DOVER, Del. – The scoresheet will show Saturday’s Nationwide race at Dover as a Joey Logano romp (June 2). And while the JGR Cup regular did emerge victorious in the 5-hour Energy 200 after leading 154 of the laps run, this one was oh-so-close to being so much more.
Also driving a JGR Toyota, hometown driver Ryan Truex grabbed the lead after misfortune of Logano’s own making (while leading the race, the No. 18 bowled over the lapped car of Tim Bainey Jr. exiting turn 2, wrecking the No. 24 car and forcing Logano to pit road for a check-up and tires), and was holding a steady lead of one second with less than five laps to go.
Entering turn 2 on lap 197, Truex ran across the lapped cars of Brad Teague and Jamie Dick racing side-by-side. Unable to split the two until nearly halfway down the backstretch, Logano gained a huge momentum boost off turn 2 and rocketed past Truex, holding off his teammate for the win. Brian Scott finished third (yes, JGR went 1-2-3), with Kurt Busch and Justin Allgaier rounding out the top five.
The points race underwent a huge shakeup for the second consecutive weekend, as points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wrecked himself exiting turn 2 on lap 26, pancaking the left front of his machine.
It would be nearly 70 laps before the No. 6 team was able to return to the track, while Richard Childress Racing teammates Elliott Sadler and Austin Dillon each brought home top-10 finishes. Sadler leaves Dover the new points leader by 12 markers over Stenhouse, with Dillon now a close third only 14 points off the lead.
Though Logano ended up raining on the parade of what was otherwise an opportunity weekend for the Nationwide Series regulars, Joe Gibbs Racing enjoyed a banner day courtesy of the efforts of Truex and Scott.
For Truex, though he finished one position short of winning at his family’s de facto hometown track, the day was a complete success, winning the pole and leading a career-high 43 laps in scoring a career-best second-place result. This was easily the strongest performance the NASCAR community has seen from Cup regular Martin’s younger brother since winning the East Series title back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.
As for Scott, the clouds broke over a disappointing 2012 season much the same way Friday’s vicious thunderstorms cleared out of the Maryland/Delaware area, with the No. 11 qualifying in the top five and staying there. Scott’s day was methodical and more importantly uneventful as he finished third, scoring his first top-five finish since Fontana back in March. Scott told Dillon in his post-race remarks “I’m 200 points back, but I’m coming … strong.”
Speaking of Dillon, RCR was not the class of the field this Saturday, but all three of their cars did exactly what they needed to after Stenhouse’s wreck dropped a gift in their lap. Austin ended up cashing in with a sixth place finish that moved him from a distant third in points to a contender in an afternoon.
Younger brother Ty Dillon finished eighth in his Nationwide Series debut, making him the fifth different driver already to score a top-10 finish in the No. 33 car so far this year (though the younger Dillon also showed his youth this Saturday, struggling with lapped traffic on several occasions, including a lap 92 exchange where a pass he had spent 15 laps setting up Kligerman was lost in one turn when he misjudged a pass on a slow Joey Gase).
And as for Sadler, who on the extended green-flag run from laps 46-124 was the only car on track as fast as the No. 18, even fading to seventh on the final run still proved to be enough to lift the defending series runner-up to the lead in points heading into an off-weekend. RCR’s got some ground to make up before Michigan in two weeks, but on this Saturday they scored a points day when they needed one.
James Buescher finished ninth for his fifth top-10 finish of the season. In only 10 starts this season, he has equaled his career top 10 total over three previous seasons.
Allgaier finally scored his first top-five finish of the season on this Saturday and did it in fine fashion, leading laps for the fourth consecutive event and ruffling the feathers of one Kurt Busch early and often (the two teams were heard discussing hard racing under the first caution flag of the afternoon and were caught on camera having a heated discussion on pit road immediately after finishing 4-5 in the running order).
With Buescher staking a clear claim to a spot in Turner Motorsports’ Nationwide camp for 2013, Allgaier’s going to need to man up and turn this campaign around. Taking on a Cup regular is a good start … and no, that’s not sarcasm.
It was purely a strategy call, but Jeremy Clements and team managed to outlast the majority of the field when the caution flew on lap 125, one of only seven cars on the lead lap when the race was slowed.
Though they were unable to race long with anyone in the top 10, the car was strong enough to stay on the lead lap for the remainder of the afternoon, and the result was only the second top-10 finish of Clements’s career, his first since Gateway back in 2010.
It was already bad enough seeing Rick Ware Racing back to being a four-car operation courtesy of three blank Nos. 15, 71 and 75 cars start-and-parking at Dover, but to top it all off the one car the team kept running all day didn’t make it close to the finish.
Timmy Hill ran into trouble as part of a three-wide sandwich exiting turn 4 on lap 124, spinning across the frontstretch and into the inside retaining wall, clipping Sam Hornish Jr.’s right front fender along the way (Hornish finished 13th). The damage was beyond repair, as the front tires were so out of whack from the crash they wouldn’t rotate. Hill emerged unscathed en route to finishing 31st.
This stretch of the race was particularly eventful for Mr. Hornish, who only nine laps later triggered the largest crash of the afternoon on lap 133. Attempting to pass Danica Patrick on the low side of turn 4, Hornish got loose and clipped the rear end of the No. 7.
Patrick attempted to catch her car but still ended up pounding the fence, collecting Brad Sweet as well and sending his No. 38 backwards into the interior retaining wall. Hornish remarked over the radio that he felt Patrick had given him no room, but the video was clear that the No. 7 never moved down on the No. 12. Patrick DNF’d and finished 30th, Sweet limped home 23rd.
Stenhouse was plenty fast enough to shake off the ugly result from Charlotte last weekend after suffering a broken driveshaft, but lost control of his car unassisted on lap 26 and smashed the left front of his machine on the interior wall of the backstretch (to the driver’s credit, he took full responsibility for making the costly mistake in post-wreck remarks).
Stenhouse’s No. 6 team got the car back on track by lap 94, but the damage was already done. In finishing 32nd, Stenhouse has finished back-to-back races outside the top 20 for the first time since the summer of 2010 (Bristol and Montreal). It also marked the first time since Richmond that Stenhouse wasn’t leading the Nationwide Series standings.
Bainey‘s return to NASCAR touring series racing for the first time the Truck race at Loudon in Sept. 2010 started on a sour note from the start, with Bainey feeling ill even before the green flag flew on Saturday afternoon (his crew jokingly told him they thought it would get worse with the ups and downs of the Dover track during the pace laps).
But Bainey started the event and minded his business, albeit many laps down. The No. 24 pit box was noticeably excited around lap 150, when Bainey made one of his few passes of the day on Teague’s No. 4 car, but triumph turned to tragedy only a few circuits later when leader Logano bulldozed the No. 24 car exiting turn 2.
The ugly wreck destroyed Bainey’s car and left him to finish 28th. It’s hard to say which was uglier, the incident itself or the seeming disregard Logano showed for his actions. In post-race remarks when asked about the incident, Logano’s remarks included the statement, “You have to show the leaders respect. I wasn’t getting any respect,” and an ill-advised remark that, “we’ve all been there before.”
Considering Logano has spent his entire career driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in cars 99% of the nation’s racers would kill for, it’s easy to take exception to the claim, “he’s been there before.” More so though, even if Bainey wasn’t “showing respect,” considering how much faster the No. 18 was than the rest of the field, there was no reason to wreck the No. 24 car. There was no reason for a megamillion-dollar Goliath to run David off the track.
For God’s sake, I’m agreeing with Rusty Wallace, who chewed out Logano on the telecast for his actions. Something is glaringly wrong when this writer and ESPN see things eye to eye.
Maybe this time next year when Logano is driving for BK Racing or another one of Toyota’s lower-tier teams, he’ll finally go there; that is, getting mauled by the big boys.
Underdog Performer of the Race: Jeff Green. And this one goes out for more than Green’s 17th-place effort at Dover on Saturday. Going on one month as the substitute for the injured Eric McClure (who the team hopes to return to the No. 14 car for the race at Michigan in two weeks), Green’s team has raved about his efforts both on and off the track to the keep the Hefty car going.
This four-race stretch may be only a brief window to the past for those that remember Green as the 2000 series champion, but that mettle hasn’t gone anywhere, even if the funding to race has.
Start-and-parkers occupied nine of the 43 starting positions in Saturday’s race, taking home $109,311 in purse money (Tim Andrews technically wrecked after two laps, but the No. 08 team’s pit stall had no tools or tires in it less than 45 minutes prior to the start).
Cup regulars won Saturday’s race, scored two of the top-10 finishing positions, occupied four of the 43 starting positions in Saturday’s race and took home $91,808 in purse money.
149 of 516 positions occupied (28.9%)
6 of 12 trophies collected (50%)
The Final Word
- The Allgaier/Busch tussle is one that’s a mixed blessing. For one, to see any Nationwide regular (or any racer for that matter) stand up to the Busch brothers is always something to be applauded and encouraged. But in Allgaier’s case, the video is pretty clear that the early-race contact that actually started their feud was hardly something to fret over. Couple that with Hornish’s comments about being pinched by Danica, Logano demanding more room from Bainey, Ty Dillon’s spotter referring to Kligerman’s racing with them as “shitting all over” the No. 33 car, it’s disturbing that “give-and-take” is turning into “get out of my way.” It’s a racetrack. There are no barriers and no signals. Make the pass or stop moaning.
- Truex was irate over the radio after the lapped cars of Teague and Dick obstructed him in the closing laps and allowed Logano to make his winning pass. And while plenty of drivers and fans alike will likely chastise lap traffic for settling this event, let’s be clear. Lapped traffic didn’t settle this race, a long green-flag run did. Because NASCAR finally put the debris yellow in the trash heap for Saturday’s race, Logano was able to prove that the No. 18 really was the best car in the field, in or out of traffic, surging from eighth to victory in the final 45 circuits while every other car in the field struggled to pass all afternoon. Truex and team were out front for long and far enough to know lapped traffic was going to be an issue. They couldn’t get past it and they lost. The better car won this Saturday and it had a long-green run to thank far more than two slower cars.
- Speaking of yellows, while it was great to see a race with no debris cautions, why the hell did a competition yellow have to fly only 10 circuits after a real one flew? Is Goodyear’s product really that iffy?
- More on Truex, who even before being caught by Logano late remarked over this team radio before the green on lap 157 that “if something like this doesn’t get me a full-time ride next year ….” Sure, winning a pole and finishing second is a big deal. But there’s another point to be made here; namely, how much of a big deal is it to score a top five in these JGR cars? These cars are so damn good, mid-pack Cup driver Logano is looking like Kyle Busch in the Nationwide ranks. Is it too hard to imagine teams are asking the same question? Is it really the driver or the car? Those Toyotas are proving to be winning cars for both Cup stars and underachievers alike. Who knows what winning (or nearly winning) in them actually means?
- To close on that note, Logano remarked that the media center was awfully quiet after his fourth Nationwide win of the season. Here’s a question Joey. In a car that was immensely better than nearly every machine in the field, you won a minor-league race. Why the hell should we care? Want accolades and discussion about Nationwide exploits? Drop the Cup ride, come race a full season down here and win a championship. Ryan Newman will thank you.
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