Mark Martin has done his fair share of “Monster Mashing” at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, but it wasn’t meant to be in the AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday. Driving in place of the injured Tony Stewart, Martin battled handling issues all weekend around the 1-mile concrete oval but still turned in a gutsy performance behind the wheel of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) to earn a 19th-place finish at the aptly named “Monster Mile”.
From the word “go” Friday at Dover, Martin and Co. struggled to find a working balance on the No. 14 Chevy, going back and forth with various setups throughout each of the race weekend’s three practice sessions. Martin started the race in 29th-place and held his own in the early going, making slight progress by climbing into the top-25 during the first 50 laps.
While the tight-handling issues he experienced during the race weekend persisted, Martin said the car would free up as a run continued. But a blistering pace set by the race leaders resulted in the No. 14 Chevy going one lap down by the time the first 100 laps were completed. Despite being out of contention for the win, Martin continued to provide valuable feedback in hopes of correcting the handling issues and providing notes for future events at Dover.
As the laps continued ticking off, the team worked to massage the car’s handling. Taking advice from crew chief Steve Addington, Martin went into fuel conservation mode during the final 50 laps of the race. It proved to be a fruitful decision when the last caution was displayed on lap 370. The team elected to stay out and take the wave-around to get back one of the laps it lost during the 400-lap race, enabling Martin to conserve the necessary fuel needed to complete the race and secure the top-20 finish.
Ryan Newman, driver of SHR’s No. 39 State Water Heaters Chevrolet SS, finished eighth to score his 14th top-10 finish of the season and his 12th top-10 finish in 24 career Sprint Cup starts at Dover.
Newman is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and entered the third race of the 10-race Chase ninth among the 13 Chase drivers, 47 points behind Chase leader Matt Kenseth. Newman leaves Dover seventh in the standings, 48 points behind Kenseth.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 29th. It was Patrick’s 39th career Sprint Cup start and her third at Dover. Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 12 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 17th.
Jimmie Johnson won the AAA 400 to score his 65th career Sprint Cup victory, his fifth of the season and his eighth at Dover, making him the track’s all-time race win leader.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished .446 of a second behind Johnson in the runner-up spot, while Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick, Kenseth, Newman, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were four caution periods for 21 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 400-lap race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Hollywood Casino 400 Oct. 6 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a pre-race show at 1 p.m.