Quick Hits on Dover
Of all the tracks NASCAR has visited this season, Dover was the one place I was most looking forward to with the 2019 rules package. It's obviously shorter than the mile-and-a-halfs on the circuit and with the history the place has for tire wear, I thought (hoped?) we might see some great results. You can imagine my disappointment then when I tuned in on Monday.
Chase Elliott gave us a preview of what to expect in those first 40 laps leading up to the scheduled caution. He basically ran away with the field. I was still hopeful we'd see a good race after that first round of pit stops; teams would get their cars dialed in, we had a little rubber on the track again and things would get better as the race progressed.
The best racing we saw all day happened from that restart until about the middle to late part of stage 2. We had lead changes, we had battles for the lead, and we had a lot of cars swapping positions. The story of the day was Martin Truex, Jr. fighting his way through the field from the back to the front, when he took the lead for the first time on lap 240. The "yes men"quot; in the NASCAR media are still pointing at that as a great thing. The reality is, it took 240 of the 400 laps for that to happen because passing cars is still too difficult.
Tire wear, which has always been a staple at Dover, was never really a major issue. For decades, we've watched drivers fight to keep their cars off the wall as they lose grip; it's always been reminiscent of Darlington in that regard. Hence the nickname "Monster Mile." Everyone would wait with bated breath to see which car the "Monster" would snatch. Between the tires Goodyear is using and the rules package, that Monster has been reduced to a dwarf.
On the bright side, Daniel Suarez led 21 laps. Although he eventually faded to 11th, he once again showed he’s capable of running up front. His day is coming. Alex Bowman was second and showed some fight throughout the day, which had to give that team a much needed boost. Hendrick had three of their cars in the top 10. Although he led four laps, Jimmie Johnson was never really a factor. For a guy with as many wins as he has at this track, finishing fourth among the team cars can't be seen by anyone as a good thing.
So now it's on to Kansas. Knowing how the racing there usually is, and combining it with the rules they're racing by, I guess the most positive thing I can look forward to this weekend is the fact that the race will be out of the way by the time Mother's Day comes.