After the sounds of the US Marine Drum and Bugle Corps playing the National Anthem and the command to start engines by surviving war hero and race namesake Staff Sergeant Matthew Hansen faded, Saturday night racing was officially underway at Richmond International Raceway.
Here is what was surprising and not surprising from the Crown Royal Presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400.
Surprising: It was surprising to see just how quickly the pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya, in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet, fell from his prime starting position into a world of trouble with Ryan Newman, piloting the No. 39 US Army Medicine Chevrolet.
After some tussling back and forth for position, Newman had had enough with the ever assertive Montoya, sending JPM into the wall on Lap 106. Montoya returned to the track and on Lap 236 took his revenge. [media-credit id=5 align=”alignright” width=”258″][/media-credit]
After being spun out by Montoya, Newman was definitely hot under the collar. “I can’t believe they’re not going to black flag that 42 car,” Newman said. “I’m going to take care of this after the race.”
Newman did indeed head straight for the NASCAR hauler after the race to share his concerns and see what the sanctioning body had to say about the incident. Montoya, on the other hand, waved off the media, jumped on his golf cart and headed back to the motor coach lot without comment.
Newman declared he just wanted the situation to be handled fairly by the sanctioning body.
“I know that he (Montoya) ran up on me of (Turn) 2 there and I clipped him. I mean I’m not going to try to dump myself into the wall,” Newman said. “But to retaliate the way he did just didn’t show much class.”
Not Surprising: Since the track was Richmond, it was not surprising to see the Joe Gibbs Racing team at the front of the pack when the checkered flag flew. While Denny Hamlin had dominated the weekend, winning his own charity race as well as the Nationwide event, it was JGR teammate Kyle Busch, in his award winning M&Ms Pretzel Toyota, that led 235 laps including the final 84, to claim the victory.
“This race tonight was a good one,” Busch said. “We knew if we could go through traffic, we could win.”
“We just really got beat by our teammate,” Hamlin said. “He drove a great race. Our cars were dead equal. We just got beat.”
Surprising: There were definitely some surprising names in the top ten finishers when the checkered flag flew at RIR. Both Red Bull drivers, Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota, and his teammate Brian Vickers, behind the wheel of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, had good nights.
Kahne, still smarting from his recent knee surgery, finished third and Vickers posted a tenth place finish.
Another driver David Ragan, piloting his No. 6 UPS “We Love Logistics” Ford for Roush- Fenway Racing, had a strong car especially at the end of the race, finishing fourth.
“It was a fun night,” Ragan said. “This is my favorite track to come to. Back in 2007, we finished third here and I have really liked the place since.”
The final driver not usually in the top ten but with a great run at Richmond was AJ Allmendinger. With new sponsor Nautica on his No. 43 Ford Fusion, the ‘Dinger brought his car home in the seventh spot.
“Sometimes in these races, you have to get a little lucky,” Allmendinger said. “We have been on the bad end before with good cars so I will take luck over skill any day.”
Not Surprising: Although mightily struggling for much of the race, five-time champion Jimmie Johnson found his inner rally and finished eighth.
“We had a good finish out of it but it was a long, long night,” Johnson said. “We got the car semi-competitive and then finally got some strategy, got back on the lead lap and we went from there. So, frustrating night but a good points night.”
Surprising: Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon had a surprisingly bad night. Gordon yet again found a non-safer barrier wall and wrecked into it driver’s side first.
The crash on Lap 301 also collected Paul Menard, Mark Martin, David Reutimann, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth.
“It knocked the wind out of me,” Gordon said after his visit to the infield care center. “I seem to find the worst angles of walls.”
“What a shame,” Gordon continued. “The Dupont Chevrolet was so strong. With 100 laps to go everyone was losing their patience including me. I just wish they had a safer barrier there.”
Not Surprising: Unfortunately, it was not surprising that Team Penske continued their struggles. Kurt Busch, in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, had all kinds of trouble, from the initial wreck involving Montoya, continuing throughout the race. Teammate Brad Keselowski, in the Blue Deuce, was also involved in several crashes. Busch finished 22nd and Keselowski finished 36th.
Surprising: After returning to the lead lap via the ‘lucky dog’ process, Dave Blaney, with his newly committed sponsor Golden Corral on his No. 36 race car, managed to move forward at the end of the race to finish 13th, his season’s best. Blaney, racing not start and parking for Tommy Baldwin Racing, has now locked himself into the top 35, firmly ensconced in 32nd in the point standings.
Not Surprising: Carl Edwards had another strong run, posting a fifth place finish in his No. 99 Scotts EZ Seed Ford. He also maintained the top spot in the point standings, nine points over second place Jimmie Johnson and thirty points ahead of race winner Kyle Busch in third.
“That was a lot of work,” Edwards said. “I think that feeling of fifth here tonight will be replaced with the points lead feeling in a little bit and that will feel better.”