Carl Edwards held on to win the 5 Hour Energy 200 at Dover on a rain-soaked Saturday afternoon, wrestling the lead from Joey Logano on lap 187, surviving three late race restarts and getting through a harrowing last lap crash unscathed that destroyed over a half dozen cars and sent Clint Bowyer airborne down the frontstretch, so high that his No. 33 machine nearly cleared the interior pit wall. Kyle Busch, Reed Sorenson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and David Reutimann rounded out the top 5.
The race, which started nearly an hour late after rain canceled the series’ qualifying session earlier Saturday morning, saw the Roush Fenway Fords as the class of the field, with Edwards and Stenhouse combining to lead 120 of the 209 laps run. Two of the stouter cars in the field, the No. 18 of Busch and the No. 32 of Sorenson, were both damaged in an accordion accident entering pit road, leaving them unable to challenge the Mustangs and Logano, who proved to be Edwards’ stoutest competition as the laps wound down.
Justin Allgaier suffered his first DNF of 2011 after losing a right front and pounding the turn 3 wall while running in the top 10 on lap 140, relinquishing the points lead to Elliott Sadler, who finished sixth recovering from a pit road speeding penalty. Mike Bliss, driving the No. 14 after swapping rides with teammate Eric McClure for the weekend, scored a top 15 result that moved that team back into the top 30 after Scott Wimmer start-and-parked the No. 40 car.
Reed Sorenson’s third place finish was impressive enough in that it was his best finish of the 2011 season and best in Nationwide competition since Gateway last summer. But for perhaps the first time since Las Vegas, the No. 32 car actually ran like one capable of winning the race. Sorenson was a factor in the top 5 for much of the early portions of the race until incurring damage coming down pit road. Still, even with a wounded nose, Sorenson battled back into the top 10 and proved capable of running even with leaders including Clint Bowyer, eventually dodging the nasty last lap melee to move back into second in points, 10 markers behind new leader Elliott Sadler.
Speaking of Sadler, he had his own adversity to overcome after incurring a speeding penalty entering pit road under a lap 141 caution, and overcome the No. 2 team did. Finishing sixth for his seventh top 10 finish of the season (tops among NNS regulars) to take the points lead, Sadler capped a remarkable early season run that has seen his squad climb from 12th in points after Vegas to the front of the pack. And while Sadler came one position short of his seventh top 5 in eight races, the way the top 5 results are flowing for this bunch, they have to be considered the favorites among Nationwide regulars who will be the first to break through and win in 2011.
And then there’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who finished a disappointing fourth after leading 33 circuits. The fact that the Mississippi-native can feel disappointed after a top 5 run is remarkable given where he was a season ago. Stenhouse muscled the lead from teammate Carl Edwards almost immediately following the drop of the green flag Saturday afternoon, running away from both Edwards and Bowyer in the early going. Stenhouse eventually would fall back through the field as the car developed a loose handling condition that the team was unable to adjust out of over the course of the race. Still, the No. 6 team surged from running outside the top 10 to fourth following a red flag for rain on lap 145. The 33 laps led also marked the most Stenhouse has led in a NNS race since he paced the field for 46 circuits at Milwaukee back in 2009.
It had been nearly nine months since Justin Allgaier had failed to finish a Nationwide Series race, and bad luck couldn’t have chosen a more inopportune time to hit the No. 31 team. On a Saturday that title contenders Sadler, Sorenson, and Stenhouse all overcame adversity to deliver stout finishes, Allgaier saw what seemed a surefire top 10 finish go up in smoke on lap 140 when his right front tire expired, resulting in hard contact with the turn 3 wall that snapped the hood of his Chevrolet up over the windshield. The 29th place result was Allgaier’s worst since finishing 33rd with crash damage at Bristol last summer, dropping the 2009 Rookie of the Year from first to fifth in points.
MacDonald Motorsports is hardly a team that can afford to tear up equipment of any kind, yet by the end of the first lap at Dover the team had two mangled race cars to deal with. Heading down the backstretch for the first time Saturday, Mike Bliss made contact with the No. 81 of Donnie Neuenberger, sending his Dodge into a spin that put him right in the path…of teammate Blake Koch. The No. 82 team was unable to complete another circuit, while Neuenberger spent the remainder of Saturday hopping between the garage and the pits for repairs to run a few laps more. Koch finished 43rd, Neuenberger 33rd after completing 70 laps before his car was parked for failing to meet minimum speed.
Steve Wallace, Brian Scott and Michael Annett are all known to be close friends off of the race track, and three of the faces of Toyota’s development stable. Unfortunately, they’re also all becoming known for 2011 campaigns that have all been underwhelming at best. Wallace followed up his strongest run of the year at Darlington last weekend with a quiet 16th place result in his title sponsor’s race. Annett ran mired in traffic all day and spun of his own volition exiting turn 4 on lap 197 to put a cap on an unremarkable 20th place finish. And Brian Scott found the wall again, getting loose and losing control of his No. 11 exiting turn 4 on lap 47 and slamming headfirst into the interior frontstretch fence. Scott finished 29th, his third finish outside the top 20 in his last four starts.
Kevin Lepage’s return to a ride that’s allowing him to run the distance has so far not allowed for much of that. Two weeks removed from an engine failure at Richmond, the No. 52 car blew a tire only 20 laps into Saturday’s race, slamming the fence and leaving the Means Racing team with a finish they could have earned from start-and-parking, a distant 38th.
Kevin Swindell’s debut for Roush Fenway Racing behind the wheel of Trevor Bayne’s No. 16 was cut drastically short in one of the ugliest incidents stock car racing has seen in recent memory. After losing control of his No. 23 car exiting turn 2 and nosing his machine into the interior backstretch wall, Alex Kennedy attempted to loop his machine back around to get going. That being said, either Kennedy wasn’t paying attention, his spotter wasn’t paying attention, or, as the driver said in a post-crash interview, his car mechanically wouldn’t turn, because Kennedy pulled right into the path of Swindell’s Mustang under caution as he was accelerating to catch up to the field for pit stops. Swindell drilled right into Kennedy’s mangled machine, leaving both teams with heavily damaged race cars…and for Kennedy and his spotter, a trip to the NASCAR hauler. Swindell’s NNS debut was certainly a downer, but Kennedy’s gaffe was far more distressing.
Underdog Performer of the Race: Mike Wallace One can’t help but hand it to Mike Wallace…whenever one of his brothers or family member is out hogging the spotlight, he just outruns them. Who can forget the Wallace Family Tribute Race run back in 2005 that saw Mike run runner-up on a night custom designed to coincide with brother Rusty’s retirement tour? Saturday was more of the same; even with Rusty hawking 5-Hour Energy and Steve’s car carrying the race sponsor’s colors, Wallace stormed to a top 10 finish in JD Motorsports’ No. 01 car, his first of the 2011 season and first in Nationwide competition since Phoenix in the fall of 2008. To put it in more perspective, it was the first top 10 JD Motorsports has earned fielding the No. 01 entry, the first No. 01 car to score a top 10 since Jay Sauter did it at ORP with Duesenberg/Leik Motorsports back in the summer of 2006.
Start-and-parkers occupied 7 of the 43 spots in Saturday’s field, taking home $84,670 in purse money.
Cup regulars won Saturday’s race, scored 3 of the top 10 finishing positions (would have scored 6 if not for the last lap wreck), occupied 7 of the 43 spots in Saturday’s field, and took home $144,943 in purse money.
146 of 468 starting positions occupied (32.7%)
$3,400,591 dollars won
11 of 11 trophies collected (100%)
The Final Word
- It certainly appears to have been fitting that it was gray and dreary this Saturday, as Key Motorsports’ time in the Nationwide Series may be up. Though Frontstretch was unable to reach driver or crew for confirmation, Wimmer was heard over the radio during the race’s pace laps thanking the crew for all of their hard work as a race team, and that he was hopeful that something would come together allowing them to reunite to race more…later in the season. A skeleton crew was present in the No. 40’s pit box for the limited time the car was on track, as an entry that came into Saturday locked in the top 35 parked it after completing 44 circuits.
- The toll of a grueling 35 race season is already starting to show 11 races in for a number of the underfunded teams trying to make Nationwide competition work. Jennifer Jo Cobb’s No. 13 bunch had plenty of tires in the pits for a full race run, but parked only 43 laps in after Cobb reported that the car was snapping loose on her in places of the track that made no sense; the team later found a problem with an axle to be responsible for her handling woes. Both Jay Robinson Racing entries dealt with mechanical malady late in the race; Dennis Setzer could not get his car refired after the red flag period, even with a push from a tow truck. Then, with the JRR crew working to pack up the No. 70 car as the race wound down, Derrike Cope reported two cylinders on the No. 28 car’s engine going down on lap 164 and lap 167, leading Cope to park the car before the motor grenaded. Morgan Shepherd’s team reported having possible engine issues after smelling burning oil throughout the race. Eric McClure and Jeremy Clements both had their cars stall out under caution with unspecified engine woes; Clements’ team even refueled their machine, thinking their car may have run out of fuel. Dover is known for being a demanding track, though at 200 laps not necessarily that stressful on engines. 11 races on a stretched budget, however, is proving to be just that stressful for quite a few teams in the garage.
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