Glad That's Over, Dover
Kyle Busch led Joe Gibbs Racing with a fourth-place finish in today’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway, while Denny Hamlin finished 16th and an early spin relegated Joey Logano to 27th place.
The track known as the “Monster Mile” was certainly hard to tame today with heavy rain overnight and early in the morning taking the rubber off the concrete oval and a mix of sun and clouds adding to the challenges for teams trying to dial in the proper balance and handle on their cars.
With qualifying rained out on Saturday, Busch’s practice time would have given the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota the seventh starting position for the green flag to start today’s race, but an engine change on Friday would force him to the back of the field. The setback hardly appeared to deter Busch and his M&Ms crew however as he began his drive toward the front of the field. An early two-tire call allowed Busch to leap inside the top 20 and amazingly the M&Ms Camry would take over the 12th position by lap 131. Busch would enter the top ten just before the midpoint of the race and spend most of the second half of the race in that position. He would climb into the top five late in the race with a great pit stop and excellent restart. When it was over Busch had earned a solid fourth-place finish despite having to overcome the last-place start.
Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Ground/Autism Speaks Toyota in the 25th position and battled changing handling conditions throughout the race. Hamlin would race his way into the top 20 early, but wasn’t able to continue the climb as he sat outside the top 10 for most of the race. Unfortunately despite several attempts from his FedEx crew to improve the handle on his FedEx Ground Camry, Hamlin just couldn’t find the balance he needed on the very slippery concrete oval in Dover. He would have to settle for a 16th-place finish.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the fourth position today at Dover and was hopeful for a solid top-five finish with an opportunity to compete for victory, especially following an impressive third-place finish in last year’s fall race at the “Monster Mile.” Unfortunately, the Monster would take a bite out of his Home Depot Camry early when he brought out the first caution of the day with a spin on lap 20. What made the accident even more unfortunate is that Logano appeared to have a strong car through the early going as he drove into fourth place through the early laps. But damage to the right front fender from the spin would force him to pit road for repairs and leave him a lap off the pace. Logano would later lose another lap to the field during a long green flag run as the damage adjusted the handle on the car and the splitter was making contact with the track. Logano and the Home Depot team fought throughout the day to make the car as good as it could be despite the early setback, but unfortunately they were never able to make up the lost ground and were forced to settle for a disappointing 27th-place finish.
Matt Kenseth captured the victory, while Mark Martin finished second, Marcos Ambrose was third, Busch was fourth and Brian Vickers rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 28 laps and 23 lead changes among 11 different drivers over the course of the 400-lap race.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series comes to Charlotte next weekend with the annual All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The All-Star Race, which is a non-points race, will be televised live by SPEED on Saturday, May 21 starting with the twin Showdown races for the final qualifying spots at 7 PM ET.