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Bromberg: Five Drives To Remember

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 1 2010
The June race at Infineon Raceway was a good one. Here, Kasey Kahne beats Tony Stewart to the green flag on the final restart of the day. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

The June race at Infineon Raceway was a good one. Here, Kasey Kahne beats Tony Stewart to the green flag on the final restart of the day. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

(Editor’s note: Nick Bromberg is RacinToday’s race-day blogger. He fixated on more laps last season than anybody should. Here are his picks for the  five best Sprint Cup races of 2009.)

video-nscsOver the last few seasons, the summer slate of races has been virtually unchanged with the exception of a few moving of race dates.

And usually the summer races aren’t too entertaining because, how entertaining can two Pocono races in six weeks be?

This year was an exception. Heck, even the first Pocono race was entertaining because of the fuel mileage, and the second Pocono race turned into a glorified bumper car exhibition.

But even as the top five Sprint Cup races of the season happened in a 10 race window when the weather was getting warmer, neither of the Pocono races were good enough to make the list.

5. Aaron’s 499: Talladega

By now, everyone knows that Carl Edwards went flying off of the bumper of Brad Keselowski and into the catch fence, injuring fans – thankfully none with life threatening injuries – and providing the Sprint Cup Series with it’s own Ricky Bobby sprint to the finish line moment.

But the first Talladega race shaped how the second Talladega race would be monitored, and may have wiped out what we have come to know as bump drafting with the current car.

And it officially introduced us to Keselowski on the Sprint Cup level, and come on, you know that his rivalry with Denny Hamlin wouldn’t be nearly as fun if he wasn’t a Cup-race winner.

4. LifeLock 400: Michigan

As usual, both Michigan races in 2009 turned into fuel-mileage races, with the first race providing more drama than the second.

Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle staged a great duel over the final 10 laps of the race, even though both were seemingly in fuel-conservation mode. However, it soon became apparent that if they hadn’t had to race each other so frantically, one or both might have made it to the finish.

Johnson ran out of gas as he saw the white flag, handing the lead to Biffle. But Biffle started sputtering in Turn Two, which gave the lead to Mark Martin, who was so out of touch in third place that he had no choice but to conserve fuel.

A choice that ultimately made Martin a winner, and more importantly, jump-started his season.

3. Toyota/Save Mart 350: Sonoma

The handling characteristics of the current car have made road races must-watch television, and this year’s Sonoma race was no exception.

Kasey Kahne wasn’t considered much of a road racer, but found himself out front after the last sequence of pit stops ahead of accomplished road racers Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose.

But Kahne proved that he could hang with the best of them, holding off the big guns in four late-race, double-file restarts over a span of 15 laps to pick up his first road course win and Richard Petty’s first points win since Martinsville in 1999.

2. Coke Zero 400: Daytona

This summer staple beats out the spring Talladega race as restrictor-plate race of the year because of the points implications and the unforgettable spectacular finish.

The sunset provided a lot of grip on the worn-out Daytona pavement and the Coke Zero 400 featured the first restrictor plate race with double file restarts.

Those double file restarts set up a great finish with five laps to go– how prescient was Wally Dallenbach’s quote of, “Get a good finish or bring back the steering wheel?” – that featured the Chevys of Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson and the Gibbs’ Toyotas of Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

Busch snuck by Stewart as they headed to the white flag, but Stewart stayed on Busch’s bumper, forcing Busch to block as they zoomed towards the checkers. And we all know what happened after that.

Just think… If Kyle takes the fourth-place finish, he’s in the Chase. Got to love how hindsight is 20/20.

1. Autism Speaks 400: Dover

Yes, Jimmie Johnson led almost three-quarters of the race that featured six debris cautions, a sign that almost always means a boring race.

And for the most part, the first 90 percent of the Autism Speaks 400 was boring. But the last 27 laps made it the best (non-restrictor plate) finish in the Cup Series in 2009.

When the 10th caution flew for a David Stremme accident, Johnson elected to pit for four tires. Other drivers, including Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle, took just two tires, and a slight hiccup on Johnson’s stop put him back to 9th on the restart.

Johnson flew through the field, and caught Biffle and Stewart with nine laps to go as Stewart passed Biffle for the lead. But it took Johnson five incredibly action packed laps to finally pass Stewart– who took over the points lead that day – to get the win. With Stewart running the high groove to take away Johnson’s momentum off of the corners, Johnson kept finding the door abruptly shut every lap, until he finally was able to wedge it open with three to go.

And don’t forget, Dover featured the best (non-Hamlin-Keselowski) off-the-track sniping of the year when Kyle Busch commented on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s struggles.

– Nick Bromberg can be reached at nabromberg@gmail.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 1 2010
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