Chris Rice sizes up storylines, winning strategies at Monster Mile
Chris Rice, crew chief for the No. 99 Rheem Toyota for RAB Racing and driver James Buescher in the NASCAR NASCAR Nationwide Series, provided instant in-race analysis Sunday for the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway while using tools on RaceView, including pit stats, driver telemetry and listening in on scanner sounds:
Also review his in-race chat to review all the questions and analysis during Sunday's 400-miler.
FIRST QUARTER (Laps 1-100)
Key Moment: Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team enjoyed clean air after getting past Kyle Busch to take the lead on Lap 82. Busch had raced Johnson hard to keep the advantage, but eventually gave way. Cars get so loose in traffic that getting out front is easily the place to be Sunday afternoon at Dover.
Key Pit Stop: Joe Gibbs Racing's three-car team enjoyed solid pit work during the first round of stops under the first caution, but a speeding penalty hampered the No. 11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin. Kyle Busch's No. 18 crew kept their driver in the lead with a speedy 12.2-second stop, and Matt Kenseth gained two spots to move close to the top five with a 13.1-second stop, but Hamlin -- who initially looked to have moved up three spots with a 12.1-second pit stop -- was docked for exceeding the speed limit, dropping him far into the running order.
Key Move: Teams will have to make correct adjustments for which way the race track goes. Kyle Busch didn't sink like a stone, but it's clear he was heading in the wrong direction after the first restart.
SECOND QUARTER (Laps 101-200)
Key Moment: A patch of concrete in the race track coming up on the exit of Turn 2 is something teams will have to watch rest of the way. Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson's crew chief, told his driver to keep avoiding the spot if possible, which could lead to some drivers changing their racing line for the rest of the race.
Key Pit Stop: Darian Grubb opted for two tires in a play for track position in the Lap 166 caution period, putting Denny Hamlin's No. 11 back into top five. The move kept Hamlin either third or fourth the rest of the way to the halfway point.
Key Move: Kyle Busch's collision with Clint Bowyer just goes to show how important communication is. While Busch could have lifted off the throttle to avoid an accident, Bowyer's spotter clearing him over the radio was a crucial miscue.
THIRD QUARTER (Laps 201-300)
Key Moment: Matt Kenseth avoided near-disaster by escaping Alex Bowman's wreck in Lap 221. Kenseth, a top-five contender for much of the day after starting 21st, had his car completely locked up but just missed the outside wall. "I know it looked pretty stupid," Kenseth said. "... Driver's Ed teachers are probably going to send me e-mail today."
Key Pit Stop: Clint Bowyer's Michael Waltrip Racing crew got the No. 15 Toyota off pit road in 12.2 seconds for four tires and gas in the 223rd lap. He gained three spots in the pit exchange and the adjustments clearly worked -- he moved into the top 10 and stayed there.
Key Move: Brad Keselowski's No. 2 Ford marched toward the front, helped in large part by Paul Wolfe's major adjustments in the first pit stop to get the car's splitter off the race track and to tighten up the handling. Keselowski faded from the pole position off the start, but rose back into the top five after the halfway mark.
FOURTH QUARTER (Lap 301-400)
Key Moment: The way the last two cautions fell changed almost everything. The yellow with 40 laps to go took fuel mileage out of equation, then the caution period for debris with eight laps left forced a mad scramble for position in the final restart.
Key Pit Stop: The speed on pit road from the Joe Gibbs Racing teams helped both Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin secure top-five finishes. Both drivers made gains with a 12.0-second stop for Kenseth's No. 20 and a stunning 11.9-second stop for Hamlin's No. 11 during the last wholesale round of pit stops.
Key Move: Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 team made the decision to take three rounds of wedge out to free the car up for the final stretch. No one could touch him from there on. Crew chief Chad Knaus was not scared to make the big adjustment that the car needed, and the move paid off in Victory Lane at Dover.