Chasers back on equal ground

BY Jeff Hammond • October 4, 2011

Dover was the great equalizer on Sunday. It was the race that brought everyone back together. It could have fragmented the field and made the spread even farther for teams that were behind, but that didn’t happen. For the guys that were struggling, they got some forward momentum.

Now Kurt Busch, who won the race, is the perfect example. He bounced back in dramatic fashion. Winning vaulted Kurt five spots in the points, tied with Tony Stewart only nine points out of the lead.

Sure, after two straight wins, the No. 14 stumbled a bit Sunday. They were worried going into Dover about how they would perform. Obviously with a 25th-place finish and losing the points lead, their fears came true. But they are still in the thick of the championship hunt.

Obviously the advantage they had built with two straight wins has been taken away. The good thing about Tony and his team is they are veterans and they are realists. They didn’t get overly pumped up after the two wins. They know you are only as good as your last race and unfortunately for them, their last race wasn’t very good.

When you go down the list, you can easily identify Kurt, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson who all needed that shot in the arm of a great finish last Sunday. Carl’s third-place finish jumped him up two spots and he is now tied for the lead. Jimmie’s second-place finish moved him up five spots to fifth in the points but, more importantly, only 13 points out of the lead.

For guys like Stewart who had a lousy day, well, that race is over. Forget about it and now focus on the task at hand — winning at Kansas. Tony has won our NASCAR championship under the old systems. Obviously no one has won the championship under this new points deal. I still think there are guys out there scratching their heads over what it takes now.

The one constant factor, no matter what point system you run under, is finishing up front week after week. You win races or finish up front consistently, trust me, the points will take care of themselves. That has never changed in our sport. Heck, I can still remember it like it was yesterday when Junior Johnson used to drill that into us 30 years ago when Darrell Waltrip, myself and the entire Dew Crew were racing that No. 11 car for championships. It is just as true today as it was clear back then.

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