The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is now down to 12 competitors after Jeff Gordon's win at the AAA 400 in Dover, Delaware.
Brad Keselowski earned second place with Jimmie Johnson coming in third, as each top driver remains a top contender to win the entire championship.
Of course, the bigger story was the first cut in the Chase, as AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola were all eliminated from the competition. Here is a look at the top 10 from Dover International Speedway:
|NASCAR at Dover Results|
|2||2||Brad Keselowski||4.352 sec|
|3||48||Jimmie Johnson||5.827 sec|
|4||22||Joey Logano||11.094 sec|
|5||20||Matt Kenseth||11.717 sec|
|6||42||Kyle Larson||14.829 sec|
|7||78||Martin Truex Jr.||16.152 sec|
|8||31||Ryan Newman||18.269 sec|
|9||15||Clint Bowyer||18.757 sec|
|10||18||Kyle Busch||18.891 sec|
Kevin Harvick earned the pole for the race and took advantage of it early, as Dan Gelston of The Associated Press described:
This continued as Harvick led for a total of 223 laps in the race before dealing with tire problems near the midway point. Dustin Long of Motor Racing Network provided an update on the issue:
Kyle Magda of Speedway Digest noted the impact:
Meanwhile, the competition to stay in the race remained a big storyline with popular drivers like Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch on the line.
Jeff Gluck of USA Today noted an important moment in this competition:
At the same time, Kahne received some valuable advice toward the end of the race:
This battle continued while Gordon was able to take the lead from Keselowski with under 100 laps remaining. This lead held for a long time as there was a lot of drama heading into the final few laps:
Gordon was able to hold on with a strong finish, as shown by Hendrick Motorsports, which also noted the success for each driver:
On the other hand, Busch was not as fortunate, as he was eliminated from the competition along with Allmendinger, who had the biggest drop in the standings. He was not happy with his effort, per ESPN's Marty Smith:
Gluck was impressed by Kahne's ability to bounce back after a slow start:
This race ended up having a major impact on the latest Sprint Cup standings, with the bottom four drivers now out of the hunt:
|2014 Sprint Cup Grid|
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|10||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||3000||3||11||17|
|*Eliminated from competition|
Almirola was one of the competitors eliminated, although he did have a decent amount of confidence coming into the race in 16th place, per Michael Vega of The Boston Globe:
We cut it down to a realistic possibility going to Dover. If we went to Dover 28 points out, we might as well go ahead and just throw in the towel, but that [sixth-place finish] was exactly what we needed.
I said all week the best thing we can do if we can’t win is we need to go and try to run top five. We ran sixth and we’ve got to try and put pressure on those other guys. We’re down, but we’re not out.
Unfortunately, a poor run put him a few laps back, and he was not able to recover.
Meanwhile, the finalists remaining will not be too disappointed to see experienced drivers like Biffle and Busch out of the hunt.
Keselowski, who came into the day with the lead, still remains a top contender alongside Gordon, Johnson and Joey Logano. Still, it all comes down to how each driver fares going forward.
The next race will be in Kansas, but it is also important to look ahead to Charlotte and then Talladega. After these three events, four more drivers will be eliminated to cut the field to eight.
Every competition gets more intense as the year continues, and it will be interesting to see who can handle the pressure.
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