Sunday, October 28
Jimmie Johnson celebrates his win with a burnout. Johnson, a native of southern California, donated his race winnings ($349,561) to the Red Cross
California Wildfire Relief Fund
Johnson Wins Eighth, Cuts Points Lead to Nine
HAMPTON, GA. (October 28, 2007) – Jimmie Johnson won a wild-and-wooly Pep Boys Auto 500 here Sunday afternoon.
A bizarre series of circumstances in the final 20 laps of the 325-lap event led to Johnson's storybook finish and eighth win of the year.
Johnson was lined up behind race leader Denny Hamlin for a green-white-checkered flag finish.
The starting flag waved and every car took off, every car but one.
Hamlin's car was out of gas and he rolled slowly down the center of the track like an unlucky duck at a shooting gallery.
Cars went on both sides and sparks flew. Jeff Burton scraped the outside wall and Martin Truex Jr., unable to see Hamlin's car stalled out until it was too late, buried the nose of his Chevy in Hamlin's rear end.
On the restart after the caution, more trouble ensued. Shortly after the cars took the green, the left rear wheel
came flying off Dale Earnhardt's car as he entered the turn. He slid up the track directly in the path of oncoming Jamie McMurray,
who delivered a KO punch to both cars at speed. That signaled the end of the race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. commented on the incident after the race: "Man... that was a HIT! It was hard and loud! BAM into that wall. I knew when I was sliding up there it was gonna be big... and it was. Loud and hard. We lost a left rear wheel. We must have had an issue with the hubs or something because we had loose lugs and a loose left rear wheel several times through the day. When that wasn't a problem, we were fast as hell. We passed a lot of cars today but you can only do that if everything is tight and screwed on correctly. I knew we had a loose wheel on our last long run at the end of the race, but when we pitted the last time (on lap 319), we changed two right-side tires to get track position, but the left side was still loose. It must have gotten worse during the yellow flags. I dunno
Neither driver was hurt but the crazy finish sent NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series officials to the monitors for a scoring rundown. NASCAR uses every tool available in determining the running order at the time the caution flag is displayed, including visual, video and scoring loops around the track to determine the final rundown.
When the scoring scrutiny had been completed, the final rundown showed Johnson the winner, Carl Edwards second and Reed Sorensen third, followed by Matt Kenseth, Burton, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers.
Actually, the exciting and totally unexpected ending was created with eight laps remaining when Johnny Sauter suffered a tire failure and hit the wall
At the time of the caution, Kyle Busch was leading, Kenseth was second, Truex third, Kurt Busch fourth, Johnson fifth, Kahne sixth and Hamlin seventh. Gordon was eighth at the time, Earnhardt ninth and Carl Edwards 10th.
All but Hamlin pitted for tires and a splash of gas. Johnson's team decided to put on two tires instead of four and that put him back on track for the restart in front of everyone but Hamlin.
Once the race was restarted, speedy pit work shuffled the order with Johnson first, followed by Earnhardt, McMurray, Sorensen, Edwards, Burton, Kenseth, Bowyer and Truex.
Young Busch, the leader when the final pit stop began, was 13th when the pit stops were complete.
Johnson gained some points on Gordon in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship by winning the race with Gordon finishing six spots back. Johnson is now nine points behind Gordon in the series standings after entering the race 53 back.
To begin the race, Kurt Busch sped to the front of the field shortly after the start on a crisp, golden day at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Things weren't so pretty, however, for Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 33. Montoya's Dodge had a right front tire go down, putting the former Indianapolis 500 winner into the wall.
Earnhardt was penalized under the caution for a commitment line violation. Another caution slowed things at 42 laps when Dave Blaney's Toyota lost power on the backstretch.
A debris caution on lap 52 gave the drivers another breather, prompting fans to wonder whether the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race was going down the same path as Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series event. The Memphis event tied the caution flag record in that Series, a total of 25 caution periods.
Kurt Busch was still leading at lap 65 when David Gilliland spun on the backstretch, hit the outside retaining wall and slid across the track directly in front of Mark Martin.
Martin's car plowed into Gilliland, which ended the day for both drivers. Their cars were damaged beyond repair. Neither driver was injured.
The elder Busch was still leading when David Stremme spun off turn four. Busch went from first to 13th after the pit stop.
Truex took the lead at that point.
Another caution fell on lap 148 when rookie David Ragan smacked the wall in turn two.
When the race resumed, Truex was still in the lead with Kenseth trailing. Kurt Busch had battled his way back to third. Hamlin was fourth.
Another caution, the sixth of the beautiful afternoon, waved after Bobby Labonte's car cut a tire at lap 163.
The field had barely reached speed again after a restart when David Ragan tagged Jeremy Mayfield, sending Mayfield spinning down the track.
Complete race results and point standings in the Event Stats below...
Checkered Flag Fast Facts
Qualifying: Friday, October 26 (ESPN2 & TSN-alt at 8 p.m./AT)
Final Practice: Saturday, October 27 (ESPN2 at 7 p.m./AT - same day delay)
RaceDay: Sunday, October 28 (SPEED at 1 p.m./AT)
Countdown to Green: Sunday, October 28 (ABC & TSN-HD at 2 p.m./AT)
Race: Sunday, October 28 (ABC & TSN-HD at 3 p.m./AT)
- Jimmie Johnson won the Pep Boys Auto 500, his 31st victory in 216 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
- This is his eighth victory and 21st top-10 finish in 2007. This is his third sweep of the season (Richmond,
Martinsville and Atlanta and his third time to post back-to-back victories in 2007.
- This is his third victory and ninth top-10 finish in 13 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
- Johnson had the No. 1 pre-race Driver Rating at Atlanta (118.3) and is the fifth driver this season to win
when having the top pre-race Driver Rating
- Carl Edwards (second) posted his sixth top-10 finish in seven races at Atlanta.
- Reed Sorenson (third) posted his third top-10 finish in five races at Atlanta. It is his career-best finish in
71 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races.
- AJ Allmendinger (16th) was the highest finishing rookie.
- Seven of the Chase drivers posted top-10 finishes.
- Jeff Gordon now leads the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup by a margin of nine points over
*AT is one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Dale Jarrett will start third in the Pep Boy's 500 - his best start on what has been a tough season...
Event Stats PDF files unless otherwise noted
Greg Biffle won the Bud Pole Award for Sunday's Pep Boy's 500. [Click here] for the complete starting lineup.
Green Flag Fast Facts
- Greg Biffle won the Bud Pole for the Pep Boys Auto 500 with a lap of 28.807 seconds, 192.453 mph.
- This is his fourth Bud Pole in 183 career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races.
- This is his first Bud Pole and 10th top-10 start in 2007. He became the 16th driver to win a Bud Pole this
- This is Biffle’s first Bud Pole and fourth top-10 start in 10 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
- Kurt Busch posted the second-fastest qualifying time. It is his 13th top-10 start of 2007 and his fifth in 14
- Dale Jarrett (third) posted his 16th top-10 start in 40 races at Atlanta. He posted 10 straight between 1996 and
2002. It is his best start of the 2007 season and his first top-10 start since Talladega on Oct. 10, 2006.
- Jimmie Johnson (sixth) posted his 23rd top-10 start of 2007, extending his series lead in top-10 starts.
- Only three of the 12 Chase drivers qualified in the top-10: Kurt Busch, Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
- Jarrett was the fastest of the drivers required to make the field on time.
- Juan Pablo Montoya (21st) was the fastest qualifying rookie.
- Drivers that failed to qualify include David Reutimann, Burney Lamar, Sam Hornish Jr., Ward Burton and Mike Skinner.
The Race: Pep Boys Auto 500
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.
The Track: 1.54-mile oval
The Distance: 500.5 miles, 325 laps
The Purse: $6,156,331
2006 Polesitter: None (weather)
2006 Winner: Tony Stewart
Pre-Race On-Track Schedule (ET): Friday—Practice, 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. Qualifying, 7:10 p.m.; Saturday—Practice, 8:45 – 9:30 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.
Season To-Date Results & Point Standings: click here
Keys to Winning...
Green Flag Notes...
- Jimmie Johnson: “Atlanta is one of the more intense tracks we race at, so you have to be comfortable with going fast there. You’ve got to be comfortable with running right next to the wall at Atlanta.”
- Carl Edwards: “Atlanta is a fun race track. The key to winning at Atlanta may be making sure your car is making a lot of grip in the center of the corner. It’s so fast there; if the car’s not comfortable and easy to drive it can make that place a nightmare. My key in practice is making the car easy to drive.”
- Crew chief Chad Knaus: “Atlanta is one of the coolest races that we go to at the end of the year. The race track is very big and very wide. The drivers actually have the opportunity to run down at the bottom and then as their tires begin to fall off, they can begin to run up top. What you have to keep in mind is that this is such a big race track, that when you run down at the bottom, your fuel mileage is going to be better than when you run on the high side of the track because you make the diameter of the track so much bigger just by going to the high side. That affects your fuel mileage and your pit strategy.”
- Fifteen years ago next month at Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of this Sunday’s Pep Boys Auto 500, a legendary era of NASCAR racing was coming to a close while a new chapter was being ushered in.
Looking back on it now, the fall race at Atlanta on Nov. 15, 1992 was quite a historic event. Seven-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Richard Petty took the checkered flag for the final time in his storied career, while 21-year-old rookie driver Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont/Nicorette Chevrolet) made his first career start in NASCAR’s top racing series. That afternoon saw “The King” make his 1,185th and final NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start, spanning a 35-year career of racing that featured a record 200 victories. It didn’t matter that Petty finished 35th that day or that Gordon finished 31st.
Fast forward 15 years and Gordon’s legend continues to evolve. The current points leader in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is seeking his fifth series championship and the 82nd victory of his career as the circuit heads to this ultra-fast 1.54-mile oval located on the outskirts of Atlanta.
Atlanta Motor Speedway will recognize Petty and Gordon at this Sunday’s event. Gordon will serve as the Grand Marshal, while Petty will be in the role of the Honorary Starter. The race is also the 15th anniversary of one of NASCAR’s most memorable races, as the 1992 championship battle came down to a slim 10-point deficit with Alan Kulwicki edging out Bill Elliott for the title.
“Looking back on that race in November, 1992 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it was a race that will always be a significant part of NASCAR history,” said Petty.
“It’s an honor to give the command prior to the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway – the track where my NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career began 15 years ago,” said Gordon. “For the first time, the entire crowd may actually cheer for something I did.”
Gordon is in the throes of putting together one of the finest seasons of his stellar career. He enters the sixth event in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup with a 53-point lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet). Gordon has posted six wins this year and his 81 victories are sixth best all-time. With two victories and five top fives through the first six races in the Chase, Gordon has clearly established himself as the man to beat for the 2007 title.
“We’re always trying to gain, but if we can’t gain, then we want to maintain or keep it to a minimum,” said Gordon following his third-place finish last Sunday at Martinsville. “I’m excited about going to Atlanta. It’s a good track for us; there are a lot of good tracks left for us. Any top-five finish, in my opinion, is a good one right now.”
- A mere six points separates the 34th and 35th place teams in this week’s NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series owner points.
The No. 45 American Spirit Motor Oil Dodge owned and driven by Kyle Petty sits in the 34th position with 2,511 points. Right on his heels is the No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota, owned by Bill Davis and driven by Dave Blaney in the 35th spot.
The top 35 teams in the owner standings are guaranteed automatic starting spots each week. Other teams must earn their berths based on qualifying speeds.
The 36th position is held by the No. 21 Little Debbie Ford team, owned by Glen Wood and driven by former series champion Bill Elliott. That team is currently 142 points out of the top 35.
- The No. 66 Best Buy Chevrolet team, owned by Joe Custer, made a driver change earlier this week. Jeremy Mayfield, who has been driving for Bill Davis Racing this year, signed a deal on Monday to drive the No. 66 in the four remaining NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races this season in addition to all of the 2008 season. Mayfield replaces Jeff Green.
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