Race Capsule: Truex Jr. crushes field at Monster Mile, Stewart misses the first round cut
Quick shakedown: Martin Truex Jr. pulverized the field in the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway. The field started the race in order of owner's points after rain canceled qualifying. The No. 78 led 187 of 400
Chase drivers were the main ones with problems. Kevin Harvick's win at New Hampshire became ever more important after he broke a track bar mount very early and finished 37th, 46 laps down. Harvick continues on in the Chase.
Kyle Larson lost power during a caution, had too many crew members over the wall to fix it, lost two laps serving a pass thru penalty, and then hit the wall. He finished 25th and six laps down, missing the Chase cut in his first appearance.
Larson's Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray started losing cylinders and eventually the engine, nullifying his Chase in this Dover race. McMurray fell out after this race last year.
Tony Stewart needed a great race to keep his final Chase alive, but only had a good one, placing 13th. And Chris Buescher struggled all day to a 23rd-place finish, five laps down. He joins Stewart, Larson, and McMurray in not making the Round of 12.
Truex Jr. and Johnson were so fast, they ended up lapping all but the top 6. Johnson finished 7th, a lap down, after his trouble. The race may have been boring in some respects, but the drama factor and the dominance created a palpable excitement.
Top 10: Truex Jr.; Ky. Busch; Chase Elliott (ran top 10 all day and really improved in the end); Brad Keselowski (never could run up front for long, but stayed in top 5); Matt Kenseth (ran top 5 all day, but never same zip code as Truex Jr. and Busch); Joey Logano (top 10 and struggling all day); Johnson (fell to 16th after the penalty); Austin Dillon (raced from below the cutoff to inside with strong 8th place run and poor Ganassi team luck); Denny Hamlin (meh); Jeff Gordon (was top 15 most of day and took a gamble by pitting late on the last pit sequence).
The points: All the points are reset. The wins don't count as bonus points from here on out (sorry Truex Jr.) and Stewart, Larson, McMurray, and Buescher keep their same points differences and will race each other and other future eliminated drivers for positions 5-16 in the standings.
RaceTweet: Johnson could have won, but had Truex luck and Truex Jr. takes two of three in the Round of 16. Adios, Smoke.
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Martin Truex Jr. - And of the Chase, so far. He led the most laps and humiliated the field with huge leads over the lead cars and by lapping all but six cars. He's led 1,594 this season, 200-300 more than Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. He led one in 2014. And this win is at the site of his first-career win in 2007. He now has four this season and entered the year with three. Enough said.
North Korean Missile Dud: Kevin Harvick - Not that he needed to run well, but Harvick came to Dover in 2015 in a must-win situation and dominated. After a clutch win last week at New Hampshire, he figured to be a part of the hunt. But his race ended way too early with a freak chassis problem that probably was a direct result of the No. 4 team trying something out in a throw away race.
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: Austin Dillon - None of the true underdog teams had a day worth a flip, but Dillon is one of the underdog Chase drivers and was not favored to race past the first round. But he ran top 15 most of the 400-lap race and ended up a surprising 7th at the end, easily advancing.
Ghost Driver: Chris Buescher - Buescher's No. 34 team didn't show up for the Chase. They actually ran better after their August Pocono win, but none of that magic carried into the Round of 16. He finished 23rd, five laps down at Dover. His Front Row Motorsports team was supposed to be getting better Roush Fenway Racing equipment and attention for this Chase run...and disappointingly they did.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: Jimmie Johnson gained nine spots under green flag conditions after a devastation pit road penalty. He's won Dover 10 times and probably would have won this race. Gaining that much in that amount of time is no easy feat with a field spread so far.
Jimmie Johnson's Golden Horseshoe: NASCAR Nation - Race fans got a real treat in Sunday's Xfinity Series opening act. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, and Austin Dillon sat out, because they didn't want to hurt their performance in the Chase. So Drew Herring, Ryan Blaney, and Regan Smith each got to wheel good cars. They didn't factor in the win, but the Cup drivers' absences allowed Erik Jones (whose unscheduled pit stop kept him from winning) and teammate Daniel Suarez to decide the win. Suarez won his second-career race and the crowd went wild.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: NASCAR has to look long and hard at technical inspection and the ensuing penalties. We will stay out of the weeds here, but the mind-boggling decisions to switch the rules mid-season, then not fully enforce them, then sternly warn teams to behave is more off-putting to fans than the boxy Car of Tomorrow or Kyle Busch running a full season in Trucks.
The boondoggle that was the aftermath of the Truex Jr. and Johnson penalties after Chicagoland is inexplicable. Neither driver got real penalties and if they had, Truex Jr.'s would not have mattered as much as Johnson's, because Truex Jr. kept the win. NASCAR should have penalized each 15 points. Johnson would have taken the hit and probably still advanced. NASCAR then should have subtracted Truex Jr.'s penalty from his second round points.
There is also the debate about whether laser inspection should even take place after races at all. Cars change plenty during the course of the race. Laser inspection measures so exactly, that cars are bound to fail.
NASCAR eventually will have to decide where to go. The fuss over this already has tapered this week, but will flare up again once a car in a later Chase race fails. No. 4 crew chief Rodney Childers told PRN's "Fast Talk" host Doug Rice that his team has not been pushing the limits on rear skew and chassis bolts like the Gibbs/Furniture Row cars have been. But that statement is also gamesmanship as much as fact. Every team pushes the limits. NASCAR needs a uniform solution for 2017 that will actually last the whole year.
NXS RaceTweet: Second race in a row Erik Jones is the best car and has trouble. Daniel Suarez wins
NCWTS RaceTweet: Tyler Reddick races Chaser and teammate Daniel Hemric hard and wins in Las Vegas, for 1st win of season. Cole Custer hasn't even done anything and John Hunter is on fumes.
Georgia On My Mind: Chase Elliott has driven with poise in his first taste of the Chase, this week starting inside the top 10 and surging to 3rd by the finish. He makes the Round of 12 and is running well enough to make the Round of 8.
David Ragan and Reed Sorenson had miserably long races Sunday, each getting lapped early and finishing 30th and 35th, respectively. Ragan also got a speeding penalty on the final pit sequence.
Sunday's NXS race was tough on Ryan Sieg and Brandon Jones. Each had
Garrett Smithley had a tough day, finishing nine laps down in 26th.
John Wes Townley won the Camping World Truck Series Las Vegas Motor Speedway DC Solar 350 a year ago on fuel mileage. Saturday night would not go so well for Townley, but the No. 05 Chevy started 7th, ran in the top 10 most of the night, and finished 13th.
Next: The NCWTS takes a couple of weeks off before Talladega, but the NSCS and NXS cars race this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Cup cars race at 7 p.m. Saturday on NBC, PRN, and Sirius/XM Ch. 90. The Xfinity race (with Cup drivers) is Friday at 8 p.m. on NBCSN, PRN, and Sirius/XM Ch. 90. This 1.5-mile track sometimes has mile racing and sometimes it's wild. Either way, the action will be tense, especially for the Xfinity drivers in the last race of their Round of 12.