9 May 2011
Regan Smith revels in long overdue victory
"[Montoya's] a ****," Johnson's pit chief Chad Knaus commiserated with his driver. "I don't know what the **** he was thinking." Alluding to the stories of a running feud all week between Montoya and Newman since their on-track spat at Richmond, Knaus concluded: "He's just mad at the world."
Montoya radioed his apologies - "Sorry, I locked the front tires" - but added that the #48 was also early off the gas. Team Johnson was unimpressed: "He's a way better driver than that," said Knaus: "No apology there."
After the restart on lap 88 Kahne was quickly back in front, and Montoya equally quick to be back into the wars, this time with contact with Brian Vickers; fortunately the Red Bull driver was able to save the #83 and avoid another quick yellow flag coming out.
McMurray's two-tyre gamble was exposed as a mistake and he sank back, with Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick taking up the top four positions ahead of him, but well behind Kahne who was far away in front. As the cars got a decent stretch of green flag running, Kahne found his car getting loose and hotter as the laps clicked past, and by lap 115 his lead had evaporated and he had no answer for Carl Edwards coming on strong and sailing past him to take to the front.
The teams were just contemplating the onset of green flag pit stops when the fifth caution of the afternoon arrived on lap 122 for debris on the track, and the cars gratefully took to pit road. As so often happens, the #18 pit crew put Kyle Busch back out on track in the lead ahead of Carl Edwards, David Reutimann, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick: Tony Stewart had a scare when his team dropped a lugnut; Jimmie Johnson was left loose and ruing not asking his team to tighten him up while he had the chance; and Paul Menard got hit from behind in pit lane by Brad Keselowski that spun him sideways into his pit box; the team just got to work on the #27 anyways. To rub salt into the wound, Menard then got himself a pit lane exit speeding violation.
Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards were quickly away in front when racing resumed on lap 127, but David Reutimann - who had gambled on taking two tyres only - was moving backwards and was replaced in the top spots by Kasey Kahne recovering from a slightly sluggish pit stop. Jeff Gordon was dropping backwards complaining that his car was now too loose, and Johnson was indeed suffering from the same problem and dropped out of the top 20.
The green flag stint lasted almost a hundred laps, meaning that it included a round of green flag pit stops which saw Martin Truex Jr. losing it and spinning as he tried to make it down onto pit lane at speed. Kyle Busch, having built up a 2.5s lead over Edwards, was easily able to come in, pit and get out again in the lead without any dramas; and the stops also saw a revival in fortunes for both Gordon and Johnson who were finally moving in the right direction again.
But just when it looked as though Kyle Busch was cruising to a dominant victory, disaster struck the #18 as they passed the 200 lap marker: a vibration was the tell-tale sign of a loose wheel, and he had no option but to dive into pit road on lap 205 for a costly unscheduled green flag pit stop for new tyres. It put the former leader down to 27th place and a lap off the lead, and things looked bleak for him from here.
Carl Edwards inherited the lead, and also the battle through lapped traffic. A few laps earlier he'd flirted with disaster himself, having hit the wall on lap 192. "How bad did I tear up the right rear, Jason?" Edwards had asked his spotter, Jason Hedlesky. "Not too bad. I guess if you're going to do it, that's the way to do it," came the reply - and sure enough it didn't seem to be having too bad an effect on his pace now he was in the lead.
Edwards was still leading Harvick and Kahne when the sixth caution came out on lap 220. The cause this time was a solo spin by Jimmie Johnson after a tyre went down. He was having an uncharacteristically messy evening of it, but once again the reigning champion's luck held and he made no contact and was able to carry on after the ensuing round of pit stops that saw Edwards, Harvick, Kahne, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon remain up in front.
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