Matt Kenseth Tames the Monster in Dover
The No. 20 car took the lead after a big crash with 46 laps to go involving 10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson. From there the crafty veteran didn't look back as he led the final the remaining laps and stamped his name into the Chase.
"At time we were on and at times we were off," Kenseth said after his victory. "It just kind of depended on track position. We had one good where we were really good and then we never quite got it there again. It was one of those days where everything lined up for us at the end of the race and we were the only one left out there with two [tires]. We got a couple short runs to cycle everyone else's tires."
This is Kenseth's third win at the Monster Mile and his first triumph since the second Chase race in 2015. Joe Gibbs Racing recorded its 135th win as an organization, tying Roush Fenway Racing for third most all-time.
After going a lap down in the first long stint of the event, Kyle Larson rebounded to lead 85 laps, coming up just short of his first career victory. Going back to last week in Kansas, Larson has ran in the top five the majority of both races. Acknowledging that Chip Ganassi Racing has struggled over the last season or so, he believes that the team has begun to turn the corner.
"I wouldn't say it was a complete 180," Larson said post-race. "I definitely think we are moving in the right direction. The performances we've has the last few weeks have showed. We just got to keep working hard and never get content with where we are. In my third year I've learned that a lot."
With the second-place finish, Larson has now been the runner-up four times in his Cup career without heading to Victory Lane.
For a while it looked like Chase Elliott was going to pass both Kenseth and Larson as they raced hard for the victory. He began to fade in the later stages, but then rebounded to finish a half-second off the top two. The way that the 20-year-old has ran the past month or so it would seem like a victory is right around the corner.
"You hope your close," Elliott said. "For me I feel like I have a team capable of winning. The way I see it today is we had our shot and had a chance to do it today and I didn't do it. It's as simple as that, you either do or you don't."
Recording another top-10 finish for the No. 24 team, Elliott now leads Hendrick Motorsports in top 10 finishes in 2016 with eight.
Kasey Kahne rebounded from a car in which hovered around 10th for the majority of the race to finish fourth. It marks his second top-five finish of the year, the other coming at Richmond three weeks ago. Kurt Busch rounded out the top five, picking up his fourth of 2016.
On Lap 354, the race took a turn when Johnson's car got stuck in gear. The No. 48 machine was the leader on a restart when there was more than a 10-car pileup. Other drivers in the incident included Kevin Harvick whom led 117 laps early in the race, but finished 15th and Martin Truex, Jr. who was the leader prior to that restart, but after taking four tires under caution restarted fourth, right behind the six-time champion. The No. 78 car came back to finish ninth.
Brad Keselowski finished sixth after having contact with Austin Dillon while running in second on Lap 282. Having to repair the entire right front fender, the No. 2 crew fought back to get it's seventh top 10 of the season.
One of the bigger incidents of the time came with 40 laps to go when Larson tagged the left rear of Carl Edwards sending him into the inside wall on the backstretch. Up to that point of the race, the No. 19 car had been out front for 27 laps, but came home 28th.
The Cup Series heads into it's All-Star break next week in Charlotte. Through the first 12 events, Harvick has a 21 point lead on Kyle Busch.
The last time the Cup Series ran at Dover, Harvick led 355 laps en route to securing a Chase birth into the second round of the Chase. On Friday, it was a lap of 165.145 mph that secured the pole for the No. 4 car. Had that lap been ran in qualifying it would have set a new track record.
"That definitely changes your approach," Harvick said of the possibility of rain. "That's what the forecast looked like all week and we just decided to come with qualifying trim."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will line up second after having one of his better practices of the year. At a lap of 164.707 mph it will be his best start since he was awarded the pole at Daytona last summer. The qualifying for that event was also postponed due to rain.
"Hopefully we can get some practice in tomorrow and work on the race setup a bit," said Earnhardt.
The Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards will start alongside in Row 2. Each driver has a victory on the concrete at Dover and both have already clinched a spot in the Chase this season.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. will round out the top five, running a lap in practice at 163.815 mph.
The other two JGR cars will lineup inside of the top 10, Denny Hamlin in sixth and Matt Kenseth in 10th.
Chase Elliott is the highest starting rookie in 13th. While fellow Rookie of the Year competitor Brian Scott was the only driver to make a race run in practice. He will start 17th on Sunday.
10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson will start from 21st, with Joey Logano alongside in 22nd. Other notable drivers starting toward the rear are Jamie McMurray 24th, Danica Patrick 31st and Tony Stewart 34th.
There are two practice sessions on Saturday to prepare for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. Johnson is the defending winner of the event.
Kevin Harvick Paces Opening Sprint Cup Practice at Dover
The last time the Cup Series raced at Dover it was Harvick that dominated the race leading a career-high 355 laps, racing his way into the next round of the Chase. If this were qualifying, the No. 4 machine would have set a new track record.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran the second quickest lap at 164.707 mph. With just six laps run on the racetrack, the No. 88 car was focused primarily on qualifying runs with rain on the horizon.
A pair of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates slotted themselves in third and fourth. Kyle Busch ran at 164.489 mph and Carl Edwards at 164.144 mph. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. rounded out the top five at 163.815 mph.
Outside of the first five minutes with a wreck involving the Stewart-Haas Racing teammates of Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart, along with Jamie McMurray the practice went green. All three of those drivers got back out on track in their backup cars, with the No 1 quickest at 24th.
Chase Elliott was the fastest rookie driver in 13th, just under three tenths of a second behind the lap that Harvick put down. His teammate, and 10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson, was 21at on the chart.
If the rain stats away from the racetrack, ualifying is slated fto begin at 3:45 p.m.
In a day that was filled with hard racing, big crashes and barrel rolls, Brad Keselowski came out victorious in Talladega.
Arguably, Keselowski had the strongest racecar on Sunday leading a race-high 46 laps. After a mid-race pit stop that forced his hand and go toward the rear of the top 10 the last 20 laps, the No. 2 car established itself as the one to beat.
“This Fusion was hauling,” Keselowski said. “That’s one of the tickets of staying out of the wrecks at Talladega is if you can stay up front, you have a great shot of not getting in a wreck. Daytona didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. We just didn’t have the speed, but the guys went to work and brought me a really strong car here for Talladega.”
This is Keselowski’s fourth-career win at NASCAR’s biggest track, the most he has at any one track.
After leading 12 laps early on, Kyle Busch came home second. He was getting a huge shove coming to the white flag, but Keselowski blocked, settling the No. 18 car for the runner-up position.
Austin Dillon posted a career best third-place finish after making 15 pit stops throughout the day. Just passed halfway, David Gilliland got into the rear of the No. 3 machine turning him into the outside causing the first big crash of the day that saw rookie Chris Buescher flip multiple times.
“What we’ve really been focused on going forward is trying not to panic,” Dillon said of his day. “They fixed the car and what a run to the finish. Our car probably wasn’t good enough to really win the race, but it was good enough for the No. 1 to push me all the way through [Turns] 3 and 4.”
Jamie McMurray notched his best finish of 2016 with a fourth-place result. The former winner at Talladega never led, but pushed several cars to the lead throughout the 500 miles.
Pole-sitter Chase Elliott led 27 laps and notched his third top-five finish of the young season. After leading much of the opening stint of the event, the No. 24 car fell back throughout the day, but came on strong in the final three laps.
“You can’t have a good day unless you finish,” Elliott said. “I think it was just focusing in on that and obviously it got really wild and for us we tried to keep that in mind to try and make it to the end.”
Tony Stewart was credited with a sixth-place finish, though Ty Dillon drove the No. 14 Chevrolet to the checkered flag. After the first caution on Lap 50, the XFINITY Series regular replaced the three-time Cup Series champion behind the wheel.
The Cup veteran admitted that “it sucked” having to get out of the racecar, but it was part of the deal to get him back in the car last weekend in Richmond.
Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Michael Waltrip, Cole Whitt, Bobby Labonte and the aforementioned Gilliland all posted season best finishes on Sunday.
The biggest incident of the afternoon came with 28 laps to go when Kurt Busch got into the rear of Jimmie Johnson spinning him into the wall, causing a 17 car crash. Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin was one of the drivers involved in the accident.
With eight laps to go Michael McDowell, spun Danica Patrick, clipping the side of Matt Kenseth’s machine and causing him to flip into the inside fence. The No. 20 car was one of the strongest racecars throughout the day leading 39 laps, finishing a disappointing 23rd.
Coming to the checkered flag was the last crash that saw 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick get airborne, hitting the outside retaining wall. Eight cars came across the checkered flag with damage due to this incident.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne all finished toward the rear with each driver had multiple problems at the 2.66-mile track.
In all, 33 out of the 40 cars received some kind of damage throughout the wildest race of the season to date.
The Cup Series will head to the Midwest for some night racing next Saturday in Kansas, with Johnson the defending winner. It was the controversy in the fall that led to the Kenseth and Joey Logano drama that saw its latest chapter on Sunday when the No. 22 car forced the No. 20 Toyota below the yellow line.
After the event had concluded Kenseth pointed his finger out of displeasure at Logano, where the 25-year-old shrugged his shoulders and chuckled.
Chase Elliott Wins another Restrictor-Plate Pole
In the same car that he raced, and crashed in the Daytona 500, Chase Elliott posted a lap of 192.661 mph and will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday at Talladega.
This is Elliott’s second career pole in the Cup Series, the other one coming in the season-opening race in Daytona. It also marks the first time that the No. 24 car will start from the lead spot at Talladega other than Jeff Gordon, and going back to last season the team has sat on five restrictor-plate poles in the last six plate events.
“This is a team effort,” Elliott said post-qualifying. “Like I said in Daytona this has nothing to do with me, it’s the car that we had. It’s the same car that we had in Daytona and brought another fast one here.”
30 years ago to the day Elliott’s father, Bill Elliott won the pole at Talladega, one of his better tracks, including the one where he laid down the fastest lap in NASCAR at over 212.000 mph.
After having the quickest first round lap, Austin Dillon came up just short and will start alongside Elliott on the front row at 192.424 mph.
“We sat around for a while, Chase was later he may have had some more heat in the car,” Dillon said on why he slowed down from round one. “I’m just proud of these guys. We barely got into the top 12 at Daytona and last year we were 24th.”
Six-time Talladega winner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. recorded the third fastest time at 192.293 mph. Much like his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, the No. 88 team had to repair Amelia, his favorite racecar on a plate track after crashing in Daytona.
Matt Kenseth posted the fourth fastest lap at 192.181 mph after sitting on the front row of the first plate race this season. Jimmie Johnson was fifth at 192.116 mph, marking the third Hendrick Motorsports car in the top-five starting positions.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. just missed out on the top five and will begin from sixth, his best career starting position at Talladega. Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin was eighth quick and the guy he edged out for that victory, Martin Truex, Jr. was 12th on the speed chart
Ty Dillon qualified Tony Stewart’s racecar 14th for Sunday’s 500-mile event. The three-time Cup champion will begin the race and compete until the first caution, where the XFINITY Series regular will take over.
Two of the other Stewart-Haas Racing cars had disappointing qualifying runs, with 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick in 29th and Danica Patrick 37th. The No. 10 machine was fourth in each of Friday’s practice sessions.
Fall winner at Talladega, Joey Logano will begin from 22nd. He was quickest in final practice with Jamie McMurray fastest in the opening practice. The No. 1 car will start 30th.
Josh Wise is the only competitor that failed to make the event.