Joe Gibbs Racing left today’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway with all four teams secured into the Contender Round of 12 in The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship.
Kyle Busch led JGR with a second-place finish this afternoon, while Matt Kenseth was seventh, Carl Edwards 15th and Denny Hamlin was 18th.
Hamlin and Kenseth entered today’s race as the only two guaranteed to advance from the round of 16 to the round of 12 courtesy of their respective wins in the first two races of this round. Edwards and Busch locked in their positions with today’s respective finishes. The field now resets with all 12 remaining contenders equal in points. The field will be reduced to eight after the next three races which are Charlotte, Kansas, and Talladega.
Kyle Busch started the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota in 13th position and patiently worked his way into the top ten as his Camry appeared to improve with each lap of a green flag run. Solid work on pit road following a lap-41 caution and a great restart allowed Busch to enter the top five. He was running second at lap 100. Busch would have his Interstate Batteries Camry holding steady in second at the halfway point and crew chief Adam Stevens would make the call for a two-tire stop on pit road that allowed the 18 car to take his first lead of the afternoon for a lap 236 restart. Busch would hold the lead for 12 laps following the restart before giving way to the 4 car. He managed to hold onto the second position despite a rather long green flag run on those two tires. A caution with 46 laps to go would bring the 18 back down pit road for a four-tire change. He would restart fifth with 41 laps remaining. Busch would gain a spot into fourth on the next run and held that spot through another restart with 24 laps remaining. The Interstate Batteries Camry would gain another spot into second on the ensuing restart and held that position to the end. His second-place finish secured his position into the Contender Round of the Chase. It turned out that every position was vital as the 88 and 1 cars finished directly behind Busch in third and fourth with the 88 advancing and 1 narrowly missing out.
Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the pole position after heavy rains washed out Friday’s qualifying session and the field was set based upon the current point standings. Kenseth would lead the opening 23 laps before giving way to the 4 car. He would maintain a spot in the top five on the next green flag run and was running fourth at lap 100. Kenseth would report that his Dollar General Camry’s handling would struggle when he got up behind other cars and limited his ability to make his way to the front. He would run sixth at the halfway point and following a round of pit stops he would restart eighth with 84 laps to go. Kenseth would move into sixth following the restart. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the call keep the 20 on the track when a caution came out with 46 laps remaining. He would restart first with 41 laps remaining. Kenseth would get loose at the drop of the green flag and dropped back to run third before another caution. He would drop back to run fifth on the ensuing restart with 24 laps to go and went on to finish seventh.
Carl Edwards started the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota in the third position and proved to have good speed through the early portion of the race as he maintained a position in the top five. He would run fifth at lap 100. Edwards continued to show speed throughout the afternoon and was running third at the halfway mark. He would come out of the pits in the third position with just under 90 laps remaining, but was forced to bring the car back down pit road after reporting an issue on the right front of the car. He would come out of the pits running 16th for the restart with just over 80 laps to go. A caution with 46 laps remaining would bring Edwards back down pit road and he would line up 15th for the restart with 41 laps remaining. Another caution would follow and Edwards came back down pit road and lined up 11th for another restart. He would go on to finish 15th.
Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota in the second position and was fast through the early going as he maintained a spot in the top five before a competition caution on lap 41. The FedEx crew would deliver a quick first pit stop that allowed Hamlin to come out as the leader, but NASCAR ruled he was too fast on pit road. The penalty put the No. 11 Camry at the tail end of the field for the ensuing restart. Trapped behind lapped cars and having to navigate slower traffic allowed the leader to put the 11 a lap down on the long green flag run that followed. Hamlin would work to get into the lucky dog position in order to get back on the lead lap and following a great pit stop it appeared he would have that opportunity, but was unfortunately hit with yet another speeding penalty knocking him out of the lucky dog position. Hamlin would finally get back into the lucky dog position and back on the lead lap when a caution came out with just over 25 laps to go. He would go on to finish 18th.
Harvick captured the win, followed by Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jamie McMurray and Aric Almirola then rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 43 laps and 14 lead changes among three different drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series continues the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship next weekend in Charlotte with the opening race of the Contender Round of 12. NBCSN will provide live broadcast coverage of the race starting at 7 PM ET (race begins at 7:15 PM ET) on Saturday, October 10.