After two weeks of racing in Charlotte, NASCAR tracked north to Dover Downs International Speedway for the last race of the first half of NASCAR’s 26-race regular season. Coming off his first victory of the season, Jimmie Johnson dominated yet again to win Sunday’s Fed Ex 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.
Johnson led 272 laps and distanced his car from the field throughout the day. The win is his 68th Sprint Cup victory in 448 career starts, an average of one win in less than every seven races, and ninth Dover win in 25 races.
After an early race lead and attempt at a weekend sweep by Kyle Busch, Johnson took command on Lap 82 and did not look back the rest of the day. Some late race cautions threatened to challenge Johnson’s dominance, but there would be no mistakes on restarts by Johnson. During the race, Johnson became the all-time lap leader at The Monster Mile, passing NASCAR legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Allison. Johnson’s owner, Rick Hendrick did not travel to Dover as he remained home battling the flu.
Brad Keslowski won the new knockout qualifying procedure, grabbing the Coor’s Light Pole Award Friday. He tamed the Monster Mile by setting a new track record with a time of 21.892 seconds with a speed of 164.444 mph for the fifth pole of his Sprint Cup career, and second this year. He would finish second at the Monster Mile Sunday.
Kyle Busch, who qualified second, took advantage of the low line and jumped out to the lead on Lap 1 over Keselowski. On lap 28, Busch led his 10,000th career lap.
On Lap 78, the battle for the lead heats up with Busch and Johnson jockeying for position and Johnson grabbing the lead on Lap 82. Jeff Gordon was running sixth with Joey Logano running seventh. Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. was up to ninth with pole sitter Keselowksi in 10th.
On Lap 112, Busch reports the car is loose and by Lap 124 he hits the wall hard down the front stretch, cuts a tire going into Turn 1 and slams hard into the outside wall. Busch took the car immediately to the garage with the right front not turning. The incident occurred during a three-car battle between Busch, Bowyer and Gordon, with Busch and Bowyer making contact sending the 15 and 18 both into the front stretch wall with Busch getting the worse of it.
On Lap 157, Jamie McMurray took 16th and then the Monster Mile literally reached up and bit the No. 1 Chevrolet in a somewhat scary moment for the drivers and anyone who may have been on the Turn 2 walking bridge.
About a 10-inch piece of concrete became dislodged sticking up exiting turn 2. When McMurray ran over it, the concrete burst creating damage to McMurray’s splitter and also shattering the glass in about three or four spots of the Turn 2 walking bridge windows. The bridge was shut down for repairs and later reopened during the race. Aric Almirola’s No. 43 Richard Petty Racing Ford also received damage to his front splitter. The race was red flagged while NASCAR worked on patching the concrete on the track and the windows on the bridge.
By Lap 215, Dale Earnhardt Jr. worked his way up to third place passing Matt Kenseth and appeared to have a contending car.
On Lap 265, Kurt Busch had to pit for a vibration that turned out to be a loose wheel. Busch is battling to stay in the Top 30 in the points standings to maintain his spot in the Chase based on his victory earlier this year. Even with a win, drivers must finish in the Top 30 in the standings to qualify for The Chase.
Rookie Austin Dillon brought the Richard Childress No. 3 back to Dover in the Sprint Cup series for the first time since Dale Earnhardt raced the iconic car back in 2000. On Lap 317, he ran out of fuel before pitting during green flag stops, had to coast to his pit stall, had trouble restarting the car, and was penalized for speeding entering pit road. With the help of his crew, the engine finally re-fired and Dillon would recover to finish 20th.
Matt Kenseth finished third with Clint Bowyer recovering to finish fourth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the Top 5. New Jersey native, Martin Truex Jr. landed his best finish of the season in sixth. Johnson earned a pay day of $331,626 for the victory. The race purse was a total of $5,982,616 divided amongst the 43 drivers. There were eight caution flags and only six leaders of the race. When asked about Johnson’s success, Kenseth noted it is expected from Johnson at Dover and quipped: “don’t know if you guys noticed, but he is pretty good at all the race tracks.”
Matt Kenseth is the series points leader by two points heading into the second half of the regular season. Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. round out the Top 5. Drivers head north to Pocono next week with television coverage switching from Fox to TNT.
Busch wins Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 200
Kyle Busch grabbed the pole for Friday’s Lucas Oil 200 Camping World Truck Series race and led 150 of the 200 laps, with an untimely caution being the only thing to set him back during the mid part of the race.
Matt Crafton in the No. 88 started along the front row and appeared to be a contender for the win, taking advantage of Busch's setback. Busch’s crew chief made a potentially race-winning call not to take service after Busch came down pit road, keeping Busch on the lead lap. Crafton would later wreck removing him from contention.
There were two 16-year olds in the race, sixth-place finisher John Hunter Nemecheck, son of veteran NASCAR driver Joe Nemecheck, and 14th-place finisher Cole Custer, who had a nice run going prior to running out of gas. Both youngsters were impressive.
While there was not much doubt who would win the race, there was action back in the field amongst several very young drivers competing to become NASCAR’s future stars. There were a total of seven caution flags and six lead changes among four drivers. Timothy Peters finished 10th and took over the series points lead by one point over two drivers, Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, who finished third. Ryan Truex, New Jersey native and younger brother of Sprint Cup veteran Martin Truex Jr., finished second, and Joey Coulter rounded out the Top 5.
Busch snaps Logano’s win streak
Kyle Busch dominated the Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket and snapped Joey Logano’s four-race Nationwide Series win streak at Dover, which dated back to the spring of 2012. This was Kyle’s second dominant win of the weekend and fourth Nationwide Series victory at Dover. The win is Busch’s series leading 66th career victory in 280 starts.
Logano grabbed the pole position, but Busch led an impressive 124 of the 200 laps. He celebrated with a massive burnout smoking up the front stretch.
Rookie sensation and fan favorite Chase Elliot, 18-year old son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliot, started second and led the first 18 laps. On Lap 19, Joey Logano took the lead and held it through Lap 76. On Lap 77, Kyle Busch took the lead and never relinquished it again. There were only two more cautions for a total of four in the race.
Former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne had a strong car late and appeared to close on Busch, but never challenged for the lead and finished second. Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliot rounded out the Top 5.
Regan Smith retained the series points lead over Elliot Sadler by four points. Busch became the first driver to win the Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series races during the same weekend at Dover. Busch’s win also propelled him to attempt a weekend sweep of all 3 of NASCAR’s top series, which would replicate a feat only Busch himself has accomplished in Bristol in August 2010. Sunday’s incident with Clint Bowyer ended any chances of the sweep.