When the green flag dropped at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Kevin Harvick stole the lead from Kasey Kahne and looked to continue his domination. Harvick, who won the Camping World Truck Series race the day before, held the lead for 22 laps before Jeff Gordon passed him for the lead – much to the fans delight. From that point forward, it was a Hendrick battle between teammates Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Jr who ran in the Top-10 for most of the race. It looked as if Hendrick Motorsports would finally get the 200th win they have been searching for. But when at Martinsville, everything can change in an instant.
Kahne’s Disappointing Season Continues
Kahne’s weekend at Martinsville started on a positive note, with qualifying on the pole position in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. When I asked him on Friday what he was looking to improve on for Martinsville, he said “Every time you go to Martinsville you try to improve on the last time you were here. We were pretty good here last year in both races. We didn’t have good finishes because we got caught in other people’s wrecks, but we actually had really fast cars”. This round of Martinsville wasn’t a factor of other driver’s wrecks, but engine issues.
On Lap 231 Kahne came over the radio saying “We may be broke”, referring to the engine. When he left pit road smoke began to sputter from the back of the car. On Lap 234, he took his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet to the garage area and the No. 5 team began to work viciously to try and revive the engine. 84 laps after Kahne made the team aware of the engine issues, Kahne’s motor expired after attempting to return to the race.
Although Kahne’s finish was yet again a difficult thing to digest, he tried to look on the upside after the race. “I mean, it is and it isn’t(an upsetting finish). I am upset that we haven’t run great this year, but we are great on Friday and Saturday. We were fast again today and we have the speed so when it’s our time we will be ready to take advantage of it.” This finish dropped Kahne four positions in Cup standings to 31st position. He is now hovering in the bottom of the Top-35 in owner’s point’s, in 32nd position. Kahne is hoping to change his 2012 statistics at a track where he has one win at and four top-10 finishes: Texas Motor Speedway.
Kahne tried a new spotter for this race and will continue to have Shannon McGlamery spot for him at TMS on a two week basis. After Texas, he will decide if he would like to keep McGlamery as his spotter or allow his cousin Kole Kahne to remain his spotter. “I was a little unpleased after California. We are just looking at something for a couple of weeks. We are going to see after Texas. We are going to sit down and decide if that is the direction I want to go or if I feel comfortable with Kole doing it again or what”.
Earnhardt Top Finishing Hendrick Car After Late Race Crash
Dale Earnhardt Jr started the race in 14th position, at a track where he has yet to take home a grandfather clock at. By Lap 8, Earnhardt moved himself into the Top 10 and was eyeing the Top 5. He gained three positions to move to seventh position by Lap 50, giving Junior Nation something to be excited about. When at Martinsville, rubbing is racing, and Earnhardt couldn’t have gone through this race without being shoved around a little. On Lap 106 Aric Almirola was on Earnhard’ts inside attempting to pass him. His race car then became loose, shoving Earnhardt up the track. Earnhardt wasn’t too happy about this move and retaliated two laps later, getting the position back.
[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]After flying through the field for the entire race, Dale Jr finally took the lead from his teammate Gordon on Lap 229 and stayed in the lead until caution was thrown two laps later. With 20 laps to go the Hendrick teammates of Gordon, Johnson, and Earnhardt were running 1-2-3 and it looked as if HMS would finally get that 200th win they have been searching for.
On the last restart of the day it was Gordon and Johnson on the front with Earnhardt and Clint Bowyer following in the second row. In Turn 1 Bowyer threw his car below Gordon and Johnson and spun both himself and Johnson out, and removing Gordon from the lead. Earnhardt was untouched and was able to finish the race in third position behind race winner Ryan Newman and AJ Allmendinger. Earnhardt is now second in Cup standings, six points behind leader Greg Biffle.
Newman Wins After Controversial Caution
Ryan Newman, who has been running under the radar for quite some time, picked up his first win for 2012 at Martinsville on Sunday. Newman was able to get into the Top 5 after a caution was thrown with seven laps to go after David Reutiman stopped on track in Turn 1. Reutiman had a left front tire that was loose and was limping around the track for 3 laps in an attempt to maintain top 35 in owner points. The No. 10 car is normally driven by Danica Patrick and the team wanted Danica’s car to remain in the top 35 in owner point’s so Danica doesn’t have to qualify on time in the future.
“Whether – no matter what happened, it’s not eh first time somebody stopped on ta straightaway with a few laps to go and forced us into a green-white-checkered restart at the end of the race. We’ll take what we can get. Like I said, we’re lost them that way hands down several times here and it’s nice to be able to win one”, Newman said when asked about Reutiman stopping on the track.
Newman is eighth in points standings, gaining two positions with his win at Martinsville.