Winners and Losers: AAA 400

Patti RodischAnalyst ISeptember 27, 2009

DOVER, DE - SEPTEMBER 27:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates with his wfe Chandra in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 27, 2009 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR rolled into Dover with tons of storylines and a lot of drama for the 12 Chase drivers. Some drivers need to change momentum after last week’s race at New Hampshire.

Other drivers are hoping to ride that momentum to victory lane. Dover, though, can take a good race car and eat it up and spit you out. See which drivers survived the Monster.

Check out the winners and the losers.

 

Winners

Jimmie Johnson

Well, I can’t say it wasn’t expected, Jimmie Johnson dominates the race and goes on to win. This team had this race really won on Friday when they won the pole. They were involved in the tire test at Dover so they had notes to go off of that other teams didn’t.

For Johnson, the Chase is his time, and he proved that with the performance he had today. They were solid on the track and on pit road. Johnson gave great feedback to his team.

Even when the car was not up front, he was able to work traffic well. Johnson was great on restarts; he was able to pull away from the field.

Johnson gets hot late in the season, and his win at Dover could be the foundation for their run for a fourth consecutive championship. Johnson and his team have a lot of momentum going into Kansas, where he won last year.

It’s only the second race, but the Chase but once again it is looking like Johnson’s to lose.

Points: Second

 

Jeff Gordon

I debated on my second pick it came down to three drivers. I chose Jeff Gordon because after his less than stellar run last week at New Hampshire, he came back to Dover and ran a smart race and earned a solid finish.

Gordon struggled for most of the weekend in practice. They couldn’t find the speed in the race car with this tire combination.

He started seventh and moved forward early. He was as high as second, but a broken air hose on a pit stop hurt their track position.

They were forced to rebound from seventh position. They lost ground but played strategy and took fresh tires.

They made up some ground with those tires but were never able to get up front. They finished sixth.

Of the teams that needed a good run, Gordon was one of them. It wasn’t what they wanted but now they are heading to tracks where Gordon has run well this year, those being mile and a half.

The time is now for Gordon to make his charge if he wants this championship that bad.

Points: Eighth

 

Casey Mears

This week Casey Mears lost his primary sponsor and then came out to Dover and ran in the top 15 for most of the day. Mears needed this run as bad as anyone and he did get it done.

Mears and his crew struggled with grip all day long, but Mears was able to give good feedback to the crew and they got it done on pit road. Mears gained the most time on pit road with his crew.

When Mears was running in the top 10, his car was just as fast if not faster than the guys he was racing. He did lose positions on the final restart because they didn’t have fresher tires. The gamble though for this team was worth it.

Mears finished 17th. He needed a run like this just to gain some momentum going into Kansas. Mears has shown in past season that he runs well late in the season which will be exactly what this team will have to do.

With talk of the team closing up because of lack of sponsorship Mears is auditioning for sponsors and possibly for a ride.

Points: 19th

 

Losers

Reed Sorenson

You know 2009 has not been as good as Sorenson had hoped. He moved over to Richard Petty Motorsports with the merger. The organization was struggling with retaining sponsors but Sorenson was signed to drive the No. 43.

Sunday’s race at Dover was just another example of a bad year getting worse. Sorenson had a decent car; he was running well and was moving forward.

After the competition caution on lap 25, Sorenson was caught up in the multi car wreck that destroyed the front of his car.

Their day was over, the team though made repairs and did come back on track but he finished 35th.

Recently the announcement that he be losing his ride. RPM had agreed to another merger deal with Yates Racing. Then we learned he has been driving for no salary for the last couple months. Doing so kept his team employed for the remainder of the year.

Sorenson is in search of another ride for 2010, might not be in the Cup series and could be in the Nationwide series. Either way consistency for Sorenson has been hard to find in his racing career.

In recent weeks this team had been running better, but they keep getting caught up in other peoples mess.

Points: 28th

 

Carl Edwards

It has not been an easy year for Carl Edwards. He has yet to win a race after leading the series in 2008 with nine wins. In 2009, he along with his organization has struggled with the setups on the cars.

He came into Dover on Sunday sitting 11th in the standings, desperately needing a solid run and finish to get back in the hunt.

He didn’t help himself with a poor qualifying effort that had him back in heavy traffic from the drop of the green in 30th.

He was struggling with a tight race car throughout the day. Edwards suffered some minor damage in the multi-car wreck but pitted before pit road was open, and was at the back of the pack.

What positions he gained were on pit road which finally got him into the top 15. Even so the team was unable to gamble enough on pit road to make any headway into the top 10.

While Edwards ended up finishing 11th this was not the type of run they expected at Dover.

Edwards was a factor last year in the championship this year he is an afterthought, they need to start focusing on next year.

Points: 11th

 

Kyle Busch

Well, Kyle Busch will win a championship in 2009, just not in the series he was expecting it to be. Busch, who is not in the Chase this year, was looking to play spoiler in the final 10 races.

So far, it hasn’t happened for Busch.

Busch had a strong car early on but brake problems and a bad adjustment had this team going backward. They hit the wall when he blew a tire.

After changing tires and losing a lap, he was complaining of brake issues. Soon after Busch hit the wall again and that sent him to the garage.

He finished 31st. Busch did return but was well off the pace and was just running laps. The year following up his best year statistically has been such a struggle for consistency.

The team fell behind coming into this year and now they are paying for it.

Points: 14th

 

Lucky dog…

Joey Logano

You might think I am crazy, he wrecked and was out of it before lap 50. When you see the wreck he had, then you too will say he is lucky.

Logano had a decent car and was moving forward early in the race. At the competition caution on lap 25 the team made some minor adjustments on the car.

They restarted mid-pack after losing position on pit road but that’s where trouble began. Logano checked up and then was tapped from behind and spun through the grass. He slid right back on track and collected Sorenson and Martin Truex Jr. and Robby Gordon.

Logano continued to flip back down the track seven times, and still walked away.

Logano was shaken up more than anything; he finished 42nd.  The car did exactly what it was supposed to do and protected Logano head and neck as he flipped.

This won’t be the last wreck for Logano in his career, but this might have been his scariest wreck.

Thankfully, he walked away.

Points: 20th

 

Final lap…

This race wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great. The passing on track was little to none with the tire combination used. The only way to make up positions was on pit road. For some drivers it proved costly for others it saved their race.

Getting four tires didn’t exactly give an advantage to one driver. If you were going to win this race you had to make up ground on pit road and beat Johnson off pit road.

I do wonder why they do tire tests, but don’t use the combination that the drivers involved recommend. I think that is what set so many drivers behind from the get-go on Friday for some the notes they thought would work, hurt the handling on some cars.

Now that we are heading to a bigger track, I think we will see some different players. Drivers who haven’t run well on the short tracks but run better on the big tracks could be up front.

ESPN coverage was okay. It was not spectacular, but just okay. They did a nice job running through the field this week and really keeping us on top of the racing.

Could improvements be made? Of course! Will there be any? Probably not. So fans will have bear it for the next eight races and look forward to Fox again in February.

Kansas should be interesting as the points continue to shuffle and change each week.

See you all in Kansas.

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