Review of the 2008 Sylvania 300
by Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com
With eight caution flags and the first win for one driver in nearly a year and a half, New Hampshire proved that the Championship is still up for grabs and there’s a lot more racing left to determine the winner.
Coming into this weekend with a solid stack of bonus points from wins, Kyle Busch certainly did not expect to be the first car out of commission. In fact, Busch suffered perhaps the worst luck of the day with his car having mechanical issues with the sway bar in the opening laps of the race. If you were watching, it was very clear that coming off a turn, Busch’s car had something snapped. It suddenly ‘dropped’ on the track and positions began to get lost in the midst of the trouble.
The first caution of the race came out on lap 35 as a competition caution for NASCAR to assess tire wear in the midst of a weekend of little track practice and no qualifying. The starting grid was based on points, and quite frankly seemed to greatly benefit those top 12 as they rarely were mired in traffic unless due to their own mistakes. Busch and Tony Stewart were the two drivers in the top 12 who struggled the most. Stewart had a fast car, but mistakes on pit road plagued him throughout the day. Despite an incident with Johnny Sauter, who had the pit in front of Stewart, and a pit road penalty for a too fast exit, Stewart made a resilient charge back to the front and finished a very respectable 8th place in a day that seemed destined for disaster.
Other notables of the day were Dale Jr., who had a strong car but never quite made a run for the lead after the first half of the day. Kurt Busch was also having a very strong run on a track that we would most likely see him win on. He had one of his strongest runs of the year, being one of only 2 drivers who finished in the top 10 who weren’t Championship contenders. Jeff Gordon seemed to struggle all day, rarely peeking back into the top 10 throughout the day and just trying to hang on for a top 15 finish. Honestly, this pretty much reflects his year. He has struggled (as far as a superstar driver is concerned) in terms of getting good cars. The team can’t seem to get anything to make Gordon’s cars handle the way they should. When asked why they didn’t just mirror teammate Johnson’s setup since he was running so strongly, crew chief Steve Letarte indicated that Gordon’s setup was a spitting image of the number 48 car. Two different drivers just can’t drive the same setup though, causing Gordon to struggle throughout the remainder of the day.
When the laps started coming to a close, there were really only two contenders who definitely had the strongest cars of the day. Jimmie Johnson was one of those guys. The other driver came as a surprise to most. Although a Championship contender, few would assume that Greg Biffle could and would make a run for the win. But with a solid car and a consistently solid driver, the #16 of Greg Biffle proved to be the one to beat. He passed Jimmie Johnson for the lead with just 11 laps to go. Johnson could not hold him off, although he tried, leaving Biffle heading to victory lane.
Here’s the top 10 finishers from Loudon:
1. Greg Biffle
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Carl Edwards
4. Jeff Burton
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6. Kurt Busch
7. Martin Truex Jr.
8. Tony Stewart
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Kevin Harvick
This was the worst finish of any driver who came into the first race of the Chase as the first seed. Busch is going to have some serious work to do to make up for the mechanical issues he had this weekend. Other drivers just struggled, like Gordon and Clint Bowyer who just couldn’t get things quite right. For now, we still have quite a battle though, with only 177 points separating the entire Chase field.
Here are your current top 12 drivers:
1. Carl Edwards
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Greg Biffle
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Jeff Burton
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Tony Stewart
8. Kyle Busch
9. Clint Bowyer
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Jeff Gordon
12. Matt Kenseth
**Note: Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards are tied for first place with equal points totals**
This weekend is going to prove crucial for those in the bottom half of the top twelve. I think that we are going to see the field separate a little bit and see some guys start to clearly pull ahead. The next race is going to be at the infamous Monster Mile in Dover. Look out for the preview and make sure to get those bets in. There’s only 9 races left until we crown another Champion!