NASCAR's Monster Mile Takes a Bite Out of Some Drivers' Title Hopes
Dover International Speedway, also known as the Monster Mile, has been known as one of the toughest and most physically demanding tracks on the Sprint Cup Circuit.
The track lived up to its moniker Sunday afternoon during the AAA 400, striking some of the sport's most popular drivers and possibly ending the title hopes of others.
After Sunday's race there were some drivers who left the track scratching their heads and wondering what might have been.
A.J. Allmendinger surprised everyone on Friday when he qualified second and backed up the excellent effort by leading 143 laps on Sunday during the race. A.J. appeared to have the strongest car until a flat tire forced him to pit while leading and losing two laps in the process. Allmendinger was unable to lead or find the top five again after the disappointment but did rally back to finish 10th.
Leading up to Dover, Clint Bowyer dominated the headlines earlier in the week after winning the first race of the Chase at New Hampshire and catapulting to second in the points standings. The positive vibes quickly came to an end a few days later when the winning car was confiscated by NASCAR and found to be illegal at their R&D Center in Charlotte.
Bowyer was docked 150 points, his crew chief Shane Wilson suspended for six races and fined $150,000, and car chief Chad Haney also suspended for six races. The penalty erased Bowyer's jump to second in points and dropped him back to 12th—over 160 points behind the points leader.
The negative vibes continued at Dover, as Clint struggled in practice on Friday and qualified 24th, and in the infield media center, where he and Richard Childress Racing were the center of a media frenzy and a war of words with fellow competitors.
Sunday proved no better for Bowyer, who finished the worst among Chase drivers after hitting the wall midway through the race and sustaining damage to the right side of his car. Clint went on to finish 25th and finds himself 235 points behind, holding down the 12th spot in the points standings—with his title hopes seemingly down the drain.
Matt Kenseth, who had the best average finish among all Sprint Cup drivers coming into Dover and was a favorite to win the race, struggled as well. Kenseth suffered a flat tire during the race and suffered significant left-front damage. Matt rallied back from adversity but only managed to finish 18th and is now 11th in points standings—over one race behind points leader Denny Hamlin.
After running out of fuel while leading with two laps ago last week and finishing 24th, Tony Stewart struggled the entire weekend at Dover. Stewart was only 24th fastest in the opening practice session and qualified 28th on Friday afternoon.
During the race, Tony was caught speeding on pit road and found himself two laps down early in the race. Stewart eventually made up one those laps but wound up finishing 21st. After a tough outing, Stewart is 10th in the standings and 162 points behind.
Although Sunday's race at Dover lacked the multiple car accidents and extended caution periods that it's known for, Miles the Monster took a significant bite out of some Chase drivers' title hopes. Four of the 12 Chase drivers now found themselves over 100 points behind points leader Denny Hamlin and look to get their title runs back on track at Kansas for next Sunday's Price Chopper 400.
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