10 things we learned after the AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover

May 17, 2016

Sunday's AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover International Speedway was raucous, thrilling and damned good fun, as Matt Kenseth held off ferocious challenges from Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott to win his first race of the year.

Here are 10 things we learned at the Monster Mile over the weekend:

10. HARD KNOCKS -- Everywhere there's a wall at a race track, there needs to be SAFER barriers. Period. Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray had hard hits on bare walls in practice Friday after Danica Patrick's car dropped rear gear lubricant on the track. For Stewart especially, that could have meant disaster.

9. FINISHING TOUCH --  Danica Patrick finished 13th at Dover,  the first time she's ended a race in the top 15 since finishing 15th in the spring 2015 Dover race.  It's good news that she posted a strong finish, but less good that it's her best finish in a year.


8. TRAFFIC JAM -- When the transmission broke on Jimmie Johnson's car during a late-race restart, it triggered a Talladega-esque Big One on the backstretch that ensnared 18 cars. Dover is such a narrow track that when something happens, it gets real in a hurry.

7. CREW CHIEF BLUES -- With crew chief Adam Stevens suspended for one race, Kyle Busch looked less competitive than he has all season. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.  Busch failed to lead a lap for only the third time this season, and failed to finish in the top two for just the second time in the last seven races.

6. MONSTER BLUES -- Jimmie Johnson used to own Dover, winning here 10 times. But his last two races at the Monster Mile ended in disappointment as freak part failures both times eliminated him from contention.

5. GOOD AS ADVERTSED -- Rookies Elliott and Ryan Blaney are the real deals. Elliott now has four top fives in 12 races and is seventh in  points, while Blaney scored his third consecutive top 10.

4. SEAL THE DEAL -- The Dover race proved an old NASCAR truism: It's a lot easier to lose a race than to win one. Five drivers led at least 25 laps but didn't win for one reason or another: Kevin Harvick (117), Larson (85), Brad Keselowski (49), Martin Truex Jr. (47) and Carl Edwards (27).

3. DOMINATION NATION -- Yes, a Joe Gibbs Racing driver won for the seventh time in 12 Cup races this season. But this wasn't domination by any means. Kenseth was good and his car was fast, but JGR's four drivers combined to lead only 90 of 400 laps, hardly the kind of drubbing we've seen so often this year.

2. HARD AND CLEAN-- Unlike Joey Logano at Kansas last fall, Larson didn't wreck leader Kenseth to win. Afterwards, Larson said Kenseth had always raced him clean, so he felt obliged to do likewise. Of course, he also saw what Kenseth did to Logano at Martinsville. Still, Kenseth-Larson-Elliott was real quintessential NASCAR racing.

1. BAD LUCK IS TEMPORARY -- You name it and it happened to Matt Kenseth in the first 11 races of the years: wrecks, loose wheels, pit-road penalties, bad restarts - all these and more. But it was Kenseth who had good fortune at Dover, which should be encouraging to the year's other hard-luck racer, Martin Truex Jr. Like Kenseth, Truex's time will come.