Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Jimmie Johnson Pulls Another Rabbit Out of His Hat With Dover Victory

Who’s in the headline – There are horses for courses and some courses for horses. When it comes to Dover International Speedway and Jimmie Johnson, they are the perfect match. Johnson swept both Dover races in his rookie season, and after winning the race on Sunday, he now has 11 career wins at the track. He has dominated some races at the concrete half mile while during other races he’s only led a small number of laps. Today was the latter as he only led seven laps to score the 83rd career victory.

What happenedKyle Busch started on pole but had a pit road issue take him out of contention early. Kyle Larson dominated much of the race while Martin Truex Jr. picked up many of the scraps that Larson left behind. Ty Dillon delayed pitting late in the race and used a strong pit stop to garner the lead. He almost pulled off the stunning win, but Larson chased him down late in the race to grab the point. Johnson made a strong restart on his final opportunity and led the last three circuits of the race to score the win.

Why you should care – The crowd at Dover was better than it has been for the past few races. The racing was average at best, with three on-track passes for the lead. The tire that Goodyear provided gave up and, due to a reduced allotment of tires, many teams had to make strategy calls to get their cars to the end on decent tires. The strategy was enjoyable but the clean air advantage for cars in front is still too dramatic and affords the front car too great of an advantage. Watching cars work from the back of the pack to the front, thanks to pit road errors or violations made for some compelling watching. In the end, the ability of good cars to move all of the way to the point was encouraging but it is still too difficult for a car that is obviously superior.

What your friends are talking about

Once again, stability in the world of Cup racing is too much to ask for. With the addition of segment racing in 2017, the strategy and complexity of races has changed significantly. With the general acceptance by race teams and stakeholders of the sport NASCAR is now considering new tweaks to the points for 2018.

It is a possibility that after the 600 saw the addition of a fourth stage, there may be more races next season that will have a fourth and possibly a fifth stage. We are on the verge of double points races, the five stages of Bristol night race and random point generators.

Watkins Glen is close to announcing the new entitlement sponsor for its Cup race. There is still no sign of the Cup cars running the boot.

Kyle Busch poses with his team after winning the pole award at Dover International Speedway. Busch would experience issues during a pit stop mid-race that could force crew chief Adam Stevens to miss several races. (Photo: Russell LaBounty / NKP)

After Kyle Busch’s tire loss, Larry McReynolds pointed out that the rule book dictates a four-race suspension for the crew chief, tire changer and tire carrier for a tire that comes off during a race. The rule came about when teams were only tightening three lug nuts for the sake of speed during pit stops. A mistake during a stop that results in a tire falling off should be a different offense. However, the rules are the rules so, if it is applied to the No. 18 team, it would be understandable.

Roger Penske says, sooner rather than later, he’d like to add Ryan Blaney as a third driver for Team Penske. The partnership with the Wood Brothers has the No. 21 basically under the Penske umbrella but it isn’t officially part of the organization. Whatever the case, Blaney is showing very promising ability and a win is most likely going to happen sooner rather thank later considering he already has three stage wins this season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was quite sad he would have to drive a Philadelphia Eagles paint scheme for the Pocono race on June 11. The longtime Redskins fan asked his boss if he could get out of it, but was told he had to do it. Fortunately for Earnhardt, he’s been given a reprieve as the NFL has a policy that team logos/emblems cannot be used to market another sport. While seeing the flood of memes surrounding pictures of Earnhardt in an Eagles driver suit would have been humorous it will have to wait for another day.

Who is mad

Ty Dillon was 40 laps away from scoring his first victory in the Cup Series, just one week after his brother garnered his first. Unfortunately, he was passed for the lead and later involved in the contact that started the huge wreck that brought out the final caution of the race. Instead of a top ten finish, Dillon ended up in a wrecked race car with a 14th place result.

Kyle Busch started the race from the pole and led the first 18 laps before the first caution of the event. During the pit stops under yellow, Busch’s crew had an issue with the left-rear tire. As he left the pits, the left rear tire of his car came off and he was forced to return to the pits. He battled back toward the front for the remainder of the race but, in the end, it was a 16th place finish and many unanswered questions.

Who is happy

Danica Patrick finished in the top 10 for seventh time in her career and the first time since the spring Bristol race in 2015. Patrick has been under fire this season thanks to the lawsuit pertaining to her sponsorship with Nature’s Bakery. The rumors that she is going to be out of a ride at the end of the year are seemingly louder than they’ve ever been. Knocking out a couple of top 10s this season might help squelch those rumors, or it might intensify them.

Chase Elliott continues to knock on the door of a victory but hasn’t quite made it over the hump yet. Sunday he worked his way toward the front for much of the event and ended up knocking off a top-five finish for the 14th time in the last two years.

When the checkered flag flew:

  • Jimmie Johnson scored the 83rd victory of his Cup career in his 556th career start.
  • The win is the 11th of his career at Dover International Speedway.
  • This is Johnson’s third triumph of 2017, most in the series.
  • Johnson is tied with Cale Yarborough for sixth on the All-Time wins list. He is one behind Darrell Waltrip for fifth.
  • Kyle Larson finished second for the sixth top two result of 2017 in 13 races.
  • Larson has two career runner-ups at Dover.
  • This was Larson’s 11th career second place finish. That ties him for 60th on the All-Time list with Clint Bowyer, Darel Dieringer, Paul Goldsmith, Alan Kulwicki, and Tim Richmond.
  • Martin Truex Jr. came home third for the second race in a row and his fourth top three of 2017.
  • Truex has three podium finishes at Dover and two in a row.
  • In his career Truex has 34 podium finishes, good enough for 61st on the All-Time list.
  • Daniel Suarez finished sixth in the race to claim Rookie of the Race honors.

Thirteen races into the season there have been nine different winners this year. With 13 races left before the playoff cutoff, if there are nine new winners, someone with a win will not make the playoffs. That said, there most likely won’t be 17 unique winners. For now you have Jimmie Johnson with most wins of the year with three. Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. with two wins, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon with one each. In the nine winners Joey Logano is not eligible for the playoffs by virtue of his triumph being considered encumbered at Richmond. Logano will have to win again to make the playoffs based on a victory.

The remaining eight drivers in points and their position:

  1. Kevin Harvick
  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Jamie McMurray
  1. Chase Elliott
  2. Denny Hamlin
  1. Clint Bowyer
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Matt Kenseth

The drivers who have scored playoff points so far this season and their total:

Martin Truex Jr – 18

Jimmie Johnson – 15

Brad Keselowski -12

Kyle Larson – 7

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 5

Ryan Newman – 5

Kurt Busch – 5

Austin Dillon – 5

Kevin Harvick – 3

Ryan Blaney – 3

Kyle Busch – 3

Chase Elliott – 2

Denny Hamlin – 2

Joey Logano – 1

Matt Kenseth – 1

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)

With a total of three on-track passes for the lead, the race topped the Coca-Cola 600 by one. The racing was hardly exciting but it was entertaining. The finish was a bit less than what most had hoped for, but Johnson did manage to make some more history tying Yarborough’s win total. The average race with disappointing final lap results in a rating of three cold Burton Batons from Dogfish Head Brewery.

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Where do you point your DVR for next week – The next race on the schedule is the three turn, 2.5 mile Pocono Raceway. Race coverage begins at 3:00 on Sunday, June 11th. It can be seen on FS1. The event can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate, www.motorracingnetwork.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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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Just something about Johnson that makes me flip the channel. He might win 10 plus titles but I struggle to find the respect. Maybe I’m just an typical example of the dying appeal of NASCAR.

Bill B

How do you feel about the chase? What driver do you feel has benefited from the chase format the most?
If your answers to those questions are the same as mine, maybe that explains it.

Sol Shine

I hate the Chase. Stupidest thing ever invented. And clearly Johnson and Knaus have manipulated the Chase better than anyone else. Without it he’s nowhere near 7 championship. Championship racing is about every race counting all year long, not win one and then have a nap till the Chase. Auto racing is not football Brian, get back to traditional racing and you might get some traditional fans back. I mostly watched the Indycar race yesterday, from what I saw of the Cup race during the Indycar commercials the Indy race was better.

Bill B

Way too many cautions yesterday. While I am not a big fan of the stages, they and the caution that comes with them, are welcome when a race has no or very few cautions. However, when a race has a plethora of cautions like yesterday the stage cautions are very unwelcome.
I enjoyed the race until that last caution which handed Johnson the race and denied Larson (the guy that dominated the race) the win. I have never been a big fan of the GWC/overtime rules for just the scenario we saw yesterday; A dominant car with an insurmountable lead, a caution when there are under 5 laps left by a back marker driver that wasn’t even a factor in the race, and the race gets handed to someone less deserving.


Was in hospital during race with family. My father and I watched the race on DVR when we got home. Recording crapped out with 40 laps to go. Thank Goodness I didn’t have to see JJ win race number one million. What a bunch of crap. JJ led twice for 7 laps. Where is my DVR pointed next week. Anywhere but NASCAR. Done with this frickin garbage.


i flipped channels about an 30 min into the race. turned back at 4:30 to see what was going on….went back after 5 to see the last 5 laps, caution, earnhardt pit when he was in 6th place, speed on pit road, restart 17th, g/w/c start resulting an a semi-dega like crash.



Left home at the end of stage 1 to visit a family member in a nursing home. Stayed there until time for them to go to dinner at 5. And the race was still going on. No wonder younger people aren’t interested. Thats just too long for most people. Yes, dover’s a little different but i doubt it made many people add it to their must see list.

bud sudz

It used to be a 4 hour +, 500 Mile Race


Oh yeah. I went to several 500 mile race at Dover. Mark martin use to put a hurting on the field in those days.


If the Indy 500 can finish under caution why can’t Brian’s “product?”

Pearson has 105 wins in 574 races and 366 top tens. J-Jo has 83 wins in 574 “races” and 335 top tens. J-Jo needs 22 wins in 18 events to catch Pearson. Brian’s working on it. How many dirt races has seven time won?

And he’s 2 behind Bobby Allison! That hurts the worst.

Bill B

I am 100% with you on that. I’d prefer the driver that dominated the race and had a significant lead get awarded the win when a caution comes out with a handful of laps left then to hand it to someone less deserving in the name of entertainment. It’s the most fair way to deal with it for the competitors and it lessens the probability of controversy and mayhem on a GWC shootout.


Johnson has been in 556 “races”.

Sol Shine

I guess Nascar’s strategy this year to try and get fans back is to get Johnson another Cup then they can blow that all over the press as the 8 time Chump, er, Champ. Which is a mistake because Johnson winning another Cup will likely drive people away, given the fact the more people dislike him than like him. And there’s the stench factor too, how many times they’ve been caught, and not caught, cheating. Especially at Dover, with his 2005 pump up shocks that they got given a wink wink nudge nudge pass from Nascar for. And the fact that without the stunned Chase Johnson is a 3 time champion and Harvick has 4. At any rate, Johnson winning another Cup will not help stop the decline of people interested in their series.


I’m sure Brian had better beverages than you would have given him for his “product.”


Poor all shine. Shine some more and change the channel little man. Jimmie Is a 7 time champion with 83 wins. He ” will ” pass Allison and re this year. He will go down in NASCAR history as the best driver, ever. And nothing you can do about it.


You haven’t seen many drivers, have you?

Fed Up

NASCRAP is already building the case for Kyle Busch, citing there was no intent to break a rule and we all know how that will end. Tell me Scott Miller: Where was the intent when you fined Carl Long for his “abomination” of having an engine that was a few thousandths over? Has your laughable organization
come down to being mind readers? Hear the flushing sound?


I wonder what Johnson brushing the wall covered up!


For the statistically interested:

The top 13 in points have all the stage wins

The last driver with an event win is 21st but 12 in front of him don’t have ANY wins.

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