Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Denny Hamlin still holds the NASCAR tour lead leaving Dover for Kansas, but Jimmie Johnson is coming.


  Title challenger Greg Biffle, here on pit road at Dover, caught a bad break, an untimely yellow that cost him two laps....and maybe a shot at the championship (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  By Mike Mulhern

  DOVER, Del.

   Denny Hamlin wasn't very impressive in Sunday's 400, but he didn't expect to pull a Jimmie Johnson here.
   In fact Hamlin, the NASCAR tour leader, said he was really pretty pleased with his ninth, which keeps him atop the Sprint Cup standings heading this week to Kansas City, and a track where Hamlin is much more optimistic.
   "We just wanted to get out of here with a decent finish....and our original goal was to be no more than 80 points back coming out of Kansas," Hamlin says.
   "This is probably Jimmie's best track, so we knew we'd lose some to them, and I'm not really bothered by it."
   The game plan that Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford set for these opening weeks of the 10-race playoffs was pretty modest: just get through these first three with no major foul-ups. And that they've done, following up that second-place run at Loudon, N.H., with Sunday's quiet but mistake-free run here....despite the head games that title rival Kevin Harvick, the regular season champ, threw at Hamlin with some bumps in Saturday practice.
   Hamlin, who was told by team boss J. D. Gibbs to stop aggravating his competition with any trash talking (like Friday's short but pointed rant about Bowyer's questioned Loudon winner), was much more confident Sunday evening than Sunday morning.
   "I think people are waiting for us to mess up, like we have in the past," Hamlin says. "But I don't feel we're going to do that.
   "No one is going to stop them (Johnson) from winning. But I don't see anyone running away with it this year. The competition is just too strong."

    Jimmie Johnson at the finish line of the Dover 400 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   While the shape of the chase has yet to be clearly established, a few things are obvious:
   -- Clint Bowyer's Loudon controversy has been a distraction. He struggled in 25th, three laps down here, a week after winning.
   -- Matt Kenseth and teammate Greg Biffle got two more shots of bad luck, and they're in a hole.
   -- Tony Stewart likewise had a second-straight bad chase race.
   Those four appear in a serious jam, just two races in.
   Kenseth was trying to make a green flag pit stop, slammed the brakes too hard, and blew out a left-front tire. That brought out a caution...just after Biffle had pitted. So Biffle lost two laps on that deal.
   "I was racing Denny, and they told me to pit that lap," Kenseth said. "He gave me the outside (near the entrance to the pits0 -- at the same time I was going to the bottom (to pit).
   "I don't know if I got all that stuff on the tires or what, but I stopped at the same point I did the other time and just couldn't quite get stopped.
   "I tried to go around (the track) and the tire blew out."
   That whole deal, Kenseth said, was part of championship pressure: "There was a lot of pressure here. This is the only track we've run worth a darn at in about four or five months. So there was a lot of pressure to try to get a good finish.

     Carl Edwards looks like car owner Jack Roush's best bet to topple Jimmie Johnson (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   "And we couldn't get it.
   "The conditions out there were absolutely terrible with this tire. It's hard for anybody to make a lap.
   "Still, I thought we were going to have a top-five to seventh-place car if I didn't mess it up. And I messed it up."
   Biffle, who wound up 19th, was the victim: "That caught us two laps down because we had just pitted.
   "We were running on the lead lap, and I thought we were a top-10 car.
   "That probably right there was kind of our chase hopes. We're not out of it, but those two finishes are not a way to start the chase off."
Third teammate Carl Edwards appeared to have a shot at the win late, running third much of the way, and leading with just 35 miles to go, at the point for the final round of green flag fuel stops. He wound up fifth, and thus goes to Kansas only 73 points down to Hamlin.
   "It's so grueling," Edwards said of the three-hour event. "That's a long one. When they say 'Halfway,' you're like 'Man, it can't be.'
   "I can't imagine what it was like to race 500 laps here."
   While Johnson dominated, it was Kyle Busch winning the final yellow flag pit stop race, to hold the lead for the restart with 100 miles to go. And Edwards was right there too.
   "I just wasn't good enough on that last restart when Jimmie spun the tires," Edwards said. "He was able to stay in front of us, and I think that was the restart that made the difference.
   "I felt we had a car that could win if we were out front.
   "We've got eight races left, and closed some points (22) on the leader. If we do that every week, we'll be alright."

   Jimmie 'Four-time' Johnson celebrating (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Comentariu la Denny Hamlin

Comentariu la Denny Hamlin still holds

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com