What a difference a year makes.
The photo (above) is of a smiling (pre-accident) Tony Stewart after winning last year's spring race at Dover International Speedway. There haven't been too many smiles this year.
For the three-time champion team owner it has been a slow recovery from the serious injuries he suffered last summer in a sprint car accident. And Dover is good medicine for the No. 14 team.
Dover’s ultra-fast, all-concrete one-mile track has always been good to “Smoke.” And Dover comes at the right time for the Indiana native.
While his teammates at Stewart-Haas Racing are doing quite well they would like nothing more than to see the boss win a race and get his invite into the 2014 Chase.
Dover also comes at a good time for several drivers, including a pair from Joe Gibbs Racing, Denny Hamlin (the defending pole-sitter) and Matt Kenseth, who has two wins and an amazing 13 (!) top-fives on the concrete high banks.
Jimmie Johnson finished a lap down from the leaders last year after leading 143 laps but having an issue in the closing laps.
Johnson's win at Charlotte on Sunday was a not-too-subtle reminder to the rest of the field that the No. 48 Lowe's squad hasn't been taking it easy waiting for a win to come its way. The team went out and made sure everyone knew it was still serious by winning the longest and toughest race on the schedule.
A few other teams need to pick it up and make statements of their own.