Dover International Speedway, Dover, DE — August 23, 2020
The protocol for doubleheader weekends is to invert the top 20 finishers from Race 1 to determine the starting lineup for Race 2. Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Newman will start on the front row for today’s race.
Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman will drop to the rear of the field in backup cars after the early collision yesterday. Erik Jones, who was included in the incident, he had his car repaired overnight by his crew preserving his 9th place starting position.
Just like yesterday, an early incident damaged several cars. Joey Logano tapped Ricky Stenhouse Jr. coming out of Turn 4, spinning the #47 car down the front stretch. Erik Jones ran into the back of Logano causing minor damage to both of their machines.
As cars checked up behind the wreck, Chase Elliott slammed into the back of Kyle Busch. Elliott’s car was damaged to the point he took it directly to the garage and out of the race. Busch pitted for repairs to his rear bumper. Garrett Smithley and Joey Gase spun at the rear of the pack trying to avoid the trouble in front of them.
On the restart, Aric Almirola drove past DiBenedetto to take the lead, Ryan Blaney followed to take over the 2nd spot. Yesterday’s winner, Denny Hamlin worked his way through traffic and dirty air to join the Top 10 after 25 laps.
A caution for debris on the track put the field under yellow on Lap 32. Most of the field opted to pit with DiBenedetto, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, and Jimmie Johnson the first four off pit road after taking only two tires. Almirola, who took four new Goodyear Racing Tires, exited 5th.
Ryan Blaney, William Byron, and Kurt Busch stayed on the track to improve their restart positions. A nice jump put Blaney in the lead on the restart, followed by Byron and DiBenedetto.
The fastest car on the track with new tires was Kevin Harvick and he began to move his way up the leaderboard. Harvick caught Blaney with two laps to go in the stage and easily passed him for Harvick’s 6th Stage win of the year.
Stage 1 Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
NASCAR had to bring out the red flag, during the Stage ending caution, due to a piece of the concrete track coming apart in Turn 4. After a 12:19 delay, the track was repaired and racing resumed.
On the restart, Harvick led. He was followed by Blaney, Logano, Byron, and Denny Hamlin who had worked his way from the 20th starting position into the Top 5.
With 100 laps on the board, Ty Dillon got Ryan Preece sideways with a tap on the left rear quarter panel. Preece was able to save the car and keep it headed in the right direction, but the tire smoke brought out another caution.
Logano won the race off pit road followed by Harvick, Blaney, and Hamlin. Jimmie Johnson was caught speeding on pit road, sending him to the rear of the field (24th) for the restart. Johnson will have to fight his way back to the front or he could face a serious blow to his playoff chances.
Harvick quickly moved back past Logano to resume the lead. With five laps to go in Stage 2, Johnson was back in the Top 10. The battle for Stage points was going on all around the track. Trying to emulate Hamlin’s performance from Saturday, Harvick won the Stage for a 1-2 sweep.
William Byron has gained points on Jimmie Johnson in both Stages today, while Erik Jones missed the Top 10 in Stage 1 & 2. The battle for the bubble could change again today.
Stage 2 Results
|4||19||Martin Truex Jr.|
|8||41||Cole Custer #|
The Final Stage
Harvick, Hamlin, Logano, Martin Truex Jr., and Byron are the leaders heading to the start of the Final Stage. In Saturday’s race, the Final Stage went caution-free. The long-run and a green flag pit stop allowed Hamlin to assert his dominance. Can Harvick go back one-up in wins on his closest rival in 2020?
Jimmy Johnson is an 11-time winner at Dover, William Byron has not won 11 races in his Cup career. Johnson has 83 career Cup wins, Byron has 96 career Cup starts. It appears the final playoff spot will go to one of these two teammates, as Erik Jones has faded out of the Top 20.
On Lap 215 Quinn Houff spun and the caution waved. The pits opened with 94 laps to go and the leaders all come looking to pack their fuel tanks full. The race win may come down to fuel mileage and who can save the most over the remaining distance.
Harvick, Hamlin, and Logano lead the pack. However, it’s Harvick that immediately begins to build the lead. Hamlin picked up a vibration and his crew communicated there was a possibility the left rear wheel may not have been tightened properly during their pit stop. Not willing to take a chance, Hamlin pitted and went two laps down to the leaders.
A total of 23 cars are on the lead lap with 75 laps to go. Erik Jones is the first car a lap down in 24th.
With 30 laps to go, Harvick had built a five second lead on 2nd place Joey Logano. Byron was running 5th, Johnson 6th. The Stage points earned by Byron today have him just ahead in the race for the final playoff position.
The caution came out with 22 laps to go when Corey LaJoie scrapped the outside wall setting up a sprint to the finish. The lead lap cars all pitted for fresh tires and to make sure they were good on fuel. Jimmie Johnson took only two tires and came off pit road with the lead. He was followed by Harvick, Truex, Alex Bowman, and Logano.
At the choose cone Johnson takes the outside lane and Harvick the bottom side. The race restarts with 17 laps to go, the pair run side-by-side for a lap until Harvick prevails and pulls away.
Kevin Harvick gives Ford Performance their 700th Cup victory. The win also clinches the 2020 Regular Season Championship and the 15 playoff points that go with the title. Harvick ties Kyle Busch with 56 career Cup wins on the all-time list. Truex finishes 2nd and Jimmie Johnson 3rd. Byron takes 4th and climbs back onto the playoff bubble.
Playoff Point Standings
Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, and Kurt Busch all clinched playoff positions based on points. Clint Bowyer is a virtual lock, it would take a strange set of circumstances to eliminate the Stewart-Haas driver from the post-season.
Matt DiBenedetto and Erik Jones were the big losers on the weekend. DiBenedetto came to Dover 44 points above the playoff cut line and leaves with just a 9 point margin. Jones sits 50 points below the bubble and will need a win Saturday night to make the playoffs. Winning at Daytona is something Jones knows how to do, taking this year’s Busch Clash and the 2018 Coke Zero Sugar 400.
A new winner on the year will eliminate both William Byron and Jimmie Johnson, provided DiBenedetto can maintain his position. If that does not happen the teammates will battle for that final position. Byron has the advantage sitting 4 points ahead of Johnson entering Daytona. Both could surpass DiBenedetto if he doesn’t perform better than his finishes at Dover.
As we know, anything can happen at Daytona. It’s a Saturday night shootout under the lights to finalize the playoff field.
|6||Martin Truex Jr.||845||1||In-Win|
|Playoff Cut Line|
Results of the Drydene 311 Race 2 from Dover International Speedway
|2||19||Martin Truex Jr.||3.525||311|
|20||38||John Hunter Nemechek||20.744||311|
|37||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-96||215|