Denny Hamlin led early in the New Hampshire race, then had fuel pick-up problems that forced a lengthy pit stop putting him four laps down. Later in the race Hamlin spun into a wreck, knocking him from a fairly secure spot to move on to round two, to being first out without a good finish in Dover and a little luck two.
Kurt Busch faltered for the second week in a row, tangling with another car, cutting a tire, and finishing 35th. He will have to finish 3 spots ahead of both Hamlin and Greg Biffle, and 9 places ahead of Kasey Kahne or Ryan Newman.
Though Matt Kenseth was involved in three separate wrecks-I keep thinking of the line in ‘Days of Thunder’-“I want you to hit the pace car, you’ve hit every other damn car on the track,” but is tied for 8th in the point standing with Carl Edwards.
Kyle Busch was involved in on of the Kenseth wrecks but still managed an 8th place finish and is solid in points heading into the Dover race. Neither of the Roush Fenway Racing cars look like they even belong in The Chase. Greg Biffle finished 16th and Carl Edwards finished 17th. It wouldn’t be a real surprise if neither RFR cars made it to round two. Actually, Kyle Larson is making a better showing in Chase races than either Edwards or Biffle.
Jeff Gordon had a top five car much of the day, and a four tire change late in the race appeared to give him what he needed to finish with at least a top five. However, a cut left front tire caused the 24 to smack into the wall and though he was able to finish, Gordon ended in 26th place, costing him at least 21 points in The Chase standing, and moving him from a virtual shoo-in to round two of the NASCAR play-offs to being uncomfortable at Dover, though for him to miss round two would mean six drivers below him in points beat him by 14-26 positions next Sunday.
Gordon has averaged a 9.6 finish in the past 10 Dover fall races, but make it 7.0 in the past five. Only in 2005 did he finish lower than 11th and that day he finished 37th. In 2013 he finished 4th and in 2012 he was second. I would say his chances are pretty good.
Barring some kind of a catastrophe, Kevin Harvick has his spot locked up as do race winners Keselowski and Logano. Harvick has a 41 point edge of Denny Hamlin and Gregg Biffle who are tied for 13th in The Chase. They are getting to round two only by winning, but Harvick will not advance only if one of those two win and Newman or Kahne finish 6th or better.
There are lots of crazy possibilities heading into the ‘Monster Mile,’ and with that circus of a track lots of clownish events are likely to happen. I normally try to take a nap during part of the days-weeks-months the Dover race seems to take to finish, but this year I will be watching closely.
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