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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2019 Drydene 400

The Headline(s): Stop me if you’ve heard this before: you just can’t pass.

Sure, Kyle Larson’s 75-race winless streak was snapped. Sure, he led over 150 laps, and another led over half the race. But once again, the prevailing sentiment from drivers leaving the Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway was the lack of ability to pass.

We’ve been hearing that ad nauseam all season long, but the proof is in the pudding. The more downforce, the more control these drivers are in. Only one caution flew during the 400-lap affair, coming on lap 7 for debris.

Other than that, the two stage breaks at laps 120 and 240 were the only other yellow flags. There was some gamesmanship that went on during green flag pit cycles but only a couple passes for the lead on the race track under green.

Most of the action happened early, as Joey Logano was forced behind the wall before the green flag dropped with an axle issue and Chase Elliott’s motor expired, as did Ryan Blaney’s in the final stage.

NASCAR RACE WEEKEND CENTRAL: DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY

How It Happened

Denny Hamlin earned the pole in his 500th career start and didn’t relinquish the lead for the majority of the first two stages, leading 218 laps in total. But once his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. got by for the top spot, Hamlin’s car was never the same.

Larson wound up winning the race off pit road as Truex’s team had a hiccup on the left rear and didn’t let anybody get even close, sailing out to a 5+ second lead at some points in the final green flag runs.

Although lapped traffic almost derailed his day, Larson cruised to the victory by 1.5 seconds over Truex, with Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick and Hamlin completing the top five.

FINLEY: KYLE LARSON WINS AT DOVER, ADVANCES TO ROUND OF 8

Drivers Who Accomplished Something

Larson was able to hold on to the lead in spite of some hard racing on the part of drivers going a lap down. Clint Bowyer, in particular, raced Larson so hard that, at one point, he personally cut multiple seconds off his lead of Truex.

Truex was able to walk away from the Monster Mile with a second-place finish and a stage win. But that stage win probably doesn’t come without some ridiculous racing on the part of Logano. Logano, 23 laps down at the time, raced leader Hamlin so hard that he caused one of just two non-pit cycle induced lead changes of the day.

Bowman was able to make some late-race passes following the final green-flag pit cycle, passing Hamlin and Harvick to finish third. Bowman’s scorecard at Dover this year ended up being second and third; not too shabby for the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

MASSIE: ALEX BOWMAN POWERS TO 3RD AT DOVER

The No. 4 “Harvick Beer” sponsored Ford had a pretty good day. Harvick placed fifth in stage one and fourth in stage two. Harvick hovered around third and sixth throughout almost the entirety of the race and ended up fourth.

Hamlin won the pole on Saturday and led 218 of the first 228 laps. But after Truex got around him to win the second stage, the only peep heard from the No. 11 team was some possible engine troubles midway through the final stage. The car, however, stayed on the track and finished fifth.

A terrible weekend for Kyle Busch, at least by his standards, ended with him recovering from a speeding penalty during the first stage caution period to finish sixth.

The hot streak continues for Matt DiBenedetto. The Californian finished seventh, his seventh top-10 finish of the year. That makes it just one finish outside of the top 20 since finishing 27th at Chicagoland Speedway in late June.

MASSIE: MATT DIBENEDETTO SCORES ANOTHER TOP 10 AT DOVER

Drivers Who Accomplished Nothing

Team Penske had a terrible day at Dover. In addition to Logano and Blaney’s mechanical woes, Brad Keselowski struggled late in the race, going a lap down and finishing 11th.

William Byron finished fourth in stage one but faced a costly speeding penalty during his green-flag pit stop in stage two. He ended up trapped a lap down in a race for most of the rest of the race. Byron went another lap down in the closing laps to finish 13th, two laps down. That doesn’t sound that terrible, but keep in mind that eight playoff drivers finished ahead of him, which was not the desired result for a driver with so few playoff points.

Out-of-sight, out-of-mind: Aric Almirola finished 17th and Ryan Newman finished 22nd. A week after both battled very aggressively to advance to this round of the playoffs only to come so short, both had nothing races and finished multiple laps down.

Chris Buescher had an engine failure near the end of the second stage. Logano might have been one of the few people to notice: the 2018 champion gained another point in the race by passing the future Roush Fenway driver in the running order.

Insights, Opinions, and Fake News

The top six finishers were playoff contenders, but the others were scattered. Bowyer and Keselowski finished 10th and 11th, with Byron rebounding from a speeding penalty to finish 13th. Logano, Blaney and Elliott’s issues mired them back in the finishing order.

Only eight cars finished on the lead lap, with three cars finishing one lap down and seven two laps down.

Give a call to Dibenedetto, party people. How about that man?

DiBenedetto was the highest finishing non-playoff driver in seventh, with Dover mastering “Monster Slayer” Jimmie Johnson in eighth and Larson’s teammate Kurt Busch in ninth.

SEGAL: JIMMIE JOHNSON EARNS TOP 10 AT DOVER

It was looking to be a solid day for Erik Jones, but a speeding penalty ruined his day and he wound up finishing in 15th.

What’s up with Almirola? 12 straight finishes outside the top 10 for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver who failed to qualify for the Round of 12, a far cry from his Round of 8 berth only one year ago.

Participation Trophies:

Best Paint Scheme: Chase Elliott, at least for the eight laps it was out on the racetrack.

Strangest Title Sponsorship Award: I don’t know what gets this one, the Drive Sober 200 (with the tagline of “Use Your Melon”) or the Drydene 400. Apparently Drydene specializes in “engine lubricants and greases.” Interesting.

Best Trophy of the Year: The Gold Miles the Monster trophy for winning the 100th Cup race in the history of Dover looked pretty cool, to say the least. Most of the fathers who win at Dover say they put Miles in their child’s bedroom, so Owen Larson might end up being the happiest kid in the garage.

Where it Rated: Darrell Waltrip tweeted during the race about Dover being like racing in a bowl. With the clean air troubles and maybe just three-or-four interesting developments that came out of this entire weekend, it was more like a toilet bowl in all honesty.

What’s the Points? Entering Talladega Superspeedway next week, Larson is the lone driver locked into the next round of the playoffs. Truex is the points leader and has a 63 point advantage on the final transfer spot. Hamlin and Kyle Busch are both 48 points to the good, while Harvick is 42 points ahead. Keselowski (+20) and Bowman (+17) are the final two drivers with any kind of a cushion.

Logano and Byron are tied for the final playoff spot, and Bowyer is four points behind them. Thanks to playoff points, Elliott is only seven points behind in spite of finishing last, and Blaney is last in the playoff point standings, sitting 22 points behind Logano and Byron.

Up Next: The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the second race of the Round of 12. Almirola is the defending winner of the event, the 1000Bulbs.com 500 that can be seen on Sunday, Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.

Davey Segal contributed to this report.

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16 thoughts on “Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2019 Drydene 400”

  1. Dover races are usually boring with a lot of cars falling off the lead lap and few cautions, except maybe once out of six races when it is a wreckfest with lots of cautions. This was one of the boring ones. While I don’t need it to be a wreckfest, a race with no cautions means a race with no contact which usually is the result of single file racing. From what I’ve seen with the package this year, it arguably produces closer (not necessarily “better) racing at tracks greater than a mile, but really hurts the races at tracks 1 mile or less.

    What is going on with the 18 team. While he managed to finish 6th today, he has been all but invisible in the first 4 races of the chase and has lost any momentum he had earlier in the season. The same could be said about the Penske brigade, their momentum has been stalled compared to earlier in the season. Right now, based on the way things are going, I’d have to say 3 of the final 4 will be Truex, Hamlin and Harvick. If I had to pick a 4th it would still be Kyle Busch based on his success in the regular season. Of course any of these guys could end up at the bottom of the bubble if they aren’t lucky at Talladega.

    Yeah, Dibenedetto has certainly over achieved this year. He continues to surprise week after week.

    Interesting how Johnson is complaining about chase guys racing him like he should be backing down when he’s benefitted more from that unwritten “non-chase guys should always yield to those in the chase” rule than anyone else. I certainly got tired of seeing guys make it easy on him when he was racking up those 7 championships.

    Logano really didn’t learn anything in 2015. What should he have learned?… if you don’t HAVE TO make enemies during the championship, don’t make enemies. Avoid pissing people off unless you absolutely have to because someone can take you out of the championship easily.

    On to Talladega where the crapshoot nature of the race can ruin anyone’s chance of making it to the next round, except for Larsen of course. You can almost bet one of the favorites will be involved in something which will put them on the bubble.
    What a farce these playoffs are.

  2. @michael Finley – perhaps the saddest commentary is that the sports media just doesn’t care. Even though the chase format is a playoff, there was actually no mention of the race on major media. ESPN completely ignored it. So did NBC as it ran Sunday Nite Football. Ditto for TBS as it ran the MLB playoffs. I think, well I know, NASCAR’s races are predominantly carried by NBCSN, but outside of NBCSN, there was no reporting, just NONE. Sad…

  3. I didn’t watch the race, and didn’t even care that it was on. This from someone who watched NASCAR since the days of Fred Lorenzen and Fireball Roberts. Aside from the blinding hatred most fans have for Logano, I can’t help but wonder if there still isn’t a lot of animosity for the Gibbs drivers, and Gibbs in general, for the way they, Hamlin, Busch, and Saint Joe himself, treated Logan when he was their teammate. Gibbs kicked Logano out of the 20 without hesitating when he could get Kenseth, which just might explain the incidents of 2015 everyone, especially the haters, keeps bringing up. Hamlin is a pathetic excuse for a teammate anyway. Maybe if it had of been someone other than Hamlin, or other Saint Gibbs driver, Joey might have done “the right thing”, and pulled over.

    • Ken,
      What exactly about my comment is hating on Logano?
      I wasn’t talking about doing THE RIGHT THING, I was talking about doing THE SMART THING. Why do you have a problem with that? Doesn’t it make sense not to needlessly piss off other drivers during a playoff run now that there are eliminations? It just seems like common sense to me. Surely you can see the wisdom in that advice.

  4. Maybe there is little media coverage of the ‘playoff’ because it isn’t REALLY a playoff, what with all the cars still on the track at the same time. It is also basically a crapshoot to determine which 4 drivers get to pretend they are ‘racing for a title’. Why should most of the media care when many race fans don’t? And yes the irony of JJ complaining about how the anointed expect to be raced is hilarious! I also find something jarring about Hooters and their pink breast cancer awareness car. Appropriate, I suppose but disturbing.

  5. Since 2010 +/-, the Direct TV DVR has been my constant NASCAR BFF. Sunday it didn’t let me down. After watching a pretty decent Sunday night NFL game, I cued the Dover race tape. Saw the first 30 laps then fell asleep as usual. Awakening with 16 laps to go, I didn’t miss a thing. The Dover race was far better than Ambien. But these days? Every race is.

      • I fall asleep under green flag racing and wake up when they go to a commercial every time with my DVR remote in my hand. Fast forward to the restart and repeat.

  6. Sad that Jimmie finishing in the top 10 garners so much attention. I too found it funny (ironic) how he whines and cries now that he, as Junior I think said in the booth “Is seeing how the other half lives”. You’re out of the Championship chase now Jimmie. Do what you expected everyone else to do for you the last decade: Sit down and shut up!

    I’m disappointed in how quickly Truex has become spoiled by his success. After all he’s been through in his career and personal life, I thought he’d stay a bit more humble. Actually, kinda tired of all the primadonna’s whining and crying about people not pulling over to let them go by. You’d think by now someone would have learned how to beef up the front end so they could use the chrome horn (well, now the plastic horn I guess) to move people out of the way, it’s how Earnhardt Sr. made his career!

    My wife noticed the small crowd (she doesn’t watch much NASCAR) and pondered if ticket prices were too high. I didn’t have the energy to tell her all the reasons why nobody was watching anymore. We both fell asleep on the couch shortly after.

  7. What has happened to the speed of the Fords? It’s as if Penske and Stewart-Haas said “Here, Chevy teams, take this horsepower; we’ve got all we need.” All of a sudden, the Chevy’s are the make to beat. They’ve won two of four playoff races after winning only five during the regular season (and one of those was the Bizarro-World win by Justin Haley).

  8. With all this talk about DVRing a race maybe somebody out there can answer this question. I was told that even if you DVR the event and breeze thru it in 5 minutes, the ratings companies count you as watching the whole race from beginning to end. If that’s true then I’ll bet the ratings are double of what they probably actually are. Don’t know. Watched the highlights yesterday in 6:50 on you tube.

    • I think they have started tracking viewers watching via DVR but I don’t think they value those viewers as much as those who actually watch the show live. After all, in most cases the point of recording it is to be able to zip through the commercials (and some of the BS), so that doesn’t help sell to advertisers which is the whole point of it all in the networks’ eyes. Perhaps they can sell them as “potential viewers” on any given night, but in there eyes, if you aren’t watching the commercials you are stealing from them.

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