Race Rewind: Looking back at the Sylvania 300

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 22, 2013 

Not so memorable return for Labonte

Bobby Labonte’s return to Sprint Cup after a three-race absence wasn’t anything like what he hoped.

Labonte missed three weeks after he tumbled over the handlebars of his bicycle, breaking three ribs and suffering a slight lung tear. He uses cycling as training, typically riding every other day.

The front tire of that bike failed, sending him to the asphalt. He was ready to go in Sunday’s Sylvania 300, but 51 laps into the race Labonte lost a left rear tire on his Toyota, causing him to wreck with David Gilliland’s Ford.

How the Chase contenders fared

1 Matt Kenseth (2,111 points): Teammate Kyle Busch said Kenseth’s No.20 rolled off the hauler fast. Kenseth said the 500th start paint job on his car made him feel old. You wouldn’t think so the way he drove.

2 Kyle Busch (-14): Busch said it would have been interesting had he chased down Kenseth in a teammate-vs.-teammate showdown at the end. “It would have been interesting. … I’m glad I didn’t get there,” Busch joked.

3 Jimmie Johnson (-18): He spent the end of the race chasing after Greg Biffle but could never get around Biffle’s bumper. There weren’t the pit-stop problems that threw off the No.48 team at Chicagoland.

4 Carl Edwards (-36): One loose run sent Edwards way back in the field, so he felt finishing ninth was a strong finish, all things considered.

5 Greg Biffle (-38): Flat tracks haven’t been a favorite of the No.16 team, so finishing third had to be a delight. Biffle was convinced this would have been a great finish had the race gone another handful of laps.

6 Kevin Harvick (-39): Engine concerns over the final 90 laps kept Harvick from making any noise down the stretch, finishing 20th.

7 Kurt Busch (-40): He didn’t like how his car handled early, wanting to go into the pits for major set-up changes. Considering all of that, finishing 13th probably was the least this race could have damaged the No.78 Chevy’s chances.

8 Jeff Gordon (-42): Overshooting his pit stall was a major setback. Gordon had been among the leaders and slipped to 22nd on the result as a result.

9 Ryan Newman (-47): Newman was thrilled to win the pole because it’s so hard to pass on this flat, short track. But frequent handling problems negated that advantage, as Newman finished in the pack at 16th.

10 Clint Bowyer (-48): That 17th-place finish was a classic example of how hard it is to race in a pack in Loudon, where passing is such a challenge.

11 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-62): Earnhardt’s sixth-place finish was a nice comeback from an early pit-stop problem: His crew dropped the jack early and Earnhardt drove off with loose lug nuts that forced him to come back in. Earnhardt led the race about 116 laps in, delaying a pit stop for fuel.

12 Joey Logano (-69): The No. 22 took all four tires on the final pit stop because a two-tire change earlier had made the car really slow. Not necessarily a bad strategy, but it didn’t work out as Logano finished 14th.

13 Kasey Kahne (-71): He was fast in practice, fast in qualifying and fast the first 100 laps. Then the bottom dropped out late when Kahne slid across the track and hit the inside wall. He had to be towed and finished 37th.


• Nice gesture by NASCAR to invite the family of Sean Collier to Sunday’s race. Collier was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who was shot to death in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. Collier’s brother, Andrew Collier, is a machinist for Hendrick Motorsports.

• That seemed like a remarkably short prerace meeting with drivers and crew chiefs Sunday at noon: A couple of introductions, some brief instruction about pit and caution speeds. No one had a question. It was almost as if, after all the prerace fuss at Chicagoland, no one wanted to draw attention from NASCAR officials.

• Gordon knows he messed up by overshooting his pit stall. He had a car that could have won, but he finished 15th, to a great degree because of that pit stop.

• Biffle (third place) said he ran out of time, not car. He felt Kyle Busch was gaining on Kenseth and that he was gaining on Busch. In other words, it could have been quite a finish.

• There was talk of rain Sunday interrupting the race. The storm system was gone before the 2 p.m. start, but heavy clouds rolled in for the final 40 laps. Kyle Busch said the clouds eased the wear on tires, but it got so dark he had a vision impediment. “My tinted shield got to be too much,” Busch said.

Next Race

AAA 400

Where: Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

When: 2 p.m. Sunday.


Radio: Motor Racing Network.

Last year’s winner: Brad Keselowski

5 key moments

1. Martin Truex Jr. overtakes Kasey Kahne on a restart about 57 laps into the race. Truex proves to have a strong car, leading at the 150-lap midpoint.

2. Chase leader Matt Kenseth takes the lead from Truex on the 164th lap, shortly before a caution sends most everyone to the pits for tires. That caution breaks a stretch of 104 green-flag laps.

3. Jeff Gordon overshoots his pit box on a caution two-thirds of the way through the race. That mistake drops him from the top two to 22nd on the restart.

4. Kenseth gets not just the lead, but enough clean air that it would have taken a late caution to catch him.

5. Greg Biffle, whose crew has never had good luck at flat tracks, holds off Jimmie Johnson for third place.

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