Kyle Larson(42) won the pole for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism today at Dover International Speedway. Kevin Harvick(4) continued his hot streak posting the second fastest speed on the high-banked “Monster Mile.” The Fords of Rickey Stenhouse Jr.(17), Brad Keselowski(2), and Kurt Busch(41) qualified 5th, 8th, and 9th at a place that has not always been kind to the Blue Oval.
Larson’s car failed pre-race inspection 3 times. As a result his car-chief, David Bryant, was ejected from the race. In addition, Larson was forced to start from the rear of the field. Alex Bowman(88) and Austin Dillon(3) also received penalties and joined Larson at the back of the pack.
Harvick took the lead on the first lap. He led until pitting on lap 22 during a caution brought out by Corey LaJoie(72). LaJoie blew an engine and retired to the garage just 20 laps into the event. Stages at Dover are 120 laps each, leaving 160 laps to complete the race to the checkered flag. Some drivers choose to stay on the track, putting the field out of sequence on pit stops.
Early in the race pit strategy is constantly evolving. With stops at the end of the stages, the most important aspect of early stops is to stay on the lead lap and have a clean stop. Unfortunately for Larson, his pit crew suffered a mishap on a pit stop late in the stage. His crew allowed a tire removed from the car to get loose on pit road. The penalty for the infraction cost Larson dearly. Serving the penalty by driving down pit road at reduced speed, Larson returned to the track 2 laps down.
Harvick advanced to the lead late in the Stage. Then held on for the Stage Win and the 10 points that go with it. Kyle Busch(18) followed Harvick under the green and white checkered flag. Six Fords took points in Stage 1.
Stage 1 Results
* Ford Fusion Drivers
Harvick and Keselowski started from the front row to begin Stage 2. With the #4 car taking the lead at the drop of the green flag. Of the 38 cars that started the race, 20 remained on the lead lap for the Stage 2 restart.
Derrick Cope(99) hit the outside wall on lap 152. He bounced off and made hard contact with the inside wall as his car slid down the banking of turn 4. Fortunately, the field avoided the incident and pits stops ensued during the caution period for the accident. Keselowski, first out of the pits, took the lead on the restart.
Four for Four Equals Four
Keselowski led for 46 laps until Harvick moved back to the front on lap 200. The fourth time Harvick held the top spot in the race. He held on to win the Stage, his fourth Stage sweep of the season.
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Fusion Drivers
The Final Stage
Harvick continued his domination in the final Stage of the race. Kyle Busch complained about a vibration from the start of the race. With 130 laps to go, Busch’s driveshaft broke, leaving a section laying on the track. The resulting damage cracked open the differential and doused the track with axle grease. The DNF was the first of the year for Busch.
After the clean-up, the drivers took the greek flag with 119 to go. Stenhouse and Jamie McMurray(1) did not pit and restarted on the front row. Stenhouse opened a 2 second lead on the pack. McMurray faded quickly out of the top 5. Clint Bowyer(14), Logano, Martin Truex Jr.(78), and Harvick rounded out the top 5.
Not changing tires cost Stenhouse the lead. With 102 laps to go, Bowyer with his fresher tires passed him. Seven laps later, rain brought out the caution. With 80 laps to go, the red flag stopped the race. Bowyer told his crew to do the rain dance. Harvick hoped the race would go back to green. With the first two Stages complete, the race is official if the track gets drenched.
Back to Racing
After the light rain shower, the track jet dryers quickly brought the racing surface back to dry conditions. The red flag totaled 49 minutes. Pit stops set up everyone for the dash to the finish. Back to green flag racing, Bowyer took the lead, but could not hold it long. Harvick drove around him with 62 laps to go and began to pull away.
The race remained green to the finish. Harvick won by a comfortable 7-second margin. His 4th victory of the year and the 5th for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. Ford led all but 27 of the 400 laps. Harvick led six times for a total of 201 laps. Stewart-Hass took 3 of the top 5 positions Harvick, Bowyer, and Kurt Busch. Their 4th car, Aric Almirola(10), finishing 11th.
Team Penske placed 6th, Keselowski, and 8th, Ryan Blaney(12). Giving Ford five of the top 10 finishing positions. Next week it’s on to Kansas Speedway for a Saturday night under the lights. The KC Masterpiece 400 takes the green shortly after 8:00 pm on Fox.
Results of the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover
|4||78||Martin Truex Jr.||10.192||400|
|15||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-1||399|
|25||43||Darrell Wallace Jr.||-4||396|
|5||Martin Truex Jr.||336||1|
|16||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||239||0|
|Playoff Cut Line|