[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”248″][/media-credit]For the second straight week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series saw a race come down to fuel mileage once again involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. Like last week, Earnhardt came up short as it was Michigan’s Brad Keselowski taking the blue deuce back to victory lane in the inaugural STP 400 at the Kansas Speedway. Brad was able to stretch his fuel for the final 57 lap run to earn his second career victory. Keselowski said, “I didn’t even realize I was in the lead until two to go when I looked at the pylon.” It was the first victory for Keselowski since Talladega in the spring of 2009, and the first win for both Dodge and Penske for the 2011 season.
So much for Kurt Busch having “undriveable” cars this season. Kurt took the lead on lap 18 from Juan Pablo Montoya and began to pull away. The elder Busch lead 152 laps. That’s quite a feet considering that prior to Sunday’s race, Kurt had only lead 123 through the first 12 races of this season. It wasn’t until lap 258 when the day went wrong for Kurt when he was forced to pit for fuel. Then, just one lap later, he struggled getting the car going as the fuel was not picking up to the motor. Kurt was still able to salvage a ninth place finish on the day catapulting him to sixth in the point standings
Tony Stewart was another driver that got a much deserved good day. Kansas has always been a great track for Smoke as he is a two time winner in America’s Heartland( 2006 and 2009 respectively). Stewart ran up towards the front just about all race long and looked like he may challenge for his first win in 2011. That all came to and end when he like most drivers, had to pit for fuel late in the race. It wasn’t all for nothing though, Tony got an eighth place finish and moved up one spot to eighth in the points. Just the day Smoke needed to kick off the summer stretch of the season.
As always, there were some notable performances from Sunday’s STP 400 that had an overall good day.
Remember how everyone pretty much wrote off Denny Hamlin about five weeks ago? Well, don’t look now, but Denny is back. Hamlin had a very strong showing on Sunday once again. Hamlin was able to get out front, lead some laps, battle in the top five and ultimately came home in the third spot. Hamlin now sits eleventh in the Sprint Cup points which currently qualifies him for the wild card spot.
Denny’s arch enemy from last year, Jimmie Johnson, also had a strong showing on Sunday. The five time champ battled his way up from the thirty-first starting position to finish a respectable seventh on the day. This shows that the 48 team does not need a good qualifying run in order to run well and get a good finish. They showed preserverance and determination as they took to the slick Kansas Speedway. Johnson now sits third in the points, 40 markers out of the lead. That’s nearly a whole race out. The 48 team will have to have runs just like this one, and better if they want a shot at Carl Edwards in the chase.
Sunday also brings the NASCAR on FOX portion of the season to a close. 2011 marks the 11th season of the combination and arguably the best one of the relationship. The entire crew from the booth to the Hollywood Hotel and pit road stepped up to the plate and delivered a terrific presentation to the viewers at home. The coverage now switches to TNT and they kick off their fifth annual “TNT Summer Six Pack” which includes the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona and the inaugural Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway.
Sunday’s race provided everything we normally see when we go to a 1.5 mile track. Side by side racing, long green flag runs, pit strategy and the occasional fuel mileage duel. We saw that many races may come down to fuel mileage which will create many tense moments in races to come. I personally can not wait to see whats to come next weekend in the Poconos.
Next Race- Pocono 500 on TNT