Johnson represents The Big Three in Dover victory lane
The Scoop: Jimmie Johnson took the field to school in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, leading the most laps and taking the win. Johnson, now Dover's all-time wins leader inherited the lead after a green flag pit sequence before the race's midpoint, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2nd) slowed to pit and missed Dover's tricky pit road. Except when Matt Kenseth (7th) lead for a while after a restart, Johnson led most of the rest of the way to score his 8th win at the track and his 5th of the season. Chase drivers were near the top of the field all race, but problems slowed two and bad handling slowed most. Kurt Busch's (21st) new pit crew, courtesy of the Richard Childress Racing No. 2 Nationwide Series team, left a wheel loose on the No. 78, bringing the Chevy to pit road off sequence. That, followed by a debris caution that infuriated Busch, put the team two laps down and completely out of contention the rest of the day. Carl Edwards' (35th) No. 99 Ford lost power near the end of the race, went to the garage, and ended the race 15 laps down. Joey Logano (3rd) had his best Chase showing, after engine problems at Chicagoland and a 14th place run at New Hampshire. Kasey Kahne wrecked at NHMS and was only 13th at Dover, leaving him last in Chase points, 78 behind Kenseth. The entire top 10 comprised of Chase drivers, but they gained little on the three-driver breakaway at the top of the points, as Johnson won, Kyle Busch placed 3rd, and Kenseth was 7th. Kenseth leads Johnson by eight points, and Busch by 12. Kevin Harvick (6th) and Jeff Gordon (4th) are tied for 4th in points, but 39 back of Kenseth (maximum points earned in a race is 48). Then Greg Biffle (9th) is 6th in points (-41). That leaves 7th-13th in points Ryan Newman (8th at Dover), Clint Bowyer (10th), Ku. Busch, Earnhardt Jr., Edwards, Logano, Kahne a full race's points or more out of the lead, with seven races remaining in the Chase. Four cautions slowed the race and there were no crashes. The best cars in the race were the best all day and the only ones to lead laps not during a pit sequence: Johnson, Earnhardt Jr., Ky. Busch, and Kenseth. The rest of the field was toast (only 12 on the lead lap) in a race that highly resembled Saturday's NNS yawner dominated by Logano.
RaceTweet: Johnson stiff-arms the non-big three and wins Dover. He, Kenseth, and Busch pull further away. Wait…Dale Jr. stayed in the top 5 the whole race?
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Johnson should win it, but let's give it to the pole sitter, who stayed competitive all day and did not let his pitting miscue derail him. Only 10th in points, Earnhardt Jr. still has a big hole to escape to be a title contender, but back-to-back good runs (including 80 laps led at Dover) could turn Team 88 into a dark horse.
North Korean Missile Dud: Kurt Busch - His last Cup win came at Dover two years ago and his team needed a turnaround. Instead, the pit crew hired to replace the bad pit crew left a wheel loose, and the wheels are coming off this outside Chase title hopeful. Miscue aside, Busch never was even a top 10 car.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: No one - Besides Earnhardt Jr. recovering from his pit problem to finish 2nd, there was little adversity from which drivers could bounce back. This award stays on the shelf.
Wheel of Misfortune: Brad Keselowski - Rear end gear problems sent the No. 2 to the garage. Though Keselowski avoided his 3rd points race DNF of the year (he had zero in 2012), his 37th place result added insult to his injury of a season.
Ghost Driver: Clint Bowyer - I'm sorry, I didn't realize the No. 15 team was in the Chase. Did NASCAR remove both Michael Waltrip Racing teams from the playoffs? Bowyer got the good news that Five-Hour Energy would return to his team in 2014. The team responded by being utterly invisible in Sunday's race and losing more ground to the points leaders.
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: Jamie McMurray and Brian Vickers both stayed on the lead lap, finishing 11th and 12th, and were the closest to "underdog" as anyone in the top 20. Pretty much, the big dogs had their way today and the smaller teams fought to finish less than 10 laps down.
Georgia On My Mind: David Ragan had a forgettable weekend, qualifying 27th and finishing five laps down in 25th. The only good news is that he finished where he was supposed to and beat most of the equal teams around him. Reed Sorenson showed poise and resolve in finishing 4th out of the six start-and-park teams (41st). Sorenson got displaced by T.J. Bell in the Nationwide Series No. 40 Chevy, as Bell brought money to the TMG team. Chase Miller was the only Peach State representative in the race, starting-and-parking the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford to 37th. The Camping World Truck Series raced in Las Vegas and Georgia drivers showed well: John Wes Townley tied a career-high, finishing 7th; Max Gresham started and finished 10th; Ryan Sieg ran top 15 for a while, avoided a wreck or two, and placed on the lead lap in 19th.
NNS RaceTweet: Cup drivers again? Sigh. Logano wins 4th-straight Dover race, leaving just four cars on the lead lap. Hey, at least Kyle Larson was 2nd!
NCWTS RaceTweet: Timothy Peters takes first 1.5-mile win at Vegas and Matt Crafton gets first non-top 10 of 2013. Brennan Newberry spun more than a 100-year old Ferris Wheel.
Next: The Sprint Cup Series runs at Kansas next Sunday at 2 p.m. on ESPN, joining the Nationwide Series, which races Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN. The Trucks take a three-week breather before Talladega - which is needed for that race.