A few times a year, I am fortunate enough to actually attend a NASCAR race in person and this weekend was one of those times. When you attend a NASCAR event, while the main attraction is the Sprint Cup race, there are plenty of other things that happen that make the experience either worth it or not. So this week’s Hot and Not will not only reflect the racing action, but some of the happenings in and around Dover International Speedway.
We have to talk about the Sprint Cup race first here, so that will bring us to Matt Kenseth. He’s been good plenty of times this season, but has had a variety of things to happen to keep him from winning. He finally got his first win of the 2016 season and he certainly earned it, holding off Kyle Larson and rookie Chase Elliott, each looking for their first Sprint Cup victories. Kenseth also continues what has been an amazing year for Joe Gibbs Racing, which has seen its drivers win seven of the 11 races this season.
So it’s true the weather isn’t really under anyone’s control, and you would think mid-May would be fine in terms of temperature. But sitting in the stands on a cool day with the wind blowing made it feel more like a 40-degree day rather than the 57-degree advertised high. Normally, this race is the first weekend in June and luckily, it is back to its regular June date next year.
Having gone to most of the races at Dover for the past 15 years, it was certainly the best one I have seen. At times, the races there have been a bit boring, especially with Jimmie Johnson having dominated so many times. But this was pretty much the opposite. Not one driver had the field covered, and while someone would lead for a while, it wasn’t a situation where the day was done for the rest of the field early on. It was a great race with multiple passes for the lead and throughout the top 10. Just what we like to see when we buy the tickets.
I’m not saying Jimmie Johnson has lost his winning touch, or anything close to that, but he certainly didn’t have it on Sunday. Johnson couldn’t get his car in gear when leading a restart causing the “Big One” at Dover. Johnson is fine with two wins this season already, but Dover is one of those places where he and his team always figures out a way to win. It’s just a bit ominous when he has the lead late and then loses it at the Monster Mile.
Matt Kenseth isn’t afraid to dish it out when he feels he’s been wronged. Maybe that kept Kyle Larson from turning Kenseth on the second turn on the final lap Sunday in a move that likely would have given Larson a victory. But he backed off just a bit, didn’t tap Kenseth’s bumper, and took second. Maybe Kenseth and some others could take a lesson in what being a class act is all about from the younger Larson.
Kevin Harvick looked to be the class of the field early leading 117 laps, but he lost some ground on two early pit stops and didn’t see the lead again. That left him snapping at his pit crew a time or two on the radio, wondering out loud if they knew what they were doing.
One final item here on the fan experience, and it was really a good one this weekend at Dover. There were multiple drivers available for autographs on Saturday and Sunday. Also, there has to be some credit given to Johnson for not only answering some not-so-easy questions from fans with class (like when is Hendrick going to catch up to Gibbs?) during his Q and A session, but to signing probably 35 or 40 autographs when the session was done. Maybe it’s easier for a driver to be that way after winning six championships, but Johnson came off as a regular guy who just happens to be one of NASCAR’s all-time greats.
About the author
Jeff is in his fifth year with Frontstretch and in his third year of writing the Hot and Not column after having been the fantasy writer in his first two seasons. After spending all of his post-collegiate career in sports and news at newspapers, he changed professions three years ago, but remains a faithful fan of NASCAR and other forms of racing allowing him to give us his unique take on NASCAR each week.
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