Dover International Speedway, Dover, DE — May 16, 2021
The “Monster Mile” has to be one of the best venue nicknames of all sports arenas. Pair the moniker with a statue of “Miles, The Monster,” bursting up through the pavement, just outside Dover International Speedway and you have the complete package.
The NASCAR Cup Series visits Dover this weekend and 37 drivers are set to take the green flag for 400 laps in the Drydene 400 mile race. The two races in 2020 that were run at the track were staged back-to-back in August due to the schedule modifications brought on by the pandemic. Denny Hamlin(11) and Kevin Harvick(4) were the winners, neither has visited victory lane yet in 2021.
Dover Trivia: Richard Petty won the first race held at Dover in 1969 driving a Ford. The margin of victory was six laps. Sonny Hutchins, also in a Ford, had the best finish of his career taking 2nd. Never a winner in the Cup Series, Hutchins had four Top 5 finishes racing 38 times over 9 years in Cup events.
Martin Truex Jr.(19) starts on the pole, the only multiple race winner so far this season, will have his teammate Hamlin beside him at the start. Defending Cup Series Champion Chase Elliott(9) will start at the rear of the field after his car failed pre-race inspection twice.
Stages are set for 120/120/160 laps and NASCAR has scheduled a competition caution after 35 laps of racing. At Dover the fuel range is approximately 100 laps, so each Stage will feature a pit stop to complete the required distance. The favorite for today’s race is really a pick-em among several drivers.
Things happen fast at Dover and avoiding an on-track incident will be a key to victory. Passes are hard to make on the high-banked oval, so track position will be at a premium all day.
Truex used the preferred upper line to easily pull away from Hamlin on the start, Kyle Larson(5) followed him into the 2nd spot. The lead did not last long as William Byron(24) drove to the front on Lap 16. Larson and Harvick also passed Truex, last week’s winner at Darlington.
During the competition caution, Larson and Harvick beat Byron off pit road and the #5 car was the new leader on the restart. On his stop, Martin Truex had a lug nut removed from a wheel bounce into the jack holding up the car. The mechanism jammed and the delay caused Truex to drop to the 12th position exiting pit road.
Larson built his lead through the remainder of the Stage and lapped half the field before taking the green and white checkered flag.
Stage 1 Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Larson, again, held the top spot off pit road and continued to rack up the laps led. Elliott moved from his rear of the field starting position into 2nd following his teammate.
Josh Berry(77), starting for Justin Haley who is sidelined because of Covid protocols, brushed the Turn 2 wall and brought out the caution 50 laps into Stage. The yellow flag allowed teams to make pit stops for fresh tires and Sunoco racing fuel enabling them to finish the Stage without another stop for service.
Larson and Elliott retained the top two positions followed by Hamlin, Byron, and Harvick with 55 laps to go.
With 10 laps to go, Hendrick Motorsports held the Top 4 spots with Larson dominating, then Elliott, Alex Bowman(48), and Byron following.
Stage 2 Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Larson won the first two Stages earlier this year at Atlanta, only to give up the lead with less than 10 laps to go as Ryan Blaney captured the win. He won the 2nd Stage at Las Vegas and held on for the win to qualify for the playoffs. For Larson to capture the win at Dover he will have to outrun his teammates as Hendrick Motorsports holds the Top 4 spots with 100 laps to go.
Aric Almirola(10) had a right-front tire go down and hit the outside wall in Turn 4 on Lap 301 bringing out the caution.
This time Bowman was the first driver off pit road and he stole the lead from Larson who exited 2nd. Elliott and Byron followed with Kevin Harvick sitting in 5th.
Cautions Breed Cautions
Anthony Alfredo(38) got a tap on the rear bumper from Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) and went around with 87 laps to go, bringing out the yellow again. Several lead lap cars pitted for fresh tires and an extra splash of gas. Bowman and Larson maintained the lead, but Kevin Harvick broke up the Hendrick stranglehold on the front 4 moving to 4th.
NASCAR was forced to throw another caution on Lap 324 for debris on the track. A few more takers came to pit road for service. The race restarted with 70 laps to go. The only change at the front was Byron replacing Harvick in 4th by passing on the restart.
Bowman and Larson move away from the field and begin catching lapped traffic with 55 laps to go. To add another element to the mix, rain is approaching the Speedway. Bowman’s lead is under a second, but not shrinking.
With 25 laps to go, Bowman stretched the lead to almost a second and a half.
The rain held off and Alex Bowman held on, becoming the 2nd driver to win multiple races in 2021. Hendrick Motorsports became the 1st team ever to sweep the Top 4 finishing positions in a race.
It is the 5th time in Larson’s career that he won the 1st two Stages and lost the race. The pole-sitter and early race leader Martin Truex Jr. finished 19th, one lap down. Hard luck of the year candidate Aric Almirola finished last.
|1||Martin Truex Jr.||454||In Win(3)|
|2||Alex Bowman||281||In Win(2)|
|3||William Byron||428||In Win|
|4||Joey Logano*||406||In Win|
|5||Ryan Blaney*||405||In Win|
|6||Kyle Larson||385||In Win|
|7||Brad Keselowski*||379||In Win|
|8||Kyle Busch||373||In Win|
|9||Christopher Bell||320||In Win|
|10||Michael McDowell*||278||In Win|
|NASCAR Playoffs Cut Line|
|18||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||249||-19|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the Drydene 400 from Dover International Speedway
|19||19||Martin Truex Jr.||-1||399|
|20||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-1||399|