(Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Late Pass Gives Kyle Busch Victory Over Chase Elliott at Dover

Who’s in the headline – We’ve seen it happen multiple times at Dover International Speedway as the No. 48 team makes a late-race charge to lead a handful of laps and win the race. It wasn’t the No. 48 car Sunday, but it was the No. 18 team. Kyle Busch dropped like a stone in the first stage of the race and took much of the race to find his speed. As the laps wound down, Busch carved his way through the top five and ran down Chase Elliott as the laps wound down.

Busch had a run heading into Turn 3 on the penultimate lap, passing Elliott on the outside. He cleared Elliott coming out of four to take the white flag and continued to the victory. Brad Keselowski was the best at the green-flag stops during stage 1 and rode that momentum to the stage win. Kyle Larson rode the high groove for much of the second stage to grab another stage bonus point this year.

What happenedMartin Truex Jr. stole the pole from Busch in the final eliminations of qualifying. He used that position to lead the first 25 laps of the race before Larson passed him for the top spot. Truex chased him down and retook the top spot on lap 61. Jeffrey Earnhardt spun coming onto pit lane for his green-flag stop and that threw a monkey wrench into the running order. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. stayed out longer than most drivers and benefited from the caution, scoring stage points that ultimately led to him advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Keselowski won the second stage, while Busch led the beginning of the second stage before Larson chased him down and passed him for the lead. Larson led most of the second stage and scored the stage win. In the final stage, the caution never flew and Elliott looked like he was going to take the win. Unfortunately for him, Busch had slightly better tires and chased down Elliott while the young driver was trying to put Ryan Newman a lap down. As Elliott encountered other lapped cars while working on Newman, he lost momentum and Busch ultimately passed him a lap and a third from the finish.

Why you should care – Were it not for a dumb move by the gas man during the Chicagoland race, Busch very well could have wins in all three of the playoff races so far this year. Truex is still a car to be reckoned with, Larson has been near the top of the points all season and Sunday made it look like Hendrick Motorsports has found some speed. Obviously, race wins can dictate who will race for the title in Homestead but barring someone upsetting the apple cart, it will very likely be Busch, Truex, Larson and Jimmie Johnson in Miami.

As for the losers on Sunday, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Ryan  Newman are officially eliminated from the playoffs. Kahne is in his final year with HMS and is basically playing out the string. Busch won the 500 to start the year, looked to be on a roll heading into the playoffs but has had horrendous luck since they started. Dillon and Newman both made the playoffs with strategy and were never very strong during the season.

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What your friends are talking about – Owners Richard Childress and Richard Petty made headlines this week with their comments about their opinions concerning protests during the National Anthem and how they would handle employees who might do such a thing. Dale Earnhardt Jr. put out a tweet quoting former President John F. Kennedy in response, basically supporting those who protest. The powder keg of a topic will be a hot button for some time but there is no doubt that the vast majority of NASCAR fans side with Childress and Petty. The problem is the majority of companies who sponsor race teams want nothing to do with the appearance of supporting a position that could be considered racist. Monster Energy came out this week with a statement from Vice President of Sports Marketing Mitch Covington, saying the comments will have no affect on Monster’s decision to extend or not extend their title sponsorship of the Cup series.

Danica Patrick has not found a ride for next season. She stated this week that her business people are taking calls and looking at opportunities. She also reiterated that, while she won’t ever rule out anything, she doesn’t have any plans to return to the IndyCar Series. Don’t be surprised if Homestead-Miami Speedway is Patrick’s last ride in NASCAR.

Jeff Gordon made a smart comment to Newman on his way past him Sunday after the race. It had to do with how hard Newman ran to stay on the lead lap during the closing laps of the race. Newman’s efforts most likely hindered Elliott’s efforts to win the race and probably cost him the win. Newman took exception to the comment and had a bit of a terse discussion with the four-time champion afterwards. Gordon certainly has the resume to have an opinion about the situation but, in reality, he should keep his mouth closed and let the drivers work things out themselves. It is one of those moments where feelings are still raw and nothing good can come from being a jerk.

Another racetrack has sold out to corporate America with the announcement that ISM is taking over the naming rights of Phoenix International Raceway. Beginning in 2018, ISM will assume the naming rights and the modernized venue will become known as ISM Raceway. ISM stands for Ingenuity Sun Media. The company is a pioneer in smart venue technology and will utilize the venue as a showcase for their ISM 360 Connect network, which will provide advanced, robust technology and data capabilities for fans, partners and the venue itself.

Harrison Burton, the sun of former Cup driver and current NBC commentator Jeff Burton, scored the win in the K&N Pro Series East finale at Dover on Friday. The victory also secured the 2017 championship in the series for the young driver. The up and coming driver continues to establish himself as a talented driver who could carry on the Burton legacy for years to come in racing.

Congrats to Paige Duke, the former Miss Sprint Cup, who was forced out of the sport by the former sponsor of the Cup Series for ridiculous reasons. She was married over the weekend to Ty Murray, a professional bull rider. The Fronstretch staff wishes the newlyweds a long and happy life together.

Who is mad – It is very hard to be mad about a second place finish but Sunday was the third runner-up of the season for Elliott. This one was especially frustrating for Elliott because he had a four second lead some 20 laps from the finish of the race. Elliott is his own worst critic and was especially upset with himself after not sealing the deal this weekend. Elliott will get into Victory Lane before long and will, most likely, do it many times before he leaves the sport. Until he gets the first one, however, this one is going to sting.

Joey Logano continues to run like crap. While he’s not in the playoffs so resources certainly are being focused on Keselowski and Ryan Blaney, he still should feel like he ought to run for wins. On Sunday ,Logano was literally non-existent during the race. He scored no points in the first two stages and finished the race in 15th position. A driver who was so hot the last two years has to be incredibly frustrated at the lack of success this season.

Who is happyJamie McMurray survived. McMurray was knocked out at Dover last year by a blown engine and two years ago by a late race pass by Dale Earnhardt Jr. This year marks the first time that McMurray has made it to the second round of the playoffs. While he hasn’t had the success of his teammate Larson, McMurray is a strong plate racer and could very well make it to the third round with a win at Talladega.

Earnhardt has hardly set the world on fire this season. The entire Hendrick Motorsports organization has been struggling to find some speed but seemed to have quite a bit this weekend. Earnhardt was fast in practice and in qualifying. He was in the top ten for the majority of the day and finished in the seventh spot. With Talladega looming on the horizon, that could be quite the farewell to Earnhardt Nation, scoring a win where his legendary father closed out his wins in the Cup series.

When the checkered flag flew:

Kyle Busch scored his second consecutive victory in his 455th career start.

Busch has three career triumphs at Dover International Speedway.

This is Busch’s fourth win of 2017. He now has three straight years with at least four wins.

For his career Busch has 42 victories. That puts him in 17th on the All-Time list, two behind Bill Elliott.

Chase Elliott crossed the line as the runner-up. This is Elliott’s third second place finish of 2017.

This is Elliott’s first career top 2 at Dover although he has scored four top five finishes is four career starts at the concrete mile.

Elliott has five career second place finishes which ties him with nine other drivers including Elmo Langley, Kyle Petty and Ward Burton for 85th on the All-Time list.

Jimmie Johnson rounded out the podium at Dover.

This was Johnson’s fourth top three of the season. The other three are victories.

Johnson has fourteen top three finishes in his career at Dover.

On the All-Time list, Johnson has 172 podium finishes which puts him eighth on the All-Time list.

Rookie of the Race was Daniel Suarez. This is the thirteenth win of the year for Suarez. Erik Jones has won the Rookie of the Race thirteen times this season. Ty Dillon has been bestowed the award three times.

The victory for Kyle Busch prevented another driver from claiming an automatic berth into the second round of the playoffs. Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are the two drivers who advanced to the next round via victories. With the addition of the five playoff points for the win Sunday, Busch now has 41 for the season. The 12 playoff contenders with the rank, points and playoff points as they start round two of the playoffs:

  1. Martin Truex Jr. – 3059 – 59
  2. Kyle Busch – 3041 – 41
  1. Kyle Larson – 3034 – 34
  2. Brad Keselowski – 3020 – 20
  3. Jimmie Johnson – 3017 – 17
  4. Kevin Harvick – 3015 – 15
  5. Denny Hamlin – 3013 – 13
  6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 3010 – 10
  7. Ryan Blaney – 3008 – 8
  8. Chase Elliott – 3006 – 6
  9. Matt Kenseth – 3005 – 5
  10. Jamie McMurray – 3003 – 3

Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne are the four drivers eliminated at the end of round one.

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic) – The end of races can do a lot to change the perception of entire races. For 385 of the 400 laps on Sunday the race was far from exciting. There were two on-track passes for the lead in the first stage, one in the second stage and then one more, with two laps to go as Busch chased down Elliott and grabbed the lead to ultimately win the race. Outside of those few moments, the race was a snoozer. Thanks to the excitement of the finish we’ll give it two cold Double D Double IPAs from Fordham and Dominion Brewing Company.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – Round two of the playoffs takes place at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It is the last fall race on the oval. Coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 8 on NBC. The race can also be seen on the NBCSports App. To listen to the race you can tune to your local PRN affiliate, www.goprn.com or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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12 comments

  1. Avatar

    You mentioned the Monster Sponsorship regarding RCR and the King’s remarks. Couldn’t help thinking how Bubba Wallace’s awesome attempt to land Domino’s as a sponsor was probably torpedoed by the King’s anthem remarks.

  2. Avatar

    Someone sent me the link of Gordon mouthing off to Newman. Not a fan of Newman at all, but WTF? Wow! For a couple of reasons.

    • Avatar

      I don’t blame Newman because he was expecting Brian’s end-of-race caution by one of the usual suspects to set up a demo derby finish. Fans complain about drivers not racing and Gordon expects Newman to do it? He don’t know him very well do he?

      • Avatar

        I don’t blame Newman either, looked very bad for Gordon to pull that nonsense. We all know why that “caution” did not happen, don’t we?

        • Avatar

          I would think it was so the anointed one would cruise to victory. A yellow could of met doom for him. But you hate them both so…..explain!

  3. Avatar

    You have to wonder now if there’s any chance Hendrick gives one or both of its incoming drivers some late-season seat time in the 5 car.

  4. Avatar

    Very lame race. Yes the ending was exciting but the other 398 laps weren’t really too exciting. The whole race just kind of slipped by. On the plus side, no fake cautions.

  5. Avatar

    Harrison Burton, the sun of former Cup

    should be SON

  6. Avatar

    Been a Jeff Gordon fan from day one but what he did after the race was wrong. Elliott needs to win a race on his own. I don’t thing anyone made things easy on JG when he was competing. Newman is a hard charger especially when he needs to advance in the playoffs. Just ask Kyle Larson. I don’t believe we would see Hendrick,Penske,Gibbs or any other owner do something like Gordon did. At least not with the cameras rolling.

  7. Avatar

    “The problem is the majority of companies who sponsor race teams want nothing to do with the appearance of supporting a position that could be considered racist.”

    So… not supporting athletes kneeling when the National Anthem is playing is racist? Who get’s to make up these silly rules? BLM? The media? The View?

    P.S. … I would never have brought this up if you hadn’t, Mike. I’m so sick of all this hatred and bitterness, but I will not let such a sentiment as the one I quoted go unchallenged.

  8. Avatar

    When a company comes out and says some event, controversial event, wont have an impact it means that it already has. They just dont want to admit it quite yet.