When is the last time a race was hard to predict a winner, but no restrictor plates were involved? When was the battle to the finish as close as can be, but not involving using bumpers to make the pass? When did the battle for a trophy involve a driver going for his first win of the year, against another that wanting his first win of his career?
When is the last time all three of those happened in one event?
That is exactly what Sunday’s action at Dover provided. From the drop of the green it was a battle of who would ultimately be the best car. At every point it seemed there was someone to beat, and then strategy comes in to play into who would be out front. Then a major accident that is normally reserved for a place like Daytona or Talladega blows the field open to determine a winner.
In the end, it was a battle between one veteran experiencing a drought and unfortunate circumstance against a pair of young drivers who were hungry to taste their first trophy of their careers.
Matt Kenseth, against Kyle Larson, against Chase Elliott. It was a fight that got everyone at the Monster Mile on their feet, hoping to see an epic conclusion. Those in attendance got exactly that, but got so with the ultimate respect in racing. There was no “bump-and-dump” to get the trophy, nor a rattle of the cage. It was straight up who had the most desire to make it to the line one last time before the others.
On this occasion, the veteran would taste victory, erasing all the issues he’s experienced all year long, and locking all four Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas into the 2016 Chase.
That win was not enough to get a victory on the list of writers, and many because of the big accident late in the going, cost many a strong finish. Only four of the 14-writer field managed a top-10 finish, and did so with a damaged machine. Here’s the look of the standings after the AAA 400 Drive For Autism:
Ashley McCubbin (421) Jimmie Johnson finished 25th – 2
Sal Sigala Jr. (364) Kevin Harvick finished 15th – 2
Dustin Parks (363) Kyle Busch finished 30th – 1
Ashley Hull (336) Jimmie Johnson finished 25th – 5
Patti Rodisch (336) Jimmie Johnson finished 25th – 2
Kara Martin (328) Kevin Harvick finished 15th – 1
Rob Blount (321) Kevin Harvick finished 15th – 2
Mary Jo Buchanan (299) Martin Truex Jr. finished 9th – 1
Misan Akuya (296) Carl Edwards finished 28th – 2
Klarissa Mitchell (290) Martin Truex Jr. finished 9th – 1
Rob Tiongson (280) Martin Truex Jr. finished 9th – 2
Billy Fellin (278) Jimmie Johnson finished 25th – 1
Ashley Hobbs (256) NO PICK SENT – 1
Stephen Conley (240) Martin Truex Jr. finished 9th – 0
Next Race: Each year the sport starts with Speedweeks down in Daytona. When it is the middle of May, NASCAR has another version of Speedweeks, but at a place where it can be considered the true home base of the sport. It’s the location of the Hall of Fame, where inductees get a permanent place for their contributions to the sport.
Just like Daytona, one race is just about bragging rights, the other for points. More on the bragging rights in a bit.
In two weeks, it is the biggest test of everything NASCAR is all about. It’s a race that changes so much over the course from green flag to checkered, the teams and the drivers know it is a marathon. It is the true marathon for the sport, because it is a race longer than any on the season. The green flag waves while the sun is shining down, and then sets beyond the backstretch. The lights turn on to give a view of twilight, and then comes to a conclusion at night with fireworks exploding on the horizon.
On the most sorrowful of holidays, NASCAR hosts the greatest challenge for all.
Writers, you have two weeks to decide, so have those picks locked in by Thursday, May 26, for the Coca-Cola 600.
HOWEVER, there is one race happening prior, in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. While the 600 is the marathon, the All-Star Race is the sprint. So, watch your email for a very special request to have delivered by Thursday, May 19.