Race Rewind: Looking back at the Coke Zero 400

dscott@charlotteobserver.comJuly 6, 2014 

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    Camping World RV Sales 301

    Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

    When: 1 p.m. Sunday.

    TV: TNT.

    Radio: Performance Racing Network.

    Last year’s winner: Brian Vickers.

Stewart: Stenhouse ‘makes me nervous’

Tony Stewart was leading when the race’s first major accident occurred Sunday. He wasn’t happy with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., whose car got loose after being bumped from behind by Jeff Gordon.

“I love him like a little brother, but it makes me nervous to be around him on the race track,” said Stewart of Stenhouse. “It didn’t make much sense to me.”

Stewart eventually finished 40th; Gordon later took responsibility for the accident.

Notebook

Near berth: Jeff Gordon leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 27 points in the Cup standings. Gordon, who finished 12th, could have guaranteed himself a spot in the Chase had he won. Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson (third in the standings) also could have assured themselves berths in the postseason had they come out of the race with a lead of 385 points over the driver (David Gilliland) who is 31st in points. But that didn’t happen. Johnson went out in an early wreck and Earnhardt, whose car also had damage from the accident, was 14th.

Rainy lesson: NASCAR officials obviously were mindful of the rain before starting the race about 10 minutes late because of sprinkles in Turns 1 and 2. An unexpected sudden downpour during qualifying for Friday’s Nationwide race caused a nine-car accident, and they didn’t want anything like that happening again. The Cup race’s two big wrecks were not attributed to the rain.

GOP’s Wise move: Phil Parsons Racing pulled a sponsorship sticker in support of Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist off Josh Wise’s car. Team owner Phil Parsons did so out of deference to business partner Mike Curb, former Republican lieutenant governor of California.


Observations

• Don’t apologize to anyone for the victory, Aric Almirola. You won the race by the rules established by NASCAR. Plenty of other drivers have won rain-shortened races, and it will happen again.

• What was Richard Petty doing while watching the race on television back in North Carolina? He said he was reading the “funny papers” in the newspaper.

• It’s not often rain disrupts things as thoroughly as it did in Daytona. Practices and qualifying sessions either were shortened or canceled in the Nationwide and Cup series. Friday’s Nationwide race was delayed for 90 minutes. And the Coke Zero 400 was postponed from Saturday to Sunday, when it ultimately was shortened by 48 laps by rain.

5 key moments

1. After the race starts nine minutes late because of rain, wet weather forces a red flag on the seventh lap, halting the event for 25 minutes, 43 seconds.

2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s car gets loose on the frontstretch on Lap 21, causing a 16-car accident and knocking Jimmie Johnson out of the race.

3. Kurt Busch takes the lead for the first of three times on Lap 60. He would lead for a race-high 36 laps.

4. Another big wreck, this time involving 26 cars, happens on Lap 99.

5. Aric Almirola passes Busch on Lap 106. Six laps later the race is called for rain.

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