6 September 2011
Slice of history for Gordon at delayed Atlanta
"When I dropped down onto the apron it started to wheel-hop a little bit and it ended up breaking the driveshaft," said Gilliland. "I've never done that, but I guess there's a first time for everything.
Gilliland was quickly attended to; more concerning was the sudden thickening of that mist, and sure enough word came through that it was officially raining. It didn't last long: on lap 185 they were good to go, and Kenseth dived down the inside of Edwards to retake the lead, with Gordon overtaking Harvick for fourth ahead of Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. But just as Edwards was lining up a new move to go to the front on lap 200, the yellows were out again - and once more for rain.
With the weather radars looking relatively innocuous, practically everyone took the opportunity to come in for a round of pit stops. Everyone, that is, except for JJ Yeley and Landon Cassill, who took a cheeky gamble that the weather might be worse than it looked and that they may even end up with a hugely unlikely triumph if the race happened to be called as it stood. "I hope it rains really hard right now," said Yeley's crew chief Jay Guy over the team radio to his driver in the #38.
And just for a moment it looked as though they could actually be onto something: the conditions worsened, and finally the red flags came out and the cars recalled to pit road to allow the jet dryers to go to work. Then inevitably - and dashing Yeley and Cassill's hopes - the weather cleared up and the track was quickly dried as the winds picked up to help out, and 25 minutes after the original stoppage the drivers were back in their cars and ready to resume racing. Yeley and Cassill sheepishly came into pit lane for their delayed stops and rejoined at the back of the lead lap, but it had been a worthy try.
Racing resumed; and two laps later, the rain picked up again and the yellows were back out, race leader Kenseth almost getting caught out and crashing during those brief two green flag laps. But this was to prove the rain's last hurrah: the conditions soon cleared, and this time they would stay that was long enough to get the whole of the race in without further weather delays.
Which is not the same thing as saying that there were no more cautions. The eighth yellow came as early as lap 241 when Juan Montoya clipped the back of Clint Bowyer's car and sent the #33 smashing into the wall. Montoya's view was that Bowyer had moved up on front of him and initiated the contact, Montoya suggesting that Bowyer was thinking that - as a still-viable Chase contender, perhaps - he should have right of way over the Colombian. Montoya didn't see it the same way, held his ground, and the wreck unfolded from there.
"I was still there," Montoya said. "I don't know if [his spotter] told him he was clear or he looked in his mirror and thought he was clear. He came up."
"You can't race around a jackass; you just can't," Bowyer fumed as he waited for his car to be repaired in the garage, gesturing ironically at the #42 from the sidelines as the cars went around on track. "He dive-bombs the restarts, and before you know it, he's in the way up there ... I'm just tired of it." He added: "We're racing for the Chase, and he's racing for nothing. Everyone in the garage area fights him."
"I think when he looks at the video, he'll think differently," said an unrepentant Montoya, later tweeting: "I heard that Bowyer wasn't too happy. I guess next time he'll give me a little room."
Martin Truex Jr. took the lead at the restart after opting for a two-tyre pit stop, but he was easy prey for Jimmie Johnson who leapt to the front on lap 248. Then there was another quick full course caution, this time triggered by Regan Smith, who had been punted into the inside backstraightaway wall by an uncharacteristic shove from Mark Martin.
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