When it comes to extraordinary television, sit on the edge of your seat excitement, Dover under green will not exactly get your heart racing. In fact, Sunday’s race was more of a cautionary tale. When the yellow waved, the interest spiked.
They waved the flag to start the race. I dozed. There was a caution, but it was for one of the exhaust eaters. No big deal. Then they dropped the jack on leader Kyle Busch in the pits, nearly spun the fingers off tire man Kenny Barber, and then the tire rolled off as Busch pulled out. That got my attention. I bet it got the attention of the entire crew. It sure got the attention of NASCAR. It seems Barber, tire changer Jake Seminara, and crew chief Adam Stevens could all face a major penalty. That could cost them each up to four races. We shall see. However, instead of trying to jump the gun by putting on fewer lugs nuts, the air gun was actually pulling them off instead of spinning them on. Be it a malfunction or a miscue, it was rather memorable.
Then, back to my nap. For a couple of laps. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did not take tires under the caution, but caused the next. The lights went on, I woke up, and Stenhouse had some mangled rubber. That contact with the wall did not help either.
I was about to head off to dream land when Stenhouse hit the wall again. He was finally done. Still, no nap for me, as on the re-start, Kurt Busch broke loose and drove Brad Keselowski into the fence. Bad Brad was toast. Busch lingered, but the damage he sustained finally got to his tire, which got him into the wall, and finally in to the garage to stay. There were still three-quarters of the race left to run and three bound for the Chase were already gone for the day.
They pitted, when Clint Bowyer’s crew noticed a mechanical issue. Fluids were flowing out where they should not be flowing. To the garage for repairs. By the time he returned, 18 laps had gone by.
I was able to get in some serious “zzzz” time for the next hundred laps. That was interrupted by another caution. It would seem Joey Logano met the outside barrier, and the repair time cost him four circuits.
More than a hundred laps of round and round later, the alarm went off again. Regan Smith, sitting in for the mending Aric Almirola, had his right front surrender. Another caution, another tire, another fence, another retirement.
As the final laps clicked off, it was Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, and Martin Truex Jr., the contenders. One more caution, and we were off to overtime. Six additional laps under green, we thought. It actually ended under caution.
Johnson moved to the lead with a better re-start and had gone by the overtime line when all hell broke loose behind them on the front stretch. Ty Dillon wiggled and got punted into the safer wafers, while Trevor Bayne and Kasey Kahne not only rhymed but also were among those who failed to make the line. Under caution, Johnson, Larson, and Truex did, in that order.
It marked the 83rd career win for Johnson, tying him for sixth all-time with Cale Yarborough. It gave him his 11th career Dover win in 31 attempts, and third victory of the season. As far as the standings go, the only real change of note was Matt Kenseth out performing Ryan Blaney, 13th compared to 32nd, and moving seven points up in the battle for the final Chase place.
With Pocono coming up next week, here is a final cautionary tale. If you are not in the Top 17 heading to Pennsylvania on Sunday, you are not going to make the Chase on points. With the rest 40 or more points out, their best hopes lie in winning one of the next 13 events. The way things have played out so far, with nine winners to date, even a single victory might not be enough.
This might be a good time for recent past Pocono winners Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth, and Chris Buescher to catch lightning in a bottle one more time. Either Sunday, or the return date in August will do. Maybe.