Most motorsports fans agree that nothing energizes a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and team like victory lane. Wins boost team morale, leader points and driver confidence—especially when your 2013 season has been dismal compared to past championship standards.
Tony Stewart and team seemed to wake up from a season slump to roar to the front of the pack during the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Stewart’s No. 14 had the power to eventually get around leader Juan Pablo Montoya for the win.
Montoya has been struggling this year as well, but with teammate Jamie McMurray, their Earnhardt Ganassi Racing cars have shown recent improvements. Montoya held on to place second.
Also having a less-than-stellar year is four-time NSCS champion Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet. Gordon described his 2013 season Saturday before the race as “terrible,” but managed to secure third place on Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson appeared to jump the green flag and got a drive-through penalty that placed him in the back where he finished 17th. Johnson claimed he didn’t jump the start, but NASCAR insisted it was a clear violation.
Both Stewart and Gordon jumped four spots to move up in the standings. Gordon is in 11th position.
Fords seem to be having problems recently, but Carl Edwards has continued to occupy second place in the point standings for many races.
Kevin Harvick is having an excellent year despite his lame-duck status at Richard Childress Racing and moved back into the Top Five after Dover. .
Select comments by those on the race podium, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon tell much about the Dover results. Two drivers in the Top Five shared their take on the day.
Tony Stewart needed a win to boost morale at Stewart-Haas Racing, but he is rarely ever at a loss for words.
“This thing was not a car that could win the race. Just great pit strategy at the end. We had a car that was solid, we just never got track position to get in clean air. It felt a lot better up front. Steve Addington (crew chief) made a great call there that last caution and gave us the opportunity to race for it up there.
“Our guys at our shop have been digging. None of these guys get down. We have been down but they haven’t gotten down. That is what carries you to days like today at the end of the day.
“It’s fun when you can battle guys like Juan Montoya and Jeff Gordon like that. That is two pretty cool names to be racing for the win with.”
Juan Pablo Montoya has won on road courses in NSCS, but not on ovals yet.
“Our car was just a handful at the end. We had a really quick car all day I didn’t have enough drive off the corner. I was too loose in. It was hard I was trying to do the best I could. It’s one of those deals where we were just not quick enough.
“Everybody on the Energizer car this weekend did a really good job. I think that win is coming. It’s just good to be running this good every week.”
Jeff Gordon would certainly like to return to his winning ways and victory lane days.
“I thought we had a really good race car. We just never could get the track position. We kept adjusting on it. We weren’t going anywhere. We were making changes to the car, some were helping, some weren’t, but we still weren’t really making any ground. We got fortunate we kind of stayed out under one green flag run; had pretty fresh tires then we were able to stay out on that one. Great call, great pit stops. It was a fun day there at the end. We were struggling and fighting hard all day, but came out with a good finish.”
Carl Edwards performed one trademark back-flip after winning Phoenix this year, but he surely would like to continue with more wins and acrobatics.
“We just all struggled and I think there is some systemic problem with our car. It is good that we all went the same speed so that at least we know. When three different groups run the same speed and it is not fast enough, it means that we are doing a good job making the car as fast as it can go, but it is up to all of us now to identify exactly where we are missing it. We will address it. We have time before the Chase starts. Now it is just time to buckle down and work.”
Kevin Harvick may be moving on from RCR, but he continues to win and be in contention for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
“Our Jimmy John’s Chevy was good one run, really loose one run and really tight the next run. At the end we were just loose and tight. Then the run before on two tires really loose. We hung in there and got a solid top-10.”
Nearly all drivers believe in momentum to some degree. Fans might want to follow these recent race producers to see if they can capitalize going into race 14 at Pocono on June 9.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.