two positions to sixth in the point standings. He currently sits 25 points behind points leader Carl Edwards.
“I feel frustratingly fortunate,” Keselowskis said. “The yellows really hurt us. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Not Surprising: Tony Stewart, who scored his first pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway, overcame tight conditions as well as some damage to his No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, to rally back for a top-10 finish.
“We were good off the front there, just when we got back in traffic, we got really tight,” Smoke said. “We just kind of rallied back.”
Not surprisingly, teammate Ryan Newman also scored a top-10 finish in his No. 39 Cookies for Kid’s Cancer/Gene Haas Foundation Chevrolet.
“We needed to get at least that much tonight,” Newman said after the race. “We’ll take a top-10 here tonight and now it’s on to the next one.”
With their finishes, Stewart advanced two positions to the fifth spot in the Chase, while Newman moved up one position in the points to tenth.
Surprising: With the image of Hall of Famer Glenn Wood on the famed No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion, it looked like the young driver Trevor Bayne had a fast car and would have a good run. Surprisingly, the car ran out of gas on Lap 238.
“That’s a bad feeling to run out of gas, especially when you’re not expecting it,” Bayne said. “The 21 was just fast.”
“It must have been sucking up more fuel than we thought being that fast, but I think something just had to be funky in the fuel cell or something messed up on the can.”
Not Surprising: Call him ‘Closer’ or ‘Lurker’ but it was not surprising to see Kevin Harvick have yet another solid race, finishing sixth and maintaining his second place position in the point standings. With that, the driver of the No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet confirmed that he was just happy to be at the half-way in the Chase race.
“We made it through the first five Chase races this year,” Harvick said. “We had had a lot of goals that we wanted to achieve this year and that was one of them.”
“IF you would have told me we would come out of Charlotte with only a five point deficit going into the next five races, I would be really happy.”