Sunday's happenings and notes at the MBNA Platinum 400, Dover International Speedway: Matt Kenseth's weekend should have ended with his pole position, because it turned around sharply from there. A blown engine Saturday forced his crew to change...
Sunday's happenings and notes at the MBNA Platinum 400, Dover International Speedway:
Matt Kenseth's weekend should have ended with his pole position, because it turned around sharply from there. A blown engine Saturday forced his crew to change powerplants and sent his DeWalt Ford to the rear before the green under NASCAR's one-engine rule. His day effectively ended in the turn-three wall on lap 214.
"We just lost a right-front tire," Kenseth said. "I don't know that we could have been much looser. We tightened it up every stop but it was still loose all day."
Little happened to Steve Park that might quell rumors he's on his way out at Dale Earnhardt Inc. as driver of the Pennzoil Chevrolet. Park's run was interrupted when he made conact with Ryan Newman and ended up in the wall on lap 124, the same incident that took out leader Mark Martin.
While the crew hammered on his car, Park was enraged.
"Just look on TV and you can see that the 12 car just smacked into the side of us. The media needs to pump up all the young guns so they can drive just like Ryan Newman did," Park fumed. "We're having a tough year. We had a good car. But to have a rookie take us out in a dumb, dumb move is just jackass, that's all."
Craftsman Truck Series and more recently, Busch Series regular Tony Raines made his Winston Cup debut aboard the Staff America Chevrolet owned by Bill Baumgardner. Raines, a former American Speed Association standout from LaPorte, Ind., started 17th and finished 31st, two spots ahead of his teammate, Chad Little. Baumgardner is a principal in the BACE Motorsports team that won Busch Series championships with Johnny Benson Jr. and Randy LaJoie.
With none of his three teams among the top 20 in Winston Cup Series points, Richard Childress has made it clear he wants improvement. Fast. So fast that he ordered Robby Gordon and Kevin Harvick to swap crews, beginning at Dover. Gordon had a decent day, remaining on the lead lap all day and finishing eighth, his first top-10 of 2002. Harvick grappled with poor handling throughout the race and was 28th, four laps down. Jeff Green fared still worse, drilling the wall after losing a tire on lap 292 and ending up 38th.
"We just popped a tire going into three," Green said. "We had a good day going. A pretty good day, anyway."
The dice roll didn't work, but Havoline Ford crew chief Michael McSwain defended his call to keep Ricky Rudd on the track during a short caution for debris on lap 306.
"We thought we could make it (to the finish) on gas, and we decided to take a little gamble because we only had eight laps on our tires. Track position is so important here."
On the lap 311 restart, Rudd stretched his lead until Jimmie Johnson caught him on lap 360. Eleven laps later, the yellow waved again and this time, Johnson stayed out instead and made the gamble work. Johnson won, and Rudd, who stopped for fresh tires on the last caution, had his run self-destruct when his crew sent him out with a loose wheel. Rudd lost a lap correcting the miscue and finished 19th.
"It seems like we always get these little deals that bite us when we've got a chance to win," Rudd said. "I don't know what to say. It's just bad luck, I guess."
On the other end of the equation was Johnson.
"We had to pit and Rudd stayed out, and at that point, we figured, let's just try and get a top-five finish," Johnson said. "Then the next thing I know, we're out of cars and the 28's right in front of us. Then the last caution comes out, and I knew that was going to shake the bag a little, and Mr. Hendrick (his co-car owner, with Jeff Gordon) came on the radio and said, `I think you guys need to stay out there.'"