Caution Report: Many messes in Atlanta
September 01, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR.com
First caution: Lap 27-30
Not long before the race was supposed to start, rain washed the 1.54-mile track clean. Officials called for a competition caution, giving teams the chance to examine tire wear on a track that had changed from the one on which the teams had practiced. Coors Light Pole Award winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. told his crew chief his No. 17 had zero front grip. By the time the caution flag waved, Stenhouse had fallen to 22nd. Initial adjustments were made during the stop. The leaders took four Goodyear tires and Sunoco Green E15 fuel, some with additional adjustments, making the speed of the pit crews even more important. Joey Logano lost five positions on the stop, falling to sixth, while Brad Keselowski gained three, putting him in the top 10 after starting 23rd. Juan Pablo Montoya held on to first going to the green flag.
Second caution: Lap 32-39
With little rubber on the track, the outside line was a hurdle on restarts. Jeff Gordon couldn't get any grip on the restart and took a hit from Matt Kenseth’s No. 20, leading to a chain reaction and slowing cars behind him. Three Hendrick Motorsports cars bore the brunt of the domino effect as Jimmie Johnson got into the back of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne got into the back of Johnson. Kahne was sent back to the garage for repairs to his radiator, while Jeff Burton and Mark Martin -- who were also caught up in the wreck -- joined the No. 48 on pit road for repairs. Gordon would restart fifth on the inside, with Johnson, Martin and Burton falling to 38th-40th, respectively. Carl Edwards would survive the outside line with a push from Clint Bowyer to take the lead on the restart. Kahne would return to the track on Lap 63, 31 laps down. See video of the chain reaction below:
Third caution: Lap 59-63
Lack of grip would continue to give drivers trouble on the track. Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 wobbled, and Denny Hamlin pinched Paul Menard into the wall. Resulting debris on the track would bring out a caution. It was good timing for Hamlin, who had told his team to get ready, saying "Something's going on, don't know what." When the flag came out, he would say "I can't believe this luck." After leaving pit road, the team realized the issue wasn't fixed, leading the No. 11 to require a second stop that also didn't result in any solution, but did result in a pass-through penalty, as Hamlin pitted out of the pit stall. The penalties would put him in 40th place. See Hamlin's struggles below:
Gordon was able to get back up to second before pitting and would leave pit road with the lead and Edwards in second. All drivers in the top 10 would take four tires and fuel, with Harvick gaining a spot even with another track bar adjustment. Kurt Busch, who would leave pit road in 15th, was not happy with his spot on pit road, saying over the radio, "We're officially in the world's worst pit box." The No. 78 had the second stall on pit road. Check out the pit stall assignments here.
Fourth caution: Lap 77-81
The damage from Menard's earlier incident with Hamlin reared its head again, as the tire carcass came loose from the No. 27. Johnson would hit that tire and head down pit road for repairs, earning a penalty for pitting too soon. See video of the incident below:
Once pit road opened, the leaders would come down for four tires and fuel. Carl Edwards beat former leader Jeff Gordon off pit road. Kyle Busch gained two spots on the stop, while Martin Truex Jr. would lose two. Joey Logano would have a slight improvement this time around, not losing or gaining any spots. Gordon would again lead the outside lane on restart, falling to fifth at the drop of the green flag.
Fifth caution: Lap 194-198
Leader Bowyer lost his engine after leading 48 laps, sending up smoke and sending the No. 15 to the garage for good. The team had concerns about the engine after fellow Toyota driver Hamlin's engine had problems in practice, leading the team to switch out the engine on the No. 11 car, which put Hamlin to the rear of the field at the start. See how Bowyer saved his car from further damage below.
The caution was good news from Logano, who lost the lead on old tires and was hoping for a yellow flag to come out to get back in sequence with the rest of the field. He had gone 51 laps, just inside the track's fuel window of 50-55 laps. The top five all traveled down pit road with Logano, all taking four tires. Logano again lost two spots trying to get around the No. 78, with Edwards and Gordon each moving up a spot on the race off pit road. Gordon was just ahead of Logano, putting him on the outside yet again for the restart. This time, Gordon would hold on to his position on the restart, but Logano would take advantage of his fresh tires, taking the lead for the fifth time shortly after the restart.
Sixth caution: Lap 207-212
Hamlin was running 21st and a lap down when his day continued to go downhill as Menard tapped the No. 11. The two had made contact earlier in the race. Hamlin was trying to recover from the earlier penalty when he sustained more damage from the incident, losing his right front tire. See the bump from Menard below. Hamlin would not return to the race.
Logano had just gotten in sequence with the rest of the field, but decided to stay out with second-place Edwards under this yellow. Edwards, starting on the outside line, would tell his crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, that his car was too tight to be competitive. On the restart, Edwards' old tires and tight car would send him back to 10th; by Lap 235, he would be back in 18th. Gordon, who pitted with the rest of the leaders, lost several positions in the race off pit road, restarting eighth. Greg Biffle, needing a good points nigh to secure a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, took the free pass on the caution, becoming the 18th car on the lead lap.
Out of sequence, Edwards would pit on Lap 248 as the last car on the lead lap. Logano would stretch it to Lap 251, pit while in the lead, join teammate Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Marcos Ambrose, Earnhardt and bring the rest of the field onto his race-leading sequence.
Seventh caution: Lap 289-292
Johnson's day didn't get any better as the race came to a close. Johnson ran into the back of Burton as Burton slowed to hit pit road -- just after Edwards made a green flag pit stop. Logano's strategy of stretching out his pit window continued to pay off, as the race leader was able to pit under yellow with the rest of the field. Even with the field taking four tires, Logano couldn't keep his top position in the race off pit road, falling to third as Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman made it back onto the track in front of him. Matt Kenseth would get the free pass back as the 17th driver on the lead lap. Johnson, on the other hand, would fall back to 29th after the incident. See the spin -- and save -- below.
Eighth caution: Lap 294-297
Brian Vickers took a spin through the grass as traffic got bunched up on the restart. He wouldn't come into contact with any other cars and was able to get himself turned around on pit road. See video of his trip through the grass and over the NASCAR RaceView logo below.
Keselowski would take the opportunity to have his team check under the hood of the No. 2 as the team battled engine issues -- a move that would prove fruitless, as the No. 2 lost all speed with 15 laps to go in the race. None of the leaders would pit, and Vickers was able to keep his No. 55 on the lead lap. Pole-sitter Stenhouse Jr. would return to the lead lap as the beneficiary of the free pass. Kyle Busch and brother Kurt Busch were one and two on the restart.
Ninth caution: Lap 299-304
Burton had a tire go down, sending him into the No. 33 of Austin Dillon. Dillon was pinched into the wall, while Burton spun through the infield, gaining even more damage to his No. 31. See the action below.
While Burton would pit, Dillon was able to stay out. Earnhardt Jr., Biffle, Gordon and Jamie McMurray would pit for fresh tires with 25 laps to go. Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. would battle for first on the restart, but the No. 18 would come out in front of the No. 56.
See full race results here, and explore all video from the race here.