This year, Dover only gets one crack at NASCAR. When the circus visits the high-banked concrete oval with the oldest racing surface in Cup (the concrete, originally nicknamed “White Lightning,” has been in use since 1995), you never really know what’s going to happen. With the lower downforce package in play, it means that the groove can widen out as well.
Since the track switched to concrete, cautions have been down significantly (though there are exceptions to the rule, most notably the 2004 spring race, which is the slowest Cup race ever run at Dover).
In addition to high-banked racing, Dover is home to director Artie Kempner’s annual Drive for Autism charity golf tournament. Someone came up with the idea of having Jamie Little throw to … herself to introduce the piece, then throw back to herself back at the track. This was weird to watch.
Since the NHRA was at zMax Dragway this past weekend (it’s next to the Dirt Track at Charlotte and across US Route 29 from Charlotte Motor Speedway), FOX Sports 1 had a cross-promotional opportunity. Viewers saw Bubba Wallace work out with Antron Brown before he got a chance to warm up a funny car. It is a very raw car, as Wallace discovered. Finally, we got to see Wallace take on Daniel Hemric, JR Todd and Shawn Langdon in a four-wide race in Toyota Supras. Wallace apparently won it, but it was a bit unclear from the clip.
Since coverage of eliminations in the NTK-NGK Four-Wide Nationals immediately followed the race coverage, this feature aired in a modified fashion on the drag racing broadcast. Kyle Busch also made an appearance at zMax Dragway during the weekend.
Dover races tend to have a lot of green flag racing. The track is very tricky to race at, in real life and in sim racing. If you wreck there, it’s probably going to be pretty big, as Aric Almirola will attest to.
It’s also really hard to pass. You had to be significantly better than the person in front of you in order to make a move stick. It says a lot about how strong Chase Elliott’s car was that he could come from the rear of the field and get up to fourth by the end of stage one.
Yes, Hendrick Motorsports was the story of the race. No one could really touch them. They led all but 18 laps on Sunday. The only exceptions to the rule? Martin Truex Jr. leading the first 15 laps of the race before William Byron snatched the advantage, and three laps led on pit road during rounds of stops. Sadly, the only actual pass for the lead on the track Sunday occurred during a commercial break.
This event just was not all that competitive at the front of the field. The Hendrick boys had the field covered. They ran 1-2-3-4 for nearly the entire second half of the race. Kyle Larson appeared to be unbeatable, so much that when FOX Sports 1 ran their Ones to Watch segment, they made it all about Larson as they believed that he could not be usurped.
Clearly, that move backfired. Just a terrible decision knowing that they had taken the time on NASCAR RaceDay to run a piece about how Larson had so often been unable to close the deal in the past. It was only after the No. 48 crew had allowed Alex Bowman to jump Larson in the pits on lap 304 that they seemed to realize this.
Later on, they did show a truly interesting graphic. Entering Sunday’s race, Larson had 31 career top-two finishes in the Cup Series, just over 13% of his career starts. Pretty amazing stat when you think about it. Only seven of those (22.6%) were victories. Also, a number of those losses came after dominating a good chunk of the race. Some of the more blatant losses, such as the 2018 Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington where he led 284 of 367 laps, don’t even qualify here because he didn’t finish in the top two.
Sunday was the second time this season that Larson has dominated a race and failed to come through in the clutch. I would argue that Atlanta would be a far more frustrating race than Sunday in Dover was, but it’s a clear pattern for Larson.
In the past, Larson would seemingly panic towards the end of these long races. He’d mess up his line while rim-riding and put himself in the wall, hurting his car in the process. Sunday wasn’t even the first time this has happened at Dover to him. Four years ago, Larson led 241 laps and finished second to Jimmie Johnson after Johnson got him on a Green-White-Checkers start.
Racing-wise, Sunday’s race was not really the most competitive. Actual on-track passes were down significantly from last year. There was some decent racing to be had, but it was really confined to the laps right after restarts. Once you got beyond that, it was slim pickings for action.
Sadly, this was a rather boring race to watch. Yes, the drivers had to work more than they would have with the 550 horsepower package, but it didn’t lead to better action. Dover is just one of those places that throws up duds from time to time. It happens.
Post-race coverage was about average. Viewers got a decent number of post-race interviews, including with Bowman and Rick Hendrick. Viewers also heard from drivers such as Daniel Suarez, who earned a top 10 finish, prior to FOX Sports 1 leaving for Charlotte.
Dover races are tough to cover. Events like the Xfinity race are a little easier to cover because the package makes for a little easier racing. There are great Dover races and there are not-so-good Dover races. This was in the latter category.
When you get a race that really isn’t all that swell like this, the networks have to find other ways to make the race interesting. FOX Sports 1 tried to put a heavy focus on Hendrick Motorsports given the running order. Then, they botched their Larson coverage and ended up with pie on their faces when Larson got beat. This just wasn’t the most exciting event to watch, and FOX Sports 1 didn’t make it any better.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, NASCAR enters uncharted territory as they go to Circuit of the Americas near Austin for the first time. All three of NASCAR’s National Series will be at the 3.427-mile road course. In addition, Formula 1 will be in Monaco for the annual jaunt through the oh so narrow city streets. Yes, it’s been separated from Memorial Day. TV listings can be found in the Television drop down.
Given the uncertainty about the weekend since few of the drivers entered have previously raced there, and the fact that rain could be in the forecast, I’m going to give this weekend a little more attention. I put in to take Friday off from my day job months ago so that I can watch the actual practice sessions. For Couch Potato Tuesday, I’ll have a critique of the Cup and Truck races from COTA. The Critic’s Annex this week will cover Saturday’s Drydene 200, where over-coverage of Kim Burton came into play once again.
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About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.