It was just a week ago, with only a handful of laps remaining in the summer Sprint Cup race at Daytona, the crown jewel of all NASCAR venues, that we thought we might be in for the race of the season from a local perspective: a potential one-two finish by Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer.
That didn’t happen, of course, but who would have guessed that it would get even better this weekend in the LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, 45 miles southwest of downtown Chicago in Joliet, Ill. On Saturday night, not two but three NASCAR drivers from our area finished in the top five in race No. 19 in the 2010 Sprint Cup Series season.
David Reutimann, who drives the No. 00 Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing, took the lead with 54 laps to go and held off Edwards’ No. 99 Aflac Ford at the end to win by .727 seconds and capture his second career Sprint Cup win and his first this season to go along with three other top five finishes.
“We earned this one,” said Reutimann at the post-race briefing for the media. “Nobody gave it to us, and that feels really good.”
Jeff Gordon finished third in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, making it five top-five finishes in the last five races for the Hendrick Motorsports co-owner and four-time NASCAR champion. Following Gordon across the finish line was the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, driven by Bowyer, who makes his home in Emporia, Kan, and then Joplin, Mo.’s, Jamie McMurray, whose No. 1 Earnhardt-Ganassi Chevrolet started on the pole.
Jamie McMurray (No. 1 car) comes to pitlane during the
LifeLock.com 400 on Saturday. McMurray started in the
pole position and finished fifth at Chicagoland Speedway
to break a string of five consecutive races in which he had
come in 15th or higher. (AP Photo/Tim Stewart)
“Second is bittersweet,” said Edwards, whose winless streak on the Sprint Cup circuit has now reached 54 races. The Columbia, Mo., native has not reached victory lane since the 2008 season, when he won nine races for Roush-Fenway Racing.
“You want to win, but we’re obviously very happy with the result,” Edwards told reporters after the race, adding “I feel like with three more laps, things could have gotten very interesting.”
Gordon’s teammate, four-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson grabbed the lead from polesitter McMurray on the opening and continued to lead the 43-car field for the first 92 laps before relinquishing the front spot back to McMurray.
McMurray, who ended a streak of five consecutive races in which he finished 15th or worse, led for the next 70 laps before being passed by Gordon, who became only the third race leader of the night two-thirds of the way into the race.
Said McMurray: “I felt that we had one of the best cars at the beginning, and as the sun went down, the track just got tighter and tighter.”
McMurray now has five top-five Sprint Cup finishes this year, including a season-opening win in NASCAR’s signature event, the Daytona 500. He currently stands 18th in drivers’ points, which means McMurray has some work to do over the seven remaining races in the regular season to make the 12-car field for the postseason 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Roush-Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards wasn’t able to end
a winless draught that has now reached 54 Sprint Cup
races, but he did come as close as he has all season with
a runner-up finish to race-winner David Reutimann at
Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday.
(AP Photo/Tim Stewart)
Overall, there were only eight lead changes by seven different drivers, the most important of which occurred on lap 236, when Reutimann took the lead for good. It was a relatively clean race, with only four caution stoppages the entire evening. That was a record for Chicagoland Speedway, where the fewest number of caution flags previously had been seven.
Bowyer’s fourth-place finish equaled his highest finish of the year in the season-opening Daytona 500. “This is exactly what we needed to do,” Bowyer said. “We need to string together a bunch of these, and we’ll find ourselves in the Chase and have a shot at this Championship.”
With seven races remaining before NASCAR’s postseason championship run, Bowyer has climbed into the 12th and final spot among the Chase qualifiers. He holds a 15-point edge over Dale Earnhardt Jr., currently in 13th place and is 181 points up on McMurray. Edwards also moved up in the standings this week, advancing two spots to 10th, 400 points behind front-running Kevin Harvick, who lost some valuable ground to second-place Jeff Gordon after finishing a disappointing 34th at Chicagoland.
The Sprint Cup Series takes a week off before returning to action in two weeks for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25.
For more information:
NASCAR official website
Clint Bowyer bio and racing history
Carl Edwards bio and racing history
Jamie McMurray bio and racing history