Post-Dover driver reports
June 03, 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 473 points.
Last week: Johnson battled back from being a lap down early to put himself in position to win Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway. Then it happened. On a restart with 19 laps to go, Johnson was running second to Juan Pablo Montoya. As the five-time champion tried to time his start with Montoya’s car lagging, he was assessed a penalty for jumping the restart. After going through pit road, the No. 48 Chevrolet -- which led 143 of 400 laps – finished 17th and one lap down.
What he said: “I was half-throttle for the whole front-stretch. And at some point, I gotta go. And in this situation, NASCAR has the judgment to decide if you jumped it or not. But I’m like, he’s (Juan Pablo Montoya) is not even going. So I’m not sure if his car broke or if (it lost) power or spun the tires. I don’t know. So I’m running half-throttle down the frontstretch waiting for him and he never comes. … And then we were called on it. So, a bummer way to lose a race.”
This week: In 22 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Johnson has two wins, nine top-fives, 15 top-10s and two poles. In the past eight years at Pocono, Johnson ranks second out of 48 drivers with an average place of 9.8.
Last year: Everything added up to a rare Pocono misfire for Johnson. He qualified 24th. He was caught speeding on pit road early in the race. He was caught speeding on pit road late in the race. The No. 48 team, though, simply persevered, as it so often does, and rolled off a fourth-place finish in the Pocono 400. It was Johnson’s third consecutive fourth-place showing at the Tricky Triangle.
2. Carl Edwards (No. 99)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Where he stands: Edwards is second in the standings with 443 points.
Last week: Edwards was disappointed with his No. 99 Ford’s speed Sunday. Perhaps magnifying Edwards’ frustration is the fact that Dover is one of his best tracks, and his team could muster only a 14th-place finish. Edwards started 18th but couldn’t consistently crack the top 15. He was in fifth through Lap 320, but only because of green-flag pit stops. He quickly fell back down the standings once he pitted and had a mid-pack car the rest of the race.
What he said: “We are doing a good job making the car as fast as it can go, but it is up to all of us now to identify exactly where we are missing it. We will address it. We have time before the Chase starts. Now it is just time to buckle down and work.”
This week: In 16 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Edwards has two wins, five top-fives and eight top-10s. In the past eight years at Pocono, Edwards ranks 13th out of 48 drivers with an average place of 14.9.
Last year: Edwards qualified second and had a solid car, but he continually lost ground on restarts. Given that there were seven caution flags, there were plenty of opportunities for Edwards to fall back in the field, and he finished a disappointing (for him) 11th.
3. Clint Bowyer (No. 15)
Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota
Where he stands: Bowyer is third in the standings with 423 points.
Last week: His car wasn’t elite, and his performance wasn’t outstanding, but Clint Bowyer found a way to record his second consecutive top-10. The No. 15 Toyota finished sixth after running outside of the top 10 for practically the entire first 300 laps (of 400). Bowyer was all the way up to third with 20 laps to go, before losing a bit of ground on a restart. Still, Bowyer’s seventh top-10 finish of the season was good enough to climb to third in the points standings.
What he said: “We got a pretty decent finish but we just didn’t run very good all weekend long. Definitely need to go back and do our homework and figure some things out.”
This week: In 14 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Bowyer has one top-five and seven top-10s. In the past eight years at Pocono, Bowyer ranks 20th out of 48 drivers with an average place of 18.5.
Last year: Bowyer punctuated a strong day from Toyotas by finishing sixth, giving the manufacturer four cars in the top six. At the time, Bowyer was fighting for position in the top 10 in the standings, so the 38-point effort was a big one. The No. 15 closed strong, as it wasn’t even in the top 10 until Lap 140 of 160.
4. Matt Kenseth (No. 20)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Where he stands: Kenseth is fourth in the standings with 399 points.
Last week: Kenseth was among a fleet of Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in total control of the race at the beginning. The No. 20 Toyota led 29 laps and had beaten teammate Kyle Busch off pit road following the day’s second caution on Lap 128 when his engine died. It’s the third time in as two weeks a car with a Toyota Racing Development engine blew up, as Martin Truex Jr. also experienced the issue at Dover. The result was a five-point, 40th-place effort that dropped him to fourth in the standings, although Kenseth is technically tied with fifth-place Kevin Harvick.
What he said: “There’s nothing I can do about (the engine). I can’t do anything from a preparation standpoint, from a driving standpoint -- I mean, I can’t be any easier on it then I’ve been on it, so something is wrong. It’s not driver induced, it’s not too many miles in practice, it’s nothing like that. Something wrong with a part and it broke.”
This week: In 26 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Kenseth has three top-fives and 10 top-10s. In the past eight years at Pocono, Kenseth ranks eighth out of 48 drivers with an average place of 13.0.
Last year: Kenseth called the 2012 Pocono 400 the best his team has performed at the 2.5-mile track. Driving the No. 17 last year, Kenseth led twice for 11 laps and finished seventh, tied for his best showing at the track. He also took the lead in the points standings for the first time all season, a position he would cede to Dale Earnhardt Jr. six weeks later.
5. Kevin Harvick (No. 29)
Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Harvick is fifth in the standings with 399 points.
Last week: Outside the top 12 in the points standings just one month ago, Harvick’s hot streak continued at Dover and bumped him up to fifth in the standings. Harvick finished eighth Sunday, and he was in the top 10 for nearly all of the 400 laps. After notching one top-10 in his first eight races of the season, Harvick has two wins, three top-fives and four top-10s in the past five races.
What he said: “Our car was good one run, really loose one run and really tight the next run. At the end we were just loose and tight. Then the run before on two tires really loose. We hung in there and got a solid top-10.”
This week: In 24 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Harvick has five top-fives and eight top-10s. In the past eight years at Pocono, Harvick ranks 10th out of 48 drivers with an average place of 14.2.
Last year: Pocono isn’t one of Harvick’s best tracks, although the driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet had three top-five finishes in the past four races at the 2.5-mile course entering the 2012 Pocono 400. Harvick qualified 21st last year, and he didn’t have the car necessary for a legitimate run at a top-10. Although Harvick ran as high as fourth following late cautions, he was shuffled back and finished 14th.
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88)
Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Earnhardt Jr. is sixth in the standings with 398 points.
Last week: Earnhardt had a steady car at Dover, and his steady 10th-place result was more than welcome after a stretch of inconsistent finishes. Junior qualified 12th for the event and was in the top 15 the entire time. The finish gives Earnhardt just his third top-10 in the past eight races and sets up an interesting battle to watch over the next few weeks; fourth-place Matt Kenseth and fifth-place Kevin Harvick are each just one point ahead of Junior.
What he said: “It was real hot, but we knew that going into the race. We made our car better. I felt like we had a real strong car the last half of the race. We just couldn’t get track position, couldn’t pass. We were faster than the guys in front of us at the end, but just couldn’t pass.”
This week: In 26 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Earnhardt has five top-fives, nine top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Pocono, Earnhardt ranks 16th out of 48 drivers with an average place of 15.9.
Last year: Earnhardt had a car capable of snapping his winless streak, but a few long cautions spoiled his pit strategy. The driver managed an eighth-place showing and, despite some tense moments on the radio during the race, Earnhardt said he supported Steve Letarte’s decision to pit for gas on a late caution. A caution on Lap 125 came with Junior in the lead, and he pitted for tires. A caution on Lap 138 brought him in again for fuel, and he restarted 15th before making up some late ground.
7. Kasey Kahne (No. 5)
Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Kahne is seventh in the standings with 392 points.
Last week: Kahne’s month-long hard-luck streak continued at Dover, where he had a No. 5 Chevrolet that appeared to be capable of winning, but finished four laps down in 23rd-place. Running in the top five from Lap 40 to Lap 300, Kahne brought out the caution on Lap 318 when his car got loose and took a spin into the Turn 2 wall while he was in eighth place. It’s Kahne’s fourth finish outside the top 15 in the past five races.
What he said: “Car was loose and I spun; bad mistake on my part. We had good speed and the guys worked hard all weekend.”
This week: In 18 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Kahne has one win, four top-fives, six top-10s and two poles. In the past eight years at Pocono, Kahne ranks ninth out of 48 drivers with an average place of 13.7.
Last year: Kahne was pleased with his car at last year’s Pocono 400 and was in the top five during a late restart. Kahne got a good jump, but he and Denny Hamlin bumped cars, cutting Kahne’s tire and sending his No. 5 Chevrolet into the wall in Turn 2, which brought out the caution on Lap 138 (of 160). His day done, Kahne finished in 29th place.
8. Brad Keselowski (No. 2)
Penske Racing, Ford
Where he stands: Keselowski is eighth in the standings with 375 points.
Last week: Crew chief Paul Wolfe was back, and so was Keselowski’s mojo. The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion battled his way to fifth-place finish at Dover, his first top-five since the fourth race of the season at Bristol. Keselowski finished outside the top 30 in both races without his crew chief. The No. 2 team can’t breathe easy just yet, though. The team’s Ford was found to be too low during a post-race inspection; a similar issue for Martin Truex Jr. earlier in the season result in a six-point penalty.
What he said: “We drove hard all day, we just didn’t have the speed needed to go win the race but we had the speed we needed to have a solid day. The guys did a great job executing today. … It was another solid day, but we want to win too so we will keep working to find a little more speed and get up there.”
This week: In six career starts at Pocono Raceway, Keselowski has one win, two top-fives and two top-10s. In the past eight years at Pocono, Keselowski ranks 21st out of 48 drivers with an average place of 18.7.
Last year: In what was a theme throughout his run to a championship, Brad Keselowski overcame multiple issues in Pocono to finish 18th and salvage some points. The No. 2 was caught speeding in pit road twice (also a major story line that day), then had to get an ignition problem fixed, and then lost its brakes at the end.
9. Kyle Busch (No. 18)
Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
Where he stands: Busch is ninth in the standings with 374 points.
Last week: He didn’t complete the Dover tripleheader sweep, but Kyle Busch finished in the top-five in all three national series races at Dover. That streak became official when Busch steered his No. 18 Toyota to a fourth-place showing Sunday after leading 150 laps. With two victories this season, Busch’s chances to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup remain as strong as anyone else on the circuit.
What he said: “We must have broken a right-front bump stop or something. To finish fourth with that shows you what kind of piece we had. I think we had something. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to capitalize on getting a win out here today.”
This week: In 16 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Busch has four top-fives, four top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Pocono, Busch ranks 17th out of 48 drivers with an average place of 16.3.
Last year: Busch’s streak of bad luck continued at Pocono, when his engine started smoking -- under caution. Knowing it was a lost cause from there, the No. 18 team called the Toyota into the garage before the engine outright blew up so they could thoroughly inspect the machine and figure out the root cause. Busch qualified fourth and finished 30th after completing 76 laps.
10. Paul Menard (No. 27)
Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Menard is 10th in the standings with 371 points.
Last week: Menard started 16th on the grid Sunday and was down a lap by Lap 56 due to handling issues. Things didn’t get better for the driver of the No. 27, he needed to take the wave-around during a late caution to not finish two laps down. Menard finished 20th and fell two spots in the standings.
What he said: “We struggled with handling all weekend at Dover and never seemed to hit on the right setup. We fought hard to get one of our laps back, but we just couldn't gain any track position.”
This week: In 12 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Menard has two top-10s. In the past eight years at Pocono, Menard ranks 28th out of 48 drivers with an average place of 22.8.
Last year: Menard earned his second consecutive top-10 at Pocono, finishing ninth last year for the best showing of his career. Menard started third on the grid and avoided three early accidents to stay in contention. His No. 27 team decided to gamble on a fuel, and a series of late cautions allowed Menard to go full throttle over the final 20 laps, without fear of going empty.
11. Jeff Gordon (No. 24)
Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolett
Where he stands: Gordon is 11th in the standings with 361 points.
Last week: For the first time this season, Jeff Gordon has worked his way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. The veteran leapt four spots up the standings and sits in 11th place after his third-place showing at Dover. Gordon’s third-place run was tied for his best finish of the year. It was also his second third-place showing in the past three races.
What he said: “We have been running good. We just, you know, have had some things happen to us, kind of like last year, some self‑inflicted and some things out of our hands. We fought hard (Sunday), very hard, and this is a tough place. It's hot, slick. It was not an easy race and this team just never gave up. That's what got us in the Chase last year and that's what is going to get us in there this year.”
This week: In 40 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Gordon has six wins, 18 top-fives, 28 top-10s and two poles. In the past eight years at Pocono, Gordon ranks third out of 48 drivers with an average place of 10.3.
Last year: Gordon qualified 12th for the Pocono 400 but finished in 19th place, snapping a string of three consecutive top-fives at the track.
16. Tony Stewart (No. 14)
Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Stewart is 16th in the standings with 338 points.
Last week: Two weeks ago, Tony Stewart was outside the top 20 in the points standings. Now he currently holds the second of two Wild Card entries to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, thanks to his first victory of the season Sunday at Dover. ‘Smoke’ isn’t in the clear yet, because there are five Chase-eligible drivers above him in the standings who still have a chance to win.
What he said: “Our guys have never given up. There's been a lot of dejected guys all year, and disappointed guys all year, but that's why we want them working at Stewart‑Haas Racing, because the way we have been running, we want them to be disappointed and dejected, but nobody is walking around with their heads down. They are all trying to find a solution and that's what makes days like today so special is when you have guys that just do not quit and they refuse to give up.”
This week: In 28 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Stewart has two wins, 11 top-fives, 20 top-10s and two poles. In the past eight years at Pocono, Stewart ranks sixth out of 48 drivers with an average place of 12.0.
Last year: Stewart finished third in the Pocono 400, giving him three top-fives in the previous five races at the track.
Five in the rearview mirror …
Aric Almirola (No. 43)
Richard Petty Motorsports, Ford
Where he stands: Almirola is 12th in the standings with 354 points.
Last week: It was a rough day for the No. 43 team, although Almirola made significant gains throughout the race. The gains were significant, though, because Almirola started 33rd on the grid. So although he finished 18th, he was still a lap down and dropped outside the Chase field.
This week: In two career starts at Pocono Raceway, Almirola’s best finish is 18th in 2012. In the past eight years at Pocono, Almirola ranks 24th out of 48 drivers with an average place of 20.8.
Greg Biffle (No. 16)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Where he stands: Biffle is 13th in the standings with 353 points.
Last week: Two laps down following long stretches of green-flag racing, Biffle and his team rallied for a 15th-place showing. The No. 16 Ford underwent several big adjustments throughout the afternoon in Dover, with late track bar adjustments working enough to get Biffle back on the lead lap during a wave-around. The veteran driver conserved fuel the rest of the way to finish, although it was Biffle’s sixth consecutive race outside of the top 10.
This week: In 20 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Biffle has one win, two top-fives and four top-10s. In the past eight years at Pocono, Biffle ranks 12th out of 48 drivers with an average place of 14.6.
Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56)
Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota
Where he stands: Truex Jr. is 14th in the standings with 343 points.
Last week: One week after jumping five spots in the standings, Truex Jr. fell five spots and finds himself back in 14th. The driver appeared to be in position to climb even higher -- and perhaps earn his second career victory -- but his engine blew up more than halfway through the race, sending the No. 56 Toyota to the garage. Truex Jr. had started second and ran in the top five through the first 260 laps before finishing 38th.
This week: In 14 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Truex Jr. has two top-fives and five top-10s. In the past eight years at Pocono, Truex Jr. ranks 18th out of 48 drivers with an average place of 16.9.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17)
Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
Where he stands: Stenhouse Jr. is 15th in the standings with 343 points.
Last week: Stenhouse Jr. moved two spots up the standings following a 13th-place run at Dover. Although he has yet to crack the top 10 this season, a spate of six consecutive top-20 finishes has the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate firmly in the mix for one of Wild Card entries into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
This week: Stenhouse has no career starts at Pocono Raceway.
Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42)
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet
Where he stands: Montoya is 22nd in the standings with 307 points.
Last week: Montoya isn’t in the top 20 in the standings, but it looks like the Colombian is on the verge of a breakthrough performance. Montoya led 19 laps at Dover and was in position to get the win before veteran Tony Stewart made the pass with three laps remaining. Earlier this year, Montoya was way out in front at Richmond and in line for the win before a late caution flag came out. Montoya’s second-place showing Sunday was his best finish since winning at Watkins Glen in 2010.
This week: In 12 career starts at Pocono Raceway, Montoya has one top-five, four top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Pocono, Montoya ranks 19th out of 48 drivers with an average place of 17.7.
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