Just like the spring, Joey Logano emerged victorious in Nationwide competition at Dover. The only difference was this race was devoid of the close battle to the finish between he and teammate Ryan Truex. This one was never in doubt, with the No. 18 team leading 184 of the 200 laps run en route to his seventh victory of the 2012 season. Paul Menard, Michael Annett, Elliott Sadler, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 5.
Logano proved nearly untouchable out front in a race that was among the cleanest seen at Dover in recent memory; only three cautions interrupted action on Saturday afternoon, with none of them coming for on-track incidents. The championship battle also was looking to be a dead heat until a messy final restart on lap 182; Kasey Kahne’s No. 38 spun the tires on the start in the fourth position, shuffling traffic throughout the top 10. In the end, Elliott Sadler emerged in the top 5 for good, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ended up sliding back on older tires after light contact in traffic.
With Stenhouse fading to ninth and Austin Dillon 10th at the finish, Sadler expanded his lead to nine points over the No. 6 team with five races to go in the season. The top 10 positions in points remain unchanged following Saturday’s race.
Michael Annett’s career season proved capable of even conquering the Monster Mile on Saturday. Annett parlayed a 12th place starting position into steady progress all afternoon long, and scored a third place run for his trouble. His sixth top 5 finish of the season, Annett equaled his career-best result from Daytona in the summer. Of note, Annett has now scored 14 top 10s in 2012, double what he scored a season ago driving for Rusty Wallace, Incorporated.
Though Elliott Sadler’s fourth place result did stem in part from being able to clear Kasey Kahne’s stalled car fastest on the final restart of the race, Saturday’s Dover race was a big step forward for both driver and the No. 2 squad. Earlier in the spring, as well as last fall, this team brought either new cars or setups to Dover only to see no results for their efforts. This time around, the No. 2 car actually was a top 10 car in their sponsor’s namesake event. To capitalize on that, as well as to overcome a horrendous first pit stop of the race that cost the team more than a half-dozen spots on the track, speaks volumes as to where this team is as they head to Charlotte.
Cole Whitt finished sixth for the second consecutive weekend, his best two-race stretch of the 2012 season. Again, weren’t the changes at JR Motorsports supposed to shake up the No. 7 team?
Darrell Wallace’s career-long streak of top 10 finishes ended Saturday (he finished 12th), but the East Series regular did score his first career pole… Ryan Truex didn’t come close to equaling his runner-up result in the spring, but did deliver a top 15 finish for RAB Racing as ESPN’s in-race reporter (nice to see Nationwide regulars actually getting that role regularly)… former Rick Ware Racing teammates Blake Koch and Timmy Hill both got a reprieve from their recent start-and-park roles, with Koch finishing 22nd in the No. 24 car (nice to see those guys racing again) and Hill finishing 24th after going the distance in his regular No. 41 ride.
Any chance Sam Hornish Jr. had to make noise on a day that all three drivers ahead of him in points scored top 10s went out the window mid-race when his No. 12 car started experiencing low voltage. Though the battery never went dead on his machine, the No. 12 was never up to full speed during the second half of the event (Hornish finished a lap down in 18th).
There were plenty of mechanical gremlins to go around Dover this weekend. Jeremy Clements and Tim Andrews were the only two drivers to bring out the yellow on Saturday, both for race cars that suddenly started smoking. Exiting turn 4 on lap 116, Clements’ No. 51 machine started spewing smoke out of the left front wheel well (it was suspected to be a bearing problem). The No. 51 team proved unable to back up their top 10 performance from the spring in finishing six laps down in 25th. Andrews problem was even more pronounced when his No. 39 car started billowing smoke on lap 177; it didn’t take the crew but two seconds with the hood up to diagnose the car with a terminal engine failure. He finished 29th. Lastly, Erik Darnell ended up 52 laps off the pace for the day as he demonstrated weakness under the hood early in the event; the No. 40 car was running at the finish in 31st.
Mechanical woes bit both the big boys and the little guys alike at Dover. Justin Allgaier had possibly the one car in the field that had something for Joey Logano even under green flag conditions, but his top 5 result went down the drain when he had both rear tires go flat on lap 138. (Replays indicated there seemed to be a suspension problem in the rear of the No. 31 car that put strain on the Goodyears.) Allgaier would spend approximately 40 laps in the garage before returning to the track. He finished 30th.
Underdog Performer of the Race: Jeff Green. While teammate Mike Bliss nearly scored a top 10 finish driving the No. 19 just vacated by Tayler Malsam this week, Tri-Star Motorsports’ start-and-parker/driver coach did big things with the No. 44 car, scoring a top 15 result for the first time since the summer Daytona race… of 2005. Green, who has been an invaluable resource for the Tri-Star stable the past few seasons, deserves every race he gets, and its refreshing to see the 2000 NNS champion make them count.
Start-and-parkers occupied 11 of the 43 starting positions in Saturday’s race, taking home $140,021 in purse money.
Cup regulars won Saturday’s race, scored 4 of the top 10 finishing positions, occupied 10 of the 43 starting positions, and took home $157,256 in purse money.
341 of 1,204 starting positions occupied (28.3%)
$6,872,288 dollars won
14 of 28 trophies collected (50%)
The Final Word
• There’s a reason they call my generation the entitlement generation. Case in point: Joey Logano. Mike Wallace raced the No. 18 car hard but clean, in trying to avoid going a lap down. Logano responded by getting hot under the collar and threatening to put his No. 01 car into the fence should he dare do that again. (Logano already pulled the same asinine stunt at Dover earlier this year, trashing Tim Bainey Jr.’s machine for no good reason.) Joey, your car is faster than anything out there and you were raced clean. Do us all a favor: stop pinning frustration over unfulfilled expectations on your competitors and shut up.
• ESPN was quick to the draw in blaming lapped traffic for everything short of global warming when describing a pass on Brad Teague’s No. 4 car. Hardly surprising, but it is worth noting that the broadcast booth not only brought up Teague by name, but also attributed Ryan Truex’s inability to hold off Logano in the spring to Teague. Jamie Dick must have been thrilled to get off the hook without mention during that piece of commentary.