Chase Elliott Captures First Cup Series Win of 2022 at Dover

0
771
Dover Motor Speedway, Dover, DE — May 1, 2022

Miles the Monster stands guard outside of Dover Motor Speedway, aptly nicknamed the “Monster Mile.” Things happen fast on this high-banked concrete oval and with the Next-Gen Cup Series car making its debut on the circuit this weekend things could get wild.

Dover Motor Speedway was originally known as Dover Downs International Speedway. The complex has hosted 103 NASCAR Cup Series races dating back to the inaugural event on July 6, 1969. The first Dover Cup Series race was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty driving a Petty Enterprises Ford. Petty actually won the first two Cup events at the track (1969, 1970).

Today’s Race

The DuraMAX Drydene 400 presented by RelaDyne consists of 400 laps around the one-mile track. Stages are divided into 120/130/150 laps. Alex Bowman is the defending champion of the race, he starts in the sixth position today.

Chris Buescher put his Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Ford on the pole, the first career pole for the Mustang driver. Denny Hamlin starts beside Buescher on the front row. Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott occupy row two.

There are nine active Dover winners in the field today.

Active Dover Race Winners Wins Seasons
Kevin Harvick* 3 2020, 2018, 2015
Martin Truex Jr 3 2019. 2016, 2007
Kyle Busch 3 2017, 2010, 2008
Alex Bowman 1 2021
Denny Hamlin 1 2020
Kyle Larson 1 2019
Chase Elliott 1 2018
Brad Keselowski* 1 2012
Kurt Busch 1 2011

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Ty Dillon failed pre-qualifying inspection two times Friday, resulting in the loss of pit selection and a crew-member ejection. Dillon will have to start from the rear of the field. Also joining him at the back of the pack are Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron and Josh Bilicki from Spire Motorsports. Both drivers had to roll out backup cars after they wrecked during practice.

Harrison Burton, Todd Gilliland, and Kurt Busch will all drop to the rear for making unapproved adjustments after inspection. There will be a competition caution after Lap 40 to allow teams to check their cars after the multiple incidents that occurred during practice.

Stage One

Denny Hamlin(11) spun his rear tires on the drop of the green flag allowing Chris Buescher(17) to open a good lead into Turn One. Chase Elliott(9) drove around Hamlin and into second place. Hamlin got the position back and began to track down Buescher.

Buescher led until they caught the rear of the field and started lapping cars. The air turbulence from the rear spoiler creates a wake that can cause instability as the car behind approaches. Buescher experienced that sensation when running up on a lapper and he had to back off and catch the car to keep from spinning out. Hamlin drove underneath to take over the lead.

The competition caution pit stops shuffled positions. Back to racing, Hamlin led, Kyle Larson(5) took over second, Ross Chastain(1) was third, Buscher and Elliott held down fourth and fifth.

The yellow flag was displayed again on Lap 67 as a light shower passed over the track. NASCAR kept the cars on the track to generate heat and fight the moisture falling from the skies.

Pit road was opened as it looked as though the light sprinkle was subsiding. Some drivers pitted, others stayed out. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. The rain returned falling harder and the race was red-flagged on Lap 79. The cars were brought to pit road and covered while everyone focused on the weather radar to see how much of a stoppage could be expected.

Rain Delays the DuraMAX Drydene 400 at Dover Motor Speedway, Postponing the Race Until Monday / NASCAR Photo

Postponed to Monday

The weather set in and a hard rain soaked the track. NASCAR was forced to postpone the race to Monday and they scheduled the restart for shortly after noon. The green flag waved on Lap 84 with Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott on the front row.

Austin Cindric(2) spun and tapped the wall with 33 laps to go in Stage One putting the race back under caution. Todd Gilliland(38) spun when everyone tried to check up and Ryan Blaney(12) ran into him from behind.

Pit stop strategies are a jumble with the number of stoppages. However, because track position is so important drivers at the front of the field are hesitant to give those spots. End of Stage pit stops may even up the field as tire wear appears to be an issue with some cars. Cindric’s crew was unable to repair the race car under the damaged car time limit and he was forced to retire to the garage.

On the restart, Elliot drove past Larson for the lead. Hamlin also made a pass on the defending Cup Series Champion. With fresher tires, Hamlin was able to run down Elliott and take the top spot away. Further emphasizing the importance of getting new tires when pitting.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER Points
1 11 Denny Hamlin 10
2 9 Chase Elliott 9
3 20 Christopher Bell 8
4 1 Ross Chastain 7
5 19 Martin Truex Jr. 6
6 5 Kyle Larson 5
7 24 William Byron 4
8 17 Chris Buescher* 3
9 18 Kyle Busch 2
10 6 Brad Keselowski* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

As expected everyone came to pit road for fresh tires and fuel to start Stage Two. The leader had a serious mishap as Hamlin’s crew failed to get the left front tire and wheel secured on the #11 car. As Denny was exiting pit road the wheel came off and passed him out of the pits.

The most serious of pit road infractions, losing a wheel, carries major penalties. Hamlin’s crew chief, tire changer, and tire carrier will all face a four-week suspension. In addition Hamlin will lose track position by having to return to pit road for another wheel and then restart at the back of the pack when the green flag waves.

The front of the field took on a different appearance after pit stops as the top five are now Chastain, Christopher Bell(20), Martin Truex Jr.(19), Elliott, and Chris Buescher(17).

Another wheel issue brought Bell back to pit road as he complained of a vibration. A loose wheel was the cause. Fortunately for Bell’s crew, the wheel hung on long enough for the car to return to pit road and be replaced. The bad news? When Bell returned to the track he was two laps down to the field

Larson spun off Turn Four on Lap 155, it appeared he lost control of the car and while sliding to a stop blew out two tires. The shredded rubber did damage to the body while Larson circled the track to get back to pit road. Despite the caution, Larson was not able to stay on the lead lap.

Again everyone pitted for fuel and fresh tires. The restart came with 86 laps to go in the Stage, everyone has enough fuel to make it to the end of Stage Two, will the tires hold up is the question.

Two new drivers joined the top five, Justin Haley(31) in second and Brad Keselowski(6) in fourth. Chastain continued to lead the pack with Truex hanging onto the second position. Denny Hamlin worked his way back to the top 15 after his pit road penalty had sent him to the rear of the field.

With 62 laps to go in Stage Two, AJ Allmendinger tapped the left rear of the Kurt Busch(45) car causing him to spin out and contact the wall. The caution proved to be beneficial to Larson as he was in the “lucky dog” position and got the free pass to return to the lead lap.

Some drivers chose to pit, others opted to stay out. The risk of running out of tires before the end of the race is a real possibility for teams experiencing excessive tire wear. Teams were allotted nine sets or 36 tires for use during the 400 miles. Teams are not allowed to swap tires with other teams or purchase additional sets from Goodyear.

More changes at the front. Haley leads the pack back to the green flag, Alex Bowman(48), Allmendinger, Tyler Reddick(8), and Bubba Wallace(23) followed.

Another incident followed a lap after the restart. While scrambling for positions back in the pack, Erik Jones(43) slid up the track and forced Joey Logano(22) into the outside wall as the two cars made slight contact.

The lucky dog is getting a workout today. Bell was the beneficiary this time as he returned to the lead lap on this caution.

Tires are again the story as fresher rubber is allowing cars to make impressive runs to the front. Bowman drove to the top spot. Kyle Busch followed Bowman past Haley and then took the lead driving around the #48 car.

Reddick’s crew pushed the tire window too far, he was forced to pit with 17 laps to go in the Stage as his right front began to shred. The same thing happened to Ty Dillon(42) four laps later. Green flag pit stops are almost a sure loss of two laps on the Dover circuit.

Cody Ware(51) spun off Turn Four with nine laps to go in Stage Two. He collected Hamlin in the incident. Bad luck has hounded Hamlin all day, he had worked his way back to the fourth position after his earlier troubles. He remained on the lead lap but lost track position again as his crew worked to repair the damage from the collision with Ware.

A few drivers stayed on the track to try and gain Stage points as the race restarted with just three laps to the green and white checkered flag. Blaney and Harrison Burton(21) inherited the front row when the leaders pitted.

Blaney managed to hold off the hard-charging group with fresh Goodyears and win the Stage. That gamble paid off in Blaney’s fourth Stage win of the year, more than any other driver. Harrison faded to eighth, pocketing three valuable Stage points.

Michigan’s Erik Jones almost won last week’s race at Talladega. He started the DuraMAX Drydene 400 in the 25th starting spot after a poor qualifying run. Despite an earlier incident with Logano, Jones finished the Stage in seventh.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER Points
1 12 Ryan Blaney* 10
2 18 Kyle Busch 9
3 48 Alex Bowman 8
4 19 Martin Truex Jr. 7
5 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 6
6 1 Ross Chastain 5
7 43 Erik Jones 4
8 21 Harrison Burton* 3
9 17 Chris Buescher* 2
10 9 Chase Elliott 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

The teams that pitted under the previous yellow flag stayed out and moved up as Blaney needed to take advantage of the Stage ending caution for service to his race car. Kyle Busch, Bowman, Truex, Stenhouse, Chastain, and Jones made up the first three rows for the restart.

With 94 laps to go, Ryan Blaney, who lost track position by pitting at the end of Stage Two, was passed by Kyle Busch and went a lap down. The top five remained intact with Chastain up one position over Stenhouse.

The leaders began green flag pit stops with 77 laps to go. The caution came out as soon as Busch enter the pit road. Allmendinger, who pitted a lap earlier, lost a wheel on the backstretch prompting the yellow flag to be displayed.

With Busch and Bowman caught in the pits when the caution flag came out they were forced to take the “wave around” to get back on the lead lap while the remainder of the leaders pitted under the yellow. Busch and Bowman restarted at the rear of the lead lap cars.

Upfront, Chastain won the race off pit road followed by Truex, Elliott, Bell, and Stenhouse. Green flag racing resumed but only for a couple of laps as Corey LaJoie(7) and Daniel Suarez(99) got together and spun bringing out the 11th caution flag of the race.

Coming to green with 61 laps to go, the scramble for positions is even more intense. Two laps of exciting racing saw Elliott and Chastain side-by-side while Truex and Stenhouse followed suit right behind them. That battle was interrupted when Reddick spun and it was back to running under caution.

Sprint to the Checkered Flag

Restarting with 53 laps to go Chase Elliott got a great jump and was able to pull up in front of Chastain. Stenhouse got beside Chastain and he made the pass for second place before everyone settled into single-file racing.

Kyle Busch worked his way back into the Top 10, but the bad luck with the timing of his last pit stop may end up costing him the race. Interesting trivia! Kyle Busch has never lost a Cup Series race that finished on his birthday. On May the second, he is 2-0, that string is now in danger.

It has been 26 races since Elliott visited victory lane. For the 2020 Cup Series Champion that is a long draught. But, what may make that situation a bit more difficult to deal with is the fact all three of his teammates have already taken a checkered flag in 2022.

The Finish

With 20 laps to go and the leader in lapped traffic, Stenhouse began to close on Elliott. Elliott stretched the lead back out to a comfortable two seconds when he got back in clean air. NASCAR’s most popular driver won for the first time this year and became the ninth different winner in 11 Cup Series races in 2022.

There was drama on the final lap, it just did not involve the leader. Coming through Turns Three and Four, Martin Truex Jr. tried to make a run on Ross Chastain for the third position. Chastain moved up to block and the pair made contact. Truex spun which cost him a Top Five finish. The yellow flag waved at the same time as the checkered flag, Truex finished 12th.

Truex and Chastain had a post-race conversation on pit road. When asked about what was said, Chastain replied, “we were just talking about where we were going to go fishing this week.”

Ross Chastain(1) and Martin Truex Jr.(19) battled all day at Dover Motor Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Playoff Standings

The regular season NASCAR Cup Series points leader gets an automatic invitation to the playoffs regardless if they have posted a win. Chase Elliott has been holding that position for most of the year. He won’t have to worry about maintaining that spot as he has now qualified with his victory at Dover.

Chase Elliott wins at Dover / NASCAR Photo

With two Top 10 finishes in a row, Michigan’s Erik Jones has moved into a playoff qualifying position based on the current standings. Sitting on the bubble, Jones is three points ahead of Austin Dillon. There is a long way to go, still, the current trend is a positive one for the Richard Petty/GMS Motorsports driver.

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 William Byron 353 In Win (2)
2 Ross Chastain 338 In Win (2)
3 Chase Elliott 418 In Win
4 Kyle Busch 353 In Win
5 Alex Bowman 349 In Win
6 Kyle Larson 335 In Win
7 Chase Briscoe 270 In Win
8 Austin Cindric 239 In Win
9 Denny Hamlin 204 In Win
10 Ryan Blaney 368 +109
11 Martin Truex Jr. 336 +77
12 Joey Logano 316 +57
13 Christopher Bell 284 +25
14 Aric Almirola 283 +24
15 Kevin Harvick 280 +21
16 Erik Jones 262 +3
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Austin Dillon 259 -3
18 Tyler Reddick 249 -13
19 Daniel Suarez 241 -21
20 Chris Buescher 230 -32

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the DuraMAX Drydene 400 from Dover Motor Speedway

Pos Car # Driver Laps
1 9 Chase Elliott 400
2 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 400
3 1 Ross Chastain 400
4 20 Christopher Bell 400
5 48 Alex Bowman 400
6 5 Kyle Larson 400
7 18 Kyle Busch 400
8 17 Chris Buescher 400
9 4 Kevin Harvick 400
10 43 Erik Jones 400
11 31 Justin Haley 400
12 19 Martin Truex Jr. 400
13 14 Chase Briscoe 400
14 99 Daniel Suarez 400
15 41 Cole Custer 400
16 23 Bubba Wallace 399
17 34 Michael McDowell 399
18 7 Corey LaJoie 399
19 10 Aric Almirola 399
20 6 Brad Keselowski 399
21 11 Denny Hamlin 399
22 24 William Byron 399
23 3 Austin Dillon 398
24 21 Harrison Burton 398
25 15 Ryan Preece 398
26 12 Ryan Blaney 397
27 42 Ty Dillon 396
28 38 Todd Gilliland 396
29 22 Joey Logano 396
30 8 Tyler Reddick 390
31 45 Kurt Busch 388
32 77 Josh Bilicki 381
33 16 AJ Allmendinger 321
34 51 Cody Ware 238
35 78 B.J. McLeod 167
36 2 Austin Cindric 91