This one was practically over before it began. After an early race caution for Timmy Hill’s splitter being jammed off his car, Carl Edwards powered by polesitter Elliott Sadler on lap 11 and never looked back, leading 179 circuits en route to a commanding win, his seventh of the 2011 season. Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. rounded out the top-5 finishers.
Keselowski remarked that he felt “first in class” after the showing that Edwards put on in the No. 60 car, and that was about as well as it was put. Edwards was untouchable up front, with a Mustang that never slipped through the high-banked corners and motored away from the entire field on the straightaways. Though Keselowski was able to keep things close for awhile, hanging tough after the final restart on lap 167, the outcome of this one was never really in doubt.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. finished as the highest Nationwide Series regular and cashed in on the struggles for both Sadler and Reed Sorenson, who both fought handling issues for the length of the race and lost further ground in the battle for the 2011 Nationwide Series championship. Heading to Kansas, Stenhouse holds a 22-point lead over Sadler and is now a comfortable 49 markers ahead of Sorenson.
Despite finishing fifth, first among Nationwide Series regulars and padding the championship lead, owner Jack Roush stated that *Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* is frustrated with his current situation. Frustrated that he’s not beating the Cup regulars on a weekly basis, frustrated that the No. 60 car is still finding a gear the No. 6 isn’t. There’s not much more that needs to be said about a guy so competitive that he’s on top of the field he’s racing against, and not happy about it. Stenhouse turned in another rock solid performance on Saturday, his third top 5 in the last four races coming down the season’s homestretch.
*Trevor Bayne* was right in the mix as well, finishing right behind his teammate in the running order. And Bayne, like his teammate Stenhouse, was far from content. With the No. 16 team finding constant misfortune on pit road during the latter half of 2011, be it mechanically or at the hands of slow stops, Bayne was constantly barking over the radio, asking his team about what he could be doing both in terms of when to bring his car in and how. Driver development was truly at work for Roush Fenway this weekend, and the results they gave were solid to boot.
*Ryan Truex* delivered a strong eighth-place showing on the oval his family has long considered their home track, but Truex was unhappy in his post-race presser… because he was mistakenly introduced as his brother Martin. That, however, was about as big a blip as the No. 20 team and their young driver endured this Saturday. Truex ran as high as third over the course of the event, and visibly could be seen learning on the job; lap 47 saw Truex threaten to dive into a three-wide situation heading into turn 1, realize he was in over his head, correct and drive on without losing momentum. Between his top 10 and brother Martin’s Cup pole, Saturday was a win all around for the Truex family.
*Mike Bliss* finally broke through, scoring his first top-10 finish of the season for TriStar Motorsports; the ninth-place result was the best for Bliss since a runner-up performance at Gateway last October.
Both Sadler and Sorenson posted top-15 finishes this Saturday, but Dover could only be considered a failure for *both Nationwide Series title challengers* to Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Sorenson’s seventh-place result came largely assisted by a blown bit of officiating by NASCAR; Sorenson was allowed to start in the top 5 for the race’s final start on lap 167 despite having pitted under yellow while pit road was closed because NASCAR officials failed to notify the No. 32 team of the penalty prior to the drop of the green. In reality, the No. 32 ran between 11th and 15th all afternoon, with a front end that Sorenson continually reported refused to turn, no matter the adjustments the team made to the car. Sadler had an even more disappointing afternoon. KHI pulled out all the stops for the No. 2 team, bringing a brand new race car to their title sponsor’s race while winning the pole earlier on Saturday. But, with hundreds of OneMain guests in the stands, Sadler dropped back early and stayed there, struggling all day with what the driver described as a lack of “lateral rear grip.” Both teams, though the damage wasn’t monumental, proved to still be a rung on the ladder down from where the No. 6 team is currently running with time rapidly running out on 2011.
*Mike Wallace* and the No. 01 landed primary backing for the remainder of the 2011 campaign courtesy of Steven Singer Jewelers. However, their new sponsor’s debut race was anything but a gem. Wallace was forced behind the wall to the garage on lap 172 with undiagnosed mechanical woes that everyone saw coming; earlier radio traffic between driver and crew included the crew stating, “I’m sure we’re destroying stuff under there [the car]” and Wallace noting that he had a vibration so violent that his water bottle holder had fallen off the dash and to the floor of the cockpit. Wallace wound up 29th, his worst result since Iowa back in August.
Though Stenhouse’s near brush with disaster, locking up the brakes headed to pit road on lap 166 was what made headlines, it was in fact *Brian Scott’s* best Matt Kenseth impression that actually brought out Saturday’s final yellow. Trying to make a late entrance to pit road, Scott clipped the sand barrels at pit entrance with the right front fender of his Toyota, possibly costing the team a top-10 result (the No. 11 finished 11th).
*12 start-and-parkers* took the green flag in Saturday’s race.. .and between them completed 106 laps. That’s the most such entries seen in a Nationwide race in 2011. What’s more, four of them came from the same team; Key Motorsports parked all four of its cars, including the flagship No. 40, after completing only 21 laps.
*Underdog Performer of the Race: Timmy Hill.* The 22nd-place finish that Hill earned carrying the flag for Rick Ware Racing this Saturday was far from his best of the season, but it was a gritty performance nonetheless. Hill brought out the race’s first yellow flag only seven laps in after his car was bottoming out so bad, the splitter came off the front of his Mustang. The repair was not one the team could make on pit road, meaning that Hill had to race nearly the entire 200 miles with the damaged front end. Considering he still finished the race, and did so without putting himself or competitors in precarious situations, Saturday was a decent day for the current Rookie of the Year point leader.
Start-and-parkers occupied 12 of the 43 starting positions in Saturday’s race, taking home $145,437 in purse money.
Cup regulars won Saturday’s race, scored 4 of the top-10 finishing positions, occupied 7 of the 43 starting positions in the field, and took home $162,468 in purse money.
379 of 1,238 starting positions occupied (30.6%)
$8,038,887 dollars won
25 of 29 trophies collected (86.2%)
*The Final Word*
* Sorry, 38,000 is another one of those exaggerated attendance figures. Maybe not a gross exaggeration this time, but embellished nonetheless.
* The tire situation here still needs to be figured out…lots of radio chatter all day long about cars that for whatever reason could not dig into this racetrack. Sadly, this one was a largely track position affair, which when coupled with long green runs made for a lot of parade laps.
* Speaking of long green runs, a Dover race with only four caution flags, and only one of those for a wreck (and that was a single-car affair on pit road?!) That’s not good or bad, but face it, that’s a hugely low count for a track as treacherous as Dover. The culprits? Well, for one, nearly a third of the field was out on their own accord less than a quarter-way into the race. But moreso, the mentality of saving equipment and making it to next week has got many teams in the NNS garage at this point in the season going through the motions, simply moving on to the next one without worrying so much about pushing the issue at ant point. Talk of making laps and getting out was far more prevalent in the garage this Saturday than in any Dover race I’ve been to previously. Mission accomplished for the Nationwide field… but that can’t be good news for the on-track product.
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