The Frontstretch: Thinkin’ Out Loud: Dover–2 Race Recap by Mike Neff -- Monday October 1, 2012

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Thinkin’ Out Loud: Dover–2 Race Recap

Mike Neff · Monday October 1, 2012

 

Key Moment – The caution flag flew for Matt Kenseth breaking a track bar mount on lap 310. The lead lap cars pitted and Brad Keselowski never visited pit road again, making his tank of fuel last 89 laps en route to his fifth win of the season and second of the Chase.

In a Nutshell – Denny Hamlin led early, Kyle Busch led the most, Jimmie Johnson was poised to lead at the end, but Brad Keselowski made his fuel go the furthest while going the fastest at the end of the race.

Dramatic Moment – Johnson was trying to make his fuel last to the end while Busch and Hamlin knew they couldn’t. Johnson slowed his pace and gave up the lead on lap 354 to Busch, who pitted on lap 389 for fuel while Hamlin came in a lap later. Keselowski pushed hard enough to get past Johnson but not hard enough to run out of gas so he inherited the lead, and the win, when Busch and Hamlin pitted.

Watching Jeff Gordon run down Keselowski at the end, for a few seconds made you think there could be a side-by-side duel to the finish. But Gordon, and third-place Mark Martin’s bid to catch the No. 2 car fell short by about 10-15 laps.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around The Water Cooler This Week.

There isn’t a race fan in the United States who hasn’t heard the dulcet tones of Chris Economaki. One of the four faces on the Mt. Rushmore of race announcers, Economaki passed away this week at 91 years of age. There are many different moments in racing history that come to mind when you hear voices but I will always remember Economaki referring to the nose of an Indy car in the early ’80s as “a bulbous, W.C. Fields nose.” Godspeed, Chris.

Fuel Mileage bites the No. 48 again. Jimmie Johnson said as much in his post ace interview. The No. 48 team never does well when it comes to fuel mileage races. While Hendrick may be on top of the heap when it comes to several things in this sport, stretching fuel is most certainly not one of them. The question now is how many times it will come back to bite them in this Chase…

Fuel mileage issues hindered Jimmie Johnson again this weekend, snatching a fourth-place defeat from the jaws of victory.

Ford still stinks. The blue oval only has two cars in the Chase and they don’t have any in the top 10 in points. Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth both led the point standings during the “regular season” and right now neither one of them is eligible to travel to Vegas for the post season awards banquet. As Tom Bowles wrote this morning, they’re on pace for their worst performance in the championship battle since 1982, when Dale Earnhardt finished 12th driving for Bud Moore.

Radio meltdowns are becoming more common than Kurt Busch changing rides. At Richmond and Chicago, Clint Bowyer sounded like he was passing a kidney stone while yelling at his team on the radio. This week, Biffle had more bleeps during his radio rant than Kurt Busch finding out they put starch in his boxers at the cleaners. Sure, there is pressure and drivers can get frustrated, but does screaming and swearing really help anything?

We’re on pace for the fewest crashes in the history of the Chase. We’re heading into Talladega, so this point will probably be rendered moot, but through three Chase races we have had a grand total of three caution flags for “wrecks.” Casey Mears and Jeff Gordon brought out yellow rags at Chicago and Matt Kenseth “wrecked” at Dover when he spun and nudged his nose against the wall. Point racing is supposed to be out the window for any of the drivers outside of the Chase, but it sure seems like there isn’t anyone living on the edge in the Cup Series these days.

Marty Smith got booted from the pit studio God love him, Smith was back where he belongs, on pit road, during the race this weekend. He got rid of the professor specs and looked more in his element than hanging out behind the desk with Nicole and the boys.

How did Dale Jr. go a lap down? ESPN showed Dale Jr. slow down to pit and then drive on, past the pace car, when the caution flag came out in the middle of the infamous green flag pit stops that put most of the field a lap down. When they came back from commercial and told the audience about the cars on the lead lap, Earnhardt was not one of them. Although Dave Burns tried to elaborate a little bit, there was never a real explanation. It would have been nice to hear what really happened.

Carl Edwards scored a top-5 finish. Unlike last year, top 5s have been extremely hard to come by for the driver of the No. 99 for Roush Fenway. In fact, this is the third top 5 of the season for Cousin Carl and the first since California in March. Unfortunately for his fans, the broadcast team never even mentioned it after the end of the race or (while we’re at it) any of the other non-Chase drivers not named Kyle Busch who ran worth a darn all day.

Carl Edwards managed one of his few top-5 finishes of the year this weekend, easily his best performance since missing out on this year’s Chase after Richmond.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Things just keep going downhill for Matt Kenseth. He bemoaned at Chicago the fact that parts keep falling off of his car. Although he was running in the best position of any Ford driver at Dover, the track bar mount fell off of the left side of his Ford. He came to the pits, the team applied some duct tape or something and sent him back out, only to have him spin out and bump the inside wall before heading to the garage to have the thing properly fixed. He ended the race running but 29 laps down in 35th.

It is hard to call it foul fortune, because it is part of racing, but for Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Clint Bowyer, the vagaries of fuel mileage strategy took quality runs with potential race-winning cars and turned them into lap down finishes.

JJ Yeley got to pilot the No. 36 this week for Tommy Baldwin Racing. He started the race in 40th but quickly climbed into the top 30. He was heading into the pits for some new skins when the right front tire exploded on the back straight, bringing out a debris caution and ruining the handling on his car for the rest of the day. Yeley was poised for a great afternoon; instead, his only real claim of success ended up being finishing ahead of Kenseth, along with the infamy of trapping over half the field a lap or more off the pace.

Although the No. 22 is already slated for Joey Logano next season, Sam Hornish is still driving it for all he’s worth this year. He started the race in the fourth spot, dropped into the back half of the top 10 before he was caught by the caution flag on lap 70. He was still in the top 20 before another pit stop dropped him back into the low 20s. He battled his way all of the way back to 16th before the fuel mileage bug bit him and he ended the race in 25th place.

Most of the field was caught by the caution for Yeley’s exploding tire, one which left eight cars on the lead lap for the ensuing restart. With just five cautions in the event, and four of the five being at least 60 laps apart, the wave around never really came into play so the end of the race saw only six cars on the lead lap.

”The Seven Come For Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Brad Keselowski has been getting great fuel mileage all year but there was some doubt as to whether he would be able to make it to the finish when the race went back to green after the debris caution on lap 310. Three laps later, Matt Kenseth went for a loop in turn four and the ensuing caution lasted four laps which, as it turned out, saved Keselowski enough fuel to not only win the race but do several burnouts during his victory celebration.

Although it might seem like a bad break, the fact that Busch, Hamlin, and Bowyer were able to stay on the lead lap early enabled them to finish in the top 10 late when they ran low on fuel because so few cars were on the lead lap.

When Kenseth slid off of the track and brought out the final caution of the race, Jeff Gordon dove onto pit road to top off his fuel tank. As the race unfolded and the leaders went into fuel conservation mode, Gordon started clipping off fast lap after fast lap. He looked poised to give Keselowski a run for his money but the handle went away as the final laps drew to a close. His second place finish did move him out of last place in the Chase standings, but he still lost ground to the leader and is out of contention for a title this year.

Carl Edwards was given the Lucky Dog pass on the second caution of the event. On the third and fourth yellow flag sessions, he was very close to going a lap down but managed to stay in front of the leader long enough for the caution to come out and let him catch back up to the field. Edwards didn’t pass many cars during the race but his timing was pretty impeccable all day and that luck was rewarded with a top-5 finish.

You have to be a nuclear physicist to understand how the prize money is awarded for Cup series races, so I won’t try and explain this. In nothing short of Monkey Business, Landon Cassill crossed the finish line in the 36th position. He was awarded $97,280 for his effort. Joey Logano scored a top-10 finish for the 11th time this year, 11 times more than Mr. Cassill, and scored the tidy sum of $95,535. Not sure how that math on that works out, but there is no way it can be anything but stupid.

Worth Noting

  • Brad Keselowski won his fifth race of the season and second in the Chase. That ties him with Denny Hamlin for the lead in victories in the series.
  • Keselowski has won nine races in his Cup career, eight of which have come in the last two years.
  • Keselowski is the point leader for the second time since the start of the Chase after he and Johnson have exchanged the top spot for each of the first three races.
  • Gordon’s runner-up finish was his eighth top 2 and 15th top-5 finish in 40 Dover starts.
  • Martin’s third-place finish was his 15th top-three result and 24th top 5 in his 53 career Dover starts.
  • Jimmie Johnson did not lead the most laps for the first time in eight races at Dover.
  • Johnson’s fourth-place finish is his 11th top 5 result in 22 Dover starts in his career.
  • The top 5 finish for Edwards, while only his third for the season, was his 8th of his career at Dover in 17 starts.
  • In a surprise to no one, in the traditional point system, Jimmie Johnson would have taken over the point lead by six over Junebug and seven over the Kes.
  • From the ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ files: The latest rumor in the Nationwide series is that Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers will both be driving for JGR next season in full-time rides.
  • In the race of the weekend, Nelson Piquet, Jr. sailed it into turn one underneath Matt Crafton on the final lap in Vegas and came up the big winner in the Truck Series. After winning the race in Michigan earlier this year on fuel strategy, this one was all about racing for the win.

What’s the Points?

Brad Keselowski stretched the fuel and stretched his points so that he is now your point leader by five over Jimmie Johnson. Johnson and Keselowski have taken turns leading the points after each of the first three point races. Denny Hamlin, who was on top of the heap after the points were monkeyed around for the start of the Chase, is now sitting in third, 16 points behind the leader. Although there is a ton of racing still to go, it is going to take some crazy misfortune for one of these three to not hoist the trophy when the checkers fly in Homestead.

Clint Bowyer was on the lead lap when the caution flew the first time — and he stayed there the rest of the race. His splash and go at the end dropped him from the lead lap but he finished in ninth and is now fourth in the point standings. In an odd twist of fate, Kasey Kahne has been tied with someone every week of the Chase. This week he’s tied with Tony Stewart for fifth, 32 points out of the top spot. Although far from mathematically eliminated, the two of them are on life support.

From Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on down in the point standings, the party is over. Thirty-nine or more points out of the lead is simply too much to overcome in seven races. That many points can be made up on one person, but when you have to leapfrog six other drivers as well, it just isn’t going to happen. Enjoy your handsome parting gifts.

Overall Rating (from one to six beers, with one being a total snoozer and a six-pack an A+ effort): This one was well on the way to a debatable two to three can snoozer before the fuel strategy angle came into play over the last 90 laps. Although it only added enough intrigue to pull the rating up to a weak four-can affair, the way the end of the race played out was enough to salvage it from a third straight half or less of a six-pack effort. Four cans of Schlitz is hardly a big winner, but it at least kept those people watching from falling asleep during the final 50 laps.

Next Up: The one they all talk about: the crapshoot that is Talladega. With tandem racing no longer a viable alternative, at least until the last two laps, plus a rule package that frequently forces cars to back off or blow up, this very well may be just another bad hole card rather than a wild card. Here’s hoping that the excitement level at the biggest track on the circuit lives up to the hype.

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Randy Goldman
10/01/2012 06:30 AM
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What happened to all the posters on this website? I guess when old RG1 went away so did everyone else. Wonder why Tom was so rude to him, that was job security.

Carl D.
10/01/2012 08:03 AM
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I was on the road this weekend and didn’t DVR the race because I figured it would just be another Jimmy Johnson win. Still, I wasn’t totally surprised to find that Keselowshi had won. He snatched a win from Johnson at Chicago and yesterday he beat Johnson at one of JJ’s best tracks. Though I’m not ready to hand him the trophy, that’s how you win championships. I don’t want to hear any “Yeah, but it was fuel mileage” comments… all the teams play by the same rules and when it comes to points, a win is a win. Go Brad!

janice
10/01/2012 08:26 AM
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brad and his bunch are making this a little more bearable. he’s a breath of fresh air in the hendrick owned series.

8 cars on lead lap in less than 100 laps of the race, i watched the inside of my eyelids. i’m still trying to figure out why jr was 2 laps down when he kept on going to get back on the track when the yellow flew. figured nascar would had allowed that as it was jr. oh well….maybe hendrick’s check hand’t cleared france’s account yet.

personally, if i were ryan newman i’d be wondering where the loyalty lies with my owner, since apparently, his crew and crew chief are going to princess sparkle pony next season. ryan will definitely be odd man out at shr next year. speaking of shr….why, except for the fact that espn had time to kill, did they interview steward in post-race. he was 20th! and at the end of the “interview” stewart looked as if he wanted to slap jamie little.

won’t it be interesting if brad and the #2 bunch pull off the championship and dodge leaves next year.

i think kenseth’s cars are being prepared will pieces from the previous week’s cars that haven’t been damaged. that’s what he gets for announcing his plans to leave early in the season. he’s showing us what it is to be a true lame duck.

never fear…tv will gave jr winning next week at dega to get back into the chase hunt. sorry, jr just doesn’t have the “fire in his belly” like his dad had, or like even brad k has. jr reminds me of someone just showing up to collect a pay check. he needs the see sports physiologist.

awww shucks
10/01/2012 09:48 AM
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Janice are you saying everyone finishing behind Jr as well is showing up for a paycheck? go figure. glad he finished 11th so you have something to rip him on.

Juan
10/01/2012 09:55 AM
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The past two weeks of football has been unreal and edge-of-your-seat excitement.

Dover? Fuel mileage.

Cecil
10/01/2012 09:58 AM
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Kenseth had a part break?

Things that make you go “Hmmmmmm”.

Kind of fishy when drivers say they are leaving a team that stuff starts happening to their cars.

Bill B
10/01/2012 10:06 AM
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I will point out that Brad is now 5 points ahead of JJ not 1 point (at least that’s what it says on NASCAR.com as of 9:58 AM Monday morning).

I wonder if JJ could have made it running full speed or if Chad is playing conservative. That could be trouble if Brad isn’t and doesn’t have any issues in the next 7 races. So, will the 48 ride around at the back next week at Talladega to avoid the big one while Brad goes for it. We saw how that backfired for JJ last year. When he finally decided it was time to head for the front it was too late.

It is now appears as if only three guys are left with a chance at the championship – 2, 48, 11, however if they each have a bad race (20th or worse) things could get interesting again. That’s a big IF but there are still 7 races left.

I was glad for once that the wave around rule didn’t allow half the field to get back on the lead lap. I hate that rule.

GinaV24
10/01/2012 10:11 AM
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Sorry, I was at Dover and yeah the fuel mileage deal at the end added some interest, but really except for hoping that Gordon would be able to catch the 2 and win, I really didn’t care that much.

I don’t know if TV showed the moment when the 48 thought he was going to get by the 18 and KyBu took it 3 wide. JJ crapped his pants and bailed out. More afraid of wrecking than interested in racing. It would have been much more interesting had the 48 run out of gas.

Jacklegged Nascar Expert
10/01/2012 10:24 AM
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Nascar has become just a game in a box like Monopoly. On a Sunday after the chase started nascar had about 3.5 million to tune in. The NFL contest was viewed by over 21 million that same day. Real sports with true athletes take the day. How long will it be until the phony nascar product can’t sell air time?

Eugene
10/01/2012 10:40 AM
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Team Ganassi should stop kidding and become a start and park. And Montoya’s coming back next year?! What a joke.

flash3917
10/01/2012 11:03 AM
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another weekend of racing, another weekend where the truck race is the best race of the weekend. For quite a while I blamed the tracks for crappy racing, but the trucks, mods, and K&N series run on the same tracks and have better races.

Someone in Daytona needs to wake up and realize the top series is no longer the best race of the weekend, especially if they ever want to compete with the NFL

katiescarlett3
10/01/2012 11:04 AM
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The race was another boring one, but the truck race was better. Here’s a link for my two cents worth. NASCAR Truck Series More Exciting Than Cup

midasmicah
10/01/2012 11:13 AM
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Why the heck is nar$car starting these races at two, ET? If the idea is to compete with the NFL, nas$car is sure going about it the wrong way. A lot of viewers are already watching football. The dolts at Daytona don’t seem to realize that there’s a lot of stuff on tv besides what nas$car has turned into big turd. I tried to watch some of the race, but when I checkd in at lap 52 and saw there were only seven cars on the lead lap, that was all for me. This former nas$car fanatic has had enough. I won’t even put forth the effort to give this race a rating.

babydufus
10/01/2012 11:47 AM
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wait….

that was a race?
looked more like a parade to me.

bill sprehe
10/01/2012 12:32 PM
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No excitement. Fewest crashes in the chase. Who wants to watch 12 “radioactive cars” go round and round and pretend it’s a race? It’s like little boys playing war for 3-4 hours.

Jeff
10/01/2012 02:18 PM
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JR went down a lap because as he went into the pits he was passed by the leader. Strange day at Dover…and IMO 39 points behind is still doable with 7 to go!

Steve
10/01/2012 06:15 PM
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I wish the media would stop saying so and so is now out of Chase contention. We haven’t even gotten to Talladega and your counting people out already? Everything could change this weekend. A big pileup with Chase cars and we have a whole new ballgame.

Between the Ryder Cup golf, football, and the baseball pennant races, the racing was kind of an after thought this weekend. I really tried but every time I went to watch, the 48 was on the tv screen. I gave up because it was obvious a Chase heavy broadcast as usual. Even leading the race, Kyle was lucky to get the coverage he got this week.

Matt
10/01/2012 09:08 PM
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Random thoughts…

OK, so we’re three races into the Chase and what do we have. The 48 dominated at Chicago until the 2 snookered him in the pits late and stole a win. At NH Hamlin took over two thirds of the way into the race and cruised to a win. At Dover Busch dominated but was short on gas. BK won one on fuel mileage. YAWN. Any wonder why last week’s race was one of the lowest rated on TV in the last 4 years?

Best racing in the Cup event? BK racing to stay ahead of the Shrub after the jack failure on pit road to keep from going a lap down.

Best racing of the weekend? Nelson Piquet Jr.‘s last lap “No guts, no glory” pass to win the truck race in Vegas. Truck racers don’t get paid the big bucks, are trying to advance thier careers and don’t have a Chase battle to worry about. Coincidence?

An untimely caution flag for the 36’s blown tire and shredded sheetmetal left 6 cars on the lead lap despite the much despised Wave Around Rule. Time for the Double Secret Two Lap Wave Around Rule? Nah, this crap happens time to time. And all Brian’s horses and all Brian’s men (and three subsequent bogus “debris” cautions) couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Ryan Newman has become NASCAR’s Rodney Dangerfield. Yeah, he missed the Chase but he did win at Martinsville. Now it appears his crew chief and pit crew will be moved to support Sparkle Pony Patrick next year. I’m sorry but you can put a 5000 dollar saddle on a five dollar mule but it still won’t win the Kentucky Derby. Working with the under-performing Ms. Patrick has already cost both Tony Eurys thier jobs. Eventually someone has to sober up and realize the only thing Danica should be driving is sheep.

James Finch and team gambled on Kurt Busch and even stood by him when he got suspended earlier this year because of his perpetual smart-ass antics. Thier reward. Kurt is bailing on the team after Talladega. Thanks for the memories, guys. Best of luck to Regan Smith, Brian Vickers and AJ Allmendinger as they battle for a seat with a start and park team next year.

The next race? Talladega. Talladega belongs in the Chase as much as Olympics figure skating needs to play an NHL style hockey game needs to decide who advances to the medal rounds.

As the Roush teams flounder in the Chase and seek sponsorship for next year, I have a suggestion. Loc-Tite. Race cars tend to run a lot better when they don’t have parts falling off of them. Kenseth apparently sealed his own fate this fall when he announced early he was switching over to JGR and Toyota.

Randy who?

john
10/02/2012 10:01 AM
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Truck Series once again put on the best race of the weekend.

bud sudz
10/02/2012 10:58 AM
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There was a time in the 80’s and early 90’s when less than 10 cars on the lead lap happened on a fairly regular basis. However, the races were still watchable flag to flag, because you still had racing on the track, attrition (blown motors) and tires that gave up making set-ups and adjustments more important throughout the race.
You don’t have to have 25 cars on the lead lap to have a good race, but you do need to have racing on the track to have a good race.

gcsfewt
10/02/2012 12:12 PM
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Steve
10/02/2012 03:52 PM
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Matt, there are so many holes in your post I don’t know where to start:

Danica: You need your head examined if you think Danica is the reason the Eury’s got canned. They were underperforming long before Danica showed up.

Kurt: Finch is going out of business next year. Busch found a new ride.

You obviously have issues with Kurt and Danica but don’t let the facts get in your way. Try doing some research before posting untrue statements.

GaryS
10/02/2012 04:34 PM
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I gave it a 5 for one reason only. The race frustrated the snot out of the the media darlings and their Toyota/Chevy lovefest. They have always treated Dodge and their teams as if they had leprosy, and nothing would make me happier than to see a Dodge driver win the title.

If Brad survives the big one next week, you can look for debris yellows to fall at strategically placed times in the remaining races, to assure that December won’t be Miller Time.

FWIW, any driver with a pretty face and Go Daddy paying the bills will have priority over a balding, quiet, no-neck engineer without a sponsor when it comes to allocating assets. That may not be right, but that’s racing.

 

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