Ford 400 Race Review – 2007

2007 Ford 400 Race Review
by Virginia Vroom of

Another year in the record books and another champion crowned. Jimmie
Johnson is the NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion for the second year in a
row. But wait, who actually won the Ford 400?

With such a dominating performance, it almost saddened me to see the
nonchalant celebration in victory circle for poor Matt Kenseth.
While it IS typical for this particular race winner to be over-
shadowed in the midst of the championship crowning, Kenseth had
nothing short of a dominating performance.

Going into the race, Kenseth made a point to say that he could win.
He ended up leading 214 of 267 laps; not a bad record for someone who
has never led a lap at this track to begin with. All day, Kenseth was
in the front. He sailed by on lap 4 to grab the lead, rarely losing
it Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman, who both had pretty dominating cars
until lap 98 and lap 149, respectfully. Busch thought he had a loose
left rear tire and came into pit road. Newman ended up spinning out,
much to the discomfort of Jeff Gordon, who ended up squeezing by on
the high side to avoid destruction of his ride.

It was evident as the sea of red stood up in the stands that Jr.
caused the first caution on lap 51, spinning out in front of pit
road. Kyle Busch slammed into Jr. pretty much ruining his day by
causing pretty heavy damage to the front of his No. 5 machine.
Because of this debacle in front of pit road, several cars checked up
and both Kevin Harvick and Jr. were penalized for commitment cone

The second caution of the day came out on lap 58. I swear half that
crowd must have gotten up and left as Jeff Burton tagged the back of
Jr. on the restart after Jr.’s initial problems. This caused heavy
damage to the left side and rear of his car. Jr. ends up coming back
out but is black-flagged on lap 70 for a flapping panel. He goes a
lap down. His day is virtually over.

We see caution flag No. 3 come out on lap 76 for Paul Menard spinning,
allowing Kyle Busch to get credit for leading a lap once the cars
cycle through for pit stops. By the next lap, Denny Hamlin gains the
lead after winning the race off of pit road. By lap 86, Kenseth has
regained the lead and sails off into clean air.

Until lap 157, we see several sessions of green flag pit stops, a few
mistakes made where a jack was caught under Reed Sorenson’s car and
flew out, nearly missing a crew member. Jeff Gordon’s crew chief,
Steve Letarte falters in a few calls, telling Jeff to take 2 tires
instead of four, leading to much slower lap times and many lost
positions until his next stop.

Lap 149 brings out the caution for Newman spinning out, and then we
see the fifth caution out by lap 157 where Johnny Sauter takes a hard
lick on the inside wall as Patrick Carpentier spins out Brain Vickers
after checking up and Vickers and Sauter get together.

The trend of losing Formula One drivers continues when caution No.6
comes out for Sam Hornish Jr. smacking the wall, leaving debris and
heavy right side damage to his car. The green flag flies again by lap
197 and Kenseth again takes the lead.

Lap 203 sees the third place Chase contender on pit road under green
for possible engine problems under the hood of the No. 7 Bowyer
machine. A long green lap run ensues until caution No. 7 on lap 253
comes out for Tony Stewart spinning out much to amazement of himself
because no one was around when it happened. His car looked like it
just got loose and slid up the track. Nevertheless, he suffered heavy
damage to the his left side.

In the final laps, there are no more cautions, just an extremely
dominant performance by Kenseth. Although Jeff Gordon seemed to be
givin’ her all she had, he couldn’t shake the image of Johnson from
his rearview mirror for the entire race. They constantly switched
positions on the track but were always within one or two spots of
each other.

The race all in all was a very good one. The driving was very good,
and few incidents happened due to serious driver error, unusual for
this year’s performance. The incidents that did happen seemed to do
so because of car and tire issues, change of the track from daylight
to under the lights, and from simple bad luck. Tempers did not seem
to flare like some would’ve imagined in this Championship race.
Johnson and Gordon were, of course, all smiles afterwards. The top
five finishers were as follows:

1. Matt Kenseth
2. Kurt Busch
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Jeff Gordon
5. Carl Edwards

Although he fought with all he had, Gordon by no means had a
dominating car. Adjustments were made all day, but few were able to
help him try to reel in Kenseth. This is not to say that Gordon did
not have a good car. He had the fastest lap times of the day at
several points in the race, but even with a solid car, points can not
be made up when Johnson and Knaus’ consistency continues to reign.
Johnson played a good game this race. He took some risks, but never
put himself in a precarious position. Jr. saw a disappointing 36th
place finish with his last ride in a DEI car.

But the real congratulations should go to Robby Reiser and Matt
Kenseth. Out of the smoke of double burnouts from our winner and
champion, Kenseth arose as a solid force. He’s been oh so close but
yet so far for the last 3 or 4 races when it came to catching Jimmie
Johnson. We saw yesterday that it is something that this former
champion is capable of doing. His consistency in the last half of the
chase is a testament to how far the team has come this year. But with
Reiser leaving his crew chief position to become General Manager for
Roush, we have to wonder if this consistency can flow over to the team
by February.

And so the countdown begins. 91 days until Daytona. So many changes
will take place over the next two and a half months. Look for updates
here for all of the coverage for team changes, car changes, and even
the drama. This will definitely affect driver odds for next year. I
think that we are definitely going to see a shift in this category.
Anyway, we need something to keep us up-to-date until February,
right? 91 days and counting…

The regular NASCAR season might be over, but Virginia continues to report on the sport all off-season long right here in the Nascar section at! Join her every week as she keep us all in the loop!