In spite of the monstrously cloudy skies that yielded a bit of drizzle throughout the race, every lap of the AAA 400 was completed at Dover International Speedway. Here is what was surprising and not surprising from the track affectionately known as the ‘Monster Mile.’
[media-credit id=62 align=”alignright” width=”223″][/media-credit]Surprising: It was surprising that a ‘Polish Victory Lap’ rather than a back flip capped the finish of the Cup race on the concrete. Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge, surprisingly scored his first ever victory at the ‘Monster Mile.”
“It was just a perfect execution with making the car better during the race,” Busch said. “To win in a Sprint Cup race in the Chase, this is what it’s all about.”
“We knew that the 22 was a good car,” Travis Geisler, Director of Competition, Penske Racing, said. “It was a great day.”
Not Surprising: Although not a winner as he was in the Nationwide race the previous day, Carl Edwards, to no one’s surprise, finished a solid top-five. The driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford rebounded from a pit road speeding penalty to finish third, which was good enough to keep him tied atop the leader board in the Chase point standings.
“It was a great day, other than that feeling I had when I ruined it there on pit road,” Edwards said sheepishly. “We were very, very fortunate.”
“As frustrated as I am with myself for messing that up, I’m really, really grateful for the give that was given to us with that caution and the ability to come back up there.”
Surprising: It was surprising to see a not-so-happy Harvick in the media center after the race, especially after assuming the top spot in the Chase standings. The driver of the No. 29 Rheem Chasing the Cure Chevrolet is now officially tied with Edwards but claims the top spot due to his higher number of wins.
After finishing tenth, Harvick seemed subdued and perhaps even a bit exhausted in the media center, complaining at one point about the flash of the photographers’ bulbs bothering his eyes.
“We circled this one as a place to come to overcome some things and the guys did a good job today,” Harvick said. “All in all it was okay.”
Not Surprising: To no one’s surprise, old ‘Five Time’ is back, even taunting the media after the race a bit, asking if he was still considered out of contention for his sixth consecutive championship with his third place finish at Dover.
Jimmie Johnson, behind the wheel of his familiar No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet, also seems to have reconciled well with his crew chief Chad Knaus, at least from the improved politeness during the radio chatter.
“It was a great day for us, to lead that many laps and to have great stops on pit road across the board,” Johnson said. “I wish that we could be one spot better but I just did not get two good restarts that the end of that thing and cost myself.”
Surprising: Although Tony Stewart predicted that Dover was not his best track, it was surprising just how badly both he and his teammate Ryan Newman ran at the ‘Monster Mile.”
The driver and team owner of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet finished 25th, with his teammate behind the wheel of the No. 39 US Army ROTC Chevrolet finishing just ahead of him in 23rd.
“Even when we got the balance half-way decent, it didn’t have speed,” Smoke said. “So, we just missed it.”
Stewart’s crew chief, Darian Grubb, echoed his driver’s sentiments exactly.
“The biggest thing is just that we don’t have the concrete tracks figured out,” Grubb said. “At Bristol and Dover, we’ve just struggled for three years now with Tony there.”
Sounding very much like his teammate, Newman also seconded theme of totally missing the set up.
“We just didn’t have it right all weekend,” Newman said. “We tried a number of adjustments and pit strategies but nothing seemed to work in our favor.”
“We just have to put this weekend behind us and move on.”
Not Surprising: It is not surprising that A J Allmendinger, driver of the No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion, just keeps rolling along with solid finishes. In fact, not only did the ‘Dinger finish with a top-10, but so did his Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Marcos Ambrose in the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion.
“It was a solid day,” Allmendinger said. “Obviously, we want to try to win but at least we were there all day.”
“We’ve been bashed up pretty good the last month, so it’s just good to come back with a solid day,” Ambrose said. “I’m proud of the team. They’ve stood by me after a tough month.”
Surprising: In a surprising version of ‘Chasers Gone Bad’, at least three of the drivers in contention had monstrously bad days.
Brad Keselowski, who had been wearing the Cinderella slipper, took a bit of a stumble at Dover International Speedway. After battling a power steering problem, the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge came in 20th.
“I finally caught the back end of the field, but when I got up to the rear of a car, I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t get around them,” Keselowski said. “It’s frustrating. I think we were good enough to get a solid run out of it but ended up 20th.”
“That’s the way it goes.”
With his tough finish, Keselowski fell three spots in the Chase standings to the sixth position.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driving the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, also battled mechanical issues, in his case a broken sway bar. Then towards the end of the race, he had a loose wheel, which caused him to finish 24th, two laps down to the race winner.
“That’s racin’,” Junior said. “That’s all I can say. I’ve had a lot of shit happen to me over the years, good and bad. I’ve just kinda got to roll with the punches.”
Dale Junior fell two positions in the point standings to the 10th position.
Junior’s teammate Jeff Gordon also struggled all day long in his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. Starting from the 34th position, Gordon rallied to finish 12th, however, fell four positions in the point standings to ninth.
“Yeah, that’s been a struggle for us here at this track this year,” Gordon said. “It started off good and we worked our way forward pretty quick from the 34th starting position, but once we got up there I made some mistakes and we just didn’t have it on the restarts.”
Not Surprising: Quiet Kenseth continued his Cup quest with a top-5 finish at the ‘Monster Mile.” The driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion maintained his seventh place in the Chase standings, just 14 points out of first.
Not surprisingly, Kenseth claimed “We got lucky.”
“We had a pretty solid day,” Kenseth continued. “We were able to lead a little bit. There were times in the race when we were pretty dominant.”
“I was hoping for a little better at times, but it’s important to get a good finish every week.”