It’s called “Bristol on Steroids” and has a concrete monster as its logo. Dover International Speedway in Dover, DE is a one-of-a-kind track that has been intimidating drivers since its inception, it can reach out and snatch up a car at any moment.
The Monster Mile played host to the second race of the 2009 Chase for the Championship on Sunday with 400 laps of trying to conquer the concrete mile. Weather though, was expected to have the upper hand as rain moved in overnight and much of the morning, but was expected to clear by race time.
Chase contender and second in points Jimmie Johnson won the pole during qualifying on Friday with another Chaser, fourth in points, Juan Pablo Montoya on the outside pole. Starting third and fourth on the grid were Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle, also Chase drivers, who entered Dover seventh and ninth in points respectively.
The rest of the Chasers lined up as: Kasey Kahne in sixth, Jeff Gordon seventh, Brian Vickers 12th, Denny Hamlin 13th, Mark Martin (the points leader) 15th, Kurt Busch 16th, Tony Stewart 22nd, and Carl Edwards in the 30th position.
Johnson won the first Dover race of the season back in June and was one of the favorites on Sunday, but so was Juan Pablo Montoya who made his first career Chase and was letting it all hang out trying to win the championship. Newman and Biffle were also ones that were marked as could be contenders on Sunday.
After a torrential downpour early Sunday morning the rain moved out and the AAA 400 started on time, shortly after 2 PM eastern time.
Johnson led the field to the green flag and led the first 25 laps up until the competition caution that NASCAR had because of all the rain that ended up washing all the rubber off the track.
The leaders hit pit road and Newman took the lead after only pitting for two tires, as did Kasey Kahne.
At the restart on lap 30 Newman led with Kurt Busch second, Kasey Kahne third, Juan Pablo Montoya fourth, and Johnson fifth after getting four tires.
On lap 32 the race needed to be red flagged after contact between Tony Stewart and Joey Logano sent Logano back up into the pack of cars and resulted in the No. 20 flipping down the concrete about seven times and resting on the apron.
Other cars involved were Martin Truex Jr., Robby Gordon, and Reed Sorenson, who all had to bring their racecars behind the wall for repairs.
All drivers were checked and released from the infield care center, including Logano, who said that the wreck, “I’m fine, Scared heck out of me. Haven't seen replay. Not sure I want to. I was just like, please make this thing stop.”
Once the yellow flag came back out and the cars started rolling, Stewart came down pit road to repair the damage he suffered when having contact with Logano. Carl Edwards was also on pit road to fix the left end plate on his wing.
As the race restarted Newman led, followed by Busch, Paul Menard, Biffle, and Jamie McMurray on lap 36 of the 400 scheduled.
After a dismal start to the Chase last Sunday in New Hampshire, Kahne was off to a much better start in Dover, taking over the fifth position on lap 41 and Jeff Gordon followed him into the sixth spot.
After the first 50 laps Newman still held the top spot and five bonus points for the Chase, as Busch and Biffle tried to close in. Early leader Johnson had lost spots and was 11th and points leader and teammate Martin ran in the 13th position.
Busch took over the lead on lap 58 from Newman and slowly began to pull away from the field. After having to pit for repairs, Stewart and Edwards ran 23rd and 26th on the track.
Newman lost second spot to Montoya on lap 67 and then lost third to Jeff Gordon just moments later. Biffle got around him the next lap for fourth and that left Newman in the clutches of Kyle Busch, Kahne, Johnson, David Reutimann and Menard.
Reutimann hit pit road under green conditions on lap 80 for a scheduled stop but the caution ended up flying after Michael Waltrip had a right front tire let go and sent him into the turn two wall.
All the leaders hit pit road, Busch, Montoya, Gordon and everyone else took four tires on this stop. Busch won the race off pit road followed by: Biffle, Kyle Busch, Johnson, Montoya, Gordon, Newman, Martin, McMurray, and Menard to complete the top 10.
Busch led at the restart, lap 89, as Biffle and Johnson got to fight for second spot as Kyle Busch and Gordon looked on. Johnson took the spot, Kyle Busch went to third, and Montoya to fourth as Biffle fell to fifth.
Busch had things well in hand after the first 100 laps, Johnson followed, along with Kyle Busch, Montoya and Gordon, as Edwards and Stewart remained in the back of the field at 20th and 22nd positions.
As for other Chasers, Kahne ran seventh, Vickers 17th and Hamlin ran 18th after 113 laps. Gordon reported he was not happy with his car and said that the back end was all over the place.
As Busch tried to navigate the traffic in front of him, that allowed Johnson and Montoya to close in for a three-car battle for the lead.
Back in the pack Stewart had moved up to the 18th position, but Hamlin and Edwards were going backwards. Hamlin fell to the 20th position and Edwards in the 22nd spot at lap 140.
Some drivers were reporting possible debris in turn four but NASCAR checked and said that they didn’t see anything and the race stayed green. Shortly thereafter Johnson took the lead from Busch who got caught behind Bobby Labonte whom he was trying to lap.
McMurray hit pit road on lap 158 along with Sam Hornish Jr. to begin green flag pit stops as Johnson led. Kyle Busch had to come down pit road after having a tire go down and brushing the wall, which brought out the fourth caution of the day.
This brought all the leaders to pit road, lap 164, where once again most took four tires.
Busch beat Johnson, Montoya, Gordon and Martin off pit road. Next came Kahne, Biffle, Bowyer, Newman and Kenseth as the top ten.
At the lap 169 restart, Busch drove away from Johnson but not for long as Johnson went for the lead on lap 172 but could not complete the pass. As they raced side-by-side Martin took the sixth spot and Tony Stewart attempted to make his first appearance in the top ten.
McMurray, who had been running in the top 10 earlier in the race, radioed to his crew that he thought that something was getting ready to blow and Kyle Busch radioed to his crew that they shouldn’t be surprised if the tire blew again because he felt that something was bent in the car.
Edwards was also on the move, up to 14th, Vickers 15th, and Hamlin ran 18th at lap 185 as Johnson began to pull away with the lead.
At the halfway mark, 200 laps, Johnson still led over Busch, Gordon, Montoya, and Martin.
Caution flew on lap 207 after Kyle Busch hit the wall and brought his No. 18 car to the garage. That meant all the leaders came back to the attention of their pit crews and for four more tires.
This time Johnson won the race off pit road over teammate Jeff Gordon, then Kurt Busch, Martin, Montoya, Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Newman, Stewart and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top 10.
Tony Stewart finally made it to the top 10 as his pit crew earned him three spots and he existed in the ninth position.
On the restart, Johnson pulled away as he’s done all day and led until lap 236 when there was talk about debris on the frontstretch. But NASCAR said that it wasn’t debris and the green stayed out.
Chaser Denny Hamlin continued his backslide on lap 250 when he went a lap down to leader Jimmie Johnson and ran in the 20th position. As Hamlin went a lap down, his teammate Busch prepared to reenter the race after his crew took care of the damage to his car in the garage area.
Meanwhile, the biggest mover on the track was Stewart who had driven his Burger King car up to the seventh position and was reported to have a very good car that he was taking care of for the end of the race.
But fellow Chaser Brian Vickers was put down a lap right as David Stremme hit the wall and brought out the caution flag, Vickers would get the Lucky Dog award and be back on the lead lap.
Johnson lead the field back down pit road and got a chassis adjustment. Johnson once again won the race off pit road over Gordon, Kurt Busch, Montoya, Martin, Kenseth, Stewart, Bowyer, Kahne, and Newman as the top 10.
Johnson again shot away on the restart and on 317 he put Hamlin two laps down as Hamlin still ran 20th on the grid. Not that far away from being lapped, Chasers Carl Edwards and Brian Vickers who ran 16th and 17th respectively.
Caution for debris flew on lap 325 and it was predicted it could be the leaders final pit stops of the day. Johnson led them down pit road. Martin got no changes, Montoya got an air pressure adjustment, as did Gordon and Johnson got a track bar adjustment on their stops.
Johnson won the race off pit road over Martin, Kenseth, Montoya, Stewart, Busch, Gordon, Newman, Biffle, and Clint Bowyer came off pit road in the 10th spot. Johnson again led the restart as Martin in second held the inside lane up and allowed the outside to grab a bunch of positions.
With 58 laps to go caution flew again when Regan Smith lost it and collected Elliott Sadler and Martin Truex Jr.
Jeff Gordon came down pit road for four tires as did Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, and other lead lap cars that were running outside the top 10.
The restart happened with 53 laps to go, Johnson held the lead, Kenseth went to second and Montoya to third and Stewart moved up the fourth spot. Jeff Gordon that had pitted was trying to move through the field when contact with Newman sent him back a few spots with fender damage.
Back up front though; Johnson had things well in hand with 38 laps to go over Kenseth and Montoya. Mark Martin took the fourth spot from Stewart and Kurt Busch ran sixth.
But caution with 32 laps to go would bunch the field back up after Sam Hornish Jr. went for a spin down the backstretch.
Most of the leaders stayed out but Stewart, Newman, Biffle, Kahne an Vickers did come down pit road for four tires in hopes of trying to run down the leaders on the restart.
Restart with 27 laps to go saw Johnson again pull away from the field, followed by Kenseth as Martin and Montoya fought for third spot. Martin took the second spot from Kenseth with 15 laps to go.
Nothing changed in the top 10 over those 15 laps as Jimmie Johnson went on and captured his fifth win at Dover. Mark Martin finished second, Matt Kenseth third, Juan Pablo Montoya fourth, and Kurt Busch finished in the fifth spot.
Mark Martin held the points lead, but only by 10 points over Johnson, 65 over Montoya, 75 over Kurt Busch, 106 over Stewart, 108 over Hamlin, 110 over Newman, 122 over Gordon, 138 over Biffle, 151 over Vickers, 153 over Edwards and Kasey Kahne sits 12th in points, 189 markers behind.
There are eight races remaining, the next coming at Kansas next Sunday.