Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2012 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Who … gets my shoutout of the race?

With the sheer number of drivers that got caught up in late wrecks on Saturday night (July 7), this was actually quite difficult to figure out. However, I’m going to go with David Reutimann in the No. 10 for Tommy Baldwin Racing. The team, having acquired 11th-hour sponsorship from CarportEmpire.com and from TMone, was quite strong for most of the evening.

Early in the event, Reutimann was holding steady in the top 15. For a time later in the event, Reutimann was working with Brad Keselowski on the way outside to good effect. However, that ended after Keselowski lost his car and spun out on lap 145 exiting turn 2.

Reutimann then ran out of room and hit Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr. and the wall in the wreck on lap 153. The car had significant right side damage, but the team made repairs. Then, coming off turn 4 on the final lap, Reutimann was run over by Jamie McMurray while trying to avoid the wreck. However, Reutimann was able to recover from the half-spin to finish 11th, by far the best finish for the No. 10 team all season. The previous best was a 21st at Bristol back in March.

What … was that?

Even with the big wrecks towards the end of the race Saturday night, one of the scariest incidents was on pit road during the first caution of the race. Ryan Newman pulled out of his pit stall and managed to get sideswiped by Jeff Gordon. This caused Newman to slide into Kasey Kahne. The secondary contact spun Newman into the stationary car of Keselowski.

This was a scary scene as crew members and NASCAR officials alike were sent scrambling. Thankfully, no one was hit. We’ve seen instances in NASCAR where scenes like that didn’t turn out all that well. For example, Stanley Smith‘s Cup debut at Talladega in 1990 was effectively ended by a crash in the pits under yellow where he spun into Tracy Leslie‘s crew.

However, this wreck cannot solely be put on the drivers involved. The spotters, especially for Newman and Gordon, didn’t appear to be on the right page. As a result, Newman didn’t know that Gordon was there on his right. That resulted in the contact that caused the incident. You gotta be more on the ball than that.

Where … did the polesitter end up?

Matt Kenseth ended up finishing third on Saturday, not too far behind Tony Stewart. However, he led a race-high 89 laps in getting that third-place finish. Even though he expanded his points lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. to 17 points, he wasn’t exactly pleased with his finish.

“Happy to get third, but on the other hand, I am incredibly disappointed,” Kenseth said during his post-race press conference. “My team kind of deserved to be down there (victory lane) holding the hardware and I kind of let them down. We had a really fast car, we had a pretty good race, made our way back to the front after the pit-road thing and were in contention, just didn’t get it done [on the] last lap.”

If finishing third in a race bums out Kenseth that much, the rest of the field might really have to fear the No. 17 for the rest of the season.

When … will I be loved?

I suppose that Kenseth and Greg Biffle could be considered the villains of the race since they kicked so much butt all night, but they really weren’t.

Sadly, the real villain of the weekend is AJ Allmendinger, and its not because of anything he did on the track. As you’re likely well aware of by now, Allmendinger flunked a drug test in Kentucky and was temporarily suspended pending the results of a second test. The news only came out a little more than 90 minutes before the scheduled start of the race Saturday night, resulting in a huge scramble by everyone involved.

Sam Hornish Jr. just barely got to the track in time for the National Anthem after doing his normal race-day gig as the driver analyst on SPEED’s SPEED Center: NASCAR Edition. Of course, Hornish had the advantages of not only the airport being just off the track’s property, but a police escort as well. Had he not made it in time (and this was a real possibility), then Kenny Wallace would have been put in the car.

We don’t know what Allmendinger tested positive for in Kentucky, but this has already sent shockwaves through NASCAR. If the “B” Sample comes back clean, then maybe everything will be ok. It would just hurt Allmendinger in the points since he had to sit out at least one race while the appeal process was in progress. If it comes back positive, Allmendinger would be suspended indefinitely until he completes whatever rehabilitation that is prescribed by NASCAR.

Penske Racing will have to find a replacement driver, since there’s a good chance that Allmendinger would outright be fired if this occurs.

Why … did Kurt Busch briefly flip out?

Kurt Busch ran very well Saturday night. But, he grew inpatient with the follow the leader, two-line style of racing that most of Saturday’s race consisted of. So, he decided to blaze his own trail through the middle. It was going well until he got to turn 1. Trevor Bayne squeezed Busch and caused a mini-wreck.

Now, this mini-wreck didn’t really bum Kurt out that much. After crashing, he brought the car into the pits for repairs. During this time, Busch was pretty quiet on the radio, letting his crew work. The only voice you heard on the radio at that time was crew chief Nick Harrison. The team made multiple stops to repair damage and take a camber shim out of the right-front corner. Everything was OK.

What happened? On what was supposed to be the final pit stop of the yellow, his crew failed to get all the hood pins back in. This angered Busch and his seemingly favorite word to use came out to play once again, and we all know what that is.

Thankfully, this was only a brief interlude. Unfortunately, this extra stop put Busch half a lap behind on the restart. After being lapped, Busch reported a tire rub and pitted under green. Upon reaching the pits, the crew discovered that additional repairs were required in the garage. The window net remained up as the Phoenix crew repaired Busch’s car while some of the assembled media (Claire B. Lang and Marty Smith, in particular) and a few other people with hot passes looked on.

I suppose that if Busch hadn’t have won the Nationwide race Friday night, perhaps this could have turned out worse than it did. Excluding that one slip, Busch was actually in a decent mood, even after the wreck on Saturday night.

How … did the little guys do?

Often times, wrecks in restrictor-plate races allow smaller teams to claim decent finishes if they avoid all the wrecks. For a couple of smaller teams, that was the case even if they didn’t keep themselves from wrecking.

JTG Daugherty Racing (Kingsford Toyota): Bobby Labonte was able to avoid the two big wrecks towards the end of the race, but got caught up in the wreck involving Busch and Bayne on lap 91. Labonte was tapped from behind by Landon Cassill while slowing for the incident and spun onto the apron.

Damage was done to the splitter and Labonte lost a lap on pit road getting repairs. After getting the Lucky Dog when Jimmie Johnson crashed, Labonte was able to avoid the two big wrecks to claim a 10th-place finish. This is Labonte’s best run of the season to date.

Tommy Baldwin Racing (CarportEmpire.com and Golden Corral Chevrolet): For Reutimann, see above. Dave Blaney ran well also, but was caught up significantly in the lap 153 crash. He finished 22nd.

Phoenix Racing (Phoenix Construction Chevrolet): Busch ran well in the draft, then tired of the double-file, follow-the-leader racing. So, he blazed his own path, got squeezed by Bayne and crashed, finishing 35th, 28 laps down.

Front Row Motorsports (8-Hour Alert and Glory Foods Fords): Both drivers were caught up in the big crash on lap 153 and were eliminated on the spot. David Ragan finished 26th, while David Gilliland was credited with 31st.

BK Racing (Burger King Toyotas): Travis Kvapil was in line for a potential top-10 finish, but got spun out coming to the line on the final lap. Still, Kvapil managed a 16th-place finish. This equals Kvapil’s run at Talladega in May and is the team’s best finish of 2012. Cassill ended up in a group of cars that lost the draft after the first round of green-flag stops and got lapped on track right before Hornish blew a left-rear tire and spun.

Cassill ended up having a short stint behind the wall for mechanical repairs late in the race and finished 32nd, nine laps down after receiving two Lucky Dog passes.

Germain Racing (GEICO Ford): Casey Mears hit Denny Hamlin in the lap 153 accident, then slid into the spinning Montoya. After repairs on pit road, Mears continued and finished 18th for the second week in a row. It’s the fourth top-20 finish in a row for the No. 13.

FAS Lane Racing (C&J Energy Services Ford): Terry Labonte had a chance to get a good finish for the Frank Stoddard operation. However, he was hit in the left rear corner by the sliding No. 10 of Reutimann (see above for why that happened). Terry then spun to the inside and was hit by McMurray. Regardless, Terry was still credited with a 20th-place finish, on the lead lap. This is the team’s best finish since Terry’s 18th-place finish in the Daytona 500.

Furniture Row Racing (Furniture Row Chevrolet): Unfortunately, the move back to pack drafting has really hurt Regan Smith. On Saturday night, he was caught up in the crash with Johnson, Bill Elliott and others on lap 124 and forced to spend time behind the wall getting repairs done on his No. 78. Smith returned to the race, but finished 34th, 25 laps down.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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