JOLIET, ILLINOIS | September 19, 2011
With the whine of jet dryers humming in the background, the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway didn’t quite get started on schedule. Originally set to begin at 1:00pm C.S.T. (2:00pm E.S.T.) on Sunday, the drivers, crews, and cars sat under umbrellas and tarps as scattered rain showers threatened to upset the day’s schedule. The delay continued as rain glistened off of the asphalt surface at 4:40pm (C.S.T.). Eventually, the event was officially postponed at 7:03pm (C.S.T.) and set to run on Monday at 11:00am (C.S.T.).
Fuel mileage was played to the utmost advantage Monday as Tony Stewart secured his first victory of the season in the first race of the Sprint Cup Chase. He was one of the few to be glad about the rain delay because he had a migraine Sunday that finally let up later in the evening. Stewart started 26th and slowly made his way to the front. He led for 6 laps from 209 to 214, then fell back to third for a while. He moved up to second at lap 229 when Kenseth took the lead from Truex Jr. In an effort to conserve fuel, he let Truex take the lead again at lap 250, then went back to the front 3 laps later when Truex went to pit road with 14 to go. He held on to the lead for the remainder of the race and finished 0.941 seconds ahead of Harvick. The win rockets him to second in the points’ standings, only 7 behind leader Kevin Harvick.
Fuel conservation was a problem for others as well. At one point, Kenseth could be heard on his radio saying he was strategically “shutting [the engine] down” to save his fuel. The running order on the last lap was not exactly how the cars ended up finishing – many of the leading cars – including Menard, Ky. Busch, and Truex, wound up falling many spots because they all ran out of fuel. Truex Jr. fell to 18th, Menard to 20th, Kenseth to 21st, and Ky. Busch to 22nd.
Several drivers had trouble with tires during the race. Jeff Gordon nearly blew a tire – he ran it bare all the way to the inner liner but pitted before it could cause damage. Greg Biffle thought he had a flat tire, but it turned out to be a “bubble” that Goodyear engineers said they had never seen before – speculation was that they may have had a broken shock or the radiator pan was dragging on it. They decided to change all four tires to fix the problem quickly.
Goodyear brought attention to the “Support Our Troops” campaign with their specially branded tires throughout the weekend. The tires will be autographed by such drivers as Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer and others. They will be auctioned off to raise awareness and funds for the program. Visit www.goodyear.com/supportourtroops to learn more.