Taking the white flag for Sunday’s Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway, race leader Kyle Busch radioed his crew saying, “I’ve never seen a flag look so pretty.” Next time by Busch took the checkered flag for the second time of the 2010 season.
Leading 131 of the 400 laps, Busch cruised to a 7.551 second victory over Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and David Reutimann.
This weekend, Busch nearly won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, took home the trophy in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race and on Sunday he capped the weekend off with yet another win. The weekend sweep had not been done at Dover since September 1991, when "Handsome" Harry Gant won both the Saturday and Sunday events at the Monster Mile.
“For me, I think the biggest thing was just going through this weekend learning as much as I could about the tires and making sure that I had good race cars,” Busch said. “When you have one good race car then you know what you need in the rest of them. So I had such a great truck that I had thought some of the things through for the Nationwide car and again some of the things through for the Cup car. It all helps, though, when we unload with competitive things, competitive cars every single race. So that helped, of course, too.”
What also helped was that his biggest competition, Jimmie Johnson took himself out of contention with a mistake on pit road.
Johnson Beats Himself Off Pit Road
The game changer in Sunday’s race in Dover was when NASCAR announced the No. 48 was caught too fast exiting on the final round of green flag pit stops and forced to come back down for a pass through penalty. The four-time champion admitted he got a good jump out of his stall and did not question NASCAR’s call.
The penalty sent Johnson back to 17th, one lap down to Busch who was the clear leader. With less than 35 laps to go, the odds of Johnson overcoming the mistake were slim. After leading a race-high 225 laps, Johnson was unable to make up much ground, got past Clint Bower and finish 16th, one lap down.
“I knew Kyle had me beat when I saw the jack drop for him and he was easing away from me,” Johnson said. “And I kind of gave up at that point on racing him off of pit road because I knew we needed to be single file on the apron. So, I just had too much forward bite leaving the pit box and got going too fast and got busted."
The pit road speed on Sunday was 35 mph. Johnson was caught at 40.09 in segment 6 of 8 segments.
Gibbs Passing Hendrick On the Outside
Earlier this week, when asked if he believed Joe Gibbs Racing had caught his team, Rick Hendrick said he not only felt like JGR had caught them, they had been passed, lapped even. Johnson may have three wins, but JGR has won five of the last seven races.
On Sunday, Busch scored his second win of the season, while Denny Hamlin came home a strong fourth and Joey Logano finished tenth. Jeff Gordon was the highest finishing HMS car in 11th, followed by Mark Martin in 15th, Johnson in 16th and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who struggled all day, finishing 30th.
Celebrating yet another victory, team owner Joe Gibbs was optimistic about his team’s momentum and dismissed any reports of passing his biggest competitor.
“Well, I think first of all, quite a bit has been made of that over the last week or so,” Gibbs said. “You can kind of get on a run in pro sports, but the thing that I’m always conscious of, the knuckle sandwich is waiting right around the corner in pro sports. We’re just getting started really here. I’m thrilled that the last seven, eight weeks have gone so well for us, but the reality is that can all turn in a week.”
Fords Show Up To Race
This has not been the kind of season Ford would have hoped for going in. Heading to Dover, the highest Ford in the standings was Matt Kenseth in fifth. Ford has no wins on the year and last week in Darlington no blue oval led a lap nor did any finish in the top-10. Going to one of their strongest tracks, the Ford camp looked to improve on their performance.
At the end of the day, there were three Fords in the top-10 with Kenseth coming home third, Greg Biffle sixth and Carl Edwards eighth.
When asked if he felt this showed Ford was closing the gap on the other manufacturers, Kenseth said they were better than last year, but admitted to being “maybe a half a step or a step behind.”
“That’s a tough one to answer,” Kenseth said. “I mean, this is historically a really good track for us. Even when we’re running bad at other places, we usually still run pretty respectably here. I think this is one of our best tracks. And I didn’t think no matter what we did to the car today we had a shot to win. The 48 and 18 had us, and the 31 if he would have had track position in front of us was better all day, as well.
“I feel like we still need that little something,” Kenseth added. “I don’t know what that is. I thought we got everything we possibly could out get out of our car and then some; we probably finished a little better than we deserved.”
Kenseth led for 15 laps, but used pit strategy to gain track position and was able to maintain it. Neither Biffle nor Edwards were a factor in the race for the lead and the most competitive Ford in the field for most of the day was AJ Allmendinger.
Carrying the retro colors of the famous blue and red No. 43, Allmendinger was on a mission to earn his first Sprint Cup victory and honor team owner Richard Petty – who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this coming Saturday in Charlotte.
The No. 43 was fast all weekend, practicing well, qualifying well and even contending for the lead early in the going. Unfortunately, the wheels came off the impressive run when the rear tire changer missed a lug nut on the left side. Losing time in the pits, Allmendinger was forced to come back to pit road with a vibration.
Using the wave around and earning the lucky dog, Allmendinger was able to bounce back from his struggles but was then caught speeding on pit road. In the end, the team finished 14th, one lap down, in a car that was much stronger than the results showed.
Next weekend the series heads home to Charlotte, for the Sprint All-Star Race. With no points on the line and the new ‘have at it, boys’ mentality in play, there is no telling what can happen under the lights.
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