dover international speedway

Penalty report from Dover International Speedway

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NASCAR has issued nine fines to crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts on its penalty report from Dover.

All the fines are for one unsecured lug nut. Six fines are in Cup, which is a $10,000 penalty, and three are in Xfinity, which is a $5,000 penalty.

Cup Series

Chris Gabehart, crew chief on Danny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota.

Justin Alexander, crew chief on Austin Dillon‘s No. 3 Chevrolet.

Chris Gayle, crew chief on Erik Jones‘ No. 20 Toyota.

Greg Irwin, crew chief on Matt DiBenedetto‘s No. 21 Ford.

Jason Ratcliff, crew chief on Christopher Bell‘s No. 95 Toyota.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Joey Logano‘s No. 22 Ford.

More: Post-Dover power rankings

Xfinity Series

Brian Wilson, crew chief on Austin Cindric‘s No. 22 Ford

Buddy Sisco, crew chief on Tommy Joe Martin’s No. 44 Chevrolet

Dave Rogers, crew chief on Riley Herbst‘s No. 18 Toyota.

Cole Custer: ‘All the bugs worked out’ of Next Gen Car

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After racing around Dover International Speedway for more than 1,000 miles in four days, Cole Custer is “wore the hell out.”

Following two 311-mile Cup races over the weekend, the Cup rookie became the fifth driver to test NASCAR’s Next Gen car, making laps in the prototype around the 1-mile concrete oval.

Following two days of getting to know the car that will debut in 2022, while tired, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver observed there’s not much difference in what he’s been doing in the cockpit compared to his normal Cup car.

“I’m driving the car fairly similar to how you drive Dover every single time you come here,” Custer said Tuesday during a break in testing. “It’s just how much you can get away with. It’s going to be a matter what drivers can get away with more I guess. What driver can drive the car a little bit looser on the edge. What teams can figure out how to keep the cars turning without keeping them on edge. It’s going to be interesting to see who can adapt to it the best. But overall, it’s still the same kind of driving characteristics.”

The two-day test by NASCAR was its first for the Next Gen car since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March.

The car was previously tested:

Oct. 8-9, 2019 at Richmond with Austin Dillon

Dec. 9-10, 2019 at Phoenix with Joey Logano

Jan. 15-16, 2020 at Miami with Erik Jones

March 2-3, 2020 at Auto Club Speedway with William Byron

The car being tested Monday and Tuesday had a 750 horsepower engine and a few minor differences in the aeropackage compared to what Cup teams race over the weekend.

“The first few tests I think the biggest thing was just working the bugs out, finding out from track to track what was going to be the major issues,” Custer said. “So now I feel like we’ve got all the bugs worked out, we can go run competitive lap times. Now we’re just trying to figure out kind of what generally setup wise, what’s going to make it go faster, what’s going to make it gain lap time, what’s going to be best for the long run. Right now, we’re trying to knock out big picture things setup wise. Overall, I feel like it’s too early to tell how it’s going to turn in or how it’s going to work in traffic. We’re too early in the development right now.”

Custer, the second Ford driver to test the Next Gen car, said he was able to make laps comparable to what was produced during the doubleheader races at Dover.

“I think the fastest we’ve gone is a 23.8 (seconds),” Custer said. “I think in clean air you can go mid to high 23. I feel like we’re close and there’s a lot of differences in how the car travels. There’s a lot more travel in the car. It’s a lot higher up on the straightaways. It’s just trying to control that and figure out the best way to go about that.”

John Probst, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation, said the test was important because Dover is one of its highest load tracks.

“We want to put heat in the car and laps and mileage on the parts and pieces,” Probst said. “Our goal is to get 500 miles on the car this test and we finished Monday at 226, so we’re on a good pace.

“The most important thing for us is to validate what we think is going to happen. It’s important that when the team adjusts the car, it responds in a manner that is predictable. We’re in a good place in overall development of the car and now we can focus on handling and drivability. So far, so good.”

Custer said the “biggest” difference in the car for him is the steering and feeling of the tires.

“Just how they slip and how much you can get away with getting the car loose. It seems like, with how the steering is and how the tires are, you can’t really get away. And with how the aero is also, you can’t get away with driving the car sideways as much. It’s just little differences here and there.”

Probst said “the most important part of the project” now is getting manufacturer bodies approved by the end September.

“That is a really big milestone for us, and we’re on track to hit it. In terms of on-track testing, we still want to get to a superspeedway, and we’re looking at something at Daytona after the season ends. There is also significant enough interest that we may look into doing other on-track tests.”

William Byron has narrow lead over Jimmie Johnson for final playoff spot

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A two-tire pit stop didn’t result in a win for Jimmie Johnson on Sunday at Dover International Speedway, but it netted him a few precious points entering next weekend’s Cup Series regular-season finale.

When the final caution came out with 23 laps to go, crew chief Cliff Daniels elected to put just two right-side tires on Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet.

They were the only team among the leaders to not take four tires.

Johnson, who was sixth before the caution, restarted first. He lost the lead to race winner Kevin Harvick, but earned a net gain of three spots. He placed third ahead of teammate William Byron and left Dover trailing him by four points for the final playoff spot.

“I totally (agreed),” Johnson told NBCSN of Daniels’ strategy call. “I actually had a little bit of hope that it would work, thinking that clean air would be so important and we were so fast the run before. There were a lot of laps on those left-side tires it just didn’t pan out. I really appreciate Cliff’s courage to bet on me and give me a shot. We certainly improved our finish from where we were running at the time. All in all, a great call.”

More: Race results

More: What drivers said after Dover Race No. 2

Johnson had entered Sunday’s race with a three-point advantage over Byron. But over the course of the race’s second stage, Johnson’s fortune shifted wildly.

Following a Lap 100 caution for a Corey LaJoie spin, Johnson was seventh, four spots behind Byron. During pit stops, Johnson was tagged for speeding entering pit lane. He was forced to restart 30th.

Over the next 78 laps, Johnson drove all the way to ninth place before the end of the stage. Byron finished sixth. Through two stages Byron had earned 13 stage points to Johnson’s five.

“I felt like we were going to recover and have a decent finish, and I saw we put (Matt DiBenedetto) a lap down, so I was encouraged for the points situation there,” Johnson said. “Then I slowly caught (Byron) and I could see that orange bumper on his car and felt like we minimized the bleeding to them, and just hoped for cautions. I knew the only way we’d have a shot to win was a couple cautions to bunch the field up, and hopefully a few good restarts to go with that and pit stops to get me the track position. So just praying for those late‑race cautions and we got them.”

For Byron and the No. 24 team it was a vast improvement from their experience in Saturday’s race when pit strategy calls led to him finish three laps down in 28th.

The third-year Cup driver bounced back to earn his first top-five finish of the season after the team made “wholesale” changes to the car between races.

“It’s like a completely different race car, a completely different race for us,” Byron told NBCSN. “We had the car kind of doing the things we wanted to do, at least doing one thing most runs. Just felt good out there. I knew at the beginning of the race we were kind of keeping pace with (Martin Truex Jr.) and (Denny Hamlin) back in the pack. We made a few passes and as soon as we got the track position we were staying up there.”

The Hendrick Motorsports teammates now head into regular-season finale, which will be held for the first time on Daytona International Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval as Johnson tries to avoid missing the playoffs for the second year in row.

“I’m going to do my best to forget about it,” Johnson said. “There really isn’t any worrying I can do this week to help me on a plate track. Studying, worrying, none of that is going to make a difference. Go down there and say a few prayers and maybe say a prayer per lap and see how that plays out. We’ll race hard and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”

Byron said the race at Daytona will be “insane.”

“I don’t think you can really points race, you’re just going to have to hope things fall your way and be aggressive.”

Byron said “It’s good to be on the good side” of the playoff cutline.

“Honestly, what’s better is there’s … one guy within reach,” Byron said. “Really, two spots up for grabs. I hope Jimmie and I can both get those spots next week.”

The one driver within reach of Byron in points is Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto. After entering the doubleheader 44 points above the cutline, finishes of 20th and 17th leave him just nine points above the cutline and five points ahead of Byron.

“Dover killed us,” DiBenedetto said. “We were pretty horrendous both days.”

 

What drivers said after Sunday Cup race at Dover

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Here is what drivers had to say after the Sunday Cup race at Dover:

Kevin Harvick — Winner: “I love the grit of our race team. I think that is what Gene Haas and Tony Stewart have built at Stewart-Haas Racing. A team with a lot of grit. Sometimes we don’t have the fastest car but we have guys willing to suck it up and when we have a weak link that day someone else will carry the team. I am really proud of that and that is what it is all about. You are only as good as the people around you and we have great people. With Denny (Hamlin) winning yesterday we needed to win today and we need all the points we can get. I think as you look at these playoffs you never know what to expect but I know that as we go week to week we will give it all we have and I am just really proud.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “Second or third, it seems like every week here. On one hand, it’s good obviously and you want to be running up front and having good finishes. On the other hand, we didn’t get any better than we were yesterday, it was actually a little bit worse. I was a little disappointed in that. These things are really, really tricky to figure out to get them right. We just had to battle hard all day long and it took us a long time to get up towards the front in our Bass Pro Shops Camry. We just battled hard with an ill-handling car all day long. Just tried to hang onto what we could and came out with a decent finish.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 3rd: “I was so excited and so happy to have the view I did sitting there up front (for the final restart) and have control of the restart.  I knew when we hit the gas and the 4 car was able to stay with me I was going to be in trouble.  I needed to clear him into 1 and quickly I realized that my left sides were pretty exhausted and just didn’t have the grip we needed in them.  We had a really good car and I really credit (crew chief) Cliff (Daniels) for making that brave call for two tires.  I think we were one of the fastest cars if not the fastest car over the last two runs, just unfortunately clawing our way back in from losing track position, and we didn’t have the best stop two from the end, so we really just had to gamble. I really appreciate his courage to do that.  It netted a better finish.  Certainly wish there was more there, but a great couple days here in Dover.”

William Byron — Finished 4th: “It was like a completely different race car and completely different race for us today compared to yesterday. We had the Axalta Chevy doing the things we wanted it to do on most runs. It just felt good out there. I knew at the beginning of the race that we were keeping pace with the No. 19 the No. 11. As soon as we got the track position, we were able to stay up there. I think we were a little bit behind though since we really didn’t have a notebook from yesterday. I think if we had another race at it, we would run a bit better. Overall, this is good for our Axalta team. Now we’re going to Daytona where it’s going to be insane. I don’t think you can really points race. It’s going to be a race to be as aggressive as you can and hope things fall your way.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 5th: “Man, I am so proud of everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. Three cars in the top five today. For us to pull out a back-up car, the No. 88 team did a great job getting everything together and regrouping after yesterday’s issues. Very appreciative to end up in the top-five and get Acronis a good run. We needed to get things turned around and this is a good step in the right direction. I felt like we were a second-place car on the short run and probably shouldn’t have picked the bottom on that last restart. So appreciative to have a great run and a huge shout out to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. This was great.”

Joey Logano — Finished 6th:  “I screwed up (in contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. early in the race). I don’t know any way better to put it. We raced each other hard and I was trying to make the bottom work and my car was tight. I got a little loose down into three which kind of sent me up the race track and there was a pocket of air that if your front is really close to someone’s left rear tire the nose really takes off. I am not making excuses for the mistake. it is on me. I got in that pocket and then got started really going up the race track and I barely tagged him. I am not sure if I actually tagged him or not but it was enough to spin him around and I needed to be further away to protect the damage to our car and countless others. Like I said, I apologize to him and his race team and the others involved. I got myself in a tight spot and I didn’t do a good job getting out of it.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 7th: “Great job from everyone on bouncing back today. I need to do better, we all need to do better, and we just need to keep grinding with the playoffs coming up. We didn’t have a clean race today again and still found ourselves leading laps and running in and around the top-five. Our goal when we started the season was to make Daytona not matter before the playoffs and we accomplished that goal by clinching our spot in the playoffs today. Looking forward to heading there with no pressure and racing one last time for that regular-season win.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 8th: “Obviously if we knew what was going on there we would copy it the best we could. I agree that the 4 car (of Kevin Harvick) has been the best car for the last six years and some could argue that the 18 (of Kyle Busch) has been with them a couple years. They deserve credit for that success. They deserve credit for being fast and putting all those pieces of the puzzle together. When you have that kind of speed you try to keep the band together and keep them motivated and something you can do as a driver quite honestly it comes down to the team and management in the company that you drive for and the crew chief. Especially in these latest of times, shoot, I haven’t seen my team but for a few minutes here and there every weekend so there isn’t much I am going to do to lead them and guide them because of the environment. Fast cars go fast. When you have a fast car and you are experienced you show up and try not to mess it up. You try to execute your perfect day. Restarts, getting out of the box, trying to give the feedback to make the car better throughout the race, you know. You put a great car with a great driver and you will get dominance like that. Kevin is a great driver and that is a great car.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 9th: “We had a good day at Dover International Speedway in the Dow Coatings Chevrolet, and that shows just how hard we all work at RCR. It feels good to come out of the Monster Mile with two solid runs. We started the race too free. A pit stop for right-side tires definitely tightened me up, but it went back at the end of the run, and I was just sliding around out there to end Stage 1. Our Chevy definitely had speed today, it was just too loose to do anything with it during portions of the race. (Crew chief) Justin Alexander and all of the guys on the team did a good job at making adjustments. Towards the middle of the race we were knocking off some of the fastest lap times of the field. We went four-wide to make a pass and I got a little damage to my right-front, which made our No. 3 Dow Coatings Chevrolet really tight. It was still fast, though. I’m proud of a top-10 finish.”

Cole Custer — Finished 10th: “We had a solid day today at Dover. We made improvements on the car from yesterday. I think we have some good notes for whenever we come back here.”

KYLE BUSCH — Finished 11th: “It was a long day with our Interstate Batteries Camry. We worked on the car overnight and wanted to improve on yesterday’s finish. Got run into the back of near the beginning, and I’m not sure what exactly that did to our car. We just couldn’t quite get it handling like we wanted to or even like it did yesterday. We just kept fighting all day and did the best with what we had.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 13th: “We have been consistent in our hunt for the playoffs all season. With today‘s finish, not what we hoped for, but we locked-in! I’m proud of everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing. Teamwork is what it’s all about.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 16th: “Overall a good weekend. Good day yesterday, had a decent day going today doing what we needed to and had a little hiccup with left front on the last stop. We’ll have to wait until next week to lock us in the playoffs.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 17th: “Dover killed us. We were pretty horrendous both days. I just tried to make the most of it that we could and it just wasn’t much. It was the perfect storm of really losing a lot of points and having a rough weekend. Going to Daytona. I hate to be negative but if we were going somewhere else I would feel better about it because we have been pretty strong at most tracks aside from here. I have struggled here. Going to Daytona and the Ford’s are strong but I have ended up at the infield care center the last two years there. We keep getting caught up in everyones mess. I am going to sit and hope and pray all week that we can just come out of there clean and make the playoffs. We shouldn’t be this close to the bubble. It is frustrating. A couple weeks messed us up. Getting wiped out at Texas and Kansas and then really hurt us points wise and then we come here and really hurt ourselves here. It has been a tough go of circumstances and going to Daytona is going to make it quite an uncomfortable week.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 18th: “We started off with our No. 8 Cat App Chevrolet a lot better than yesterday. I was able to roll through the turns a lot smoother and just needed a bit more rear security. I thought maybe that issue would be cleared up as the track began to rubber up, but it just never tightened up quite as much as I needed it to. The adjustments that my crew chief, Randall Burnett, and the team made through Stage 1 and 2 helped fight that looseness, but I still needed even more stability to really carry speed into the corner like I needed to. At the end of Stage 2, we took a big swing on our adjustments, which did help solve the rear security issue, but took it almost to the other extreme and made it too tight to turn. The day didn’t go how we wanted it to, but I’m proud of our team. No one gave up, and we worked hard all race long. This isn’t over for us yet. We still have one more chance to make the Playoffs at Daytona International Speedway, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 20th: “We made some good improvements from yesterday in our No. 38 ACME Markets Ford Mustang. We started off pretty free today, but Seth (Barbour, crew chief) and the crew made some good adjustments on pit stops throughout the race. I have to say a big thanks to my crew for sticking with me all day. We were able to improve on yesterday’s finish and that’s something to be proud about.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 21st: “Today was a little bit better day for our Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Columbia PFG Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. It was kind of the same balance as yesterday. Our Chevrolet handled the same, but we had a little bit more speed. Still not where we want to be – just could never get the rear-end underneath us. When we did, it was just way too much. We need to get some more adjustability in our car, but overall a good day for our Columbia PFG team. It was cool to see them on the race track and I’m excited for what’s next with them. We will keep everything going and continue the momentum into Daytona (International Speedway) next week.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 25th: “Well, it was a busy day for my guys on pit road. Our No. 34 Shield Cleansers, Digital Ally Inc. Ford Mustang started out on the loose side and just seemed to stay that way throughout the course of the race. We threw a lot of wedge and trackbar adjustments at the car to try and help find a bit more speed, but unfortunately we were also battling a changing race track as the sun started to set in Stage 3 and temperatures began to cool off, so it was tough to predict how the car was going to behave as the race went on.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 28th: “It’s been a rollercoaster of a season, for sure, and after a weekend like we’ve had here with our CommScope Toyota, we know we just need to keep working hard and keep our eyes on the big picture. We struggled with our handling on corner entry and exit today and just had a difficult time trying to find a way to fix it. It’s definitely frustrating, but one thing we are doing for sure is to keep working hard and keep trying to make our racecars better. It may not always feel like it, but in the big picture we are continuing to make progress.”

Results of Sunday Dover Cup race

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Kevin Harvick scored his series-high seventh Cup win of the season Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

Harvick swept both stages on the way to the win in the Dover Cup race.

Martin Truex Jr. finished second for the second consecutive race. Jimmie Johnson was third and followed by William Byron and Alex Bowman.

Click here for race results

 

POINTS 

Kevin Harvick clinched the regular-season title during the Dover Cup race.

The battle for the final playoff spot tightened. William Byron took the final playoff spot from Jimmie Johnson after losing it in Saturday’s race.

Byron leads Johnson by four points. It could have been more but a late two-tire pit stop gamble allowed Johnson to finish in third place, one spot ahead of Byron.

After the Dover Cup race, Johnson credited crew chief Cliff Daniels for the courage to make that call.

Matt DiBenedetto struggled Sunday. He is five points ahead of Byron and nine points ahead of Johnson.

“Dover killed us,” DiBenedetto said. “We were pretty horrendous both days.”

Also, Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch each clinched a spot in the playoffs via points.

Click here for driver points report