After rain postponed what would be a Saturday night race to a Sunday afternoon showdown against potential rain. All of the team’s set-ups and strategies were washed away with the rubber on the track when news hit that the Quaker State 400 would no longer be run under the lights and when the green flag flew, teams really didn’t know what they had on the track.
Dale Earnhardt Jr led the field to green on Sunday but that was about all that happened for the No.88 at the start of the race. Carl Edwards, starting beside Earnhardt Jr, nabbed the lead and took off in front of the field. Flipping through drivers’ radio feeds, one thing was abundantly clear; the cars were LOOSE and in need of adjustments.
Nothing notable really happened in the first 30 laps of the race leading up to the competition caution. Teams made many changes and adjustments on pit road and on the restart; Earnhardt Jr takes the lead followed by Johnson, Montoya, Edwards and Hamlin. Shortly after the green, Hamlin slides up the track with a flat tire and as he makes it onto pit road, the tire casing comes off and rolls onto the track, in the paths of Earnhardt and Johnson who both receive damage.
Neither team decides the damage is bad enough to hit pit road so Earnhardt leads the field to green again for a short stint before Kyle Busch gets turned, bringing out another caution. Busch keeps it off the wall and his fellow competitors keep their cars away from his.
Lap 48 saw the biggest excitement of all when Kurt Busch took to the apron and came back up behind Brad Keselowski, causing him to spin. Keselowski took Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney and others out with him, leaving Biffle and himself with the worst damage. Clean up from the wreck caused NASCAR to stop cars on the track for 18 minutes followed by multiple caution laps. When the race restarted, Johnson leads the field to green followed by Kenseth, Edwards, Gordon and Harvick.
After the wreck on lap 48, the race was pretty uneventful as far as wrecks go. With a few cautions for debris on the track, and many green flag pit stops, Johnson continued to lead the field with as much as a seven second gap over second place for a majority of the race.
Halfway through the race, Tony Stewart starts dropping after running in the top-15 to top-10 all afternoon. Radio chatter sounds like he has a tire going down but he never hits pit road and rides around the track in 25th, the last car on the lead lap. He would eventually go on to finish 20th.
About two-thirds through the race, Hamlin blows a tire yet again but this time, he slams into the wall. He is able to nurse the car back to the garage but he is taken to the infield care center where he stays for an alarmingly large amount of time, leading reporters and fans to think that he was injured. Thankfully, Denny emerges from the care center upright and alert and will be testing at Indianapolis early this week.
Back under green, Johnson loses the lead to Edwards but not for long. Johnson blazes past and that is the last you see of him, or is it? With less than 100 laps left in the race, the No2 and No16 cars are back on track after their lap 48 incident. The No2 of Brad Keselowski is missing his rear end but is lightning fast on the track, keeping lap times consistent with the leaders. The No16 of Greg Biffle caught on fire after colliding with the No2 and his team put a brand new front on the car and got him back out on the track and up to pace.
With 50 laps to go and after falling a lap down with an untimely green flag stop before a caution flag, Gordon is back up to the top-10 and gaining positions. Your top-5 are Johnson, Logano, Bowyer, Kenseth, Vickers, Kyle Busch, McMurray, Edwards, Kahne and Gordon.
There are around 30 laps left and the tenth caution of the day comes out when Brian Vickers slaps the wall after blowing a tire. With rain and weather no longer an issue, the teams have changed focus to fuel and tire strategy as the last round of pit stops start.
As the green flag flies yet again, Kenseth leads the field with Johnson beside him, but the green doesn’t last long as Johnson loses control and starts to spin, somehow keeping it off of the wall bringing out caution flag 11. Johnson restarts P22 but quickly tears through the field and with ten laps to go he has cracked into the top-10.
Checkered flag flies and Matt Kenseth becomes the first driver to reach four wins this season. One notable finish is the guy who finished in the runner-up position, Jamie McMurray. McMurray scored his first top-5 finish of the season and to him and his team, that was as good as a win.
Top-10 at the checkered was: