Dammit. Other than for Matt Kenseth, that was probably the most used term from Sunday’s action at New Hampshire. Kenseth led three times at Loudon, but it was those final three laps that really mattered as the former champ locked his way into the next round of the Chase. Along with runner-up Denny Hamlin, the winner at Chicago, Dover is a walk in the clover. However, it has meaning for a few others.
Dammit. That, or something like that, might have escaped from the lips of Kevin Harvick. His was the dominant car, but he did not have enough fuel in his tank at the end. That forced him to surrender the lead to Kenseth and hit the pits, finishing 21st. On a night when a finish at or near the front was the goal, he now finds himself 23 points out of the final transfer spot for the next round of the Chase. He has just one more opportunity to turn that around.
Dammit. Clint Bowyer had a disaster at Chicago, losing all the points gained there for a tech violation. Last Sunday, he was better than nothing but still bad as 26th leaves him 39 points out of the hunt. It is either win or bust for MWR’s final title hopeful next week.
Dammit. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a Top Five coming his way. All he needed was fuel. That stop left him in 25th on the day, and just a point to the good going into next Sunday. He is tied with Jamie McMurray, with Paul Menard a point back.
Dammit. Kyle Busch is also one behind, tied for 13th in the standings. He lost a tire, found a wall, and that left him 37th. With so much on the line, and some so close or so desperate, Dover might be a place where angels fear to tread.
Next Sunday, Kenseth and Hamlin are locked in to continue on. Carl Edwards and Joey Logano hold a 33 point advantage over the nearest have nots and just need to avoid very bad tidings. Jimmie Johnson sits 27 points to the good, with Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, and Ryan Newman holding a cushion between a dozen and 18 points.
In short, two are locked in, 10 inside remain vulnerable, and four others still have a shot. Nine of those 14 have won on the Monster Mile before. Johnson has 10 wins there, 15 Top Fives, and 20 Top 10s in 27 attempts, taking three of the past four at the track. Anyone have an idea who the favorite might be?
However, even Miles the Monster was on hand to feast on the six-time champion. In 2004, Johnson was in one of 19 cars taken out in what became known as the Little Big One. So, in the end, we can be sure of nothing, other than Kenseth and Hamlin will transfer, 10 others will join them, and four will not. Let the fun begin.