Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2015 FedEx 400 at Dover

Who’s in the headline – There is domination, and then there is total domination. There have only been four drivers in the history of the sport who won 10 or more races at a single track. After Sunday that number increased by one as Jimmie Johnson rode to Victory Lane at Dover International Speedway for the 10th time in his career. Johnson put himself in position at the front of the field as the laps were winding down and then drove the car with four used tires better than drivers who had two or four new bolognas. Chad Knaus has the benefit of one of the best drivers in the history of the sport to make his decisions look good but it was a good call, in hindsight, to take track position over fresh rubber.

What happened – For the third race in a row, Martin Truex Jr. led the most laps in the race but came home short of the win. On the final restart, Truex was behind Kasey Kahne on the inside line and the No. 5 didn’t take off as quickly as Johnson did on the outside. In the ensuing insanity of a green-white-checkered finish, Truex was shuffled back into the field and ended up with a sixth-place finish. Denny Hamlin led the second most laps, but was caught up in an accident on lap 386 which relegated him to 21st. Kyle Larson scored his first top five of the season, coming home in third after eight top fives in 2014. Nine drivers led the race and had 15 lead changes. Johnson only led the race once but it was for the final 23 laps of the event.

Why you should care – Racing doesn’t quite have the historical element that baseball does but one thing is for sure, the gravity of some accomplishments can be measured by the rarity of its recurrences; 2,903 different people have run in a Cup Series race during the 67-year history of the sanctioning body. Only five drivers have managed to win double-digit races at an individual track. Sunday we witnessed history as Johnson put his name in that exclusive club. Whatever your opinion of Johnson and the current format of racing in the sport, you cannot deny his dominance at Dover is exceptional. He has eight wins at Martinsville and seven at Charlotte, so the possibility exists that he could end his career with 10 or more wins at three different tracks.

What your friends are talking about – Apparently the drivers have appointed a committee of their peers to meet with NASCAR formally on the state of the sport and concerns that they have about several different aspects of stock car racing at the highest level. NASCAR has listened to drivers individually for years and even has met with the teams in organized sessions in the past. However, this is one of the first times in recent history that an organized group, that were chosen by the body of drivers in the garage, had a formal sit down with the sanctioning body. For those fans who have been through focus groups in a large organization, you all know that the proof will be in the pudding. They can meet until they are blue in the face but unless they actually take action, the entire exercise is a practice of futility. Here’s hoping that the drivers were unified in trying to talk the decision makers into getting the front of the cars off of the ground to try and reduce the dependency of the cars on clean air.

Penalties were a topic of conversation this weekend for different reasons. First off, Johnson’s team appealed their penalty for technical inspection violations that was going to prevent them from picking pit stalls until the end of the process. The appeal put the penalty on delay which allowed Johnson to pick his stall in his earned position. When the appeal is heard, if the penalty is upheld, it will be enforced at a track where the penalty will not put the No. 48 team at as big of a disadvantage. The Hendrick Motorsports organization is playing the appeal process by the rules, even though it might seem like they are taking advantage of a loop hole.

The second penalty discussion involved Jennifer Jo Cobb leaving her truck after it was wrecked on track. She stepped toward the pack as they were driving by, which is a clear violation of the rule put in place after the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. accident last summer. While there is no specific level for the penalties, it will be a shame if Cobb is hit with a Carl Long-esque type penalty. Her small-budget operation would be crippled by a penalty of that magnitude and would ultimately cost the series an entry for an already shrinking entry list.

With Johnson’s 10 wins at Dover, he joins the very distinguished list of Cup drivers with double digit wins at a single race track. There are now five drivers who have won at least 10 races at a given racetrack. The four drivers, besides Johnson, are all in the Hall of Fame. Dale Earnhardt famously won 10 at Talladega. David Pearson accomplished the feat at Darlington. Darrell Waltrip won two handfuls of races at Bristol, Martinsville and North Wilkesboro. Richard Petty, as you would expect, is in a class by himself in this category with at least 10 wins at Daytona, Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, Richmond and Rockingham.

Frontstretch confirmed again this weekend that Tommy Baldwin Racing isn’t going anywhere. The group of racers that are getting it done with minimal funding scored a 20th-place finish with Alex Bowman at Dover this weekend. The little team that could is making small strides and just might shock the world sooner than you think.

The folks associated with the No. 98 team of Phil Parsons Racing were sporting Premium Motorsports shirts at Dover this weekend. On the Fanvision, people were heard communicating with Jay Robinson over the radio. It would seem that all signs are pointing to the rumors of the sale to Robinson are true. It is another blow to the single-car teams as not one but two are now gone since this move, in essence, makes one two-car team out of two single-car operations.

The stands at Dover were looking a bit less than full on Sunday. They have already removed some stands and cover others with tarps. While the solution to attendance is an extremely complex exercise that no one has an answer for at this point in time, one thing is for sure: California lost a date when most of the fans were shopping for souvenirs. The folks at Dover better get them away from the merchandise areas and back into the seats or they will be in danger of losing a date.

Who is mad – Hamlin sat on the pole for Sunday’s race and led the second most laps. As the laps were winding down he was poised to have a top-five finish and had the potential for a win depending on how the battle at the front played out. Unfortunately for Hamlin, Clint Bowyer had a fast car and was right on the back bumper of the No. 11 coming out of turn 2 on lap 386. Hamlin had a bobble or Bowyer had a good run, and whichever the case may be, Bowyer nudged the back of Hamlin’s car which caused him to shoot down the track. Hamlin corrected and the car shot back up the track, hitting Kurt Busch before nosing into the wall and killing the front clip.

Speaking of Kurt Busch, he didn’t lead during the event but was running just inside the top 10 for most of the event. He was set to score a top 10 when Hamlin’s car contacted him on the back straight. The incident relegated Busch to a 31st-place finish.

Kyle Busch and Brian Scott got together and brought out the caution that preceded the Hamlin/Busch yellow on lap 377. Busch was running in the top five for the entire event and was moving through traffic with just over 20 laps to go. Depending on whether you believe Busch’s version of the incident or Scott’s, one thing is for sure. Two cars ended up in a space that could only be occupied by one. Busch slid up the track and Scott when with him. Both cars pounded the outside wall and their days were ended. It is especially hard for Busch, who hopes to make the Chase by winning a race. He has to be in the top 30 in points in order to qualify, which means he has to average a 16th-place finish over the final 15 races of the “regular season”. A 36th-place run makes that average harder to maintain compared to the top five that he was ready to score.

Who is happy – Larson and his crew chief Chris Heroy, have to be smiling after this weekend. Larson burst onto the scene in 2014 with eight top-five runs. So far this season he had not managed a single run better than seventh before Sunday. Heroy will never admit to feeling pressure, but it had to be weighing on him that the sophomore slump has been hitting Larson so hard. Larson is still likely to be a star in this sport for years to come and rack up numerous wins but getting this monkey off of his back has to be a relief for both of them.

Speaking of no top fives, Aric Almirola made the Chase in 2014 thanks to his win at Daytona. This season his best run to date was an 11th place at Atlanta, Fontana and Kansas. At Dover, Almirola was outside of the top 15 for the first 300 laps of the event. He broke into the top 10 with just over 20 laps to go and made the right moves as the GWC unfolded to snare not only his first top 10 of the season, but his first top five, with a fifth-place run.

Landon Cassill had a whale of a week. He completed the Coca-Cola 600 and then ran 14 miles to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That was followed up by the birth of his son Beckham Bear Alan Cassill on Wednesday the 27th. Then Sunday he secured a 23rd-place finish at Dover. It was Cassill’s third best finish of the season and his best since a 21st-place run at Martinsville.

When the checkered flag flew

Johnson’s triumph at Dover was his 74th of his career in 484 career starts. His winning percentage is 15.3%, which is eighth on the all-time list. He is the only active driver in the top 15. The win is Johnson’s fourth of the season, which leads the series. As stated above this is Johnson’s 10th career victory at Dover. That leads all drivers by three. Bobby Allison and Richard Petty are tied for second with seven.

Harvick finished second on Sunday for his ninth top-two run of the 2015 season. This is Harvick’s second runner-up run in 29 career starts at Dover. Harvick’s second-place finish is his 38th career runner-up result. That is 16th on the all-time list.

Larson finished third for his first top-three run of the season. Larson’s podium was his first career top-three run at Dover. This was the sixth time in his short career that Larson has finished on the podium.

Brett Moffitt finished 28th to win the Rookie of the Race.

Dover was the 13th race that Harvick and Johnson have finished 1–2. Johnson has come out victorious in eight of the 13 events.

Johnson has led 2,999 laps in his career at Dover.

Harvick, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Johnson, Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards all have wins in 2015. Harvick and Johnson are locked into the Chase assuming they attempt the rest of the races or receive an exemption should they miss any events thanks to multiple wins.

The drivers who are currently eligible for the Chase after 12 races without wins and their standing in points:

2. Martin Truex Jr.

7. Jamie McMurray

8. Kasey Kahne

9. Jeff Gordon

10. Aric Almirola

12. Paul Menard

13. Ryan Newman

Takin’ it to the Bank

Cup winners this year have pocketed $5,313,509 in the first 13 races, while the last-place finisher has taken home $1,108,310.

In the Xfinity Series, it has been $948,362 for the winners and $185,187 for last place after 12 races.

After six Truck races, the winner has $342,331 and the last loser has banked $63,333.

What is in the cooler – The Monster Mile finally bared its teeth a little on Sunday with more than one caution flag for actual wrecks. In the previous few years the cars getting out of shape enough to make contact with the wall could be counted on one hand. It makes fans at least think the drivers are truly pushing the cars as hard as they can when they actually see them lose control. Unfortunately, the number of on-track passes for the lead could also be counted on one hand, which makes for an average ranking at best. Even three restarts within the last 17 laps of the race couldn’t make it a higher ranking than two cold Bonzai Black IPAs from 3rd Wave Brewing in Delmar, Delware.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The band of brothers in the Cup series head up the road 160 miles to the three cornered racetrack in the honeymoon capital of the world. The race will be 400 miles in the Pocono mountains and will be an exercise in compromise because each lap sees the cars have to negotiate three unique corners. The race can be seen on FOX Sports 1 at 1:00 p.m. ET, Sunday June 7. If you can’t see the race on television you can hear it on your local MRN affiliate or NASCAR SiriusXM Channel 90. If you want to have some fun next weekend, do a shot every time someone says tricky triangle during the broadcast. You’ll be lucky to see the checkered flag.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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..I don’t think the racing with this “new package” is very good, in fact I think it stinks. Seems like the drivers do to, but since when has that bother NASCAR. I still think there is undo influence going on that NASCAR will not address, or will even acknowledge. This year is very lack luster, more so than others..imo. We found ourselves on a rainy day having a good laugh at “Finding Bigfoot” reruns rather than investing in blood pressure raising stupidity from all directions, a check here and there during commercials..and we didn’t miss a thing. I am sad I feel that way

Charles Jenkins

kb, I tuned in just as the command to start engines was given. The prerace is something I can no longer watch. After the command to start, I muted in order to miss BBB and watched the first 2 to 3 laps which was enough to get to mostly single file. I then received a phone call and had a 30 minute conversation while seated 3 feet from another tv and did not even turn it on. Like you, that makes me sad. I did tune in for the last 20 or so laps. This from one who used to plan days around the racing schedule. The key word in the last sentence – racing. We now have motor sports entertainment – not racing. Sorry, Jerry Jordan.

Tim S.

kb, Charles, I think our problem is that the “product” is just overwhelming. From the comprehensively-informative TV broadcasts (no superteam left un-covered) to the most competitive events in the racing world (loop data), mixed with the greatest drivers in motorsports history (Jimmie Johnson, duh) it’s just too much for the old-timers to process. It’s best taken for us in small chunks. Which appears to be what we’re all doing.


Gentleman, My VCR either malfunctioned or more likely fell asleep during the pre race buffooneries. Anyway it woke up with 100 laps to go. I love Dover and worry that as it is not owned by Bruton or Brian will lose a date in the near future because of the current cars. I’ve seen more exciting races between soccer moms in minivans for parking spaces in mall parking lots. Sigh.


Tim, I have no problem processing the amount of information – considering more than half of it is just bogus BS. For me, the problem with the “product” is that it simply isn’t interesting to watch.

I watched more of the Indy race yesterday than I did NASCAR and I am not even a fan of any of those drivers.


Tim, thanks for your reply..I am not old by any means and I process things quiet well, maybe that is my problem. My BS meter is always on high alert and I have zero patience for what they are selling, as it is all BS. And the racing isn’t racing, and they keep telling us how great it is. It isn’t.

Sell, sell, sell. I can’t stand Danielle Trotta (did she have Botox recently?) a hyper poodle that needs to be sedated, the same with the idiot next to her, NASCARS premiere unapologetic boot licker Kenny (Plastic surgery??) Wallace and the whole damn crew, makes ya sick. I can’t even watch Racehub anymore, it assaults and insults anybody with a brain.


Besides the noticeable number of empty seats (the overhead shots from the blimp were not terribly flattering), the track itself is becoming an embarrassment. I think this makes three consecutive races where there has been some in-race issue with the concrete surface and that doesn’t even count fixes done the night before races. I’m surprised there wasn’t a competition caution because they did some work on the track surface Saturday night.
I would call this race not as bad as some others we’ve seen at Dover. At least three or four drivers took turns with the lead but the supremacy of clean air takes away any bite from the little bit of action we saw late. That is the state of NASCAR 2015.
Reading about the drivers meeting with NASCAR has me wondering whatever became of the RTA?


Clean Air ranks supreme again. Drivers no longer have to win a race, they merely need to win a restart (or multiple restarts)

I am not a Kyle Busch hater, but his average finish talk should not be a discussion. He missed too many races to be eligible for a playoff berth, regardless of the situation.


even with being stuck on the couch with a pulled calf muscle and not being able to move around very well, i still didn’t see much of this race, luckily the remote was within arms length. unfortunately i woke up in time for the g/w/c and saw who won. but hey, all is well in na$car world….princess sparkle pony had a top 15 finish.

Bill B

I was at the race yesterday. Overall it was better than the last few years but it still was a snoozer until the last 20 laps. You know how they say, “there’s always passing happening somewhere on the track”?, well there wasn’t much passing going on anywhere on the track unless you count lapped cars being passed by lead lap cars. It was a parade with cars pretty much stuck in whatever position they were running.

The crowd was about the same as the last few years from what I could see. Maybe 50% full. Lots of leg room and room to spread out (which is actually a good thing if you are a fan in the stands). BTW, the seats they took out didn’t really make a difference to the crowd density. Those seats have been covered with advertising tarps for the last 5 years,

I was glad that there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for wave arounds since the leaders stayed out on a couple of those cautions and the others all occurred after they had run more than half a fuel run. I also was extremely happy that there was no competition caution. Although, like clock work, we got the debris caution early in the race when there was a chance less than 20 drivers would be on the lead lap before the halfway point. And really, a debris caution for a tire on pit road late in the race? I can’t believe that someone couldn’t retrieve that safely. It was just sitting there and no one was coming down pit road.

I can’t figure out how Danica got back on the lead lap since I saw the leader pass her 3 times during the race (the last one resulted in her lap down finish) but I never saw her take a wave around or get the lucky dog. I recorded the race so I will see how that worked out later today when I watch it.

But for all my negative comments, it was still a fun day at the track with friends.


Bill, From the blimp shots on Sunday the track seemed to be a third full at most. Saturday’s, Xfinicup race was even worse. I flew over Dover once on the way to who remembers where on a non race day. Saturday looked like that, not sparse, empty.


Bill, glad you had fun with your friends. I’m happy with my decision to not go to this race. I spent the morning & afternoon out with friends and got home in time to see the end of the race and realize that I hadn’t missed much by not being there the whole time.

I wondered the same thing about Danica. I heard DW or Mike Joy – one of the guys in the booth say she was 2 laps down and then suddenly she was back on the lead lap. Now I understand she stayed out under one of the cautions so one lap back yes, two laps back? Nah, I don’t think so but then again, NASCAR does math their own way.

so the drivers elected a committee – to talk to NASCAR – ha, ha, ha! Well good luck to them. I have no expectation of anything changing. NASCAR has had 10 years of saying they are trying to fix the aero issue with the COT and they won’t do what they need to do. Once November comes, anything NASCAR does will be academic for me anyway.

Bill B

Well Gina, you did NOT miss a great race and you saved a lot of money. I noticed that the lines to get through security never got that long this year. So that might point to fewer fans this year or did they hire more people to do the screenings? We’ll never know,,, LOL.

Amen for that last sentence. I will have no dog in the fight and that’s the way I want it. It is no fun to be a fan anymore because there are too many instances of questionable calls, no calls, manipulation of races and crapshoot rules.


yes unfortunately that is just the way it is. Once upon a time, I would have gladly spent $$ and my time to see a race, but you are right, it is not fun to be a fan. Heck we used to take 4 busloads of people to dover and have a great time talking trash and just enjoying ourselves while we cheered for or against whatever was happening on the track.

Shutting my eyes and taking a nap at the track while the cars were on the track is just not something I would ever have thought I would be able to do, but I did it at Dover.

Glad you didn’t have to wait long in security lines – it was too hot yesterday to be doing that.

Bill B

You are probably correct John Q because U didn’t get to see the blimp shot. It was probably 50% full from the middle of turn 4 to the middle of turn 1. Turn 1-2 as well as 3-4 degraded from 50% to 5%, so 30% might be a better estimate.

I did see the blimp shots watching the Xfinity race on Saturday. That was truly pathetic. Practically no one in the stands. Not surprising though since most weeks you know one of the cup drivers will win. Why bother.


The 10 got lucky on caution timing. She was actually three laps down at one point, but they stayed out in the run when Jr caught the huge break with a caution. As a result, she went from 3 laps down to one lap down after the actual leaders pitted under green and she didn’t.

She got also got a couple of laps back (one at a time) by short pitting immediately after being lapped and then getting a caution before being lapped again.


thanks for the explanation, it is appreciated because it seemed very odd.


heh “pretty lucky”
she’s hit that lucky dog/fortunate caution thing so many times it’s a wonder she hasn’t won the powerball lottery.

mark me down for only watching the start of the race until they got single file (1.5 laps) and then for the last 20 or so.

Also it is just me or did it appear the JJ jumped that restart where harvick was on the outside?


Funny how people come on here and say they didn’t watch the race, but know exactly how “lucky/fortunate” Danica was during the entire race. But then again, these are also the same people that but bring her name up in this column every week (even if she is not mentioned in the column), and then complain because she’s talked about so much by the media. smh

And unless you live in a hole, she is far from the only Nascar favorite that gets a convenient caution flag when they need it.

Bill B

Yes thank you “good doctor” for the information. That makes sense and explains a lot. She has definitely found a way to suck all she can out of the present “everyone that participates gets a lead lap finish” rules (pun intended).


I have to say that I have gone the entire season so far and not watched a race. I would just read online later to see who won. From what I have read from you guys, it is just the same old same old from BZF and friends.

Another year at Dover and another damaged track? When is NASCAR going to get serious with Dover and tell them that they need to do something or lose all NASCAR races?


Why would you care? Your not even watching?


As a NASCAR fan for some 30-40 years now, it is hard to give up “cold turkey” on it. I am trying to wean myself from it.

I just got tired of all of the fixed races by BZF and friends. IMHO, it is not much more than WWE right now.


Scott, I operate under the theory that when something crosses the line from entertaining to annoying it is time to find something else to do. Like you, I have been drifting away. I know it isn’t possible to poll them because they are gone but wouldn’t you like to know what the final straw was for the many many fans that have stopped watching entirely?

Tim S.

I bet quite a few left after their favorite driver hung it up or moved on. The Labonte brothers, Rusty Wallace, Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, Bill Elliott and others in their class maybe weren’t as dreamy as the hunks of today, but they had a multi-generational fandom strong enough for their fans to still watch even as the sport became entertainment. As their drivers left, those fans had nothing tying them to the sport.


I liken it to wrestling. I was a big fan of it in the 80s with the Von Erichs, Hulk Hogan etc. Sure, we knew that it was fake back then, but it wasn’t absolutely ridiculous like it is now.

In that way, racing back in the early 90s or so was starting to become more about entertainment. Now, it is getting into the realm of the WWE with the way that they arrange the races.


LOL, well I reached my “final” straw some time ago, but Gordon kept on racing. Now that he has decided to hang up his helmet, after this year, I can stop the insanity of banging my head on the NASCAR wall expecting a different result.


I didn’t watch of the race. As soon as the same tired script was in place, I changed the channel and watched something else. I didn’t find out who won the race till I logged on this morning.


How Exciting for you


I find it interesting how at the beginning of the year, the Nascar media was tripping all over themselves telling us that the new version of the car is going to create passing and the competition will be as fierce as ever. Just wait and see DW told us. Then after the first few races, its “give it some time for the crews to get familiar with”. Now 14 races in, the racing is as terrible as ever. And what do we hear from the Nascar media? Crickets….or people like Jerry Jordan telling us how awesome things are and verbally attacking people because they don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Fans can see how awful the sport is right now with their own eyes. This downward trend in Nascar is only going to continue until Brian decides to get sober and fix the racing. Until he does, I will spend no money on Nascar and be just a casual observer. Based on the attendance this week at Dover, I’m guessing the local short track is the better place to be.


yes, I think the same thing. Thought it was pretty interesting that on twitter even people like Jeff Gluck & Matt M were commenting on the boring sameness of it all.

Are you actually reading that column by Jerry Jordan? You are a better person than I am. Once was enough for me. I believe what I see not what some columnist tells me I should think.

Tim S.

You said it, Gina. I’m not reading anything with his name on it after that snotty screed from last week. Differing viewpoints are one thing. I have those often with many of the regulars here, including you. Deliberately insulting columns that tell us we don’t know what good racing is are another thing entirely.

Carl D.

I believe the term for Jordan is “Click-Baiter”.


Tim, yeah, I was one and done with his “columns”. As you say, there is nothing wrong with differing opinions, but I’ve followed racing long enough to know what I think is good or not and having someone sneer and talk down to others and preach about how we “don’t get it” is not worth my time.

Carl D. I can think of another term for him but I want to keep it civil.


I had the race (follow the leader procession I mean) on all day … didn’t watch much … ending sucked … tried to watched the Indy race but instead they had on the Cubs in extra innings … yawn


Considered going to the race ,figuring there would be plenty of seats to be had,to see Gordon race and decided not to. Happy I didn ‘t go after giving it some thought about sitting in the heat and humidity and seeing the inevitable happen, Johnson winning again. I would have been grumbling the whole way home. About 3 hours. Set the DVR and only turned the race on at about 4:30 to see Johnson in the lead with 12 laps to go and Gordon muddling around in the second 5 as usual. Figured it was over so turned it off and thought if I was wrong I could always watch the recorded end of the race. Obviously I didn’t need to do that. Read a piece in the morning paper about the race and saw a comment from Johnson about the driver meeting held with NASCAR. Guess he wasn’t invited. Quote: “I don’t think I was invited to that meeting. Haven’t won enough races or championships.” Sounds as if poor Jimmie’s feelings were hurt. Boo Hoo.


ugh, Dan. Well you know what, maybe the drivers who decided someone should be “invited” to go the meeting should be someone who isn’t totally vanilla.

boo hoo, Jimmie.


Maybe they were looking for people that would actually express an opinion rather than toe the company line. I totally understand why he wasn’t invited.


Tony Stewart was there. Don’t think he would tow the line.


Totally agree with you there. Kissing up is not what is needed by the drivers who went to the meeting.

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