Dale Jr remains second in the Chase to the Championship
JOLIET, ILL. (July 12, 2008) –
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt is second only to Busch in Driver Rating with a 103.3 and has an Average Running Position of 10.8 (third), 362 Fastest Laps Run (third) and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 76.4% (third). Kyle Busch is hoping his good-luck streak continues.
Other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are hoping some of his good fortune rubs off on them.
After Busch led a race-high 165 laps in Saturday night's LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, defending series champion Jimmie Johnson took the lead for the first time with 17 laps to go. Busch figured Johnson was heading to Victory Lane, especially after Johnson drove away on a restart.
But David Gilliland's blown engine brought out another caution with just five laps remaining. And Busch took advantage of a slow restart, laying on Johnson's bumper and zipping past the two-time champion down the backstretch with just two laps left.
He continued his incredible Cinderella season, winning in NASCAR's top division for the seventh time this season for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Many in the garage area would say that's what's known as making your own luck, or the most of an opportunity, something Busch has certainly done this year.
He also has won five times in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and twice in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He led more laps than anyone in his latest effort and his only snafu of the balmy night occurred when he drove through the grassy part of the tri-oval and got his No. 18 M&M's Toyota stuck in the mud.
His crew gladly pushed him out and Busch seemed incredulous that he got by Johnson at the end.
"I don't know how I did that," he said. "I sort of gave up on myself when I lost the lead but those guys over there (his jubilant pit crew) didn't give up."
Trailing Busch and Johnson at the finish were Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, Martin Truex, Jr., and Ryan Newman.
Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon was 11th after 267 laps. Neither Gordon nor Dale Earnhardt, Jr., were factors in the race. Earnhardt finished 16th, just ahead of Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Carl Edwards, who appeared to have a solid shot at winning, came to the pits on Lap 237 thinking he had a flat tire. It turned out his splitter on the front of his No. 99 Office Depot Ford broke and was hitting the track. He was never a factor afterwards, finishing 32nd, a lap behind the leaders.
There were nine caution periods during the race, several for debris. One of the debris cautions occurred on Lap 237 when Paul Menard ran into the rear end of Jason Leffler's car, knocking the rear valance off Leffler's car and into the middle of the track.
The race started after a spectacular flyover by four F-14's and a driver's meeting at which “The King”, Richard Petty, was recognized for his 50 years in the sport. The popular Petty, holder of many NASCAR records including most victories (200) and seven series championships, received a rousing standing ovation from his peers when introduced.
Things didn't start nearly as well for J. J. Yeley. His car was held until after the green flag waved due to a pre-race weight rule infraction.
David Reutimann also started the race on a down note when Leffler squeezed him into the wall after just a few laps.
The younger Busch took over like one of the F-14's, racing away to a comfortable lead in the early stages. He was the class of the field when NASCAR waved a mandatory caution on Lap 35 lap to allow the teams an opportunity to check tire wear. Rain on Thursday and Friday night had turned the race track green, leaving no rubber on it.
When racing resumed on Lap 40, Busch took up where he left off, but Edwards stayed with him. Edwards badgered Busch for several laps before passing him at Lap 45.
Denny Hamlin's No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota shut off at Lap 48, prompting a second caution, which helped Burton, who had dropped way back in the field after missing his pit stall on the first caution.
After pit stops, Gordon took the lead by not pitting. He was trailed by Biffle, Vickers, Newman and Busch.
Hamlin came back on the track after a trip to the garage where his crew switched ignition panels. The trip cost him four laps.
Biffle passed Gordon for the lead on Lap 58 and the top 10 included Vickers in third, then Busch, Stewart, Edwards, Kenseth, Johnson, Truex, Jr., and Harvick.
By 100 laps, Stewart had taken the lead and Truex was threatening to do so.
The third caution of the race waved on Lap 111 when Michael Waltrip fell victim to a miscue out of turn four by Patrick Carpentier, whose car slid into the wall right in front of Waltrip. When Waltrip backed off, Burton nipped him in the rear, sending him on a spin through the grassy infield.
Busch worked his way back to the front by Lap 20 while Kenseth fell back in the field with a flat tire and unscheduled pit stop.
Stewart was second with young David Ragan third. The two Red Bull Racing Toyotas with Allmendinger and Vickers were next in line.
At the halfway point of 130 laps, Edwards was sixth, Harvick seventh and Martin eighth. Johnson and Biffle rounded out the top 10. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was running back in 19th position and did not appear to be a factor at this point in the race.
[story courtesy of NASCARmedia.com]