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NASCAR Pepsi 500 in-race update through 100 miles

October 11, 2009 |  1:13 pm

We'll know soon if it was a harbinger of craziness to follow but you have chuckle when they introduce Jesse McCartney to sing the National Anthem as the star of the upcoming movie "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Sequel." All with a straight face. McCartney then forgets a verse in his uninspired version of the song. Now, we know why NASCAR usually uses country and western singers.

Honorary starter Kelsey Grammer did not screw up the words "Gentlemen, start your engines."

Kyle Busch, who was scheduled to start 19th, was forced to the back of the field because of an engine change.

Denny Hamlin used his pole-qualifying engine to take the early lead , while Greg Biffle struggled to hold on to second with Jimmie Johnson passing him a few laps into the race.

On lap 11, Johnson, second in the Chase, passed Hamlin for the race's first lead change. It didn't take long for the field to get strung out, After 15 laps there was a difference between of 33 seconds between the first and 42nd car.

Kevin Harvick showed he will likely be a force in the race, needing only 17 laps to go from seventh to third.

Two drivers, Mike Bliss (11 laps) and David Gilliland (13 laps) employed the start-and-park plan, where they begin the race for the prize money and then park the car rather than incurring the expense of having to run it all race. Gilliland had an secondary  motive as he will be the relief driver for Busch. Dave Blaney became the third driver out of the race when he retired after 22 laps.

People are also starting to wonder of Dale Earnhardt Jr., could be a factor today. he started the race 37th and by lap 27 was 19th.

Juan Pablo Montoya picked up five bonus points on the 27th lap when he passed Johnson for the lead, the second of the race.

By the 30th lap the field was so strung out that cynics were wondering when NASCAR was going to find mystery debris on the track to bring out a caution flag and bunch up the field.

Most of the field decided to take their first fuel and tire stop between the 38th and 41st lap. Many were surprised when Busch did not get out of his car on their pit stop, meaning he's good for a few more laps.

Kurt Busch stayed out a little longer before pitting grabbing the lead on the 41st lap.Johnson regained the lead on the next lap when Kurt Busch pitted. Montoya grabbed the lead after that.

Looking back at the first 100 miles, the storylines are:
  • Johnson and Montoya battling as if it were the last lap.
  • Incident free racing.
  • Earnhardt could be making a move.
  • After lap 50, the top 10: 1. Montoya; 2. Johnson; 3. Harvick; 4. Hamlin; 5. Jeff Gordon; 6. Edwards; 7. Biffle; 8. Martin; 9. Truex; 10. Bowyer.

-- John Cherwa