In A Nutshell: Clint Bowyer has come oh-so-close so many times, racking up four second-place results heading into Dover.
This time, he finally sealed the deal.
Passing leader Matt Kenseth on lap 179, Bowyer held on over the final 25 laps to take his first win of 2006 in overtime at Dover. Bowyer sailed out to a safe lead after getting by Kenseth, but for a while it looked like he might come up short again when he got tied up in lapped traffic, allowing Kenseth to climb right back up on his back bumper. It was actually a late caution for Martin Truex Jr. with four laps remaining to set up the green-white-checkered finish that actually worked to Bowyer’s advantage and sealed the win for him. With nothing but clean racetrack in front of him on the restart, Bowyer was once again able to dash off from Kenseth and take the win. Teammate Kevin Harvick finished third, followed by Jamie McMurray and Jason Leffler to round out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Bowyer. Bowyer had a car so good, you could actually see it. While all the other drivers were fighting to keep their cars from washing up high in the corners, Bowyer made it look easy by hugging the bottom and taking the shortest route around the track. Perhaps more important is that Bowyer’s car looked like that all day. In contrast, Truex looked great early, but started fading at the race’s halfway point; by the end, Truex found himself piloting a car that looked nearly impossible to drive. Bowyer’s car was especially strong once he grabbed the lead and found clean racetrack. The only thing that kept Kenseth even close at the end was lapped traffic holding up the leaders.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend
1) What was going on with those lapped cars?
Toward the end of the race as Bowyer and Kenseth raced toward the finish, they got caught up in lapped traffic. Somehow, each time they caught more lappers, it seemed like they were right in Bowyer’s way, while Kenseth sailed right on by in the clear groove. Now, there might be a few explanations. For one thing, Bowyer had the unfortunate luck to keep catching them in pairs while they were racing each other side by side. The No. 2 car also kept running low on the track as opposed to Kenseth running the high line, and the etiquette for lappers is often to move down out of the way to the inside and let the leaders go. That etiquette, of course, puts them right in Bowyer’s path, while Kenseth could just sail by. Still, those lapped cars very nearly cost Bowyer the race.
2) Is Richard Childress Racing the team to beat right now in NASCAR?
Right now, RCR claims the last two Busch Series and three Cup Series race trophies as their own. Harvick leads the Busch Series points by a record-setting margin, while Jeff Burton is atop the Nextel Cup Series Chase for the Championship. The best part of RCR’s dominance is that all three of its flagship drivers have captured the glory the past few weeks, with even young Bowyer stepping up and letting his voice be heard. Just two seasons ago, everyone was wondering what had happened to RCR and how such a good team could fall apart so badly; now, they’re on top of the NASCAR world.
3) How funny would it have been to see the winner chase down his runaway car?
I guess Bowyer forgot to put on the brakes when he climbed out his window to celebrate the win, because his car started rolling down those self-cleaning banks of Dover all by itself. That would certainly be something new; we saw Greg Biffle back into the wall celebrating a win at Dover, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen the winner’s car actually run off on its own.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Leffler is the top-finishing Busch regular this week with his fifth-place result, while Todd Kluever came home 13th to win Raybestos Rookie of the Race honors. Cup regulars dominated once again, taking nine of the top 10 spots Saturday.
The most interesting finish of the week goes to sixth-place Reed Sorenson, who finished the race sliding across the track and into the inside retaining wall after losing his battle for fifth to Leffler.
This race was probably destined to finish under a GWC finish, because it also set a new record with 13 caution periods, beating the old record of 10 set in 2001. Almost all of the cautions were for single-car incidents or debris.
Harvick’s lead in the championship standings has now grown to an eye-popping 699 points over second-place Carl Edwards. Harvick’s 19th top five, coupled with a flat tire under green for Edwards that relegated him to 26th and an accident for third-place Denny Hamlin that left him 40th helped the record setting margin grow still larger. There were no changes in the top 10 in points this week, as Bowyer, JJ Yeley, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch, Biffle, Johnny Sauter and Sorenson continue to fill out the rest of the spots.
Buschwhackers in this race: 16
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 414 of 1,255
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 9
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 213 of 290
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 27 of 29
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 8
“Kyle Busch had another brain fade and got into the back of us. I just hate it for the Dollar General team. We had a good car today. We tweaked on it there a little bit at the beginning. Unfortunately the No. 5 got into the back of us. It’s really unfortunate. I hate it for my team. I just don’t know what to say. I just thank Dollar General and I’m sorry that it happened.” – Burney Lamar
“We run top five most of the day or right around it. All in all, not really the finish we wanted but it’s a great day. It’s been a long, long time since we’ve been that close to the front of a race and it’s really, really a breath of fresh air for this team.” – Todd Kluever
“My crew chief Cully was just making fun of me for that. He said ‘Why is everybody coming up to you saying great job, you didn’t wreck?’ My only answer to that is that’s the way our luck’s been.” – Stephen Leicht
Next Up: The Busch Series returns to action next Saturday at Kansas Speedway for the Yellow Transportation 300. Coverage starts at 3 p.m. ET on TNT.