Vickers wins New Hampshire, breaks winless streak
The Scoop: Sunday's story for the Camping World RV 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway started out as "how long will Jimmie Johnson take to get to the front?" It ended on a different note, as Brian Vickers and the No. 55 Aaron's Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing battled back from a lap down to win both Vickers' and the team's third-ever Cup race. Vickers, who was fastest in Saturday Happy Hour practice, took the lead from Tony Stewart on lap 287. Both had gained track position by either skipping pit stops or taking just two tires and both were stretching fuel to finish the race. A debris caution on lap 298 brought a green-white-checkered finish and ran Stewart (26th) out of gas. Vickers held off Stewart and the fast car of Kyle Busch, who finished 2nd. Jeff Burton finished a season-best 3rd, after running in the top 10 most of the day. Brad Keselowski was 4th and vaulted back into the top 10 in points and Aric Almirola was a strong 5th. Kurt Busch led a race-high 102 laps, but got mired in traffic several times and yet again took himself out of contention by going three-wide with Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth and spinning out. He finished 31st, Newman 39th, and Kenseth (who led 33 laps) 9th. Long green flag runs saw little passing, but cautions bred cautions, as late restarts saw very aggressive driving and some hot tempers. The race's 2nd caution was due to Kevin Harvick's (7th) spin of Marcos Ambrose (33rd), Busch and Newman's collision led to pointed comments, and Paul Menard (17th) objected to Jeff Gordon (10th) driving across his nose and spun him. Danica Patrick (37th) made headlines not by getting spun by A.J. Allmendinger (22nd), but by misjudging when to brake into a turn on lap 238 and wrecking Travis Kvapil (38th) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (34th). Bobby Labonte (27th) also ran out of fuel near the race's end and fell from the top 10. Johnson had issues with inspection before qualifying and before the race and had his qualifying time disallowed on Friday, as well, forcing the No. 48 to start in the back. Johnson drove to 6th at the end of the race, never getting to the front like many predicted. The exciting race took place in front of a packed house at NHMS.
140 Characters or Less: Vickers helps future by breaking winless streak at NHMS. Danica leads the crash brigade. #NewmanIsAnOgre
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Kyle Busch - This award really should go to his brother Kurt for leading so many laps, but Kyle didn't take himself out of yet another potential race win, by racing stupidly. Busch led some laps, manned up to his inability to pass cars in traffic at New Hampshire, and drove through traffic to 2nd place at the race's end.
North Korean Missile Dud of the Race: Clint Bowyer - Two-time NHMS winner Bowyer probably had his No. 15 Toyota in Chase test mode this weekend, as he is safely inside the Chase bracket, but many expected Team 15 to be better than 13th. They hardly, if ever, cracked the top 10 and led zero laps.
Never Fear, Underdogs Are Here: Aric Almirola - Richard Petty Motorsports isn't a small team, but Almirola does not run in the top 10 every week, so his 5th-place run Sunday was refreshing. The team used the same strategy that got Vickers and Stewart to the front and managed to hold their ground. Jeff Burton's 3rd-place run was a rare bright spot for the No. 31 team, too.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: Brian Vickers - Yes, Vickers gets an award for overcoming a penalty under green flag pit stops early in the race to winning. That does not happen very much. Once he finally took a wave-around to get back on the lead lap, crew chief Rodney Childers made the call to stay out during a pit sequence to gain top 5 track position. Then the driver did the job and eventually held off better cars for the win.
Wheel of Misfortune: Joey Logano - Logano brought out the day's first caution by spinning and crashing on lap 5. What seemed like driver error to the naked eye ended up being a cut tire. For the 2nd-straight week, Logano crashed because of a flat Goodyear and this week's bad luck placed him 40th. Logano has fallen from inside the top 10 in points before Daytona to a tie with Ryan Newman for 18th in points.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: Joey Logano - After Logano pitted backwards following his spin, crew chief Todd Gordon determined the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford was too far gone and sent him to the garage. Out of frustration, Logano did a donut out of his pit stall and grazed one of his crewman. He is okay, but Logano visibly ticked off his crew, 1/3 of which ended up assisting the No. 2 Penske crew over the wall later in the race. Honorable mentions for this award include: Kyle Busch saying post-race he is glad Ryan Newman is losing his job, Danica Patrick forgetting how to drive and crashing two others, NASCAR throwing a debris caution on lap 298, and Morgan Shepherd's old driver PR start-and-park stunt.
Ghost Driver: Greg Biffle - Biffle is in only semi-comfortable Chase ground, as he entered the race in the back of the top 10 in points with one win. The No. 16 team never showed up on TV Sunday (finished 15th/zero laps led), maybe because they were testing for the Chase race. But with the points situation so volatile, they should be more aggressive.
Georgia on My Mind: David Ragan was impressive at New Hampshire, staying on the lead lap most of the race and ending up there, too. He placed 19th and ran about 23rd or 24th most of the day. In the Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire, Reed Sorenson felt the effects of his TMG team-built motor yet again (34th) and Brett Butler crashed the No. 24 SR2 Motorsports machine hard (36th). Friday's Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa was great for Chase Elliott (5th) overcame a crash with Darrell Wallace Jr. and Jeb Burton to score his 4th top 10 and 3rd top 5 in his four NCWTS races this year. John Wes Townley (12th) ran most of the night where he finished, as did Max Gresham (15th) and Ryan Sieg (18th), all of whom had good runs. Chris Cockrum was on the entry list to run again for SS/Greenlight Racing's No. 07, but the team just put his name on the blank because they had to have a name to file on time. Josh Reaume ran that truck and finished 25th. Cockrum probably will not run again until Talladega in October.
NNS 140 or less: *yawn* Kyle Busch and JGR dominate NNS NHMS race. Regan Smith should not expect a Sadler Family Christmas card.
NCWTS 140 or less: Timothy Peters breaks free of youngsters to score Iowa NCWTS win. Erik Jones a surprising 2nd, but Ty Dillon not impressed.
Next: The Sprint Cup Series takes a week off and starts again in two weeks at Indianapolis, as ESPN takes over TV coverage. The Nationwide Series runs next Saturday at 3 p.m. on ESPN. The Trucks take a week-and-a-half off, before running the first NASCAR dirt race in a long time at Eldora on Wednesday, July 24th