The smell of the northeast shore usually means a lot of lobsters fresh from the sea. Although expensive, they are the prime catch in that part of the country.
But, on June 27, 2010, the prime catch was a ticket to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Partly cloudy skies met the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as the 17th race of the regular season was on tap. After a tough, and for some, aggravating, weekend in California, the top drivers came to New England to do battle in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.
Juan Pablo Montoya would be the pole-sitter this weekend and led the field to the green flag. Right away, he showed that this was one of his best tracks as he pulled away from second-place starter Kasey Kahne.
Montoya held the top spot up until the first caution on lap 36 as debris was spotted on the backstretch.
A lot of teams went with strategy at this point when pit road opened. A strong majority of the field elected to go with just two tires as it was only part-way through a fuel run, while others decided to go with four new tires.
When the field restarted on lap 40, it was Kahne who won the race off pit road and would bring the field to the restart. The surprising part at this point was the race would begin a long, green-flag run. Usually, on average, the longest green-flag sequence at New Hampshire is about 70 laps. That’s right at the beginning of a normal fuel run for these cars.
This time, the stretch of green-flag laps would be 200. The race would cycle through two sets of green-flag stops which saw Kasey Kahne out front for a majority of the time. In the second sequence, he began a great battle with Kyle Busch.
However, that battle would soon come to an abrupt end.
After losing the second-place spot to Jeff Burton, Kahne’s car suddenly lost power. His tachometer was only reading 9000 on the straightaways. Finally, on the radio, Kahne let the bad news ring out as he said the engine was going away.
Still, he tried to nurse it around the track, hoping to get to the finish.
Out front, Burton made his claim to the lead as he passed Busch on lap 201. Finally, the caution came out on lap 240 as Kahne’s engine finally quit, shooting out a huge plume of smoke. It would be the second consecutive race at New Hampshire that Kahne had an engine go sour on him.
The ensuing pit stops did not change much on the track as Burton still held his advantage. The field restarted on lap 245, as all drivers now had enough fuel to make it to the finish.
Burton would hold off Busch, but a new face decided to come out and go for the lead. That was last week’s winner, Jimmie Johnson. He would come in and battle hard but just couldn’t get around for that top spot.
Meanwhile, the race went back under caution at lap 283 as Montoya went for a spin in turn 3 after a bump from Reed Sorenson. His No. 42 Target backed into the outside wall, thus ending his good run.
Back out front, Burton elected to stay on the track. The problem was, the rest of the field decided to come to pit road. This left Burton a sitting duck on the restart, as even with the inside line, Johnson would make the most of his run and got the lead heading out of the second turn. Burton would continue to fall back, and that created chaos as the laps began winding down.
Burton and Kyle Busch got together in the third turn, both of them spinning and bringing out what would ultimately be the final caution.
Both drivers recovered, but it would lead to one more attempt at getting the field to the finish. Johnson got a great restart, but Kurt Busch was coming strong. In the third turn, the old-fashioned “bump and run” move was put on Johnson as he slid up the track and the Miller Lite Dodge would take the lead. With just seven laps remaining, Kurt needed to put as much distance between him and the No. 48 as possible.
Unfortunately, he didn’t do enough as the Lowe’s Chevrolet closed up. Coming to the white flag, it was a case of “do unto others” as Johnson put the same move on Kurt, in the same spot no less, and got out front. Kurt fell back into the clutches of Tony Stewart, but by then Johnson was already a half second ahead.
It was not to be as for the second straight week, Johnson would come out of turn 4 to take the checkered flag, winning the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.
It would be Johnson’s fifth win this year, tying him with Denny Hamlin as NASCAR reached it’s mid-way point of the season. This coming Saturday night, the lights will come on at the Daytona International Speedway.
It won’t be a short-track race, but it will certainly be a shootout as on tap is the Coke Zero 400. TNT will once again provide their “Wide Open Coverage” with limited commercial interruption.
Countdown to Green will kick off the festivities starting at 6:30 p.m. ET, with the race going green approximately an hour later.
RESULTS: 1-Johnson 2-Stewart 3-Kurt Busch 4-Gordon 5-Harvick 6-Newman 7-Bowyer 8-Earnhardt Jr. 9-Logano 10-Allmendinger
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Kyle Busch 12-Burton 14-Hamlin 17-Kenseth 21-Martin 25-Edwards 34-Montoya 36-Kahne
CAUTIONS: 4 for 19 laps. Lap 36-39 (Debris-BS), 240-245 (Oil on the track), 283-287 (No. 42, 83 accident-T3), 290-293 (No. 18, 31 accident-T4)
LEAD CHANGES: 14 among 9 drivers. Montoya 1-36, Sadler 37, Kahne 38-105, Johnson 106, Kurt Busch 107, Newman 108, Stewart 109-110, Kahne 111-152, Kyle Busch 153-176, Burton 177-178, Kyle Busch 179-200, Burton 201-287, Johnson 288-293, Kurt Busch 294-299, Johnson 300-301.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 48 Mins, 38 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 113.308 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.753 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS: 1-Harvick, 2489 Points; 2-Johnson, -105; 3-Kyle Busch, -161; 4-Hamlin, -185; 5-Gordon, -187; 6-Kurt Busch, -201; 7-Kenseth, -285; 8-Burton, -330; 9-Stewart, -331; 10-Biffle, -363; 11-Martin, -442; 12-Edwards, -469