NASCAR Pepsi 500 in-race update through 200 miles
It took 60 laps of mind-numbing racing before the first caution flag was able to bunch up the field. By that time there was only 26 drivers on the lead lap. It was indicative of why they have discussed changing the track to greater banking to promote more side-by-side racing.
The average speed after 62 laps was 162.487 mph.
The yellow was caused when Jamie McMurray touched the wall but didn't really suffer any significant damage. The pit stop cost Jimmie Johnson six spots when he suffered a lugnut malfunction. It also gave Kyle Busch the chance to do a driver change to bring Riverside's David Gilliland into the car without losing a lap. Busch has been battling the flu.
"I'm going to try and get some fluids or something in me in the Infield Care Center," Busch said as he was heading back to the garage area. "The car was decent. I'm real proud of the effort from these guys. I appreciate them sticking behind me. I'm sorry I had to get out."
The race restarted on lap 65 (130 miles) with Juan Pablo Montoya and Kevin Harvick in the top two spots. About the same time the sun made its first appearance of the day, meaning the track conditions may start to change soon.
With the field bunched up lead changes started to happen. Denny Hamlin grabbed the lead for a couple laps followed by Mark Martin as the field approached the 140 mile mark.
Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had snuck up 11th by the 71st lap on this two-mile oval.
Montoya re-grabbed the lead around the 72nd lap with 29 cars on the lead lap.
By the 79th lap, Junior had broken in to the Top 10 at 10th.
The second yellow came out on the 81st lap when Ryan Newman, ninth in the Chase, got a flat tire on his right front. He ended up going to pit row twice.
Johnson again has pit troubles, this time dropping four spots. His stop wasn't bad at 13.4 seconds but others were better.
The second caution lasted from laps 82 to 86. Reed Sorenson was the Lucky Dog (gets a lap back.) On the restart it was Montoya, Martin Truex Jr. (who took only two tires) and Denny Hamlin in the first three spots. It didn't take but a couple laps for Hamlin to get to second and Martin move up to third.
It didn't take long for Montoya to reestablish his dominance gaining a 2.4 second advantage over Johnson by the 95th lap.
Storylines for the second 100 miles (101-200):
- Montoya can go to the front at will, holding off the Hendrick cars.
- Kyle Busch leaves a race early because of the flu.
- Still no incidents.
- Junior moves up to ninth.
- Bakerfield's Kevin Harvick having a good day, racing in sixth position.
The top 10 after 200 miles: 1. Montoya; 2. Johnson; 3. Hamlin; 4. Jeff Gordon; 5. Martin; 6. Harvick; 7. Biffle; 8. Kurt Busch; 9. Junior; 10. Tony Stewart.
-- John Cherwa