By admin | August 11, 2013
By Richard Allen
Plenty of big stars found trouble on the right and left hand turns of Watkins Glen International on Sunday. And those crashes had an impact on the Sprint Cup standings as the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup looms in the distance.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth were among the championship contenders to experience issues along with perennial road course front runner Marcos Ambrose. Not only did those troubles impact their chances to win the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen but also created greater championship drama for themselves and others in terms of the all important top-10 in the standings as well as the potential wildcard positions.
On lap 15, Gordon lost control of his Chevrolet and slammed the guard rail head on. From that point, he was only able to limp around the track with a badly damaged race car. Ultimately, he finished 36th in the final running order. But most importantly, the four time Sprint Cup champion dropped to 13th in the standings, which with no wins, leaves him in jeopardy of missing out on this year’s Chase.
Gordon said after the incident that he lost the nose of his car as he followed closely behind a competitor. “That was my mistake,” he said. ”That was on me today. We can’t have stuff like that happen.’’
But things really got spicy as the race drew closer to its conclusion. With just eight laps remaining, Kenseth appeared to get into a tussle with Ambrose as the cars worked through the esses section of the track. That contact forced Kenseth’s Toyota into the left rear of Kahne’s machine, sending the #5 Chevrolet into the fence. Earnhardt was collected by the ricochet effect. Each of the three championship contenders had cars that were heavily damaged.
Kahne suffered the most severe damage and was relegated to a 34th place finish. He, like Gordon, dropped out of the top-10 in the standings. However, he has two wins to fall back on should he need to take a wildcard for the Chase.
Shortly after the race, Kahne tweeted, “Tough way to finish but we had a good car. Try again next year.”
Later, however, Kahne again took to Twitter, this time with a bit more force. “Headed over to Joe Gibbs racing to talk to whoever will come out front.” No word on whether or not anyone came out to meet him.
Earnhardt was also displeased with Kenseth. First he demonstrated his emotions by driving up behind the #20 car and giving him a tap on the rear bumper. Then, he spoke to reporters afterward.
“I just thought the 9 made the 20 mad and the 20 was trying to show his displeasure,” Earnhardt said. “It happens. It’s legal. Nothing illegal about it.”
Kenseth disputed Earnhardt’s claim about the wreck. “I wasn’t trying to get Marcos back,” he declared. “It probably looked like that. I was trying to carry my momentum so I didn’t have four more cars pass me. I just lost control of my car and went across the lane, and somebody was outside of me. I guess it was Kasey. That part of it is my fault.”
Earnhardt finished 30th and fell to 6th in the standings, but he holds a relatively comfortable 45 point advantage over 10th place Martin Truex, Jr.
Kenseth remains 7th in the standings after his 23rd place result at The Glen. He has four wins to his credit this season, which all but assures him of a spot in the Chase.
It’s not all that common for so many big stars to be involved in crashes on a track that doesn’t involve restrictor plates. However, road course racing tends to bring about somewhat unusual results.
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