2008 Dodge Challenger 500 Review
by Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com
Well, if any of you watched the Nationwide series race on Friday night, you were probably sorely disappointed by Cup race on Saturday night. With the exception of Tony Stewart getting into a mishap with Elliot Sadler in the opening laps of the race, there were few surprises and ultimately a dominating race by Kyle Busch. Sorry to Jr. nation. There’s no way around this one. Busch won fair and square.
Not that that should surprise anyone. Kyle Busch has dominated recently in every series that he races in. Last night was no exception. He took an early lead and swapped it a few times with Greg Biffle. Biffle had a great chance to win the race, but ended having serious engine issues giving him a 43rd place finish. He had two previous wins here at Darlington but was unable to follow through with the win on Saturday night. Pit stop mistakes seemed to be the name of the game last night as there were few other major mistakes that would’ve cost anyone the race. Busch had a missing lug nut and was penalized but evidently did just fine making up his positions as other drivers were simply not as solid as he and his crew were.
Carl Edwards, who I predicted to take the checkers, ended up with a solid second place after a terrible qualifying run and a night of tuning throughout the race. Stewart surprised many, ending up back on the lead lap. As far as the Hendrick drivers are concerned, Jeff Gordon was appreciative for his third place finish, a finish that put him back in the top twelve in points. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a solid finish in 4th while Jimmie Johnson finished a respectable 13th, as his performance this year has been less than stellar. Casey Mears did not fare so well and struggled for most of the night, finishing a disappointing 35th.
There were few others who dominated last night. Busch clearly had the best car in the field. All drivers were running exceptional times as 41 of the 43 cars that made the race beat the previous track record. For Darlington, this was a quiet race. Maybe it was the repaving of the track or maybe it was simply drivers using their heads last night, but there was not nearly as much carnage as we are used to seeing from “The Lady in Black”. There were some shakeups in the points standings with a few drivers re-entering and a few drivers exiting.
The top ten finishers from Saturday night are as follows:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Carl Edwards
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. David Ragan
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Travis Kvapil
9. Dave Blaney
10. Jeff Burton
Travis Kvapil and David Ragan ran great races. They both stayed out of trouble and managed very impressive top ten finishes.
The top twelve in points are now:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Jeff Burton
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Carl Edwards
8. Tony Stewart
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Jeff Gordon
11. Greg Biffle
12. David Ragan
Because of his consistency this season, David Ragan has managed his way into the top 12 in points while other veterans like Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman continue to pivot on the edge because of their lack of consistency from week to week. Kevin Harvick dropped 4 spots this week because of a wreck that happened when he lost control by himself on the backstretch, creating major damage and leaving a lot of debris behind him. In total, there were eight cautions, several of which were simply debris cautions. Surprisingly, many wrecks were single-car incidents including Denny Hamlin late in the race and Brian Vickers.
Darlington is known for its narrow grooves and little racing room. That’s what made the Nationwide race so exciting. The inexperience of some of the drivers in that series truly showed what the track is capable of doing. There is barely two grooves, little to no room for cars to pass side by side in the turns. We saw plenty of drivers get into arguments over this on Friday night. Tony Stewart and Elliot Sadler were unfortunate pawns of that rule. Sadler was holding the bottom line and had a run, but Stewart held the top line and tried to go into the corner side-by-side. Obviously, this was not something that worked for either driver.
This Saturday night, we’re moving to Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The All-Star race and the Sprint Showdown (this name changes every year) are set to take place with the anticipation of the Coca-Cola 600 to be held on the following weekend. Stay tuned for my preview and the weekly news and notes. There’s sure to be plenty to talk about.