NASCAR at Dover 2014: Winners and Losers from FedEx 400
The FedEx 400 at Dover is, has been and will be owned by Jimmie Johnson. He had eight wins at Dover going into Sunday and walked away with his ninth overall and his second of the season.
The win gives him back-to-back wins for the 13th time in his Hall of Fame career. Johnson's new-generation car was superior to everyone during the race. At one point, he was as much as six seconds ahead of second-place teammate Jeff Gordon (before Gordon had mechanical issues that faded him to 15th). If it wasn't for two late cautions, Johnson had the fuel and the tires to win this race by several hundred yards.
There were two red-flag cautions at Dover: one involving car wreckage, the other involving heaved cement. The Monster Mile proved tough for many drivers and provided its fair share of winners and losers with no bigger winner than...
Winner: Horses for Courses
The question heading into Charlotte last week was, "When will Jimmie Johnson win a race?" The question leaving Dover is, "When will Jimmie Johnson lose another?"
Johnson was positively dominant while winning at Dover for the ninth time. It was the 13th time in his epic career that he won back-to-back races, too.
"We're getting closer," Johnson said afterward. "It was a new-generation car we put all our faith into."
Johnson led for over 200 laps at Dover, the seventh time he has done so. Johnson now joins Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick as the only two drivers with two wins on the circuit. The No. 48 Lowe's car is loaded and isn't slowing down. Johnson jumped two spots to fourth in the Sprint Cup standings with sights on leader Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards.
Loser: Roush Fenway Racing
This is a matter of circumstance or bad luck, but as a result, Roush Fenway Racing exits Dover with two beat-up cars and a bruised ego.
AJ Allmendinger rode up on the inside of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and clipped his left bumper. It spun Stenhouse out of control and right into teammate Greg Biffle. Stenhouse's car was unsalvageable, but Biffle's car went to the garage with the hopes of coming back 150 laps down or so to avoid a DNF.
"It looked like AJ was driving pretty hard like he always does and didn't have enough room," Biffle told Fox after the wreck. "That's why they call it the Monster Mile. When a guy makes a mistake like that, multiple cares get involved."
"From my seat, I was trying to maintain, but the 47 [Allmendinger] came flying up inside," Stenhouse told Fox afterward. "The worst part of it is getting your teammate involved."
Winner: The "Full Can of Beverage"
Jamie McMurray hit something on the track. and it sprayed up on his windshield. Fox's Mike Joy said, "That looks like a full can of beverage." The way it sprayed, it did look fluid.
Upon further review, Darrell Waltrip said, "That's a piece of the track, a big chunk of track."
Ryan Newman drove over an expansion joint in Turn 2 and dislodged a small brick of concrete. McMurray trailed him and smashed it to pieces and injured his splitter. The force of it jarred his car, and he skimmed the wall.
The track crew mixed some quick-setting concrete, and 22 minutes later, they went from red to yellow. Unfortunately, for McMurray's team there's a rule in NASCAR that cars cannot be repaired during a red-flag delay. They sat on Pit Road looking at a busted splitter and couldn't touch it.
"It broke our splitter in half," McMurray said on Pit Road. "I wish we could work on it now. We're ready for the flag to get lifted."
The last pothole race was won by McMurray, so it's a bit of karma that McMurray was on the business end of a piece of concrete that effectively took him out of the race. He finished 13th.
On the ensuing caution lap, Busch tried to run up and bump Bowyer. Busch's road rage went unfulfilled, and he went back to his RV without offering comment for the incident.
Busch was trying to complete the triple sweep, having won the truck race Friday night and the Nationwide race Saturday. That all ended on Lap 126 because Bowyer was told he was clear.
"I hated what happened to Kyle," Bowyer said. "It was a bad deal."
Winner: Biffle's Running Streak
Drivers and team owners like that final status line to say "running." Greg Biffle took an 84-race running streak—the longest in NASCAR—into Dover. When his teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashed into him, it forced Biffle's 3M car into the garage. He hoped to come back 150 laps down. He was 49 laps better.
Biffle entered with a wicked spoiler 101 laps down to try to keep the streak alive. He couldn't quite maintain top speed, but he was fast enough to stay on the track and keep Roush Fenway Racing from having two DNFs at Dover (Stenhouse being the only one).
Loser: Jeff Gordon's Car
Jeff Gordon was running second for a large chunk of the race. He had a great view of his teammate's bumper—that being Jimmie Johnson, of course.
After a restart, Gordon looked to stay in second; instead, his car drifted high on the track and lost all power. He looked like a lock for second place and could do no better than 15th.
He lost his grip on the Sprint Cup standings as well. He now has 461 points, just two behind the new leader, Matt Kenseth.
His back problems have prompted talk of retirement, but he's got a long season ahead of him, and he's still a serious contender for the title.
Winner: Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart is back. He didn't win the FedEx 400, but he drove a darn good race to finish seventh for his fifth top-10.
He fielded a bunch of questions, albeit annoyingly, about having tested a sprint car. Stewart is still recovering from a broken leg he suffered last year. Stewart told Fox Sports:
I will be able to tell you how it went. Let's put it that way. You won't know when it's coming. When I do go nobody is going to know about it. I'm going to just slide in and do it. I want to enjoy it. I don't want it to be a cluster. Judging off the fact of how many people showed up just to talk to me about going and testing for a couple of hours I can imagine what the group is going to be like after I run my first race.
And a caution on Lap 361 allowed an aggressive Stewart to fuel up and gun for a strong finish.
Loser: Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth is still winless in 2014. Nobody was catching Jimmie Johnson, that much was clear. Kenseth had a shot at second, but like last week at Charlotte, he ceded second to another and finished third for the second consecutive week.
Kenseth had a terrible restart on Lap 396 after the afternoon's eighth caution. Clint Bowyer, who ruined Kyle Busch's day, gave Kenseth a little nudge, but it almost spun him out. Brad Keselowski took the inside path and easily coasted to second place. Bowyer was just trying to give Kenseth a hand.
"I was just trying to help him!" Bowyer said afterward.
"He hit me just trying to give me a push," Kenseth said. "I did a horrendous job on that restart."
Kenseth has been steady all year. He earned his 10th top-10 of the season but has to shoulder the pressure of being the best driver yet to win a race yet in 2014.
Still, the third-place finish gives him 463 points, good for first in the Sprint Cup, two ahead of Jeff Gordon, who has 461.
All quotes in this slideshow were taken from interviews during the Fox broadcast.
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