Miles the monster at Dover remains unbeaten. Just when you thought we were in store for a clean race with no cautions or late drama, old Miles snuck up and flipped the race on its head. First to set the stage, qualifying was rained out on Friday which meant the field was set based on owners points putting the 18 and 4 on the front row. We saw in practice the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick was going to be the guy to beat based on practice speeds and lap average and he did just that assuming the lead almost right away and stomping a mud-hole in the field. Harvick led a race-high 286 laps after pulling out to a commanding lead, sweeping both stages and at one point lapped all but eleven other cars. Harvick was breezing through the long green flag runs outside of the cautions for stage endings, until on what was supposed to be his final stop of the race his team failed to secure a tire and he was forced a lap down ending his real hopes of completing the Dover sweep and capping off an excellent race.
That certainly changed everything for the rest of the field. SHR teammate Aric Almirola assumed the lead and raced hard to keep his other teammate Clint Bowyer behind him. Almirola restarted on the front row on Lap 349 against Brad Keselowski, who gained several track positions with a two-tire stop and decision by Paul Wolfe. Almirola led the next 45 laps before Bowyer brought out the caution, slamming into the wall with a tire failure with 8 to go.
Then, Almirola and the 10 team opted to pit and get 4 fresh tires with most of the field following, unfortuntaley he lost track position with three other drivers staying out and two others electing for the two-tire stop. Chase Elliott led the field to green on the restart that saw Almirola charge hard on the newer tires in an attempt to secure that first win of the season and with his new team. Almirola was right behind the 11 of Denny Hamlin for third position racing side-by-side with Keselowski when he slammed into the wall and caught several other drivers in the wreck including Martin Truex Jr (finished 15th) and Alex Bowman (finished 28th).
After the wreck was cleared up and the dust settled, it was Chase Elliott who had the perfect final restart fending off Hamlin to punch his ticket to the Round of 8 and secure his second career victory. “This was a lot about perseverance,” said Elliott who recovered from a penalty for an uncontrolled tire incurred during a yellow-flag pit stop on Lap 123. “We had a penalty early and fell behind and luckily had a good enough car and good strategy to get back (to the front). What a day!”
Kevin Harvick battled back after the loose wheel in the final stage to finish 6th, but didn’t care much about it being a solid points day, “I don’t really care about points right now, I just want to win.” The frustrated driver said he can’t control a lug nut not getting tightened, feeling robbed of his 8th win of the season.
Next week the Cup Series heads to restrictor-plate Talladega, the wild race jam-packed in the middle of a playoff round. Elliott now is locked in and won’t have to worry about a potential crash next week, nor will Busch or Harvick who have a comfortable points cushion with just two races left before 12 drivers go down to 8. Here’s the updated standings after Dover:
- Chase Elliott advanced (win)
- Kevin Harvick +68
- Kyle Busch +63
- Martin Truex Jr. +36
- Joey Logano +31
- Kurt Busch +21
- Brad Keselowski +21
- Ryan Blaney +10
- Aric Almirola -10
- Clint Bowyer -10
- Kyle Larson -12
- Alex Bowman -34