How the race was won
Harvick There were only a few drivers who were at or near the front for most of Saturday night's race, and Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were two of them. This one appeared to be Busch's to lose, but Harvick charged hard late and ran Busch down in the final laps to complete the Busch-Cup weekend sweep and enter the Chase in style.
Story of the race
The Chase. Those who made it (Kasey Kahne and Co.) and those who did not (Mr. Stewart).
Give 'em credit
Kasey Kahne. His swift fall left his No. 9 team in dire straits. Kahne and Co. proved to be up to the challenge over the past month, staging a spirited comeback that culminated with Saturday night's third-place run (after a mediocre qualifying effort) and a spot in the Chase.
Harvick. There now is hype surrounding him, trumpeting that he is a title favorite. The hype appears to be deserved.
Busch. He seems to have stopped tripping over himself. That's not a good development for the rest of the field.
What were they thinking?
Harvick's No. 29 team talked about being ready to help teammate Burton's No. 31 if need be. The Hendrick drivers shared similar sentiments about their teammates. But before the race, Matt Kenseth made it sound like his teammate Martin was on his own in his efforts to make the Chase, and fellow Roush driver Greg Biffle – who, in a sense, risked costing then-teammate Kurt Busch the '04 championship by trying to score a win himself at Homestead (a race Biffle did win) – got annoyed with Martin on a couple of occasions during the race. Maybe this is why Hendrick and RCR put more than half of their respective stables in the Chase and Roush did not.
Think Jeff Green's retaliation on Jimmie Johnson – who admitted fault in their initial on-track run-in – was more than just being mad at the 48 at that moment? It's been a moderately disappointing season for the 66 Chevy.
Better luck next time
Stewart Tony Stewart. Aside from maybe deserving to be in the previous category for nearly wrecking Sterling Marlin (in an attempt to stay on the lead lap?), Stewart did turn in a decent performance (and got lucky with cautions a couple of times) with a bad car, but it just wasn't enough. Of course, he did wreck the presumably better car in practice. Regardless, tough break for the (soon to be no longer) reigning champ. Jeff Gordon's team actually gave him a far worse Chevy, and it showed in the finishing order. But Gordon had breathing room that Stewart did not. Incidentally, isn't a little shocking that Tony Stewart missing the Chase isn't, well, more shocking?
Michael Waltrip. Here's to hoping, for his sake, that Toyota's Cup engines are far better than what he's got right now.
Martin Truex Jr. For a while, he had been putting together a decent second half-season. There still is time.
By the way …
Anyone else notice that TNT broke out of commercial when the race's first caution flew? This after starting the race with a solid amount of green flag coverage (about 32 laps – which is a bit better than 32 laps at Bristol)? Better late than never.
Isn't it ironic that a Canadian band (and a good one, at that – although, as some readers suggest, this particular performance may not have been their best) sang the national anthem before the race? Isn't that the sort of thing the current administration usually gets all worked up about? No, that's foreign languages, not foreign bands. My bad.
The word of the day, spoken by Busch (maybe in jest?), is: broadcastations.
Big names? Stewart missed the Chase and Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon limped in. Sign of things to come over the next 10? Maybe not. Junior has been strong lately, and his late Saturday struggles were a fluke. Gordon, meanwhile, points out that Richmond is not on the Chase schedule.
Michael Schumacher is retiring after this season. Unless Mark Martin gets a hold of him.
Grading the race
The last 100 laps or so saved this one. Maybe the bar was set high, but even Chase intrigue was failing to add any sizzle to what was playing out as a terribly uneventful and boring race. But then Denny Hamlin had motor problems, then Stewart began to run out of time, then Gordon began to fall even further back, then Earnhardt Jr. developed brake issues. Suddenly there was drama. Kahne, meanwhile, was maintaining his spot near the front while Martin began to climb back toward the top 10 and Burton tried to hold on. All this while Harvick ran down Busch and passed him late for the win. The first (roughly) 300 laps get a D+. The last 100? An A, with some substantial extra weight for relative importance. Grade: B
From the source
Kevin Harvick: "I'd rather flip over and run 10th in the Chase than give up a chance to win a race."
Matt Kenseth on Tony Stewart: "I thought for sure he was going to be the guy to beat for the championship."