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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
September 23th, 2013
Volume VII, Edition CLXXXI
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Sprint Cup Race Recap: Johnson Wins At Dover For Record-Breaking Eighth Time
by Justin Tucker
Jimmie Johnson's career has been defined by milestones. Coming into Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, Johnson was looking to cement his name in the history books once more by becoming the all time wins leader at Dover. Winning would break a tie he shared with Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.
However, on top of the record, Johnson was looking for redemption. In June, Johnson jumped a late race restart and was penalized, costing him a shot a certain history and relegating him to a 17th-place finish. With June fresh in his mind, Johnson would have a near flawless performance, holding off his teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. after a late race restart to win a historic eighth race at Dover.
Johnson dominated much of the afternoon, leading a race high 243 of 400 laps to claim his fifth victory of 2013 and most importantly, move up to second-place in the standings, just eight points behind Matt Kenseth.
Johnson spoke of the record breaking win and the importance of closing ground on Kenseth in Victory Lane.
"You've got to win when you're at your best track," Johnson said. "We had to win here today. I think any points on the 18 or 20 would have been a very good day. Max points, it's an awesome day.
'Truthfully, [the record] was the first thought that went through my mind when I crossed the finish line," Johnson continued. "It wasn't long after [that that] I thought about the impact of winning in the Chase."
Johnson's teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would enjoy a successful afternoon on Sunday. Running in the top 5 for much of the afternoon, Earnhardt Jr. would lead 80 laps on the day to finish second just .446 seconds behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. However, Earnhardt Jr. showed obvious frustration over a race he thought let slip away.
"The mistake I made coming on to pit road and missing pit road completely (cost us)," Earnhardt Jr. said. "If I had not given up that track position and had a smart enough race to keep the lead when it counted, right at the end we might have won the race. It would have been hard to get by us just like it was hard to get by Jimmie. We left everybody in the mirror. We were clicking off some laps. But, [we] just [were] not fast enough to get to Jimmie."
Chasers would dominate the day at Dover, sweeping the top 10 in the finishing order. Joining Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 were Joey Logano in third-place, Jeff Gordon coming home in fourth, and Kyle Busch scoring a top 5 finish after handling problems much of the race.
Positions six through ten at Dover were led by Kevin Harvick in sixth, Matt Kenseth in seventh, Ryan Newman in eighth, Greg Biffle would bring his RFR No. 16 home ninth, and rounding out the top 10 on Sunday was Clint Bowyer.
By the numbers in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover. There was 19 lead changes among eight different drivers, and only four cautions for 21 laps kept the race pace at 130.909 MPH.
Next week the Sprint Cup Series heads to the lightning fast 1.5 mile Kansas Speedway for round No. 4 of the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Hollywood Casino 400 will get underway at 2:16 P.M. ET.
Justin Tucker is a Newsletter Contributor at Frontstretch. To reach Justin, please contact Newsletter Manager Phil Allaway at email@example.com.
by Phil Allaway
Best of the Rest Points (14-23): 14) Jamie McMurrray 819, 15) Brad Keselowski -20, 16) Martin Truex, Jr. -38, 17) Paul Menard -51, 18) Aric Almirola -78, 19) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. -92, 20) Jeff Burton -95, 21) Marcos Ambrose -98, 22) Juan Pablo Montoya -105, 23) Casey Mears -222.
Non-Chase Point Standings (Top 23): 1) Jimmie Johnson 970, 2) Matt Kenseth -29, 3) Kyle Busch -34, 4) Kevin Harvick -38, 5) Carl Edwards -50, 6) Clint Bowyer -93, 7) Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -97, 8) Greg Biffle -106, 9) Jeff Gordon -110, 10) Kurt Busch -114, 11) Ryan Newman -128, 12) Joey Logano -139, 13) Jamie McMurray -151, 14) Kasey Kahne -160, 15) Brad Keselowski -171, 16) Martin Truex, Jr. -189, 17) Paul Menard -202, 18) Aric Almirola -229, 19) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. -243, 20) Jeff Burton -246, 21) Marcos Ambrose -249, 22) Juan Pablo Montoya -256, 23) Casey Mears -373.
Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for Frontstretch. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Critic84.
Never Fear, The Underdogs Are Here: Dover-2 Edition
by Amy Henderson
Editor's Note: This year, we're going to switch things up a little bit. Instead of just focusing upon one underdog (or underreported) car in the Secret Star section, we will point out three smaller teams that put up good finishes each week.
Underdog Selection No. 1: Casey Mears for Germain Racing; started 26th, finished 24th
For the second week in a row, Mears and the No. 13 team topped the small teams on the scoreboard but didn't show the strength they should have in doing so. Mears finished 16th at Dover in June, and this week, the team struggled to a 24th-place result. Part of that is the big teams getting a foothold with the Gen-6 cars and pulling away from what was a more level playing field in June. But this team doesn't seem to have the spark they did in the spring, when Mears was as high as 17th in driver points and it looked like this team could end the year with a handful of top-15 runs. They're still the best of the small teams, but they haven't quite lived up to the potential they showed early in the season.
Underdog Selection No. 2: David Ragan for Front Row Motorsports; started 27th, finished 25th
This team has also made huge strides in 2013, even packing home a win at Talladega, but they still need to show that they can put together some runs in the top-20 range on a more regular basis. Ragan has been solidly in the 20's most weeks, including this one. With a major aerodynamic change rumored to be in the works for 2014, that will bring the smaller teams closer to the big ones similar to the way the Gen-6 did early this year, and these teams will again need to capitalize. Ragan is also on the radar to repeat at Talladega next month.
Underdog Selection No. 3: Cole Whitt for Swan Racing; started 33rd, finished 27th
While Whitt finished fourth among the underdogs this week (AJ Allmendinger finished one spot better), his run was impressive because of his relative inexperience in a Cup car. At just 22 years old, Whitt made his Dover debut Sunday and finished respectably for this little team that has exceeded expectations all year. While their late-season driver changes have been a bit of a mystery, it hasn't seemed to slow them down.
Underdog Pick of the Week-Kansas II: Casey Mears for Germain Racing
In this section, I'll give you my pick among the small teams to have a strong run in the upcoming race.
My pick for Dover was David Reutimann, who was just okay with his 28th place, fifth among the underdogs.
The Cup Series heads to Kansas this week, not exactly a track where the little guys typically sneak home with a great finish. Mears has a fairly respectable 22.9 average at Kansas, among the best of the drivers in this group and was working his way toward a top-20 finish in the spring before getting collected in a crash. If he can avoid trouble this time around, he should have a solid day.
Are you frustrated with the lack of coverage NASCAR's underdogs receive during the race broadcasts? Amy has all the small teams covered each and every week in The Big Six. Be sure to check it out to see how your favorites fared!
Amy Henderson is a Co-Managing Editor and a Senior Writer for Frontstretch. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Writer_Amy.
Letter of the Race: Sunday's AAA 400 was brought to you by the Letter L for "Long Runs." With few exceptions, races at Dover ever since the track was converted to concrete for 1995 have been far calmer than the early 1990's crash fests that Dover hosted. Races at Dover are not necessarily the most exciting these days, but the introduction of the Chase into the equation actually makes it less exciting than it could be. - Phil Allaway
Sidebar Stories: Dover
by Summer Bedgood
Though Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s Chase hopes are slimming every week, a chance at Victory Lane seemed to be in the works as the laps wound down at Dover International Speedway. Earnhardt, who led a total of 80 laps in the race, wound up second after a four tire call fell short of the victory to eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson's two tire call.
However, Earnhardt may have been able to pull out the win had he not had a couple of pit road miscues earlier on in the race. As Earnhardt, who was leading at the time, attempted to head to pit road for a green flag pit stop at lap 117, he was not able to slow down enough to make the commitment line, and was forced to run around the track another lap. He returned to the track in eighth.
During a second miscue, Earnhardt had to slow up behind Mark Martin at the entrance to pit road, which made Earnhardt's time on pit road much lengthier.
Still, Earnhardt got within a half second of Johnson's bumper as the laps wound down and was only .446 seconds behind him when they crossed the finish line.
"Two weeks in a row, we've had two fantastic race cars," Earnhardt said. "(I'm) proud of all the guys for bringing such good cars to the race track. It certainly makes my job easier, gives us opportunities to win like this. Trying to look on the bright side, I'm a little disappointed we didn't pull off the win. Felt like we had the perfect strategy. Had maybe the best car, arguably the best car, today. With those four tires, I thought we could get it done. We left everybody in the mirror. We were clicking off some laps, but just not fast enough to get to Jimmie."
Earnhardt gained one spot in the standings and is now 10th in points. He is 57 points out of the championship lead.
Carl Edwards Falls in Chase Standings
Carl Edwards entered Dover fourth in the standings, within a one race gap from the lead.
He would leave 11th in the points, 65 points out of the lead.
The culprit? A broken hub sustained at a racetrack that had generally been good to Edwards. A 35th-place finish may have dashed Edwards' hopes at reigning in the series leaders.
"I used to really like Dover -- I really looked forward to this place," said Edwards. "This was tough. We needed the other guys to have problems. We didn't need to have problems. Something broke on the left rear. I don't think it was a mistake by any of my guys."
Edwards had already struggled in the race, who was one lap down with less than 40 laps to go. This weekend, he heads to Kansas Speedway, where he has an average finish of 11th.
Brad Keselowski Struggles in Dover
Defending series champion Brad Keselowski continues to add insult to injury after missing the Chase at Richmond a few weeks ago.
Keselowski looked like he might be able to pull out a top 10 finish at Dover, until oil starting trickling out of the rear end of his No. 2 car. He would pull into the garage on lap 226.
"Something in the rear-end housing went out and burned itself up," Keselowski said while his crewmen worked on the car. "We leaked oil on the track, so (we) figured we would come in before we ruined everybody else's day."
Keselowski would eventually return to the track and finish 37th.
Summer Bedgood is a Senior Writer for Frontstretch. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @SummerBedgood.
Quotes to Remember: AAA 400
compiled by Summer Bedgood
"Two (tires) worked good for us in practice. And believe me; I wanted to see four tires line up in the fourth or fifth row. When they lined up right behind me, I thought I was going to have my hands full. And I really did. Junior drove a whale of a race and track position really gave me the advantage I needed to hold him off. It's good to get this KOBALT Tools Chevrolet in Victory Lane. I'm very excited. I'm very happy to have Mr. Hendrick here. I wish that I had my family here. I want to say hi to my girls at home. Thank you to all the fans and to Sprint. This is just an awesome day and awfully timely in the scheme of things." - Jimmie Johnson, race winner
"Well, Jimmie (Johnson) was just that good. I thought that four tires were going to be enough to get to him and get him out of the way, but he is just that fast around here. That track position is really important and I gave that up early in the race with that mistake coming onto pit road. And it cost us a shot at the win there. We still had it. My crew gave me a good enough car to get us back into it, so I've got to thank them, National Guard, Diet Mountain Dew, Time Warner Cable and all of our partners." - Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished second
"We are concerned about points because we're in the Chase and we're not out of it yet. I just saw we're 66 points back now so we gained a couple, which isn't many, but these are the days we've got to have. We're back on track. The last three weeks have been a little tougher for us and coming here to Dover, my favorite race track, this Shell/Pennzoil team did everything they had to do to get that Ford up front and get closer. Our biggest issue is we didn't take off with really good speed, but after 15-16-17 laps it came to me and it was really fast. It just took a little bit too long there on the last restart. I was able to get up to third, I was in the right lane, but by the time my car came to me I was too late. We were the fastest car the last six laps, but it doesn't really matter when you can barely see the leaders. Unfortunately, that was our day, but, overall, we can't be too disappointed with a third-place finish. It's just that you always want to be a little better." - Joey Logano, finished third
"It was definitely tough. Our Axalta Cromax Pro Chevrolet was very good. We had moments where I felt like we had the best car and there were moments where I felt like we were one of the worst cars. Man, I did not want to see that last caution. I felt like we were really in the perfect position fuel mileage wise, tires, speed of the car, we were just sitting there riding trying to get to the end. Then we had to make a decision on two tires, four tires. I felt like two was going to be the right thing. It worked out for Jimmie (Johnson) to win it. Congrats to him, but just didn't work out for us. Our car just didn't take off very good there." - Jeff Gordon, finished fourth
"We were about a fifth to seventh-place car much of the day and we ended up fifth. The Interstate Batteries Camry got what it could out of it. Certainly, I wish we definitely could've gotten more. We probably could've if I could've got the outside lane on the final restart I probably could've finished third, but we didn't get that. We had to fight through it and pass a couple cars the hard way and we ended up fifth. It's certainly the finish that our car was today. It's frustrating to be fifth, but yet you look at the grand scheme of things and it's three straight top-fives to start the Chase so not bad." - Kyle Busch, finished fifth
"It says we've got a Chase contending team, but it's one week at a time. We've got seven more to go. The first three were good, but we've got to back that up for seven more weeks and we've got to put this 18 car — this M&M's, Interstate Batteries Camry — we've got to put it in Victory Lane here sooner or later." - Dave Rogers, crew chief for Kyle Busch
"That was a long day. All in all, all the guys on our Budweiser Chevy did a good job of just kind of keep pounding away. That is what you have to do here at Dover as you get towards halfway it just kind of seems like you can make up positions by just staying in the game. We just kept ourself in the game today. We didn't have a great car, but we still have some work to do to get the performance a little bit better. We have got to fix pit road." - Kevin Harvick, finished sixth
"When you look up, it's everybody that finished in front of you — it's all cars that you're racing for points. Overall, for how bad I felt like we struggled with the car, that was a decent finish." - Matt Kenseth, finished seventh
"Our day started out really well, the car was great for the first 100 laps or so. It got tight after that and we never could make the right adjustment to get it handling like I needed it to. I think we finished eighth, but I know a lot of the guys we're in the chase with finished ahead of us. All in all, it wasn't a bad day for the State Water Heaters Chevrolet. We got another top-10 finish, which means everyone can go to Outback Steakhouse and get a free Bloomin' Onion, and we paid ten mortgages with Quicken Loans' "Bring it Home" promotion." - Ryan Newman, finished eighth
"We've just got to keep working at it. We're learning stuff as we go, so we'll just keep trying to get better every week. We went back and forth between being too loose and too tight, but I think we learned something today as to why we've run so bad here the last two or three years. That's good for later on, but not good for today. Now we know. We stumbled on to a little bit of grip, so maybe that will help us at other places." - Greg Biffle, finished ninth
"I'm proud of everyone on our 5-hour ENERGY team. We've had a rough start to the Chase, but we worked hard and put ourselves in a good position to go for the win today. Unfortunately, that caution there at the end ruined our plan, but we were good enough and smart enough to get a win today. That is a tough one to swallow, but I'm ready to go to Kansas next week. It's my home track and I'm looking forward to racing in front of my home crowd." - Clint Bowyer, finished tenth
"We don't know yet. Something was wrong and we lost a lot of power. Didn't seem like the engine, maybe it was something else like tail pipes or something. We are not real sure. We just salvaged a good finish and we didn't pit there and got a top-15. So that was good for what we had and what we were dealt with." - Kasey Kahne, finished 13th
"Chad (Johnston, crew chief) took a real chance today with our setup and I am proud of him for it. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Sometimes you have to think outside the box. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite right and a long green-flag run cost us a lap. But we fought back with some really big changes and got us in position for two chances to get our lap back, but it just didn't happen for us. It's a shame because we were turning top-five, top-10 times. Chad did a great job adjusting on our NAPA Shocks Toyota. It was a top-10 car from halfway on. We made a lot of progress. If we would have gotten our lap back, we would have had something for them." - Martin Truex Jr., finished 15th
"A loose wheel did us in. We were way off at the start, but after the first pit stop we made some good changes and started to make a move. But once again, we had an issue with a loose wheel (right rear, Lap 156) and that put us a couple of laps down. And with the lack of cautions, we couldn't make it up. This is the Chase and you can't afford to have these problems. We need to regroup and get it together for Kansas next week." - Kurt Busch, finished 21st
"It was a long, hard-fought day for our Taco Bell team. We threw a lot of changes at it from yesterday and the guys kept working on it the whole race. We had a good day on pit road, too. So, we would've liked a little bit better finish, but we'll take it and get ready for the short week before heading to Kansas." - David Ragan, finished 25th
"Overall, we gave it the best effort we could. Greg hung on and got a decent finish, but we've really got to step it up now to have a chance. We did not need to have that trouble, but there's a lot of racing left. We don't quit. We just have to keep moving." - Carl Edwards, finished 35th
"I'm not exactly sure, but something in the rear end housing went out and burned itself up. I'm sure everything is screaming hot down there. We leaked oil on the track, so figured we would come in before we ruined everybody else's day. We definitely weren't gonna finish it off, so it's just one of those deals." - Brad Keselowski, finished 37th
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TODAY ON THE FRONTSTRETCH:
by Mike Neff
by Amy Henderson
Johnson Making His Move? Perhaps... But Don't Hand Him A Trophy Yet
by Summer Bedgood
by Kevin Rutherford
Q: This weekend, the Izod IndyCar Series travels to Reliant Park in Houston for the revival of an older street festival event that ChampCar held. What was notable about the first race in 2006?
Check back Tuesday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Q: Dale Earnhardt's 1992 season was tied for the worst full season of his Winston Cup career. It was one of only two seasons in his career that he failed to finish in the top-10 in points. The Peak AntiFreeze 500 at Dover could have been a great day for him, but it just wasn't meant to be. What knocked him down the order?
Coming Tuesday in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Top News by Tom Bowles
-- Fan's View Commentary by S.D. Grady
-- Numbers Game: AAA 400 by Tom Bowles
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!
Tomorrow on the Frontstretch:
Brad gives up something to look forward to going into Kansas. He's tracking the trends of the past few weeks to see which drivers are on a tear... or tearing their hair out.
Racing To The Point by Brett Poirier
Brett is back with another commentary to make you think.
Going By The Numbers by Kevin Rutherford
Kevin enlightens us with his weekly statistics column based on trends we've been seeing in the Cup Series so far this season.
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