Post-Coca-Cola 600 driver reports
May 27, 2013, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com
1. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48)
Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Johnson leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with 445 points.
Last week: Johnson has run so well this year and built up such a points lead that he can afford a few bad days at the office. Good thing, because that’s what happened Sunday night in Charlotte. Johnson ran in the top five for most of the evening, but missing lug nuts on a left tire sent him back to pit road on Lap 308 (of 400). Tight racing less than 20 laps later resulted in Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet spinning out of control, sending him back to pit road for major fixes. Later, his fender fell off. Johnson would finish 22nd, tied for his worst outing of the season, but keep a 30-plus point lead in the standings.
What he said: “We got pulled around in Turns 3 and 4 and spun. That really affected our finish from that point, but we did have some issues with the charging system of the car with batteries dying and things like that throughout the race, which added more excitement for us. It was a long night with a lot of issues and unfortunately we got sucked around there in Turn 3 and did some damage to the car.”
This week: In 22 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Johnson has seven wins, 11 top-fives, 16 top-10s and three poles. He is the defending race winner. In the past eight years at Dover, Johnson ranks first out of 49 drivers with an average place of 6.9.
Last year: Johnson continued a strong personal streak, and a strong Hendrick Motorsports streak. Johnson won for the seventh time in his career in last year’s Fed Ex 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks, leading 289 of 400 laps after starting second on the grid. It was Johnson’s third win in four races -- including the Sprint All-Star Race -- and gave Hendrick Motorsports its fourth consecutive win. The win also gave Johnson his eighth top-10 in the previous nine Dover races.
2. Carl Edwards (No. 99)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Where he stands: Edwards is second in the standings with 413 points.
Last week: Edwards seemed to hang around the top 10 throughout the Coca-Cola 600. Late in the race, he broke through, then slowly moved up even further, eventually taking the lead on Lap 374. By Lap 380, Edwards was one of two drivers on the lead lap that hadn’t taken his final pit stop. When he did, he dropped out of the top 10, but finished 11th and had a 34-point night.
What he said: “We struggled all night and I think we were doing everything we could to get the most spots we could. I think if we would have played the game a little bit differently there with two tires, four tires, pit stops, not stopping and all that we could have maybe finished sixth or seventh, but that was about the best we were gonna have. We’re missing something here.”
This week: In 17 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Edwards has one win, eight top-fives and 12 top-10s. In the past eight years at Dover, Edwards ranks third out of 49 drivers with an average place of 9.9.
Last year: Edwards started 19th, but worked himself into the top five by Lap 160 (of 400). Chasing down Kyle Busch to move up another spot, Edwards lost the handle of his race car and went sliding into the high wall. The damage didn’t knock Edwards out of the race for good, but it relegated him to a 26th-place finish with 318 laps run. That finish broke Edwards’ Dover streak of four consecutive top-10s.
3. Matt Kenseth (No. 20)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Where he stands: Kenseth is third in the standings with 394 points.
Last week: It seems like this has been the case all year when Matt Kenseth doesn’t finish well -- the No. 18 had a spate of bad luck at Charlotte and finished 15th. Kenseth led three different times for 112 laps, the second-highest total for the race. He pitted under green in second place through 300 laps, and then saw a caution flag for debris come out, sending him out of the top 10. Kenseth was later swiped in an accident that wasn’t his fault, and he finished 15th.
What he said: “We just pitted a little bit different and it was still going to work out. We were still in second, making some time back up on the 5 (Kasey Kahne) … and then the lap after we pitted, they threw a caution for (debris), so it’s just the way it works every once and a while.”
This week: In 28 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Kenseth has two wins, 13 top-fives, 18 top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Dover, Kenseth ranks second out of 49 drivers with an average place of 8.4.
Last year: Kenseth continued a torrid display at Dover by finishing third, his third consecutive top-five at the track. Driving the No. 17 for Roush Fenway Racing last year, Kenseth started fifth and never dropped out of the top 10. He also collected a bonus point for leading a lap and, by the conclusion of the race, had whittled Greg Biffle’s series points lead down to one point.
4. Clint Bowyer (No. 15)
Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota
Where he stands: Bowyer is fourth in the standings with 385 points.
Last week: Like Carl Edwards, Bowyer seemed to hang around the top 10 all night Sunday. But unlike Edwards, Bowyer broke through for a top-10 finish. The driver of the No. 15 Toyota, known for being loud off the track, was quiet and patient on it, biding his time and taking home eighth place with a late surge, allowing him to move up one spot in the points standings.
What he said: “We just chased our tail all night long. For everything that we battled through to end up with a top-10 is good, but certainly not what we wanted.”
This week: In 14 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Bowyer has one top-five and seven top-10s. In the past eight years at Dover, Bowyer ranks eighth out of 49 drivers with an average place of 12.8.
Last year: A fan of -- and a threat on -- the shorter race tracks makes Bowyer a threat at Dover, and that was certainly the case last year as the driver of the No. 15 Toyota finished fifth. In one of the races more memorable incidents, Bowyer lost time during a pit stop when he and Ryan Newman got tangled up. Newman was pulling out of his stall, which was right behind Bowyer’s, at the same time Bowyer was trying to pull in. Bowyer slammed his brakes, and Newman tried to go forward before merging, and he inadvertently made contact with a member of Bowyer’s pit crew (who was not injured).
5. Kasey Kahne (No. 5)
Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Kahne is fifth in the standings with 370 points.
Last week: If there’s ever a chance for a driver to be disappointed about second place, Kahne provided the blueprint on Sunday. As the defending race champion, Kahne had perhaps the best car in the field. The No. 5 Chevrolet led eight times for a total of 161 (of 400) laps. Through the last cycle of green-flag pit stops, Kahne was in the lead and cruising. Debris on the track brought out a late caution, though, and Kahne’s team elected to stay on the track. The next 21 drivers pitted, and on the restart with 11 laps to go, a fresh-tired Kevin Harvick blew by Kahne and held on for the win.
What he said: “It was definitely our race to lose, especially those last hundred laps. We just thought that some of the guys would stay out. I think there's three cars that just pitted within the last couple laps, five or six laps, just felt like they'd stay out and that would be a big enough buffer to someone who had two or four tires that we could get away. Didn't happen.”
This week: In 18 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Kahne has one top-five and five top-10s. In the past eight years at Dover, Kahne ranks 17th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 17.3.
Last year: Kahne finished ninth one week after winning the 2012 Coca-Cola 600, and he wasn’t too pleased with the top-10. Kahne said his team couldn’t get the front end of his car figured out, which led to him being all over the track. Kahne made up ground late, though, surging from 18th to ninth over the final 40 laps.
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88)
Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Earnhardt Jr. is sixth in the standings with 364 points.
Last week: Earnhardt Jr. had never won in Charlotte, and that trend continued in the Coca-Cola 600. Although Junior worked his way to just outside the top five through 120 laps, he began to fizzle and fade thereafter. On Lap 259, Earnhardt brought out the caution flag when his engine blew up, with the aftermath of that explosion collecting Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney and Travis Kvapil. It was a 39th-place finish, five-point night for Junior.
What he said: “We had a massive catastrophic failure in the motor. We never have those problems. Hendrick guys always build good stuff, so not worried about this down the road. We will be all right.”
This week: In 26 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Earnhardt has one win, five top-fives and eight top-10s. In the past eight years at Dover, Earnhardt ranks 21st out of 49 drivers with an average place of 19.2.
Last year: Earnhardt’s loose car made it so that the No. 88 couldn’t challenge for the win, but it was certainly good enough for a top-five showing. Junior finished fourth last year after starting 17th. His No. 88 Chevrolet was in the top 10 by Lap 80, and it stayed there through 400 laps. He ran in the top five for the last half of the race. The finish also ended an eight-race streak at the track in which Earnhardt finished outside of the top 10.
7. Kevin Harvick (No. 29)
Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Harvick is seventh in the standings with 362 points.
Last week: Harvick is ‘Happy’ again. After a rough start to the season, the Richard Childress Racing driver collected his second win of the season Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600, winning the event for the second time in the past three years. In the past four races, Harvick has three top-fives, which has allowed him to move up to seventh place in the points standings. Harvick took two tires during a pit stop in the middle of the race under caution to get him up into the top five, and his decision to pit on the final caution of the night gave him a car capable of passing leader Kasey Kahne.
What he said: “It's never over until it's over. You just have to keep driving the car as hard as you can. When we had the caution come out, that's a whole different ballgame with a short run like that. Obviously the best car didn't put tires on, and we were able to capitalize on that.”
This week: In 24 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Harvick has three top-fives and 10 top-10s. In the past eight years at Dover, Harvick ranks 15th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 16.5.
Last year: Dover isn’t one of Harvick’s better tracks, but the veteran driver had his career-best showing in the 2012 FedEx 400 Presented By Autism Speaks. The No. 29 wasn’t quite enough to catch winner Jimmie Johnson (who led 289 of 400 laps), but it was good enough to finish second. It was Harvick’s first top-five at the track since 2006.
8. Paul Menard (No. 27)
Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Menard is eighth in the standings with 347 points.
Last week: Like his Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, Menard is among many drivers whose position in the standings changed drastically. Menard finished 13th in the Coca-Cola 600, the final driver on the lead lap, and picked up a bonus point for leading one lap. With accidents and incidents knocking out several drivers around him in the standings Sunday, Menard moved up three spots and into the top 10.
What he said: "It was a tough day for the No. 27 Serta/Menards crew. We had a pretty good car early on and began to struggle with the handling as the night went on and the track conditions changed. The late race damage to the right front put us behind a little, but I have to give my team credit because they never gave up and made the repairs we needed to get back out and be competitive. We just ran out of laps at the end, but we'll take a top 13 and a good points night."
This week: In 11 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Menard has one top-10. In the past eight years at Dover, Menard ranks 25th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 20.6.
Last year: Menard finished 17th at Dover after starting 20th. He finished on the lead lap.
9. Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56)
Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota
Where he stands: Truex Jr. is ninth in the standings with 336 points.
Last week: Truex Jr. is the biggest gainer this week, moving up five spots after a ninth-place, 35-point effort in the Coca-Cola 600. Truex Jr. bided his time during the day, and chased down cars in front of him once the lights went down. He also avoided heading to the garage early, despite some close racing with Jimmie Johnson (Johnson spun out) among others when the cars went three-wide during a series of late restarts. This is Truex’s first time in the top 10 this season, and he’s among a number of drivers bunched up in the standings. He leads 12th-place Aric Almirola, for example, by a mere eight points.
What he said: “The whole race was a battle -- the car, the battle with the track position, the battle with the pit crew. Long night. We had way better than a ninth-place car. We passed a lot of cars tonight, which was very, very hard to do. Not a lot of guys passed cars and we did. At the end of the night we just got messed up there on that one restart when we were running third.”
This week: In 14 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Truex Jr. has one win, one top-five, six top-10s and two poles. In the past eight years at Dover, Truex Jr. ranks 13th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 14.9.
Last year: It’s always pleasant for Truex Jr. to return to Dover, site of his only Cup win in 2007. In the 2012 FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks, Truex finished seventh, gaining 11 position from his starting spot on he grid. It was his second top-10 in three races at the “Monster Mile.”
10. Brad Keselowski (No. 2)
Penske Racing, Ford
Where he stands: Keselowski is 10th in the standings with 335 points.
Last week: It was another tough day for Brad Keselowski. The defending series champion was involved in an accident, finished 36th in the Coca-Cola 600 and tumbled to 10th in the standings. The No. 2 Ford started 20th Sunday and made no traction. The highest Keselowski got was 16th just before the three-quarters mark, but he was one of several cars one lap down on late restart that raced aggressively to get into the beneficiary position, in case another caution flag were to come out. And the caution flag came out on lap 320, but it was because Keselowski and Danica Patrick wrecked. The two went three-wide, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the bottom, and Keselowski, who accepted blame for the incident, came down on Patrick’s car. The Blue Deuce took the worst of the wreck, crunching his hood and careening into the wall before spinning down the track. Keselowski has four top-fives this year, but all came in the first four races. In the past four events, he’s finished outside the top 10 all four times and outside the top 30 three times.
What he said: “I was three-wide with Danica and didn’t know it and I cut her off and wrecked her and myself. I feel bad for her and I send my apologies to her. It’s just a long night.”
This week: In six career starts at Dover International Speedway, Keselowski has one win, one top-five and one top-10. In the past eight years at Dover, Keselowski ranks 12th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 14.5.
Last year: Keselowski would go on to win the Dover fall race, but he exited the spring race with a 12th-place finish and still looking for his first top-10 at the track.
11. Kyle Busch (No. 18)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Where he stands: Busch is 11th in the standings with 332 points.
Last week: Busch made it 0-for-19 in the Cup Series at Charlotte, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort -- or from lack of a good car. The No. 18 Toyota was fast, and good enough to lead 65 laps in the early stages of the Coca-Cola 600. In fact, Busch was in the top five for most of the first 250 laps, despite a freak accident. A camera drive line cable snapped and fell onto the track, and as the leader, Busch drove right through it, incurring significant damage to his right side. After NASCAR allowed 15-minute penalty to fix damages, Busch’s No. 18, heavily taped but no worse for wear, didn’t miss a beat. On lap 253, though, Kurt Busch thundered past his brother for third place. The No. 18’s engine was dying, and it finally gave way a lap later, ending his night and relegating the driver to a 38th-place finish. Busch, like Brad Keselowski, dropped three spots in the standings. He’s still in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field, though, because of his two victories.
What he said: “I hate it for all my guys. They worked too hard, and they always do. But Dave Rogers (crew chief) and these guys, they pour their hearts and souls into this deal, and it’s just so frustrating to see it end on a short note like that and not getting the finish that we needed.”
This week: In 16 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Busch has two wins, seven top-fives and 10 top-10s. In the past eight years at Dover, Busch ranks sixth out of 49 drivers with an average place of 11.7.
Last year: Busch was one of three drivers to have an engine blow up, along with Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton. Kyle’s happened first around the midway point, when he was running in the top five. It was a tough blow for a driver who needed points as Busch finished in 29th place and earned 15 points while completing 202 of 400 laps.
12. Aric Almirola (No. 43)
Richard Petty Motorsports, Ford
Where he stands: Almirola is 12th in the standings with 328 points.
Last week: Almirola was involved in his first real incident of the year, which led to him finishing 33rd and dropping three spots in the standings to 12th. He stays in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field this week, though, because nobody below him in the top 20 has a victory. The caution flag came out on Lap 327 when Almirola was involved in multicar wreck. Going three-wide, Almirola and Mark Martin collided, with the No. 43 Ford smashing the outside wall and taking the biggest hit of the incident. Jeff Gordon was among the other cars involved, and it ended Almirola’s night in 33rd place. In 12th place in the points standings, Almirola is eight points behind ninth-place Martin Truex Jr. and eight points ahead of 15th-place Gordon.
What he said: “It looked like Mark (Martin) just clipped me in the right-rear. I know he didn’t mean to do that. I’ve raced with Mark a lot and he’s a gentleman racer, but unfortunately it tore up a bunch of race cars there.”
This week: In two career starts at Dover International Speedway, Almirola has one top-10. In the past eight years at Dover, Almirola ranks 14th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 15.1.
Last year: Almirola’s first career start at Dover was successful. Starting 12th, the Richard Petty Motorsports driver earned a sixth-place finish. It wasn’t a breeze, though, as Almirola had trouble turning his No. 43 Ford early and had fallen to 19th place through 100 of 400 laps. Once the proper changes were made on pit road, Almirola told his team to just give him tires and fuel the rest of the way, shortening his pit stops and helping him get into the top 10.
Five in the rearview mirror …
Jamie McMurray (No. 1)
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet
Where he stands: McMurray is 14th in the standings with 321 points.
Last week: McMurray drove in the top 10 intermittently throughout the Coca-Cola 600. His chance at a top-10 was crushed when he had to pit out of turn late because of a car issue. Although he finished four laps down and in 19th place, he still gained one spot in the standings.
This week: In 20 career starts at Dover International Speedway, McMurray has one top-five and five top-10s. In the past eight years at Dover, McMurray ranks 19th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 18.1.
Jeff Gordon (No. 24)
Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolett
Where he stands: Gordon is 15th in the standings with 320 points.
Last week: Gordon fell three spots in the standings following a nine-point night at Charlotte. It was another tough-luck night for the veteran, who quietly established himself as a contender once the sun went down. A caution flag brought out on Lap 327, though, was due to Aric Almirola and Mark Martin smashing into each other on a restart, and Gordon got swept up into that in his No. 24 Chevrolet.
This week: In 40 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Gordon has four wins, 15 top-fives, 22 top-10s and four poles. In the past eight years at Dover, Gordon ranks ninth out of 49 drivers with an average place of 12.8.
Ryan Newman (No. 39)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolett
Where he stands: Newman is 16th in the standings with 315 points.
Last week: Newman recorded his sixth top-10 of the year Sunday by finishing sixth in the Coca-Cola 600. He was part of a great day at the track for the Coca-Cola Racing Family and now has two consecutive top-10s. | Click here to read a roundup on the six members of the Coca-Cola Racing Family
This week: In 22 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Newman has three wins, six top-fives, 11 top-10s and four poles. In the past eight years at Dover, Newman ranks seventh out of 49 drivers with an average place of 12.2.
Kurt Busch (No. 78)
Furniture Row Racing, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Busch is 18th in the standings with 304 points.
Last week: Busch tried to be pleased with his third top-five of the year for the one-car Furniture Row Racing outfit, but he later fessed to having mixed feelings. For one, his No. 78 Chevrolet appeared good enough to win, and victories is what Busch needs to vault into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. During a red-flag period on Lap 326 following a multicar wreck, Busch, the leader, couldn’t get his car to fire. He had to take it into pit road for a new battery. Even despite that setback, he chugged back toward the top, catching a fortuitous caution and finishing third. He also led eight laps.
This week: In 25 career starts at Dover International Speedway, Busch has one win, six top-fives and eight top-10s. In the past eight years at Dover, Busch ranks 10th out of 49 drivers with an average place of 12.8.
Joey Logano (No. 22)
Penske Racing, Ford
Where he stands: Logano is 19th in the standings with 298 points.
Last week: Logano was the biggest gainer at Charlotte, finishing fifth after starting 31st for the 600-mile event. He was one of five Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers to finish in the top 10. | Click here to read a roundup on the six members of the Coca-Cola Racing Family
This week: In eight career starts at Dover International Speedway, Logano has one top-five and four top-10s. In the past eight years at Dover, Logano ranks 22nd out of 49 drivers with an average place of 19.2.
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