Dover Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on September 29, 2013 | 6:30 P.M. EST
Sunday’s AAA 400 was the latest chapter in the track’s storied legacy, which includes a great deal of success for Jimmie Johnson. (Photo: Getty Images)
DOVER, Del. – News, notes and observations from a weekend of racing at Dover Internationall Speedway.
Racing at Dover has been part of the NASCAR scene since 1969. Although the facility has changed dramatically as has the racing surface from asphalt to concrete, one thing remains constant – the “Monster Mile” is one of the most demanding tracks on the schedule.
Sunday’s AAA 400 was the latest chapter in the track’s storied legacy, which includes a great deal of success for Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson poured it on again this weekend to score his eighth career win at the track and did it in dominating style. Although he didn’t seal his fate until the final trip to pit road with a two tire stop and enough fuel to make the distance, the 48 was in command most of the afternoon.
Certainly a win by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who could do no better than second place after nearly ending his day earlier with a spin trying to come down pit road, might have energized more fans, Johnson deserves his due. He turned in Sunday exactly the kind of performance that has led to five previous Sprint Cup Series championships.
But despite Johnson’s run the championship is far from decided. Despite Kyle Busch averaging a finish just a shade over 2.0 in his first three races he’s still trailing Matt Kenseth and Johnson. This year’s title run has the look of a heavyweight prizefight between three contenders.
Johnson didn’t need to make a statement to be considered in that mix. But he did so Sunday anyway.
- Fortunately there was some drama in the form of fuel mileage down the stretch to spice things up or Sunday’s race would have been a complete snoozer. You’ll have that when a guy has a day like Johnson did but there wasn’t a lot of side-by-side action throughout the pack. The long green flag runs eliminated more than just a couple of restarts and fans were left with a third straight week of a race somewhat devoid of indelible moments. Kansas and Charlotte, two 1.5-mile tracks next on the schedule, will need to step things up to close out the first half of the Chase on a more exciting note.
- Things were definitely looking up for Clint Bowyer this weekend. The news that sponsor 5-Hour Energy would stay with the Michael Waltrip Racing team came on Friday and Bowyer went out and turned in a top-10 run Sunday. Had the race gone green to the end, Bowyer might have been able to win the fuel mileage game but the late caution threw that possibility out the window. Still with the stress and controversy that have swirled around Bowyer since the Richmond scandal, the Dover weekend was no doubt a welcomed relief.
- Remember when they used to call Carl Edwards “Concrete Carl?” Me neither. The Roush Fenway Racing driver, who used to be a phenom at concrete tracks like Bristol, had another struggle Sunday with a mechanical problem finally knocking Edwards to a 35th-place finish.
- Joey Logano’s fourth straight Nationwide Series win in Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy will be the latest NASCAR mark to carry an asterisk after the Penske Racing Mustang failed post race inspection. Logano’s car was found to be too low on both the left and right front sides and NASCAR will no doubt announce penalties this Tuesday. But the situation again raises the question of whether it’s time to address the policy of allowing drivers who pilot cars found to be illegal to keep wins. It’s been NASCAR’s stance to not strip victories in such cases dating back to founder Bill France Sr.’s mandate when the sport was born. But in the wake of the sanctioning body’s decision to alter this year’s Chase line-up as a means of righting a perceived wrong, it’s long past time to toss out wins tied to illegalities as well. Declaring Logano the winner of a race when his car did not meet the rulebook requirements once again puts the credibility of the sport in question during a very volatile time.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.