Key Moment – The pass for the lead by Jeff Gordon over Brad Keselowski with 95 laps to go was the difference in the race. Keselowski was in the top 3 all day long and looked to be the driver to beat once Kevin Harvick’s car had issues with an inner liner going flat. Gordon ran down Keselowski and passed him on lap 305 and never looked back.
In a Nutshell – The drama of the first ‘Richmond moment’ of the 2014 Chase didn’t have quite the excitement that NASCAR had hoped for. Surprisingly there wasn’t a bogus caution over the final 140 laps of the race. Kevin Harvick dominated the first 250 laps of the race before a flat tire took him out of contention. Jeff Gordon owned the final 100 laps to take the win. Brad Keselowski filled in the majority of the laps that those two didn’t lead, but in the end, it was Gordon who reiterated that he is one of the drivers that will probably be in contention at Homestead.
Dramatic Moment – The winner of the race was basically a foregone conclusion, so the excitement fell on the cut line for the next round of the Chase. Kasey Kahne overcame an early race issue that put him two laps down. He raced for all he was worth and milked a 20th-place finish to the next round of the Chase by two points over AJ Allmendinger.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
NASCAR is selling the excitement of this Chase as multiple game 7 moments or Richmond moments, whatever you want to call them. Dover would seem like an ideal place for those kind of moments with the Monster Mile chewing up and spitting out cars. The chances of a Chaser being caught up in someone else’s mess or multiple Chasers getting together trying to claw their way to the next round seemed ideal at the concrete mile in the first state. This just in, Dover isn’t a monster anymore. It hasn’t had double digit cautions since the fall 2011. The last three Chase races have had five or fewer cautions. When the checkered flag flew, the feeling in the pit of most people’s gut was an emptiness, not a nausea from the non-stop excitement. They have two more shots at exciting moments before Homestead. We’ll see if Talladega or Phoenix can step up.
The Tony Stewart versus the Ward Family drama doesn’t appear to be heading to a peaceful resolution any time soon. After the Grand Jury handed down their decision not to indict Stewart based on the evidence presented, the Ward family issued a statement that basically said ‘it ain’t over by a long stretch.’ Hearing the myriad of talking legal heads on shows from coast to coast and dawn to dusk the days following the announcement seemed to insinuate the the toxicology report will have little to no impact on a civil suit. They all appeared to agree that it is in Stewart’s best interest to settle out of court and move on. This weekend Kevin Ward’s aunt issued an open letter that insinuated that Stewart is solely at fault and no one else deserves any blame. When it is all said and done, a young man is dead, a great racer’s love for true grass roots racing has been destroyed, and nobody is doing any healing. Whether it is best or not, at least a settlement will close one chapter of this story and allow the parties involved the chance to move forward, although it doesn’t sound like they’ll ever meet to discuss the tragic incident.
Ryan Truex is out of a ride at BK racing. Whatever the reasoning behind the move the rumblings are that BK might be out of the Cup business after 2014. Throw in the possibility of the No. 32 of FAS and the No. 33 of RCR / Circle Sport not returning to the series and there is going to be a very real possibility of multiple races in 2015 without full fields. The sport has a plethora of young talent in the K&N, Truck, and Nationwide series, but the lack of seats at the pinnacle of the sport is going to become a very dire situation very soon.
A book about the life of Bill France, Sr. will be released in February. It will, hopefully, provide insight into how Big Bill founded NASCAR and ran the sport out of a desire to make money while putting on quality auto races. France established NASCAR to provide drivers with a consistent racing environment that provided them guaranteed purses and a standard rule book. Newer fans of the sport may be intrigued about how much the focus used to be on racing instead of making a nickel from every possible avenue as the current iteration of the sport seems to be.
Master promoter Humpy Wheeler threw out a brilliant plan to save Rockingham Speedway. Take all of the Nationwide and Cup cars that have become obsolete over the last few years and race them every first Sunday at the venerable speedway. Wheeler feels that there would be 90 cars showing up at the track putting on heat races and then a feature with ultra talented, blue collar drivers reviving racing the way it used to be. He feels that there would be 8,000 people in the stands every month to watch this fantastic, rough and tumble, throw back racing that all of the fans are longing for. While the idea sounds fantastic and the romance of yesteryear stirs the emotions deep within the hearts of old school race fans, it just isn’t realistic. The track put on phenomenal races with the Frank Kimmel Street Stocks and UARA Late Models among other series in the last few years. The track gave away thousands of tickets to those shows and drew less than 1,000 fans for most of them Add to that the lack of people with enough money to put together a race team to run nine or ten races a year at a one-mile track in the middle of nowhere and you’re not going to have anywhere near 90 cars. Fortunately for Wheeler, the track is about to go up for auction again so he can put his money where his mouth is and prove what a great promoter he really is by saving the track from the wrecking ball.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Kevin Harvick led the most laps (223) but fell back to 20th due to a failure in the left front of his No. 4. Another week of would’ve, should’ve, could’ve for Harvick where he had a dominant car and something out of his control took him out of the running for the win. Harvick managed to make it to the next round of the Chase, but positive momentum continues to be an elusive critter for Harvick.
Greg Biffle started the race in 27th position but quickly gained five spots in the first 20 laps. He marched his way up as high as 13th before his car began to fall off. He was out of shape for most of the race and especially the last 100 laps. He ended the race in 21st and seven points out of the next round of the Chase. The No. 16 has been off for most of the year, and when he needed it to be on point it was nowhere close.
Similar to Biffle, AJ Allmendinger came into Dover in the 10th spot in points and just wanted a solid run to make it to the next round of the Chase and see where he might be able to go. Allmendinger spent the whole day dead in the middle of the pack without anything he could really do to make a difference in that situation. The car was a handful early and, while it did get better late in the race, it just wasn’t good enough. The No. 47 team wasn’t expected to go anywhere in the Chase but they came into Dover making some noise. The little engine that could just couldn’t when they needed it most at Dover. The story is still a great one with a single car team managing to win their way into the playoffs to run with the big boys.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Finishing 20th is seldom grounds for a Fine Fortune award but, for Kasey Kahne, it was just what the doctor ordered. Kahne was looking at missing the next round after a lugnut issue dropped him back to 29th place at lap 162. He scratched and clawed his way toward the front all day and, when the checkered flag flew, he was 20th, making the next round of the Chase by two points.
Ryan Newman started the race in 20th and marched his way steadily to the front of the pack, for the most part, throughout the day. He spent the last 140 laps in the top 10 of the race and transferred to the next round by 14 points. The only RCR effort in the Chase keeps hope alive for the long standing championship organization.
Martin Truex, Jr. qualified 26th and didn’t exactly charge forward early in the race. However, over the final 140 laps he made a strong move from 15th to seventh when the checkered flag flew. Truex’s second best finish of the season might signal that the Denver, Co. based team is starting to get things pointed back in the right direction for 2015.
Jeff Gordon’s victory at Dover is his 92nd triumph of his career in 754 career starts. Ken Schrader has nine more starts but 88 fewer wins.
Gordon is 13 wins shy of tying David Pearson for second on the all-time win list.
The win is Gordon’s fourth win of 2014. He is tied for second on the list of most wins for the season with Joey Logano, one behind Brad Keselowski.
The win is Gordon’s fifth victory at Dover in 44 career races at the track.
Brad Keselowski’s runner-up result is his ninth top-2 run of the season. It is his fourth in his last six races.
The second-place run for Keselowski was his second consecutive number two finish at Dover and his third top 2 at the Monster Mile in his career.
Jimmie Johnson’s third-place run was his sixth top 3 of the season but his first since his win at Michigan in June.
Johnson has 11 podium finishes in his career at Dover.
Kyle Larson’s sixth-place run was the highest finish for a rookie in the race.
Martin Truex, Jr. has four top-10 finishes this season. His two best are sixth and seventh at Dover.
There were three on-track passes for the lead that were not due to a green flag pit stop. One of those was for Harvick having his tire issue.
What’s the Points
The points matter now that the Chase to the Cup has begun. Up to three drivers can advance to the next round by winning races in each segment. The other drivers advancing will make it to the next round on points. The 16 drivers in the Chase are listed below with their point total after they were reset following round one of the Chase. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon, by virtue of their wins at Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover advanced to the second round of the Chase. Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne joined them based on their point total. AJ Allmendinger was the first driver on the outside looking in by two points behind Kahne. Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola also missed out of continuing their quest for the championship.
- Brad Keselowski 3000
- Joey Logano 3000
- Kevin Harvick 3000
- Jimmie Johnson 3000
- Jeff Gordon 3000
- Kyle Busch 3000
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3000
- Matt Kenseth 3000
- Ryan Newman 3000
- Carl Edwards 3000
- Denny Hamlin 3000
- Kasey Kahne 3000
- AJ Allmendinger 2077
- Kurt Busch 2073
- Greg Biffle 2072
- Aric Almirola 2061
Overall Rating(On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – Dover International Speedway went from the Monster Mile to the Munster Mile on Sunday. The only difference between a snoozefest at an Intermediate track and Dover was a dogleg on the front straight and concrete instead of asphalt. The tires put down plenty of rubber but they didn’t fall off much and the result was a complete coma inducing crapfest. The manufactured excitement of Chase elimination couldn’t even save it as the drivers on and off the bubble didn’t make any moves over the last 40 laps. The Challenger round ended with a challenge to watch. The result is a single, solitary, rancid can of Falls City that was pulled out of Miles the Monster’s posterior after the race.
Race No. 4 in the Chase takes the series back to the Heartland of America. Just when the fans were wondering why the series was so focused on one mile tracks a sense of normalcy returns as the teams head back to a 1.5 mile Intermediate track at Kansas Speedway. With the points reset the television coverage will be saturated with the title contenders and the rest of the field be damned, sorry to all of the Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger fans. The coverage next weekend begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. It can also be heard on MRN affiliates and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.