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Dickies 500 — Texas Motor Speedway
FORT WORTH, TexasFor the second consecutive race at Texas Motor Speedway, all three Evernham Motorsports drivers qualified in the top 15. The qualifying efforts for Sunday's Dickies 500 didn't parlay into the anticipated race results as all three drivers encountered problems during the event and posted finishes short of expectations.
Kasey Kahne had the most serious problem as his No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger was forced out of the race on lap 151 with mechanical problems. Jeremy Mayfield experienced a vibration in the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger just before the halfway mark and had to make a green-flag pit stop, replacing all four tires. Unscheduled green-flag stops at TMS where racecars turn laps in less than 30 seconds are costly. Mayfield went almost two laps down to the leader. Bill Elliott had the best finish of the three in the No. 91 Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper Dodge Charger, but he battled a tight racecar throughout the event and never had the handling necessary to challenge the leaders.
Elliott finished 32nd, while Mayfield was 35th. Kahne was credited with 42nd.
Mayfield started fifth in the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger with a 28.212-second lap around the 1.5-mile track at 191.408 mph. He ran as high as third and was in the top 10 on lap 44 when he radioed Team Director Kenny Francis that the car had picked up a vibration. Mayfield held on and the No. 19 team got a break when the second caution appeared on lap 83. A pit stop for four tires was expected to remedy the problem.
Green-flag racing resumed on lap 86 and Mayfield immediately reported that the vibration had reappeared and was more severe. He made a green-flag pit stop on lap 88 for four tires. He returned to competition almost two laps down to the leader. A check by Goodyear's engineers indicated one of the tires was out of balance and apparently caused the vibration.
Mayfield never got the opportunity to make up the deficit and finished 35th.
"We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there," Mayfield said. "We're missing something. We had a vibration and had to make a green-flag stop. We lost almost two laps there and just never had the opportunity to get it back."
Mayfield is 10th in the Chase for the Championship standings. He is 284 points out of fifth.
Kahne qualified 15th in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger with a time of 28.361 seconds at 190.402 mph. From the opening laps, Kahne had a tight, loose handling situation. The racecar was loose through the center of the corner and tight off the turn. That was a situation Tommy Baldwin, the team director, and the No. 9 Dew Crew hoped to deal with through adjustments as the race progressed. But, the trouble just ahead had no remedy.
Scheduled green-flag pit stops began at lap 142. On lap 146, Kahne radioed Baldwin that he thought he had run out of fuel as the engine had stopped. Kahne made it to pit road for service by the No. 9 Dew Crew, but the car wouldn't fire. Kahne tried the backup ignition box. After changing batteries, Kahne attempted to return to action but the mechanical problems would become terminal to end the day for the No. 9 team.
"It's disappointing because we usually run well here at Texas," Kahne said. "We've got two more chances to get things together this season. I like both the tracks coming up. We'll give it all we've got and see what happens."
Kahne is 22nd in the Nextel Cup point standings. He's 114 points out of 20th.
Elliott, who set the track qualifying record of 27.803 seconds at 194.224 mph in April, 2002, started ninth in the No. 91 Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper Dodge Charger after posting a time of 28.268 seconds at 191.029 mph. With the drop of the green flag, the challenge was on for the No. 91 team. Adjustments were extensive on each pit stop as the crew tried to improve the handling. The fact that the race started in daylight and ended under the lights made the task even more difficult.
Just before the halfway mark of the race, Elliott dropped a lap to the leader and never recovered. He finished in the 32nd spot.
"We were way too tight," Elliott said. "We were free in the middle and free off. We kept working around it. On a long run we could hold our own near the end of the run, but we lost too much at the start of the run. We thought we could work it out, but when it got into the cool of the night it just got worse."