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Drivers struggle at Turn 4
By BRANT JAMES
Published October 2, 2006
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Turn 4 at Kansas Speedway nearly became a turning point in the Chase for the Championship.
At least 10 drivers lost control of their cars coming off it, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., seventh in points, almost be-came an un-happy 11th late in the race when his No. 8 Chevrolet bobbled near the wall.
Ryan Newman came close to taking out three of the top Chase contenders on Lap 16 just after he was passed for the lead by Jimmie Johnson. Newman went extremely high in Turn 3 then lost control of his car exiting Turn 4, his tires belching blue smoke into the windshield of points leader Jeff Burton just a few feet behind him.
Newman's No. 12 Dodge nipped the front left of Burton's car as it began to slide down the track, but Burton appeared unscathed and restarted sixth after the caution. Burton finished fifth to expand his points lead to 69.
Jeff Gordon, who entered second in points, and Kevin Harvick (fifth) slid through the grass apron to avoid the fray and took new tires under caution before rejoining the race 37th and 36th, respectively.
Harvick had some mid race chassis problems likely attributable to the incident but eventually recovered to finish 15th.
"The tire, in my opinion, was too hard, and you had to loosen your car up," said Mark Martin, who finished third. "It had a real huge swing from being full of gas to empty gas, so you had to start the car out ridiculous loose. And then the tar strips, I almost crashed early in the race up there because the tar strips were slick."
UNUSUAL: Matt Kenseth struggled with a poor-handling car throughout the race - he also spun in Turn 4 - and finished 23rd to fall from 18 to 84 points behind Burton. The finish was his third worst of the season and followed consecutive top-10 results to start the Chase.
"I'm just kind of dumbfounded," Kenseth said. "The car was real good in the tunnel and everything. It was aligned right. But it was so terribly loose all day. No matter what we changed, it didn't fix it."
HOT SEAT: Elliott Sadler logged an uncomfortable 257 laps after his car collided with Jamie McMurray's No. 26 Ford leaving his pit stall under caution early in the race.
The contact damaged the crusher panels under the car and dislodged a hose that blows cool air on the bottom of the seat, leaving Sadler with buttock burns. Sadler elected to finish the race - 40th, 39 laps down - although he had no chance of improving his position.
"I've never fallen out of the seat a day in my life, and that's eight years of racing. So I didn't want (Sunday) to be the first one," he said. "As bad as I was hurting - I'm blistered up pretty bad on my feet and my backside - but pride is a lot of it. And I just don't want to quit. My guys worked too hard for me to quit."
Sadler, who had been instructed to be ready to push in case Evernham Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne ran out of fuel, was to see a physician Sunday night upon his return to Charlotte. N.C.
BABY STEPS: Chip Ganassi said before the race there is "no doubt in my mind" former CART champion and Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya will succeed in his conversion to stock cars but it is "way up in the air yet" if he will make a Nextel Cup start this season. Montoya is scheduled to replace Casey Mears in the No. 42 Dodge next season.
Still, Ganassi said Montoya, with whom he won the 2000 Indianapolis 500, needs time after having just two days of testing in a stock car.
"I want to be careful ... (because) I don't want to generate all this news about him," Ganassi said. "He's doing a good job. He's coming right along like he should be."