Tires proved to be the downfall for many Chase contenders this weekend at Dover International Speedway. And oddly enough all the tire dilemmas seemed to be in the Roush stable. Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth all had superior rides but ...
Tires proved to be the downfall for many Chase contenders this weekend at Dover International Speedway. And oddly enough all the tire dilemmas seemed to be in the Roush stable. Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth all had superior rides but troubles relegated them to poor finishes.
Tires weren't the problem for Tony Stewart, who entered Dover atop the point grid. He just had a bad car. Pit strategy and hard driving got Stewart a decent finish but he still must concede ground as he drops four spots.
The Phoenix rising, however, seems to be Jimmie Johnson, who has just been lackluster in the last seven events. Johnson has been vocal about this team getting their emotions under control so that they could regain focus; looks like team 48 has finally been able to achieve that with their win this weekend.
1. JIMMIE JOHNSON: Race Winner, Point leader
Led 132 laps on his way to his third win of the year and 17th of his career. Johnson now leads the points with Rusty Wallace just seven points behind.
"I think one big factor is testing and when a team chooses to test," said Johnson of what caused his team's turnaround. "We have been saving our test sessions for the final ten. We have three more tests coming up.its hard to know why you go from dominating to running tenth. But we have seen it a lot this year. Teams get on a hot streak and then people catch up."
2. RUSTY WALLACE: Finished third, (-7)
Wallace grabbed just his second top-three of the season. Strong showing for the No. 2 Dodge who had difficulty on pit road all day as Wallace was forced to back up to leave his stall several times - Wallace was pitted next to the No. 38 of Sadler on a notoriously tight pit road.
"The crazy thing is I am probably driving right now better than I ever drove in my life," Wallace mused. "I guess I don't need to be retiring, but hey, I've made the decision to do that. Still the thing I want to do is go out on top of my game, and I think we're doing a good job out there for these fans. I really love these fans and I appreciate the job they're doing, pulling behind me."
3. RYAN NEWMAN: Finished fifth, (-12)
Newman started on the pole and led thirty laps before tight conditions started dropping the No. 12 Dodge through the top ten. Despite struggling all afternoon Newman brought home a top-five.
"We proved we had the fastest race car but we didn't win the race," Newman said. "So, yeah, we can be disappointed. But, if we had qualified 25th and finished fifth, then it would be a little bit of a different story."
4. MARK MARTIN: Finished fourth, (-21)
Strong even run for the No. 6 Roush Ford.
"She was awesome," Martin said. "It was a great car and it went better the longer the race went. It's just tremendous to drive for this team. This whole weekend was right there at the top of the list. They tried to win. I told them, I've got 34 wins. Don't do that. You need every point you can get here, so it'll be OK."
5. TONY STEWART: Finished 18th, falls from first to fifth (-23)
Stewart had a poor qualifying effort at Dover, starting the No. 20 Chevy from the 31r-st position. He was lapped twice, being the lucky dog recipient both times to get him back on the lead lap. But his car was junk all day.
Through pit strategy the No. 20 team managed to get back within the top-20 during the races final 100 laps.
"Nobody saw this coming that is for sure," Stewart commented. "This thing drove a lot better yesterday; I don't know why it was so bad today. But, I thank all these guys on the Home Depot team. None of us gave up all day. We got a lap down twice and got the lucky dog twice and got back. Just tried to so what a lot of guys do which pays off which has never paid off for us which was short-pitting like that.
"It got us a lap down to where we couldn't get in the top ten. But, I'm just proud of them. It was a lot better car at the end that from where we started."
6. GREG BIFFLE: Finished 13th, (-23)
Biffle ran in the top three most of the afternoon until a flat tire on lap 302 forced him onto pit road under green. That dropped the No. 16 Ford two laps down in 26th spot.
"That's not too bad considering what happened to us today," Biffle said. "We just did what we could and that was all we could do. It was a tough day, but we kind of came back from it and finished 13th. The car wasn't as good as it was in the spring, but it was pretty decent. We just couldn't quite get it done."
7. JEREMY MAYFIELD: Finished seventh, (-81)
Quiet top ten run for the No. 19 Dodge team.
"It was just back and forth all day," Mayfield explained. "It was a good day for us. I guess. We wanted more than that. We were close, so close, to getting it being just right. We had a really good run, but we just kept missing it. We kept missing it just a little bit. We were back and forth: tight, loose, loose, tight, loose, tight, and then tight at the end. But, overall the crew did a good job. We've just got to get better and keep going."
8. CARL EDWARDS: Finished ninth, (-103)
Edwards has a relatively uneventful race spending most of the afternoon mired in the top-20. In the races closing laps, however, Edwards got the No. 99 Ford into position for a top ten result.
"We kind of backed into that one with a top ten," said Edwards. "I don't know where that puts us in points, but I think it was a good points day the way everything worked out. We just had some lucky pit strategy."
9. MATT KENSETH: Finished 35th, (-124)
Kenseth was running in the top five when a flat tire on lap 217 forced him to pit under green. He restarted 32nd and worked his way up to 11th before losing another tire on lap 368.
This time the No. 17 hit the wall causing heavy damage on Kenseth's Ford sending him to the garage.
"We had a flat tire and came back from that," Kenseth said. "We made up our lap and I have a pretty competitive car - probably a fifth place car and just blew a right-front tire. I felt it shaking a little bit for a lap or two and slowed way down. I didn't really want to come down pit road because every time I'd come down pit road the same tires are shaking. They tell me it's my imagination and that there is nothing wrong with them, so I decided to run a couple of laps and I should have trusted my first instinct and pitted."
10. KURT BUSCH: Finished 23rd, (-170)
After a disastrous start to the Chase in New Hampshire where Busch was knocked out of the race on lap 3 and fell to 10th in points; Dover looked to be the medicine the No. 97 team needed.
Until lap 366.
"We just didnt finish where we ran today, bottom line," Busch said. "We had a good Crown Royal Ford. We led some laps. We just didn't finish where we were supposed to."
Busch came down for a needed pit stop under green, but two laps later a caution came out trapping Busch in 12th. He was trying to work his way back to the front when a flat tire on lap 378 sent him to the pits again. A pass thru penalty for entering pit road too fast was the capper on a supremely crappy day for Team 97.
ON THE BUBBLE: (The 11th place participant at the end of the year makes the stage at the Nextel championship banquet in New York City)
11. ELLIOTT SADLER, Finished 6th, jumps three spots to 11th
A top-ten result plus bonus points for leading a lap jumped Sadler back into 11th spot in series standings. It was a turn around afternoon for the 38 team who has not a top-10 since the July race in Sonoma. Sadler also had the added weight of crew chief Todd Parrott being switched to the No. 88 of Dale Jarrett earlier this week.
"We had some great pit calls today," explained Sadler. "The two-tire stop and then staying out. I'm very proud of Kevin (Buskirk, interim crew chief). He had a lot of load on his shoulders this weekend and him and Raymond (Fox, car chief) pulled together, along with the rest of the guys and had a great, great day."
Kevin Harvick (-40), Jamie McMurray (-47) and Jeff Gordon (-72) are chasing Sadler for the coveted 11th place position.