The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: Dover-2 Race Recap by Mike Neff -- Monday September 30, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: Dover-2 Race Recap

Mike Neff · Monday September 30, 2013


Key Moment – With 29 laps to go, and at least a handful of drivers looking at trying to stretch their fuel to the finish, NASCAR spotted a spring rubber 20 feet from the racing surface, on the apron in Turn 3 and threw the caution flag. As a result, any chance of the most dominant car on the day losing the race went out the window.

It’s a sight we’ve now seen a record-setting eight times: Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus holding up the Miles The Monster trophy.

In a Nutshell – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had one of his best chances to win, outside of Michigan since moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. But everyone in Junior Nation, hoping NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver was going to turn his pole position into a win simply sighed once Jimmie Johnson drove to the front and took the lead on lap 120. Earnhardt wound up second, done in by trouble getting on and off pit road as for the eighth time in his career, Johnson went to Victory Lane at Dover, setting the all-time win mark for the series at the tricky, one-mile concrete oval.

Dramatic Moment – After the caution period for the dangerous spring rubber in Turn 3, Johnson started on the outside with two fresh right-side tires while Earnhardt was on his back bumper with four fresh bolognas. Earnhardt cleared Jeff Gordon on the inside, slotting in behind the No. 48 car with 26 laps to go and looked primed to pull off the win. But while Earnhardt got to almost the back bumper of Johnson about five laps into the run, it was the most drama that could be squeezed out of the event. Johnson pulled away and strolled to the victory.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

I’m hearing that there is going to be a test at Charlotte Motor Speedway after the race, in two weeks to try out a new configuration for the Gen-6 car that will eliminate aero push when a car is behind another car. The technology was supposedly introduced by Toyota for the original Gen-6, but NASCAR didn’t have time to test it thoroughly before the 2013 season. If the aero push can be eliminated, the complaint from fans about no passing for the lead on the track may finally be heard and fixed. The rumor is that teams have stocked up on steel and are building some cars to run at the test. We’ll have to wait and see if it really happens and how successful these changes could be.

Martin Truex, Jr. has not announced his plans for next year. Word is that NAPA is going to go with him, wherever he goes, but it won’t be to Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs feels that he’d be undermining a fellow Toyota team if he signed Truex away from Waltrip, even though MWR has stated he’s free to look for another ride. Possible destinations for Truex, should he choose to leave include Richard Childress Racing and manning a potential expansion car at Furniture Row.

The folks at Penske Racing are starting to get a reputation… and it is not a good one. After the Nationwide race on Saturday, Logano was celebrating his fourth straight win at Dover in the series while his crew was trying to make the No. 22 car pass post-race inspection. Try as they might, the nose was found to be too low and Logano was considered illegal. While NASCAR won’t take the win away, they’ll be sure and knock six points out of the owner’s total while probably hitting them with another fine. After the Richmond rumors and the Texas failure earlier this year, the folks at Penske better start double checking their figures before they put the cars back on the racetrack.

This coming week will be the second display of the multi-zone tread race tire from Goodyear. They tried it out at Atlanta and the tire did not have any failures due to the new, multi-tread feature. Kansas is a recent repave that has, fortunately already lost a little grip. Let’s hope that this tire will give up as well, actually creating a race with the Gen-6 car where new tires make a difference.

As the landscape of next season continues to take shape, Quicken Loans announced they are going to go to RCR with Ryan Newman while Jimmy John’s is going to head to SHR with Kevin Harvick. Word has also come down that Kurt Busch will be driving the No. 41 in 2014. Now, if we can just get the paint scheme to be a mirror image of the boss’s ride…

Denny Hamlin is trying hard to hang tough, on-track but his back continues to bother him as he ponders offseason surgery.

Denny Hamlin is trying some alternative treatment to avoid offseason back surgery. While he has tried to make it sound like he’s doing OK, it’s clear the injury is bothering him. Admitting he’s trying other treatments, while stating he had to get out of the car at Richmond during practice because of the pain is all you need to know on that one. The problem is going to be, if Hamlin tries this alternative method and it doesn’t work, he’s going to be going under the knife early in 2014 and will most likely not be right for the upcoming season either. It is still looking like the veteran should have gone ahead and had the surgery this summer when he realized he wasn’t going to make the Chase.

While NAPA is leaving MWR next season, 5-Hour Energy announced that they will be back to sponsor Clint Bowyer in 2014. The company was planning on waiting until later in the year to make the announcement but, with the uncertainty around the team with NAPA pulling out they felt it was best to do it now. MWR financier Rob Kauffman still insists the team will run three cars, full-time next season.

It was announced this week that Valvoline is returning to Hendrick Motorsports in 2014. Valvoline, in NASCAR for decades was with the organization when Jeff Gordon won his first title for Hendrick in 1995. The move means that Quaker State is out of the mix at HMS until at least 2017, when this agreement with Valvoline runs out. It would seem that a team looking for a sponsor might want to be on the horn to the folks at Quaker State before they are snatched up by a bigger organization. That big team could be Roush Fenway, who has had Valvoline ties for years but may finally be losing out completely to Hendrick on that one.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Brad Keselowski has had a less than desirable year as the defending champion of the Cup Series. Sunday’s race was the one-year anniversary of his last win in this division – and a microcosm of how the year has gone. Starting sixth, he ran around in the top 10 for most of the first half of the race but on lap 228, he pulled into the garage with a failing rear end on his car. While Keselowski did get back on track, by the end of the event he finished 45 laps down in 37th place.

Carl Edwards was the sexy pick for a lot of the pundits who didn’t want to jump on the obvious Johnson or Matt Kenseth picks at the start of the Chase. Coming into the race at Dover Sunday, he was fourth in the standings and people still thought he had a chance at the title even though he was 36 points behind. Unfortunately for the fans of Cousin Carl, a faulty hub sent him to the garage late in the event and he ended up finishing 35th, 15 laps down to the leader. Edwards is now 11th in points, 65 behind Kenseth and done for another year.

Kasey Kahne’s Chase is the nightmare that just won’t end. At the end of Sunday’s event, he dropped a cylinder and limped home one lap down. He took a wave around on the last caution to be on the lead lap, but couldn’t stay there due to the sick powerplant and wound up a lap back in 13th. Kahne made it into the Chase as a “wild card,” by virtue of two wins but it looks like he’s light years away from contending for a third – or the Cup Series title.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tried his best to screw up his weekend by missing pit lane on one pit stop and coming in uber slow on another. Fortunately, his car was fast enough that he was able to come out of the pits on the lead lap after both miscues and ended up crossing the finish line in second place.

Jeff Burton managed to score the Lucky Dog twice during Sunday’s race. While he did end up a lap down, only 12 cars were on the lead lap at the end of the race. Burton parlayed his fortunate hound results into a 14th-place finish.

Jamie McMurray, through three postseason races is the only non-Chaser to score a top-5 finish.

Jamie McMurray started the race in the seventh position, only to slide backwards through the latter part of the race’s first half. Fortunately, his team kept him on the lead lap, making adjustments and eventually landed McMurray the highest-finishing position of any non-Chase driver (11th).

Worth Noting

  • Since the Chase started in 2004, Jimmie Johnson has won 23 of the 93 races contended during the final 10-race segment of the schedule. That equates to a 24.7% winning percentage when the chips are down. It is a decent bet that Johnson will win two more races before the season ends, putting him at exactly 25% when the checkered flag flies in Homestead.
  • For the first time in the history of the Chase, the top-10 finishers in the race were Chase drivers. While the majority of the top 10 is usually Chasers, since 2004, it’s never been entirely filled with those contenders. You can probably win some money in a bar with that one.
  • Jimmie Johnson has 65 Cup Series wins to his name. He’s now 12 wins away from supplanting Dale Earnhardt for seventh on the all-time list and 23 wins away from climbing all the way to third. It will take him 41 to overtake David Pearson for second.
  • Johnson now has five victories in 2013. It’s the eighth time in 10 years that Johnson has scored at least five wins in a season.
  • Johnson has 12 top-5 finishes in 29 races this year. Sunday also marked Johnson’s 12th top-5 finish in 24 career races at Dover.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s runner-up finish was his second top-2 result at Dover in 28 career starts. This is Earnhardt’s third top-2 result of the 2013 season.
  • Earnhardt’s pole position marked the first time since 2002 that he’s won more than one pole in a season.
  • Joey Logano’s third-place finish was his second career podium at Dover in 10 career starts. This was Logano’s fifth top-3 finish of the season.
  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (17th) was the highest finishing rookie again at Dover.
  • Top 10 finishers by manufacturer:
    Chevrolet – 5
    Ford – 2
    Toyota – 3

What’s the Points?

Here’s a display of just how hard it is to make up points, along with a greater example of why anyone beyond third place is out of the running already in the title Chase. Jimmie Johnson led the most laps, won the race, and finished six places ahead of Matt Kenseth on Sunday. For all those efforts, Johnson gained just 10 points on Kenseth. He is still eight points behind with seven races to go on the year. To recap: the points leader had an off day, Johnson was flawless and he only picked up 10 points. That example shows how nobody that is 39 or more points back right now has a shot at this title, narrowing the field into a three-horse race. Kyle Busch finished fifth on Sunday and is now 12 points behind Kenseth, the final driver in the trio battling for the top spot. Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon are tied for fourth, 39 points out and leading the “best of the rest” at this point in time.

Greg Biffle came home ninth on Sunday and that puts him 41 points behind the leader. He’s hoping to jump over Harvick and Gordon to claim the “best of the rest” title. Ryan Newman is now officially one race out of the lead, after his eighth-place finish leaves him 48 points off the top spot. Clint Bowyer is eighth in points, some 51 behind the lead while Kurt Busch had a loose wheel during the race on Sunday that resulted in him coming home 21st. He is 55 points behind in the Chase.

Further back, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s second place finish vaulted him to 10th in the standings. A few more runs like this one and Earnhardt will be sure to have a table in Vegas. Rounding out the Chasers are Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne, who are already making plans for how they’ll answer the questions during next year’s Media Tour about how good 2014 is going to be.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic) – After a complete snoozefest on Saturday during the Nationwide race, Sunday’s parade was very close to being salvaged by a myriad of cars running short on fuel at the end of the event. Unfortunately, the ridiculous caution for the off-track spring rubber eliminated that possibility, so we were left with a ceremonial drive to the checkers by Johnson. We’ll give this one two cold Schlitz just because Jimmie Johnson was able to break a record he held with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. Let’s see next if he can double his win total at Martinsville to break a record that is also held by Petty.

Next Up – For the second time this season, we’ll be subjected to a race in front of the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway. Coverage begins at 1:00 PM on ESPN and MRN.

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Did You Notice? … A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
NASCAR Mailbox: A ‘Normal’ Saturday And A Valuable Lesson
Beyond the Cockpit: Tony ‘The Sarge’ Schumacher
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The Frontstretch Five: Pleasant Surprises of 2014 So Far
IndyCar Driver Profile: Takuma Sato
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Bill B
09/30/2013 06:54 AM

Three cautions for spring rubbers. Get real. The last one was a joke as that one was waaay off the track. How stupid do they think we are?

While I am not a big fan of fuel mileage races, it could have been a very interesting ending.

09/30/2013 08:24 AM

Debris cautions are now as predictatble as drivers making a left turn during a Nascar race. Manipulation? Integrity? Hello?

What? The Gen-6 car having issues? Hmmm…….

Dover used to be a race I liked to watch. It’s not the track.

I didn’t see the race but have read there were a LOT of empty seats. Nascar on “The Chase” to get fans back?

Why is there a “Breaking News” section on this site when it’s so far outdated? What’s the point of it being there?

09/30/2013 08:30 AM

I watched the beginning of the “race” and turned to the NFL after the first caution at 11 laps. It’s sad news about L.C. Greenwood. When I tuned in again and saw Johnson on a restart pull away from Kyle Busch like he was tied to a tree I figured the “racing” was over. The cautions for the dangerous track conditions just sealed the deal.

I watched the Topless 100 on Sunday. Brian probably thinks it’s 50 models on a stage. If Brian went to a Bare Naked Ladies concert he’d expect to see nude women.

This will be a very enjoyable Monday for Brian without the call from Hendrick. He can ship the championship trophy for Golden Boy that he has had on his desk since January to Hendrick now.

Carl D.
09/30/2013 09:03 AM

Overall Rating… To paraphrase a famous TV personality, “No beer for you!”.

Easily one of the worst races of the year. I will admit that mid-way through the race I switched channels and watched “World’s Dumbest” (hoping to see a Waltrip), but when I switched back to the race, the running order was basically the same as it was an hour earlier. Apparently all I missed was one of the spring rubber cautions.

It’s a sad season indeed when an early race at Fontana is way better than a chase race at Dover.

Fed Up
09/30/2013 09:24 AM

I watched about 5% of the race during breaks of MLB & NFL. Just another merry-go-round with sad TV coverage. Guess those tv ratings will show a new viewer each time I tuned in. Poor product; poor presentation.

09/30/2013 09:29 AM

I was at the race,yeah, Dover is really a snoozefest for the most part. I enjoyed the fact that Gordon had a very decent day since those have been rare at Dover over the past 5 yrs.

Personally, although I certainly agree that the last caution was one of NASCAR’s competition cautions, I was happier than I would have been watching a fuel mileage race and worrying they would run out of fuel.

the gen 6 has aero issues? Do tell! Ha, well maybe NASCAR can fix it, but I’m not holding my breath.

We’ll probably skip the spring race at Dover next year. I can only stand to be bored into sleep at this track once per yeare

09/30/2013 09:43 AM

The last caution makes some sense, given that the spring rubber was on the entrance to pit road. With green-flag pit stops looming, the odds that someone would hit it were fairly high. Or maybe my memory is failing me and the spring rubber was in turn 3 well before the cars hit the apron to pit.

I’m glad NASCAR is working hard to fix the aero-push issues with the Gen 6 car, I really am—but with the years they’ve had to work on this car, couldn’t they have figured these things out a bit earlier?

09/30/2013 09:49 AM

As a long time nascar fan, I’ve had it. MWR got caught because they cheated so badly. The Dorks from Daytona do it all the time. They just do it smoother about it. I watched maybe 5% of this race. I mgave it zero beers.

Managing Editor
09/30/2013 09:59 AM

Re: Breaking News,

J.P., on that part of the website we only post major NASCAR news that occurs… not the little things that happen sometimes. So that’s why it can sometimes appear outdated.

09/30/2013 10:19 AM

watched beginning, turned back over with 40 laps to go. was waiting for johnson to pull over and let jr get win to get monkey off back, but then i’m sure na$car would have said johnson wasn’t putting forth 100%. i was almost sure that is what hendrick was saying into radio when shown on tv when he was standing on jr’s pit box. when i saw friday night that jr had the pole i was shocked. figured he qualified johnson’s car.


09/30/2013 11:12 AM

The most notable thing about this race was the LACK of fans in the stands (as JP said). I almost thought I was watching a Nationwide race. Maybe it’s time for Dover to lose one of its races?

09/30/2013 11:14 AM

for that last caution.
zero beers.
zero anything.
nothing. nada. zilch.
nascar, you are null and void.
everytime it appears that they’ve hit bottom in terms of integrity and intelligence, it seems they can find something else to dissuade fans from believing this is a fair, credible and competitive sport.

so, was that caution thrown in hopes of providing a more entertaining non fuel mileage ending? were “officials” watching the race and any other of the restarts where the outside lane had a nearly uncontested advantage until aero made it nearly impossible to pass?
in actuality all they did was create a “race” off of pit road and save most front runners from finishing a lap down to a possible gordon or boyer victory. great move. a boring ending to a boring race. they turned a once great dover into a track that is equal to or less than the cookie cutters in terms or race-ability and excitement. oooh. kansas is up next… i actually can hardly wait.

09/30/2013 11:22 AM

Johnson isn’t the kind of teammate that would move over for one of his teammates. He has shown many times that he cares only about himself.

Saw only the end of the race. Saw the spring rubber caution and could only laugh. Manipulation? It just so happens that one of the Chasers was going a lap down as well (Bowyer).

I expect Nascar to do anything they can to the top 3 so they can make the points interesting again. I personally hope all 3 of them run away with it to show everyone just how needless the Chase really is.

09/30/2013 11:50 AM

So the 5-Hour energy news wasn’t “Breaking News” considering all that’s happened?

Kevin in SoCal
09/30/2013 12:38 PM

I love it when Dale Jr doesnt win like that. The tears of his fans taste heavenly.

Carl D. not in SoCal
09/30/2013 01:01 PM

Things should improve this week. Because when you think fender-banging, edge-of-your-seat Sprint Cup racing, you automatically think Kansas.

09/30/2013 01:10 PM

If spring rubbers are so caution worthy, why are they not tied down, banned or dealt with.

There are a lot of spring rubber cautions – heck two of the three cautions in just this one race.

Maybe NASCAR doesn’t think this is a problem but more as an opportunity. Like holding an ace up your sleeve.

09/30/2013 01:13 PM

I used to watch this sport when it was the real-deal. This passed Sunday I spent yet another day renovating an olde farmhouse…and only Monday afternoon did I even sign on to Frontstretch to see WHO won on Sunday (and actually WHERE the race was, for that matter). Thanks to the folks at NASCAR for taking away the one last thing I could still enjoy on Sundays after I lost everything else in a divorce! Now, I prefer to hang drywall on Sundays…it’s so much more exciting…

09/30/2013 01:24 PM

Carl D- LOL oh man, Love your comment, yeah, Kansas, the hotbed of exciting racing..

Steve, thanks for confirming what I always say – Johnson doesn’t layover for anyone esp not a teammate.

09/30/2013 01:32 PM

carl d – when they said next race was in kansas, i immediately wondered what the weather would be like!

na$car desperately needs for jr to win a race. he’s their cash cow. look at how many commericals he’s featured in. i’m sure most of his father’s fans (like myself) have long seen the true racer in jr and moved onto something else. i laughed when i heard jr in an interview and said he still wants to win a cup championship. jr ain’t no young whippersnapper and he has always had issues with his self-confidence. he has a daily reminder of his near death experience in that visible patch scar on his neck from when he was burned in that sports car race in sonama those years ago. as i say, how many different crew chiefs has he had over the years? he won busch championship with his cousins! even the name earnhardt doesn’t guarantee 100% full-time sponsorship for the car he’s racing. that speaks volumes to me.

09/30/2013 01:37 PM

That last caution was total BS. It actually ruined what a I thought was a very good race. There as actual racing for the lead at times and tires did appear to matter. That’s why I thought Jr. was in prime position, but the aeropush won in the end.

Wayne V
09/30/2013 02:42 PM

Carl D. Great comment about those Waltrips. I hate being negative about a sport I’ve spent my life enjoying, but those two ruin my enjoyment of racing. I cannot believe FOX can’t see what others can see, the Waltrips have long since worn out their welcome.

09/30/2013 05:50 PM

Why is there a “Breaking News” section on this site when it’s so far outdated? What’s the point of it being there? Roger that JP. Managing Editor, your answer was just a tad weak but more fun than the Dover race.

09/30/2013 07:25 PM

Junior Junior Junior!!! OMG it was disgusting the way the media was overhyping his second place finish. You would have thunk Jesus was driving the car. GEEZ…Ricky Craven could not stop gushing, it was embarassing. Ricky, I used to respect…hhhmmmm.

09/30/2013 07:37 PM

First NASCAR race I have missed all year. Doesn’t sound like I missed anything. Oh, and do we really need THE CHASE?


Contact Mike Neff

Recent articles from Mike Neff:

Thinkin' Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Special Winter Sprint Car Series set for January debut at Cocopah Speedway
Beyond the Cockpit with Ben Rhodes
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