By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
The Lifelock.com 400 at Chicago started off very dull, and looked to be a snoozer. However things changed around quickly when the sun went down. Several of the point leaders had extremely rough nights, and we ended the night with an unlikely winner.
Jimmie Johnson has never won at Chicagoland Speedway, but his season has been all about firsts.
Already in 2010 he has won at Bristol and a road course for the first time in his career, and earlier this week he became a father for the first time.
Well after leading 92 laps early it appeared he would add another first to his season. That is until things went sour…
On a green flag pit stop Johnson missed the pit road entrance, and from there he never really rebounded.
Johnson would get spun on lap 136 when Martin Truex Jr. took the air off of his spoiler. Johnson’s shot at the win ended not long after that when he cut a tire down and slapped the wall. Johnson would go on to finish 25th.
Johnson’s misfortunes handed the lead over to polesitter Jamie McMurray, who would hold the top spot for 72 circuits, until Jeff Gordon snagged the lead away. Gordon would hold the lead up until David Reutimann blew past him with 55 laps to go.
Reutimann wouldn’t look back and would cruise to his second career Sprint Cup Series victory.
This is sweet redemption for Reutimann, who got his first victory by virtue of mother nature. With this victory he can now silence all of the naysayers.
“I felt like there was a cloud over it (His first win), no pun intended, but a dark cloud hanging over our head with that win at the 600. Everybody just says, Yeah, you guys won, but. Rodney Childers won me that race. He made the right calls. He won me the race tonight. We win and lose as a team.” Reutimann said. “Now I’m just wondering like, Okay, here you go, just leave me alone. We won the race. We did a good job. Everybody did a good job. Everybody around me worked together to get us where we are.”
Not only that, but Reutimann has now fought back into chase contention. With Seven races until the chase he sits 15th in the standings, less than 100 points out of the chase for the Sprint Cup.
Crew chief Rodney Childers was extremely emotional following the victory. He explained that even though the team struggled on pit road, there was a pretty good reason.
“You know, we struggled a little bit on pit road, but those guys did a good job. Our jackman had a little tumble on his bike this week, had a concussion, had to have some guy fill in.” Childers Said. “Anytime you have one person change, it kind of gets everything off kilter. It was just a fun night and David did a really good job. Probably had the worst interview ever after the race. He doesn’t know that yet.”
Carl Edwards came home just over a second behind Reutimann in second-place for just his second top-five finish of the season.Not only did he double up on his total top-five finishes on the season Saturday, but Edwards actually doubled his amount of laps led on the season (From two to four).
Edwards was just happy to be up front again.
“It’s nice. It’s great to run up front. These guys are so nice and polite up there in front of the race. You can race hard, but everybody — it’s just fun.” Edwards said. “Good to have a fast racecar. It felt good to be able to focus on little things like my line, how I was driving the car, pushing the pedals, rather than how I was going to stay on lead lap. That’s nice.”
Edwards continued by saying, “So hopefully we can apply what we learned tonight, go faster. That’s a lot of fun.”
Jeff Gordon came up a little short of winning again finishing third. This race was the 600th career start for Gordon, which seems unbelievable. It feels like just yesterday the kid from California with the cheesy mustache was wheeling that rainbow painted car around the track.
As hard as it is to believe that Gordon has eclipsed the 600 starts mark, Gordon joked about how he feels old enough to of started 600 races for sure. Then he talked a little bit about winning again.
“Man, I do when I get out of that racecar and everything aches. No, you know, I mean, I’m still enjoying the sport very, very much. I feel like I’m way more comfortable with where I’m at in the sport today. That’s fun. I like that. I like all the years of experience that now I get to benefit from.” Gordon said.
“But, like I said, the only thing I’d change right now is getting some of those wins back. It’s tough. It’s very competitive. We know we got to pick up the pace. Yeah, 600, that’s a lot of races, that’s for sure.” Gordon continued.
Gordon was followed by Clint Boywer who now has jumped up into the chase, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-five.
In addition to Jimmie Johnson several other chase contenders had rough, rough nights.
Kevin Harvick, the point leader coming into this race had a dismal performance and had to take his car to the garage during the event due to a bad fuel pump. He would get the car back on track, but would finish 34th 16 laps off the pace.
Harvick still nurses a 103 point lead after this race, but this was not a shot of confidence for the team.
Kurt Busch had handling issues all night long. In fact at one point Busch’s team changed suspension parts under caution. Busch told his team on the radio that it felt like he was running a Nationwide car in this race. Kurt finished 26th two laps down.
Greg Biffle had a great run going, but his FR9 engine began to come undone late in the race. With 42 laps remaining Biffle’s engine expired and as a result he finished the race in 35th. Biffle explained that this is a huge hit to his chase hopes.
“We blew the engine. That is what happens when you have brand new product. There is a little trial and error.” Biffle said. “We don’t have a lot of miles on these engines. It seemed like we broke something in the valve train or something. It is unfortunate. That will hurt our chances in the Chase you know. We had a great car and coming into tonight I was really excited about it, so this is really disappointing. I guess tonight just wasn’t our night.”
The final chase contender who had a rough night Saturday was Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt had just worked his way to 11th in the standings last week after four straight great runs. Well his car was loose all day and night long, and he could only muster a 23rd place finish. As a result of his poor finish Earnhardt now has dropped to 13th in the points which puts him outside of the chase.
Two drivers who deserve a pat on the back after impressive finishes are: Paul Menard and David Ragan.
Paul Menard ran well all night long en route to a 10th place finish. Menard was excited that the team unloaded early in the week with a fast car, and they were able to capitalize on it.
“It was solid. We were very close when we unloaded and did some little things all through practice that helped.” Menard said. “We were able to run top-10 all night. It was pretty uneventful really but it was a good car and I am really happy with that.”
David Ragan was finally able to shake off bad luck that has plagued him the past few weeks with a 12th place result. According to Ragan his team is making some strides.
“Yes, we see it; I don’t know if everyone else sees it, but we do.” Ragan said. “Certainly our engineers and everybody back at the chassis shop and engine shop are working hard and we had the new Ford engine tonight. We’re making progress, but at the same time, everyone else is also making progress. It was good to see some Fords up there in the top 10. We’ll have the week off to think about this race and then we’ll head to Indy to try and get one.”