Skirts and Scuffs Take on the Chase: Tony Stewart smokes Chicagoland

2011 CS Sept NSCS Chase Drivers
A day late and few gallons of gas short, Monday’s race at Chicagoland saw Tony Stewart take home his first victory of the season while many Chase contenders dealt with heartbreak. The ladies of Skirts and Scuffs are here to break down how the top-12 drivers did in the Windy City.

Kevin Harvick: points leader – Lisa Janine Cloud

"did i mention how much i HATE fuel mileage races????", DeLana Harvick said on May 29 via Twitter during the Coca Cola 600, won by Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick's wife DeLana may hate fuel mileage races, but her husband and the No. 29 Budweiser team excel at them. Starting 30th in Monday's rain-delayed Geico 400 at Chicagoland, Harvick saved enough fuel to bring the RCR Chevrolet home second behind winner Tony Stewart. Harvick now has a seven point lead over Stewart in the standing.

Moving into the top-10 by Lap 90, Harvick's fuel conservation allowed him to outlast fellow Chase contenders Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth and challenge Tony Stewart for the lead. Though he couldn't quite make it past Stewart, Harvick posted his 14th top-10 finish of 2011, and his seventh top-10--sixth of those top-fives--in 11 races at Chicagoland Speedway.

In the post-race press conference, Harvick said, "For me, I'm just happy that we finished second, to be honest with you. There's still a lot of question marks for us coming into The Chase on the mile-and-a-half stuff. But the call was solid all weekend. Stats are stats. And for us it's one week at a time, one lap, one practice. It's just one minute at a time literally going through the motions. So you just -- if you can come out of here with a second, during the year it was all about trying to win races. Now it's about accumulating points."

Tony Stewart: Race winner and 2nd in points (–7) - Genevieve Cadorette

"We've had a miserable year,” Tony Stewart told members of the press in Chicagoland, “But the last three weeks have really started coming into it. ... I don't think either one of us (crew chief Darian Grubb and Stewart) thought we had as good a car as we thought we needed to win today. But it didn't take long in the race to figure out we were pretty solid."

Stewart, who was glad that the race had been postponed because he was suffering from a migraine on Sunday, started the race in 26th position and quickly gained momentum. By Lap 105 he was in seventh position, and by the 141st lap he had made it to fourth place.

Stewart continued his march to the front of the field and by Lap 155 had moved into the second position made it to second by Lap 155 and with 95 laps to go, Smoke was in third. With nine laps to go Stewart took the lead for the final time. While drivers worried about the fuel mileage, Stewart stayed ahead of the competition, lapping drivers as he drove forward quickly. He finished first and to his luck, ran out of fuel moments later.

Stewart's teammate Ryan Newman had a productive day leading 18 laps. The last time Stewart-Hass drivers dominated a race was in July at the NH Lenox 300. As the series returns to New Hampshire for week 2 of the Chase look for both Newman and Stewart to lead the field to the checkers like they did in July.

Carl Edwards: 3rd in points (-10) - Lacy Keyser

The first Chase race was kicked off in Chicagoland but sadly was postponed to Monday due to rain. The race started with a bang as Carl’s teammate Matt Kenneth took the lead and held on for many laps. Edwards took the lead at lap 104 and went on to lead 39 laps. Edwards had a horrible restart towards the end of the race and dropped him back in the top 15th position; a green flag stopped helped get their car fixed up. Fuel mileage played a part in Edwards’s great finish as well as points gained in the chase. Edwards finished 4th at Chicagoland and moved him up two spots in the chase to 3rd.

Quote from Carl Edwards:
“It was a really good day at the beginning and we showed a lot of speed,” said Edwards. “Then we struggled a little bit but came back with great fuel mileage at the end and that was huge for us. It allowed us to jump up to fourth and really get good position. That was a nice finish for us in this first race and something we can definitely build on as we head to Loudon.

Kurt Busch: 4th in points (–11) – Rosalie Thompson

Kurt Busch moved up three spots to claim fourth place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after finishing sixth in the first race of the 2011 Chase. For his efforts during the day, Busch also won the American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award for the Chicagoland race.

“It was a good point’s day for our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge,” Busch said after the race. “We had speed in the car early, but just didn’t keep up with the track. We were a top-10 car all day. We led a bunch of laps early. We just struggled with making adjustments as the race went on."

In a race that came down to fuel conservation, Busch did a good job of stretching the fuel that his crew packed into the car.

“The key for us late in the race was fuel mileage,” Busch said. “I knew that we were short. A lot of guys were short. I told Steve (Addington, Crew Chief) to pack it full and that I would do the rest. To get a sixth-place finish to start the Chase is a good step. We still want those race wins.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 5th in standings (–13) - Melissa Wright

Dale Jr. started the Geico 400 in 19th position and 10th in the points on Monday after a long drawn out Sunday that was caused by a rain delay.

While watching the race, I listened to Jr's scanner, which was quiet for the most part. A caution came out for debris, Dale came in for four tires and he told his crew chief Steve Letarte that he's really happy with the car. Several laps later on lap 78 he stated that they were way too loose. Jr. battled Keselowski for the 12th position and then green flag pit stops began shortly after that around lap 117. Dale restarted in 14th.

There were issues with several Chase contenders in their first race of the Chase. However, not for Junior Nation. He told his crew that the pit stops have been great all day and then went on to tell Letarte that his No.88 National Guard Chevrolet is a little snug but it's good! All Letarte could say at that moment was, “Great restart!”.

Regardless of the fact that Jr.'s car was loose in and loose off , it all came down to fuel mileage. Yes, yet again. Dale was battling Kyle Busch for 11th when the yellow flag was waved for debris. (Metal on the front stretch). Jr. came in for one last splash of fuel.

With 30 to go Jr. challenges the No.18 of Kyle Busch for 9th. He was told he had enough fuel to make it to the end. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 3rd and 6th in points.

"We had really, really good pit stops all day long and those guys worked hard to try and improve and they really did today." With much of the field running out of fuel, Junior said he was not even aware of his third place finish until he was told afterwards and also said that they were never really worried about their fuel mileage. He went on to say that Letarte said that they were about 3/10 of a mile short on fuel before they even took the green flag on that last run and that was with about 20 laps to go. Jr. says the No. 88 made it to the finish line but it wouldn't have made it another lap.

Brad Keselowski: 6th in points (–14) - Kristin Weaver

Brad Keselowski kicked off the weekend at Chicagoland Speedway with a win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in his No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger. This was his third win this season for the team.

On Saturday morning, Brad Keselowski qualified his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Challenger in the 6th position for when the green flag flew on Sunday. Once the flag dropped, Keselowski immediately dropped two spots, which was surprising to the team. After the competition caution on Lap 30, Keselowski came into the pits and dropped a few more spots. This definitely angered driver No. 2, who would later go on a tirade and have to be cooled down by Paul Wolfe.

After calming down and driving his own race, he was back to the driver fans love and support. On Lap 166, Brad Keselowski and Paul Wolfe decided to stay out instead of pitting. A move that would turn out to be costly as he started to lose 2.5 seconds to the leader. Being on a different pit strategy, he would later come into pit and leave one lap down.

A late debris caution would earn Keselowski his lap back, after fighting to stay in the lucky dog position. While many of the top-10 were struggling with fuel calculations, Keselowski didn’t worry too much. In the end, the Miller Lite Dodge would finish the GEICO 400 with a fifth place finish, and moving up five spots to sixth in the Sprint Cup Championship.

Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 team head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend. Can they get another top-5 finish? Tune in Sunday to find out.

Ryan Newman: 7th in points (–14) - Unique Hiram

Ryan “The Rocket” Newman started on the grid in fourth position at the beginning of the GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway and coasted across the finish line in eighth position. Newman ran really strong throughout the 267-lap, 400-mile race – leading two times for a total of 18 laps and running inside the top-10 (no lower than eighth) the entire race.

"Our race was really strong - I was proud of the guys," said Newman. "Our fuel mileage wasn't what it needed to be, but in the end, we got a top-10. I ran out of fuel coming off of turn two. I got past Jimmie (Johnson) -- I think he ran out coming to the white (flag). It was kind of a crazy deal, but we were still able to capitalize in our U.S. Army Medicine Chevrolet. It could have been worse I guess - we could have run out of fuel earlier on the final lap."

Newman seems to be extremely confident about the team’s success in running and being extremely competitive on the 1.5-mile racetracks. "What I learned today was that we have a better mile-and-a-half program than I thought we did," said Newman. "That's huge because 50 percent of the Chase races (five) are at the mile-and-a-half tracks. We had a strong run today and it feels good to start off the Chase with this type of performance."

Due to Newman’s finishing position and Stewart’s win in today’s race, it is not surprising that the momentum is high within this organization. If the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet can be consistent in running up front throughout the Chase, then it could turn out to be very beneficial for them especially on the 1.5-mile tracks. They are definitely a team to be on the lookout for throughout the remaining nine races.

Jimmie Johnson: 8th in standing(–16) - Lindi Bess

Jimmie celebrated his 36th birthday on Saturday, September 17th. In a recent interview JJ was asked about his intentions for celebrating his birthday and his response was one that most parents can relate to. "5:30 is dinner. 6:15 is bath for (daughter) Genevieve and then at 7:00, she's down," Johnson said of his one-year old. "We can't make noise in the motor home."

Monday was a different story for Johnson. He wasn’t with his family in the motorcoach any longer. He was in his No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet with the hopes of not only celebrating his birthday, but to also bring the trophy back to Chad Knaus. The No. 48 had yet to conquer Chicagoland Speedway, Knaus’ home track.

Things were definitely looking great for the five-time Sprint Cup champion as he was definitely in control halfway through the race. With a confident driver behind the wheel and one of most dominant cars on the track, the team was confident they had the car to beat.

With 10 laps to go, Johnson began to make his move to the front. Along with handful of other cars, it was setting up to be an exciting finish. Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team told Jimmie to that were confident that he was safe fuel-wise to take on Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Office Depot Chevy for the win. Unfortunately, they made the wrong call, but they weren’t the only ones who ran out of fuel. Johnson coasted to a 10th place finish.

Following the race Johnson said, "I can’t complain too much because the car in Victory Lane (Tony Stewart) has same power, same everything. From my driving style I've never been all that good with fuel mileage. You've certainly seen me run out at other times. Not what we wanted. We certainly had a great race car and its just to bad. We ran out (of fuel) coming to the white flag.”

As the team leaves Chicagoland behind, Johnson’s a year older, and currently 8th in the Sprint Cup standings 16 points behind.

Kyle Busch - 9th in points (-19) - Amanda Ebersole

Headed into Chicagoland, Busch said " pinpoint one exact thing that's going to fix our cars for Chicagoland, it's just speed."

After Saturday's qualifying, Busch would start in ninth and looked like that missing speed may have been found by crew chief Dave Rogers and the No. 18 team.

After running within the top-10 most of the day, circumstances beyond his control spoiled Busch's hopes for the checkered flag. Debris fell on track, causing damage to the No. 18 Toyota and forcing the crew to slap on some bear bond.

Finally - the dreaded fuel mileage bit the team. Busch was the first car to run out with two laps to go and again starting the Chase off to a rocky start.

After the race, Busch spoke to media and said: "We had a good car today and kept fighting back all day long. But once we hit that debris, it just made the car really loose and I was doing the best I can. I still hoped we could finish in the top 10. I saved as much fuel as I could, but I guess it wasn't enough and we ran out with two to go. Just a really disappointing day."

Matt Kenseth: 10th in points (–24) – Holly Machuga

Although Matt Kenseth started on the pole after the race was postponed to Monday, the No. 17 team struggled at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kenseth began the race by leading quite a few laps, and was a top-five car for the majority of the race. With sixty laps to go, he took the lead off pit road. He had to back off the throttle and save fuel, however, on the final laps.

Even though they had attempted to conserve fuel, they ran out on the last lap and were pushed across the line by the 38 car, which left him in eighth place. NASCAR penalized the 17 team for being pushed on the last lap, which pushed him back to 21st. Because of that finish, Kenseth dropped from 4th to 10th in the Chase point standings.

Jeff Gordon: 11th in points (–25) - Rebecca Kivak

After a disastrous day at Chicagoland, Jeff Gordon starts the Chase in a hole. After struggling throughout Monday’s rain-delayed Geico 400, Gordon had a shot at a top-15 finish before fuel mileage woes relegated him to 24th place. As a result, the four-time Sprint Cup champion dropped like a rock in the points standings, from 3rd to 11th.

When the green flag dropped, Gordon started Monday’s race in 23rd. The driver of the No. 24 reported his racecar was tight, an indication of the handling problems that would plague him all day. He ran as low as 29th. But after the race's second caution, Gordon started picking up spots. He broke into the top 20 on Lap 79 and was 17th by Lap 115. But his charge to the front was interrupted by a flat right front tire. Gordon made an unscheduled stop on Lap 110 to change the tire, which was down to the cords. But in doing so, he went two laps down.

By Lap 125 Gordon was back on the lead lap in 26th, but only a few laps later he was lapped again. Gordon put himself in the lucky dog position on Lap 157, running 22nd, and got his lap back seven circuits later when Jamie McMurray’s blown engine brought out a caution.

In the last 100 laps, Gordon’s car came to life and he looked racy as he battled Denny Hamlin for position. By Lap 208 he had driven up to the 12th spot. After a caution for debris soon after, Gordon restarted 11th but lost some of the ground he had made up, fading back to 16th. With 31 laps left, his crew chief Alan Gustafson told Gordon to start conserving fuel.

As the laps wound down, Gordon was running 17th with a top-15 finish still within reach when his gas tank ran dry. He was one of several cars who lost on the fuel mileage gamble, and he was forced to settle for a 24th-place finish, two laps down. The finish was his second-worst in 11 starts at the 1.5-mile track.

“We actually got the car halfway decent there at the end. But then it came down to saving fuel, and we obviously didn’t save enough fuel,” Gordon said.

After three straight top-3 finishes, including a win at Atlanta, Gordon finds himself toward the bottom of the Chase standings. But with nine races left in the Chase, Gordon has a chance to make up valuable ground next weekend at New Hampshire.

Denny Hamlin: 12th in points (-41) - Katy Lindamood

While a majority of 12 drivers competing for the the Chase trophy spent time leading the field 12th place driver Denny Hamlin spent the majority of his day in the middle to rear of the field. Coming off a season that pales in comparison to 2010 the No. 11 FedEx team knows that it's going to be nearly impossible to make up the 41 point deficite they are in following race 1.

Hamlin, who started the Geico 400 from the 27th position, was never a factor for the win. After complaining of vibration early in the race Hamlin was forced to pit road to take on tires and fell to two laps down. Although he was able to get one lap back Hamlin's woes continued and ultimately finished three laps down in 31st.

Stay tuned to Skirts and Scuffs for our Loudon previews and recaps along with all the live at track coverage this weekend.
Skirts and Scuffs Take on the Chase: Tony Stewart smokes Chicagoland Skirts and Scuffs Take on the Chase: Tony Stewart smokes Chicagoland Reviewed by Admin on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 Rating: 5