We had a little bit of everything in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway.
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One guy dominated, which quite honestly should come as no surprise to anyone since Jimmie Johnson had already won at the Monster Mile six times prior to Sunday.
What’s interesting is that even in Victory Lane and even after leading 289 laps, Jimmie Johnson was quick to concede that probably the best car and driver out there Sunday was his teammate, Jeff Gordon. Poor Jeff got stung by bad luck again as he had a loose wheel and had to pit out of sequence, costing him positions.
It was another great weekend for other drivers like Matt Kenseth, who finished third, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who put up yet another top-five finish. Dale’s teammate, Kasey Kahne, who won the previous race, the Coca-Cola 600, scored his seventh consecutive top-10 finish.
We also saw guys like Clint Bowyer, his teammate Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and both Richard Petty Motorsports drivers, Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose, finish in the top 10. So it was a mixed bag of things at Dover.
Obviously one of the wildest things was having one of the biggest wrecks we’ve had all season happen at Dover on the backstretch on Lap 9. We also had a fair amount of cautions, which should appease that section of fans clamoring for more cautions. So some of the things we had been missing the last handful of weeks seemed to all come together for our final 2012 NASCAR on FOX race.
Pit road at Dover once again proved to be some folks’ Achilles’ heel. I already mentioned Jeff Gordon’s loose wheel. Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer got caught up on pit road and it took Clint the rest of the race to simply get caught back up.
We also saw engine attrition Sunday, which is something we don’t normally get a lot of at Dover. David Reutimann lost an engine. Both Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch lost engines. Then Kyle’s older brother, Kurt, also lost an engine. That many engine failures really is unusual for a track like Dover.
As I mentioned, the NASCAR on FOX portion of the 2012 is now complete. In our 13 races, we had nine different winners. With Jimmie’s win Sunday, he joins three other drivers with multiple wins. They include Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.
Yes, you see the normal names in the top 10 in points like Kenseth, Johnson and Stewart. We also have some nice surprises at the top this year. Greg Biffle is our points leader and a model of consistency. Greg didn’t even make the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2011, so 2012 has been a banner year so far.
Tony Stewart didn’t win a race until the Chase started in 2011. Already in 2012 he has two wins in just 13 races. We are at the halfway point of the Race to the Chase and Jeff Gordon is still missing in action. He’s buried 21st in points and knows better than anyone that he has to go out and win races if he wants to be in the 2012 Chase.
While one win got Denny Hamlin into the Chase with a wild-card spot, I really believe Jeff is going to have to win two races in these next 13 events. I believe this year it will take two wins to secure one of those two wild-card spots.
Martin Truex Jr., out of the Michael Waltrip Racing camp, is the other surprise in the top 10 in points. He currently sits sixth with eight top-10 finishes in 13 races.
On the flipside, Carl Edwards is one of the not-so-pleasant surprises of 2012. Sure he is in the top 10 in points, but he really looks like he is suffering from a post-2011 slump which mirrors what Denny Hamlin went through after coming so close to winning the championship in 2010.
The garage area continues to point to Hendrick Motorsports as the organization you will have to beat to win the 2012 championship. All four cars have a lot of speed and if it wasn’t for the black cloud following Jeff Gordon around, he’d be right up there with his three teammates.
With that said, I still don’t believe we can go ahead and hand the championship trophy to anyone. Sure, Hendrick cars are hot right now, but the key phrase is right now. There are 13 races left and that’s a long time until the checkered flag in September in Richmond to set the Sprint Cup Chase field.