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Instant Analysis: Dover

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Tom Jensen

   
 
Instant Analysis: Dover

Instant Analysis from Tom Jensen

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A lifelong gearhead, Tom Jensen reports on automobiles and auto racing for SPEEDTV.com. Jensen has been writing about both topics for more than 15 years and is the former managing editor of National Speed Sport News. He is the recipient of the 1997 National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award and numerous other journalism awards. Jensen's latest book is "Cheating: An Inside Look At The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit Of Speed." Click here for Tom Jensen's columns.

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  • Past races: California | Las Vegas | Atlanta | Bristol | Martinsville | Texas | Phoenix | Talladega | Richmond | Darlington | Charlotte | Dover | Pocono | Michigan | Sonoma | Daytona | Chicagoland | New Hampshire | Pocono | Brickyard | Watkins Glen | Michigan | Bristol | California | Richmond | New Hampshire

    Kim: I thought if you finished second in a race, in the mind of a true racer, it was merely first loser? There should be a bonus to the winners of a race, perhaps increase it in the Chase. Too bad there hasn't been a situation like back when Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki raced and when it came to who lead the most laps, and Kulwicki won the championship because he led the most laps.

    Tom Jensen: Kim, as I stated earlier, I think you'll see more points awarded to the race winners next year. And most people agree that's a change that needs to be made.


    They will be talking about this race for years to come:

  • Jeff Burton's first victory in 175 races
  • Richard Childress Racing's third consecutive victory in a week when the team stared down two separate cheating allegations.
  • Critical mistakes by Matt Kenseth that cost him the race and, ultimately, perhaps the 2006 series title.
  • An equally damaging late-race engine failure in Kevin Harvick's RCR Chevrolet.
  • Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne all but out of Chase contention and Jimmie Johnson in dire trouble.

  • All in all, it was a wild, wild Sunday at the Monster Mile.

    What an amazing finish to the Dover 400: Jeff Burton wins for the first time in 175 races and unofficially takes over the points lead as the last 30 laps are loaded with drama and huge import to the title battle.

    Unofficially, Burton leads the standings by just 6 points over Gordon. Kenseth and Hamlin are tied for third (-18). Then it's Harvick in fifth (-54), followed by Martin (-75) and Earnhardt (-102). Johnson is eighth (-136), with Kahne ninth (-182) and Busch 10th (-224) .


    Holy cow, what a finish!!!! Burton wins, followed by Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Busch, Biflle, Truex, Labontte, Bowyer, Hamlin and Kenseth. Johnson is 13th, Martin 14th, Earnhardt, 21st, Harvick 29th, Kahne 38th and Busch 40th.

    Lap 400: Kenseth is out of gas and so is Sorenson!!!

    Lap 399: Burton's lead is 0.566 seconds.

    Lap 398: Burton opens a little bit of a lead.

    Lap 395: Burton takes the lead on the backstretch, but Kenseth is all over his bumper. This thing is not over.

    Lap 392: Burton is working the bottom, but Kenseth is holding him down.

    Lap 391: It looked like Burton got him, but he couldn't hold it and Kenseth is still in the lead.

    Lap 390: Vickers gets out of the way and lets Kenseth and Burton go by.

    Lap 388: Kenseth and Burton close on lapped traffic. What a nail biter!

    Lap 385: Burton alongside Kenseth, but can't get it done.

    Lap 382: Burton is going high, low and every way but sideways, but can't pass Burton.

    Lap 380: Burton is all over Kenseth, giving him a teriffic battle.

    Lap 379: Burton nose-to-tail with Kenseth.

    Lap 373: The DNF is Harvick's first of the year. Burton is right on Kenseth's tail for the lead.

    Lap 371: Gordon passes Bowyer for sixth.

    Lap 370: 30 laps to go and Burton is just 0.333 seconds back, looking for his first victory in 175 races. What a story it would be if he could win. Or will his engine break, too, like Harvick's and, perhaps, Bowyer's?

    Lap 367: Harvick's motor blows. He's just lost the points lead. This is huge!

    Lap 366: With Harvick's engine failing, teammate Bowyer is reporting motor problems, too.

    Lap 363: Burton is only 0.522 seconds behind Kenseth. Could this be his first victory since Phoenix in 2001?

    Lap 362: Harvick's engine is badly off song and he's now 13th, one lap down.

    Lap 360: 40 laps to go and Kenseth leads Burton by 1.079 seconds and his margin is now shrinking for the first time. Busch is third and Sorenson fourth, which would be the best finish of his rookie year. Bowyer is fifth.

    Lap 355: Edwards takes sixth from Gordon.

    Lap 354: Harvick is having a motor issue of some sort.

    Lap 352: Harvick reporting unspecified problems.

    Lap 350: With just 50 laps to go, it's Kenseth pulling away by 2.183 seconds over Burton, who has moved to second, then Busch, Sorenson, Bowyer, Gordon, Edwards, Truex, Labonte and Biffle.

    Lap 345: Kenseth has been told he has enough fuel to go the distance. His lead is 1.609 seconds.

    Lap 340: Burton passes Sorenson for third, Bowyer passes Gordon for sixth.

    Kenseth's lead over Busch is 1.377 seconds. Johnson is the first car one lap down, which means he's in position for the Lucky Dog. He really needs a caution for a chance at a decent points day.

    Lap 335: Burton pressuring Sorenson for third place.

    Lap 333: Earnhardt's tire might not be flat, but he's still way, way behind and could take a bad points hit.

    Lap 330: Earnhardt reporting a flat tire and falls to 26th.

    Lap 328: Green flag. Kenseth, Busch and Sorenson didn't pit, but the cars from fourth place on back did.

    Kenseth has now clinched the five bonus points for most laps led.

    Lap 325: Shockingly, Kenseth doesn't pit. All the rest of the lead-lap cars do. The order out of the pits is Kenseth, Busch, Sorenson, Burton, Gordon. Bowyer. Edwards, Labonte, Harvick, Hamlin, Truex, Biffle and Blaney. Everyone else is at least one lap down.


    Caution 10

    Lap 324: Caution No. 10. J.J. Yeley spins coming out of Turn 4 by himself to bring out the yellow. The Lucky Dog is Biffle, who has had one of the fastest cars all day. There will be 13 cars on the lead lap, counting Biffle.

    Lap 320: With just 80 laps to go, Kenseth leads Busch by 1.443 seconds. Then it's Edwards, Bowyer, Burton. Gordon, Sorenson, Hamlin, Labonte and Blaney. Harvick is 11th, Johnson 14th, Martin 16th and Earnhardt 19th.

    Lap 315: Kenseth's lead over Busch is 1.626 seconds. Kenseth is marginal on fuel to go the distance.

    Lap 309: Kenseth puts Biffle a lap down. Busch is second, Edwards is third, Bowyer fourth and Burton fifth. Then it's Gordon, Sorenson, Hamlin, Labonte and Harvick.

    Lap 308: Kenseth puts Johnson a lap down.

    Lap 306: Green flag. Kenseth has four cars at the tail-end of the lead lap in front of him: Johnson, Biffle, Truex ands McMurray.

    Lap 305: Sorenson pitted to top off his fuel tank. Hamlin, Harvick and Blaney also topped off. Labonte got the Lucky Dog.

    Lap 301: The order after the lead-lap cars stopped: Kenseth, Edwards, Busch, Burton, Bowyer, Sorenson, Gordon, Blaney, Harvick, Hamlin and Bobby Labonte. Not on the lead lap are Johnson (14th), Martin (17th), Earnhardt (25th), Kahne (38th) and Kyle Busch (40th).

    Lap 300: The 10 lead-lap cars all pit. The big winner in all this is Harvick, who has been junk all day but used pit strategy to stay in the top 10 and on the lead lap. If he can avoid trouble for the rest of the race, he's virtually assurred a good points day at one of his least-favorite tracks. The same can be said for Hamlin.


    Caution 9

    Lap 298: Caution No. 9. Riggs crashes after an apparent right-front-tire failure and a small fire in his car. This will be a lengthy yellow while the mess from Riggs's car is cleaned up. Now, there are 10 cars on the lead lap.

    Lap 297: Truex pits for fuel.

    Lap 295: The long green-flag period means there are just 12 cars on the lead-lap now.

    The order is now Kenseth by 8.5 seconds, Truex, Busch, Edwards and Bowyer. Sorenson is sixth, followed by Burton, Gordon, Newman and Harvick.

    Lap 290: Johnson pits a little later than he expected.

    Fuel mileage and pit strategy could determine the outcome of this race.

    Lap 288: Martin pits under green and takes four also.

    Lap 286: Sadler pits under green and takes four tires.

    Lap 283: Earnhardt pits with a flat right-front tire. He comes out in 27th place. Biffle is now up to 21st.

    Several drivers — including Harvick and Earnhardt — have found out that taking two tires on a pit stop flat doesn't work.

    Lap 275: Kenseth leads Johnson by 1.315 seconds. Busch is nearly 6 seconds back in third, followed by Martin, Truex. Bowyer, Edwards, Sorenson, Burton and Gordon.

    Lap 273: Kenseth has now led 93 laps and is well positioned to lead the most laps and pick up the five bonus points for most laps led.

    Lap 270: Gordon has worked his way back into the top 10.

    Lap 269: Johnson expected to pit between Lap 280-285.

    Lap 265: Biffle pits, handing the lead to Kenseth. Biffle's stop is 14.2 seconds, but he comes out 26th, more than one full lap down.

    Lap 262: Kenseth passes Johnson for second and is 2.438 seconds behind teammate Biffle.

    Lap 260: Biffle leads Johnson by 2.019 seconds, followed by Kenseth, Busch, Martin, Truex, Bowyer. Sorenson, Burton and Edwards.

    Lap 257: Johnson has cut Biffle's lead to less than 2 seconds.

    Lap 255: Leaders Biffle and Johnson will need to pit in 10 to 15 laps.

    Lap 251: Busch passes Martin for fourth.

    Lap 250: Biffle continues to hold the point. Johnson is second, 3.276 seconds behind. Then it's Martin, Busch, Truex, Sadler, Bowyer, Earnhardt and Sorenson.

    Lap 249: Kenseth passes Martin for third.

    Lap 245: Biffle's lead is 4.111 seconds over Johnson.

    Lap 242: Martin and Kenseth blow by Sadler for third and fourth place, respectively. That means three Roushkateers in the top four now.

    Lap 240: Earnhardt slides back to ninth place.

    Gordon is 15th, Harvick 17th.

    Lap 237: Kenseth passes McMurray for fifth; these Roush teammates finished 1-2 here in June. Right now, three Roush Ford Fusions are in the top five.

    Lap 234: Johnson passes Sadler for second, while Kenseth gets by his old pal Earnhardt for sixth.

    Lap 232: Kenseth passes Busch for seventh.

    Lap 231: Kenseth is up to eighth.

    Lap 230: Top five still the same. Biffle's lead up to 2.852 seconds.

    Lap 225: Biffle's lead over Sadler is 2.226 seconds.

    Lap 224: Kenseth is up to ninth.

    Lap 220: Top five remains Biffle, Sadler, Johnson, Martin and McMurray. Earnhardt is sixth, Kenseth 10th, Harvick 11th, Burton 13th and Gordon 16th. Hamlin is 24th.

    Lap 214: Green flag. The top five cars in the running order all stayed out and didn't pit during the last caution period.

    Lap 208: Sorenson leads most of the lead-lap cars onto pit road. Biffle takes over the lead, followed by Sadler, Johnson, Martin, Jamie McMurray, Newman, Earnhardt, Sorenson and Harvick. Kenseth is 12th, Burton 15th, Gordon 17th, Hamlin 21st, Kyle Busch 38th and Kahne 40th.


    Caution 8

    Lap 206: Caution No. 8. Stanton Barrett crashed at the start-finish line after the panhard bar apparently broke on the rear of his car.

    Lap 200: It's officially a race as we've reached half distance. Sorenson leads Biffle by 1.522 seconds. Third is Busch, followed by Edwards, Truex, Kenseth, Newman, Bowyer, Burton and Sadler.

    Lap 194: It looks like it will be an official race, as even if the rains start now, the field could run six laps under caution, if necessary.

    Lap 190: Green flag. The top nine cars didn't pit under that last caution. The guys who stayed out have track position, but an extra 20 laps on their tires.

    The order is now: Sorenson, Biffle, Busch, Edwards, Truex, Newman, Burton, Kenseth, Blaney and Bowyer. Earnhardt is 13th, Gordon 14th, Martin 15th, Johnson 16th, Harvick 18th, Hamlin 24th, Kyle Busch 38th and Kahne 40th.

    Lap 187: Sorenson stays out and so does Biffle, as roughly half the 24 lead-laps cars pit and half stay out.


    Caution 7

    Lap 185: Caution No. 7. Kevin Lepage backs it into the fence in Turn 2. Hamlin gets the Lucky Dog.

    The good news: It looks like the race will make it to half distance 200 laps before the rains come, which will make it an official race.

    Lap 180: Sorenson leads Boywer by 1.543 seconds. Then it's Biffle, Earnhardt, Busch, Edwards, Gordon, Sadler, Truex and Newman.

    Lap 176: Kenseth passes Harvick for 15th place.

    Lap 175: Sorenson leads Bowyer by 1.045 seconds.

    Lap 172: Kenseth already is up to 17th place after his disastrous pit stop. You can't afford mistakes in the Chase.

    Lap 169: Green flag.

    Lap 167: Sorenson takes the lead on Kenseth's blunder. Then it's Bowyer, Biffle, Earnhardt. Gordon, Busch, Edwards, Sadler, Newman and Truex. Sadler is complaining of a misfire.

    Lap 166: Lead-lap cars pit. Kenseth pits outside pit stall. The team has to push him back in and as a result he has a really long stop, falling all the way to 20th. What a huge mistake for the 2003 series champ.


    Caution 6

    Lap 165: Caution No. 6. The yellow is for debris in Turn 3. Look for all 24 lead-lap cars to pit. Dave Blaney gets the Lucky Dog.

    Lap 156: Harvick is up to 18th, but if the track stays green, he soon will be in danger of being lapped.

    Lap 154: Kahne is back on the track after more than one hour in the garage for repairs.

    Lap 152: Hamlin is lapped.

    Kenseth leads Sorenson by 2.30 seconds. Then it's Busch. Biffle, Earnhardt, Bowyer, Gordon, Edwards, Sadler and Johnson.

    Lap 150: If the drivers can make it 50 more laps until the rains come, the race will be official.

    Lap 147: Rookie Reed Sorenson asserts himself by taking second place from Kurt Busch. Denny Hamlin is 26th, the last car on the lead lap and he is in danger of being lapped.

    Lap 141: Biffle passes Earnhardt for fourth place.

    Lap 140: Kenseth's lead over Kurt Busch is 1.758 seconds.

    "We're done," Kyle Busch says of his championship hopes. He will finish the day somewhere between 37th and 39th place, depending on how many laps the crashed cars of Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon are able to complete.

    Lap 130: Sorenson passes Sadler for third place.

    Lap 129: Kurt Busch passes Sadler for second place.

    Lap 126: Kenseth is back out front and looking to become the fourth driver since 2000 to sweep at the Monster Mile.

    Lap 120: It looks as if Kahne and Kyle Busch will both be more than 200 points behind after Dover. Harvick now is 21st, Hamlin 28th.

    Lap 114: Sadler passes Kenseth for the lead, with Kurt Busch third, Sorenson fourth and Earnhardt fifth.

    Lap 112: Edwards is up to 11th after his pit road flub that had dropped him to 23rd.

    Lap 111: Busch pits with blown engine. And then there were eight drivers left with a chance in the Chase.

    Lap 109: Kyle Busch is back to 18th already. That's a tough break.

    Lap 107: Kyle Busch reporting his engine is blowing up. Strike two from the Chase if his motor does indeed fail.

    So far, Kenseth has led the most laps, which could pay off with five bonus points.

    Lap 105: Green flag. Kenseth gets away cleanly.

    Lap 100: Lead-lap cars all pit. The Kenseth's Killer Bees keep his Roush Racing Ford on the point as he leads Sadler, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Earnhardt. Sorenson, Newman, Biffle, Gordon and Truex. Johnson is 15th, Burton 17th, Martin 19th, Harvick 23rd, Hamlin 27th and, of course, Kahne is still 42nd as his wrecked car is in the garage.


    Caution 5

    Lap 99: Caution No. 5. Robby Gordon hits the Turn 3 wall hard and heads to the garage. Tony Raines gets the Lucky Dog.

    Lap 96: Earnhardt passes Newman for fifth. Points leader Harvick is making no progress; he's back in 24th.

    Lap 95: Kyle Busch passes big brother Kurt for third.

    Again, the race will become official at Lap 200, so we're almost halfway to halfway.

    Lap 90: Kenseth leads Sadler by 1.841 seconds. Then it's the Busch brothers, Kurt in third and Kyle in fourth. Newman is fifth. Sixth is Earnhardt, followed by Sorenson, Truex, Biffle and Jeff Gordon.

    Lap 85: Chasers order in the race: Kenseth, 1st; Busch, 4th; Earnhardt, 6th; Gordon, 11th; Johnson, 16th; Burton, 19th; Martin, 20th; Harvick, 24th; Hamlin, 28th; Kahne, 42nd.

    Lap 80: Kenseth's lead is now 1.103 seconds. Then it's Sadler, Newman, Kurt Busch, Sorenson, Kyle Busch, Earnhardt, Biffle, Truex, Scott Riggs and Jeff Gordon.

    Lap 74: Kenseth, who won here in June, takes the lead for the first time. With Harvick struggling, Kenseth has a chance to make up some big points this week.

    Lap 70: After dominating in the last month, the RCR Chevrolets of Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick are 20th and 21st, respectively, about where they've run most of the day. Johnson is up to 18th.

    Lap 67: Stewart back in the race, 53 laps down.

    Lap 63: Kenseth passes Newman for second. Stremme has already fallen all the way back to 15th place after leading briefly.

    Lap 60: Sadler's lead over Newman is 1.898 seconds. Then it's Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Sorenson, Stremme, Kyle Busch, Biffle, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

    Lap 55: Earnhardt is 12th, Martin 18th, Burton 19th, Harvick 23rd, Johnson 24th and Hamlin 32nd not a good day for the points leaders.

    Lap 53: Green flag. Sadler takes lead from Stremme as the green-flag falls.

    Lap 49: Lead-lap cars all pit. Edwards misses his pit and has to back up, a bad mistake that drops him to 23rd. David Stremme didn't pit and takes the lead. Sadler emerges from the pits ahead of Newman, Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers, Sorenson, Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr.


    Caution 4

    Lap 48: Caution No. 4. Ragan spins on the backstretch in an odd crash that looks as if something broke on his car. Kyle Busch is up to eighth, Johnson 25th.

    Lap 46: Kurt Busch is pressuring his Penske Racing South teammate Ryan Newman for third, as Edwards now has a lead of more than 4 seconds.

    Lap 40: Edwards leads Roush teammate Kenseth by 2.481 seconds. Then it's Newman, Sorenson, Kurt Busch, Bowyer, Sadler, Biffle, Robby Gordon and Kurt Busch.

    Lap 36: Mark Martin is falling back a bit, now down to 15th. Johnson is up to 32nd after his pit-road penalty.

    Lap 33: Kenseth, on fresh tires, goes under Newman for second place. Points leader Harvick is 27th, his teammate Burton is 20th, one spot up on Earnhardt. Kyle Busch is up to 12th, Gordon 16th.

    Lap 29: Edwards takes the lead for the first time, passing Newman. The only Chasers in the top 10 are Kenseth in third and Martin in 10th.

    The race needs to go to 200 laps to be official.

    Lap 27: Green flag.

    Lap 25: Many of the lead-lap cars take advantage of the caution to pit. Newman, the race leader, did not pit. The order out of the pits: Newman, Edwards, Kenseth, Sorenson, Kurt Busch, Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Martin, Robby Gordon and Elliott Sadler. Jeff Gordon is 20th; Johnson sent to tail end of longest line because a tire rolled away during his stop. He's now 39th.


    Caution 3

    Lap 23: Caution No. 3. Ragan spins out in Turn 3 with an assist from Ken Schrader, but he keeps it off the wall.

    Lap 20: Order out front remains Newman, Gordon, Kenseth, Edwards and Sorenson. Martin has slipped to ninth. Newman already has led more laps today than he had in the prior 27 races combined.

    Lap 16: Green flag. Newman holds leads, as he has from the start. "It kills us," Kahne says of the wreck. "It pretty much kills us for the championship."

    Lap 14: Order of cars in Chase: Gordon, 2nd; Kenseth, 3rd; Martin, 6th; Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 13th; Jimmie Johnson, 14th; Jeff Burton, 17th; Harvick 18th; Kyle Busch, 20th; Denny Hamlin, 23rd; Kasey Kahne, 42nd.

    The top five is still Newman, Gordon, Kenseth, Edwards and Sorenson.


    Caution 2

    Lap 11: Caution No. 2 as Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne wreck. Stewart spins by himself in Turns 3 and 4, slides up the hill and sends Kahne's car hard into the outside wall. Wow, this will really hurt his Chase chances, which weren't good to begin with.

    Lap 10: Newman leads Gordon by 0.368 seconds

    Lap 9: Martin passes Biffle for seventh.

    Lap 8: Green flag. The top 10 is Newman, Jeff Gordon, Kenseth, Edwards, Sorenson, Joe Nemechek, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch and Sterling Marlin. The restart is single file as all the cars on the track are on the lead lap.

    Kevin Lepage also scraped the wall, following a tap from Robby Gordon.

    Lap 5: Kevin Harvick has moved the most of any Chaser so far, climbing from 25th to 21st before the yellow came out.


    Caution 1

    Lap 3: Caution No. 1 as Travis Kvapil hits Turn 4 wall.

    Lap 1: Green flag. Ryan Newman takes the lead at the start ahead of Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Reed Sorenson.

    David Ragan, one of four Roush Racing drivers auditioning to replace Mark Martin in the No. 6 Cup car next year, makes his first Cup start today. He had never even sat in a Cup car before Friday morning.

    1:03 p.m.: Hulk Hogan gives the command to fire the engines to start the Dover 400.

    Second-qualifier Scott Riggs will go to the back of the field due to an engine change in practice.


    Terry from Muncie, Ind.: Did Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick get penalized for the tire situation they was doing if they got caught I think they should penalize them and let Tony Stewart in the chase if that was the reason to make a point to the drivers all together.

    Tom Jensen: Terry, welcome to FOX and thanks for the question. Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton were not penalized at New Hampshite because they did not get caught doing anything wrong, period.


    Doug from Frankfort, Ill.: I am tired of Jeff Gordon crying and people saying to have 2 point systems in the chase. All the drivers start the season, they should all finish it as well the same way it starts. Why give a chase driver 10th place points if they crash and finish last? That same situation can be what keeps a driver out of the chase during the first 26 races. Lets allow all the drivers to have a chance at the title, but only increase the points of the drivers in 2nd place to 10th place to close the gap on the leader as they do now. This way it makes it more exciting, but allows those just out of 10th to get in the top 10 and if certain things happen in the last 10 races, possibly win the championship. Doing this will keep drivers like Gordon complaining that a teammate or another driver is racing them too hard. I thought that was what racing was. If Gordon can't deal with it, then he should let someone else race.

    Tom Jensen: Doug: Glad you could be with us today. It's clear there are a lot of different opinions on the points system and I think we'll see some changes next year. Personally, I want to see excellence a win or a top-five finish rewarded more.


    Gene from Carmel, N.Y.: Tom. how can you say one week that the chase should represent all facets of race track types and this week say that restrictor plate racing should be removed?

    Tom Jensen: Gene, hope you enjoy the race. I never said there shouldn't be a restrictor-plate track in the Chase. I said Talladega shouldn't be in the Chase. I'd like to have the season end where it starts at Daytona, with a title on the line.


    Kathy from Pensacola, Fla.: I'll go along with them putting out the yellow when a car does a 360, but if the track is clear why not go back to green, instead of just enough caution laps for everyone to pit regardless of position. Seems like it would be more honest to fly the green as soon as the track is clear, not wait for ever drivers convenience.

    Tom Jensen: Kathy, a good point. Sometimes, the reason it takes so long to go back to green is because NASCAR officials are trying to sort out scoring and make sure every car on the track is where it's supposed to be, and sometimes that's harder than it looks.


    Ellen from McHenry, Ill.: In response to MC from Raleigh, if MC had done research and looked on the internet for a more complete quote instead of reading only what your site had they would have found out the the rest of Jeff's comment included a reference to the fact that he did not blame Vickers for racing him hard since Jeff had raced Brian hard earlier in the race. Also, he stated that Brian was 'not his team mate' but he was. This is due to the fact that Brian is right now racing for his own career not for 'the good of the team' which is what any other driver in his position would do.

    Tom Jensen: Ellen, welcome to FOX. Look, how people feel about the Gordon-Vickers situation pretty much boils down to one thing: How they feel about Gordon. The haters took Vickers's side, the fans took Gordon's side. That's to be expected.


    The possibility of severe storms in the Dover area means drivers and teams will have to rethink their race strategy. The race will become official once it reaches halfway and that means drivers will want to be as high up in the standings as they can as the midpoint nears.

    Obviously, we'll be keeping a close eye on the weather and how it changes all afternoon.


    Jessica from Piedmont, S.C.: Who do you think are the cars to watch today?

    Tom Jensen: Thanks for being with us, Jessica. I think there are four guys to watch today: Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson. Kenseth won here in June and was a close second in the Busch race yesterday. Martin has one win and four top fives in his last five Dover races. Busch has two seconds and a fifth here, and Johnson has one win and three top-six finishes in his last three races here.


    Kimberly from Centereach, N.Y.: I just read an article about a man name Daryn Miller who races in the Charger division in Riverhead, NY. Miller is profoundly deaf and gets thru his races by the aid of 4 lights inside his car at the top of the windshield. Two red lights surround a yellow and a green bulb. The red bulbs tell him to go either left or right, the green to just keep going, and the yellow indicates there is a caution -- an accident or other incident that causes officials to slow the race down -- on the track. His father/coach Bob Miller observes the conditions and lights the respective bulb with the remote control. In such places like Bristol and Dover, where radio communication has proven difficult to hear yourself think, how come NASCAR hasn't thought of this brillant idea?

    Tom Jensen: Kimberly: Thanks for the story, which is an interesting one. I think it's a great solution for a deaf driver. But in general, drivers and teams would be reluctant to change to a system for just a few races a year and team owners wouldn't want to pay to change the cars over. Also, I think the system would work better in one car for a 50- or 100-lap race than in all 43 cars over 400 or 500 laps.


    Phil from Bar Nunn, Wyo.: NASCAR should find a better way for a Race to the Chase championship. Where do you have a sport that has all of the teams playing and helping to determine the winner. The multi-car teams have a advantage in that they can take out the competition. They need to go back to the way it was and admit the current system is flawed as there are several drivers out of the top 10 that could advance their position , and when you are talking millions of dollars at stake, all teams should be elgible. I also feel that in the final 10 races, there should be no points awarded for leading a lap, because the multi-car teams can let their co-drivers lead a lap giving them an advantage over the other teams in the playoff picture. The system wasn't broke before, so why do we have to fix it. Everyone on the track is out there to win and all of the recent changes hasn't made the racing any better. Thanks for listening.

    Tom Jensen: Phil, thanks for being with us at FOX for race day. I'm sorry you don't like the Chase. But here's the reality: The only guy who missed the Chase this year who had a prayer of cracking the top 10 by year-end had the old points system been in place is Tony Stewart. Stewart missed the Chase by 16 points, but the closest guy behind him in points is Greg Biffle, who is 313 points behind Stewart. There is no way Biffle would have contended for the title or even the top 10 under the old system or the one that's in place now.


    Weather could be an issue today at Dover International Speedway, where there is a 60 percent chance of showers this weekend. NASCAR has moved the start of the race up 10 minutes because of the forecast.


    MC from Raleigh, N.C.: Tom, I was disgusted to see Jeff Gordon's comments regarding "Vickers is not my teammate." Vickers has been a good teammate to both Gordon and Johnson to a fault. What Gordon fails to realize is that Vickers has a career, too. He's not riding in circles to figure out just what he can do to help Jeff. What do you think?

    Tom Jensen: MC, thanks for the question. By nature, most championship-caliber drivers are at least somewhat selfish. I don't say that as a criticism, just an observation: You don't consistently get to the front of the pack by being polite and a consensus builder. You do it by going as hard as you can. Gordon has the potential to win a fifth championship this year. Vickers is 18th in points with no chance of moving higher than maybe 15th if he finishes the year strongly. Also, signed a contract months ago to go to another team next season. I don't blame Gordon for wanting Vickers to move over for him, but I don't blame Vickers for not doing it, either.


    Carole from Waitsfield, Vt.: Take Talladega out of the Chase.... restrictor-plate racing is a crap shoot and too many big ones when an accident happens... they have changed other schedules why not this one?

    Tom Jensen: Carole: Welcome to FOX. I hate to say this, because I like Talladega, but I have to agree with you on this one. Talladega is so much of a wild card that it doesn't reflect the talent of a driver or the team that prepared his car — it only reflects where the driver was when the Big One happens and whether or not he was lucky enough to avoid it.


    Duane from Crossville, Tenn.: Each week, I watch the race and always see NASCAR officials everywhere. How many officials are there at each race?

    Tom Jensen: Duane, that's an excellent question. More than 50 NASCAR officials participate in the pre- and post-race inspection of the cars; most of them also work in the pits during the race. In addition, NASCAR has dozens of people in its competition department who take care of event management, running the race from the control room, administration, public relations, etc. Anytime you have an event with 43 cars, more than 100,000 fans plus hundreds of media members, guests and VIPs, it takes a huge staff to administer. And I'm consistently amazed at how efficiently races are run each week.


    Prerace notes

    Round two of the 2006 Chase for the Nextel Cup happens Sunday at Dover International Speedway, site of the Dover 400. Only 111 points separates second-place Denny Hamlin from 10th-place Kyle Busch.

    New Hampshire winner Kevin Harvick leads the standings by 35 points over Hamlin, with Jimmie Johnson and Busch tumbling to ninth and 10th, respectively, as a result of New Hampshire accidents. Johnson lost the most spots — seven — followed by Busch, who slipped six spots in the standings. Harvick gained two spots, jumping from third to first.

    The good news for Johnson and Busch is that they finished 1-2 in this race a year ago. The bad news for Johnson and Busch is that all 10 drivers in the Chase finished in the top 12 at Dover in the June race.

    Harvick's ascent to the top of the Nextel Cup standings marks both a career milestone and significant mile marker for his team, Richard Childress Racing. It's the first time in his six-year career he's led the standings; also the first time an RCR driver has done it since Mike Skinner on March 14, 1999.

    After two consecutive victories — at Richmond and New Hampshire — Harvick has emerged as one of the early Chase favorites heading to Dover. He's won three out of the last six races and has the chance to become the only driver in history to ever win the Busch and Cup titles in the same season.

    Harvick has five top-10 finishes in 11 career starts at Dover. His best finish to date — third place — occurred in June. Johnson, who will make his 175th series start this week, has four consecutive top-10 finishes at Dover. He has three wins — including a 2002 sweep as a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate — and seven top-10 finishes in nine career Dover starts.

    Busch leads all drivers with a 3.0 average finish at Dover. Though he's participated in only three series events at Dover, the second-year driver has logged two runner-up finishes in 2005 and a fifth-place effort there in June.

    Five of the last 10 Dover Cup events have been decided by less than a second, with the last two boasting miniscule margins of victory.

    Jimmie Johnson edged Kyle Busch by 0.08 seconds last September, while Matt Kenseth held off Roush Racing teammate Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal Ford) by 0.787 seconds after passing him with four laps remaining in June.

    Other Dover superlatives: Jeff Gordon has led 2,198 laps there, the most of any active driver. He's also tied with Mark Martin for the most Dover victories (four).

    The NASCAR Busch Series rejoined the Cup Series at Dover, setting the stage for what could be a fourth consecutive weekend sweep of both series' events. Clint Bowyer won Saturday's Dover Busch race, and he'll be looking for his first Cup win Sunday.

    Matt Kenseth won both races at Bristol. Kasey Kahne won both at California and Harvick swept both September events at Richmond.

    The "sweep streak" wasn't in effect last week at New Hampshire. With the NASCAR Busch Series taking its final off week of 2006, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series took the companion spotlight — an event won by the current second-place driver in that series, Johnny Benson.

    Mark Martin, who has said he'll retire from full-time Cup competition following the 2006 season, bids goodbye to Dover this weekend in his familiar No. 6 Roush Racing Ford. Martin has confirmed he won't drive that car next season. He dominates Dover statistics among active drivers and considers the track one of his favorites.

    Martin enters this week with five consecutive top-10 Dover finishes, the longest current streak.

    He leads all active drivers in wins (four, tied with Jeff Gordon), Budweiser Poles (four), plus 19 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes in 40 career starts.

    After missing the Chase field by a mere 16 points, reigning series champion Tony Stewart strengthened his hold on 11th place following last week's second-place finish at New Hampshire, gaining 49 points on 12th-place Greg Biffle.

    Richard Petty won the first Nextel Cup race at Dover, the 1969 Mason-Dixon 300.

    The Dover Cup race was changed from a 300-mile format to 500 miles in 1971.

    The current 400-mile format was instituted in September 1997.

    In five of the last 12 years a driver swept both races at Dover. Ryan Newman was the most recent driver to sweep both races at Dover (2003). Other drivers to sweep both races since 1994: Jimmie Johnson (2002), Tony Stewart (2000), Jeff Gordon (1996) and Rusty Wallace (1994).

    Dodge won its first Dover race since 1975, when Ryan Newman won there in June 2003. Newman repeated as the race winner in the fall race, the first time Dodge posted consecutive victories at Dover. Newman won again in the fall of 2004, giving Dodge three of their five Dover victories in the four-race span.

    There have been 73 Cup races at Dover International Speedway.

    A total of 348 Cup drivers have competed at Dover.

    Bobby Allison and Richard Petty lead all drivers with seven Cup victories each at Dover.

    Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon lead all active drivers, each with four victories at Dover. Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson follow with three each.

    In the 35 years of twice-a-year Cup racing at Dover (1971 to 2005), a sweep has occurred nine times — including three of the past six seasons.

    Forty-five of 73 Cup races at Dover have been won from a top-five starting position while only 14 races have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.

    Nine of the last 11 Cup races at Dover have been won from a top-10 starting position, including seven from the top five. Both of the races won from outside the top-10 were won from the 19th starting position.

    Tony Stewart has competed in 15 Dover races without posting a DNF here.

    Hendrick Motorsports and Jack Roush Racing (four each) along with Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing (three each) have won 14 of the last 15 Cup races at Dover. DEI has the other Dover victory since 1998.

    Bobby Labonte posted 11 top-10 finishes, including 10 top-fives, in the 12 Dover races between 1995 and 2000. He has only one finish better than 12th in the 11 races there since.

    Chase Drivers at Dover (Ranked by Average Finish)
    Rank Driver Starts Avg. finish Laps led
    1. Kyle Busch 3 3.000 112
    2. Denny Hamlin 1 11.000 0
    3. Jimmie Johnson 9 11.222 553
    4. Jeff Gordon 27 12.851 2,198
    5. Mark Martin 40 13.050 1,697
    6. Matt Kenseth 15 15.066 142
    7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 13 15.923 366
    8. Kevin Harvick 11 16.272 133
    9. Jeff Burton 25 18.120 121
    10. Kasey Kahne 5 24.200 36


    Paul from Walnut Creek, Calif.: Why doesn't Mark Martin just ride off into the sunset in Nextel Cup or stay in the No. 6 in 2007? Instead, he's talking about coming back full-time in 2008 now.

    Tom Jensen: Paul, welcome to you in the East Bay and thanks for the question. Here's the deal with Mark Martin: I think, more than anything, he's sick of this dragging out and sick of answering questions about it every week. I believe he simply wants to get the Craftsman Truck deal done with Roush, and by making pointed comments about his future plans, it's a way to subtly put pressure on his team to get the deal done.


    Steve from Wellsville, N.Y.: NASCAR inspects the winning car after races to make it official that the car is legal. Why do the press and other teams point fingers or accuse anyone?

    Tom Jensen: Steve, welcome to FOX. You ask a good question. Yes, NASCAR inspects the winning car after each race, but that doesn't automatically mean they catch every trick a team comes up with. In point of fact, most of the illegal pieces are caught by teams who spy something on a competitor's car and go to NASCAR behind closed doors to complain about it. And the reason other teams point fingers is something a NASCAR official told me years ago: If you're a race team and aren't winning, there are two and only two things you can do to improve — make your car go faster or make the other guy's car slow down. When a team is accused of cheating, it means they face longer, more difficult inspections from NASCAR, more questions from reporters and sponsors, scrutiny from other teams, etc. And all of those can make a team lose a little focus, which can be the difference between winning and finishing 10th. So the reasons other teams point the finger is to create a distraction or diversion, one that hopefully will slow the fast guy down.


    Doyle from Norwood, Mo.: Why not keep all 43 cars in each race and just have different scoring for the Chase cars and the non-Chase cars? That way they still face all the same old hazards, but the Chasers aren't hurt so bad by a 43rd-place finish. They would only finish last among those in the Chase and thus receive last/10th-place points. Congratulations to Kyle Petty for his Dover qualifying!!

    Tom Jensen: Doyle, thanks for raising a good point. I think there's a good chance that could happen next year, because a lot of fans feel the same way you do.


    Jason from Willow Park, Texas: Do Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have to get a top-five finish in order to have a shot at the championship?

    Tom Jensen: Jason, thanks for being with us at FOX. Intuitively, I would say that, yes, Johnson and Busch each need to finish in the top five at Dover to stay in the Chase. The good news for them is that they are well capable of doing that. In the last three Dover races, Johnson has finished 1st, 4th and 6th, while Busch has twos 2nds and one 5th.


    Theo from Mountain Home, Texas: Any chance Ward Burton will get a full- or part-time ride next season (in any series)?

    Tom Jensen: Theo, greetings to you in Texas. I think there's a good chance Ward Burton will be back behind the wheel somewhere next year. He's had the time to cool his heels a bit, and there is a real shortage of talented drivers so he might have some opportunities. I haven't heard anything specific, but in my gut, I think he'll be back.


    Barron from Louisville, Ky.: Does anybody know if Bill Elliott is going to be back full-time? I have heard several different stories.

    Tom Jensen: Barron, glad you can join us. Bill Elliott is in the catbird's seat right now and is in no hurry to make a decision. As of last week, he still hasn't made up his mind what he wants to do, and I think a lot hinges on what happens with Team Red Bull, which may hire A.J. Allmendinger or Elliott to fill the team's second seat.


    Gene from Wake Forest, N.C.: Danny O'Quinn has done more and had better finishes than Todd Kluever, don't you think? I hope Jack Roush finds a solid driver for the No. 6 car. Thanks for your honest and informative reporting.

    Tom Jensen: Gene, thanks for the question. I can promise you that Jack Roush is absolutely, positively committed to finding the best possible driver for the No. 6 that he can. Roush Racing President Geoff Smith told me last weekend at New Hampshire that four Roush drivers will get a chance to try out for the No. 6: Kluever, O'Quinn, Erik Darnell and David Ragan.


    Gerry from York, Pa.: Kevin Harvick is hot. Will he stay that way for nine more races or will he collapse like Jimmie Johnson and others have?

    Tom Jensen: Gerry: Thanks for the question and welcome to FOX. It ought to be an exciting weekend of racing from the "Monster Mile" in Dover. Obviously, no one knows for sure whether Harvick will stay hot, but I'm a big believer in momentum and he has it in spades right now. In the last 15 races, Harvick has three wins, 8 top fives, 10 top 10's and only one finish outside the top 15. That suggests he'll stay hot. I've said all along that my top two picks are Matt Kenseth and Harvick, and I'm sticking with that. The biggest wild card left on the schedule is Talladega. Anything can happen there — last year it cost Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin dearly.


    Will from Alpine, Texas: Tom, what did you think of Tony Stewart's comment about running a second race and letting the Chase cars run separately from the rest of the field? It would take some pressure off the drivers not in the Chase.

    Tom Jensen: Will, glad you could be with us at FOX. Honestly, I understand what Tony Stewart is saying, but I disagree with it. Ten cars is simply too few to have in a main event. The only way, I think, to make it work was if you had 15-20 Chase cars and 20-25 non-Chasers in the other race. And if you have 15-20 cars in the Chase, that to me really dilutes the value of being a Chase contender. After Richmond, the 15th-place driver was 970 points behind the leader, and there's no way you can convince me he should have been eligible for the Chase.


    Tom from Bluffton, S.C.: Since when has winning been an after thought in Cup? I'm tired of the soccer mom approach of "it's good to be in the race and don't worry about winning, just try to place in the top 10." After NHIS, only Dale Jr. and Jeff Burton expressed their feelings on not winning. If Dale Sr. didn't win, the press knew to stay away. Now we get Jeff Gordon and others talking about a good finish and protecting their cars during the race.

    Tom Jensen: Tom, hanks for the question. You make an excellent point. Most people — you and I included 3 agree that NASCAR needs to put a greater premium on winning races. Right now, a bad race hurts a driver a lot more than a victory helps him, and that just isn't right. One other thing I'd change: make the points identical for positions 30-43. There's no point having crews work on a wrecked car for an hour so it limp around and pick up a couple of extra spots on the track.

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