A quick look at how the Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers fared in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Carl Edwards (Charlotte: Third) – Did more than hold serve and actually increased his lead in the standings to five points. A steady night and was in position to try to run down the leaders in the closing laps but just did not have quite enough.
Chase Chatter: “We have five times the points lead we had coming in. We went from one point to five points, so that’s something."
Kevin Harvick (Charlotte: Sixth) – Is making a living out of taking a not so great race and turning it into a decent finish. Like Kansas, Harvick wasn’t much a factor Saturday night but dodge a major bullet late in the race when he avoided a wreck and stayed in the title hunt with the effort.
Chase Chatter: “Really, we ran terrible at Chicago last year, we have not ran great at Kansas, and had not run great here so, to come here through these first five races and only be five points back, knowing that four of the last five races are great race tracks for us, I’m really excited about that.”
Matt Kenseth (Charlotte: First) – A quintessential Kenseth performance on Saturday night that resulted in a trip to victory lane. Steady and persistent, Kenseth wasn’t flashy but had more than enough to take the lead late and hold on the rest of the way to solidify his place in the championship standings.
Chase Chatter: “You’re always thankful. I’m always thankful to get to victory lane. You never know if you’re ever gonna win another race or when your last win is, and I’m certainly thankful for them all and I greatly appreciate being in a position to be able to win races and these guys giving me the cars and the crew and the opportunity to do that.”
Kyle Busch (Charlotte: Second) – Two nights of the same scenario for Busch this weekend in Charlotte as he gave up a lead late in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races and was forced to settle for second. Still a good night in terms of the points race for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
Chase Chatter: ““We have to keep finishing like this -- it’s all it takes. It’s not that hard.”
Tony Stewart (Charlotte: Eighth) – A pretty solid effort to rebound from his Kansas disappointment and pit road mistake a week ago. Stewart had a powerful car and although wasn’t able to get a third Chase win showed he’ll be a factor for sure in upcoming 1.5-mile tracks in Texas and Homestead.
Chase Chatter: “We were good off the front there, just, when we got back in traffic we got really tight. You know that was kind of the theme of the night. We just seemed to, our car changed balance-wise a lot more in traffic it seemed like, than some of the other cars did.”
Brad Keselowski (Charlotte: 16th) – Surprisingly not a factor all weekend. Keselowski qualified poorly and could not make any kind of charge toward the front of the field through adjustments or pit strategy. Lucky to finish as high as he did in Charlotte.
Chase Chatter: " I feel like I know what was wrong; I wish could run this race again tomorrow and come back with a little different setup. We just didn’t catch the right breaks.”
Kurt Busch (Charlotte: Thirteenth) – Like it or not Busch now finds himself in a controversy with the reports of crew chief Steve Letarte’s possible defection from Penske Racing after the season. A mediocre night at best in Charlotte didn’t do much to put those rumors to rest.
Chase Chatter: “We did lose a few points, but we’ll try to get them back next week. Faster race cars will make for better decisions.”
Jimmie Johnson (Charlotte: 34th) – The shot heard round the NASCAR world came with 25 laps to go when Johnson crashed hard into the backstretch wall. While he was uninjured in the accident, Johnson took a big hit in his quest for a sixth straight title and now faces a possible insurmountable climb from 35 points behind with only five races to go.
Chase Chatter: “Definitely not the night we wanted. This is not going to help us win a sixth championship. Promise you, this team and myself, we won’t quit. We will go for every point we can from here on out and hopefully we are still champions at the end of the year.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Charlotte: 19th) – Was hoping to replicate his May Charlotte run when he was in contention for a win until running out of gas on the final turn. Did not have anywhere near the car that rolled off the hauler in the spring race and was forced to play catch up all night with a loose wheel adding insult to injury.
Chase Chatter: “We can’t seem to really put together a clean race and we have to work real hard just to make up for the things that happen to us and the things we do to ourselves. We work really hard at least, so we’re definitely learning a lot of lessons in that regard.”
Ryan Newman (Charlotte: Tenth) – A very nice effort for Newman at what he calls his favorite track. While his hopes of winning the championship disappeared a few weeks ago Newman has the look of someone who could find his way to victory lane again before the end of the season.
Chase Chatter: “We just didn’t have quite what we needed at the end to give us a better finish than we ended up with. We’ll take a top-10 here tonight and now it’s on to the next one.”
Jeff Gordon (Charlotte: 21st) – The final nail in Gordon’s championship caution was driven home in Charlotte. Another driver who was expected to do well at a track where he’s flourished but never mounted any kind of serious threat.
Denny Hamlin (Charlotte: Ninth) – Hamlin told the world earlier in the weekend he was expecting changes within Joe Gibbs Racing to right the ship and planned to get a jump start on 2012 immediately. Turned in a nice performance in Charlotte that can be used as a building block for the No. 11 team’s future.
Chase Chatter: “We’re making strides and we’re heading in the right direction. We’re still trying to dig through all this information that I’ve got to give these guys to head us in the right direction for the future.”
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