Monday, June 05, 2017

Dover Bends The Cale Scale

Jimmie Johnson joins Cale Yarborough in NASCAR history - and did so in rather Cale-esque fashion - as Dover bent a lot of cars and NASCAR saw its most spirited non-Daytona-Talladega race in quite some time, fitting after last year's Mason-Dixon 400 proved to be a dramatic affair.

Johnson had to start shotgun, but given he'd already won 82 Winston Cup Grand National races - an unprecedented ten of them at Dover - this prospect fazed no one.    And sure enough Johnson wound up spoiling a spirited victory bid by both Kyle Larson - who'd been the pre-race speed demon in practice - and Martin Truex, and in that process Johnson raced like Cale as he reached 83 wins, tying Cale's record, and doing so forty years after Cale made up multiple laps to win the 1977 Mason-Dixon 500. 

The Truex-Larson duel was one of the stories of the race, as they raced side by side for the better part of five straight laps during the first segment before Truex nerfed Larson aside.   But the big story of the race was Dover's propensity for crashes erupted again, to go with several tire failures - bringing to mind yet again past such fiascos, this even with the tire helping with good racing.

The 400 also spoiled a strong fleet-wide effort by Toyota, which opened with dominance in qualifying before the depth it seemed to have this time around faded away into more struggle for Kyle Busch - finishing 16th; the botched pitstop early on makes the season follies reel - and the rest of JGR even as the race-ending melee boosted Daniel Suarez and Denny Hamlin to top-ten finishes.   Speaking of this, the head-shaker of the race was Danica Patrick finishing tenth amid growing speculation she will be fired from SHR after 2017 - one of several driver changes (Ryan Blaney to Penske's reborn #12? Who will drive the Hendrick #88?) circulating within Rumor Control Central.

The darkhorse who erupted to the best showing and worst heartbreak was Ty Dillon, who found himself in the lead late and was able to hang onto third until it all blew up on the backstretch.   Amid that another darkhorse - rookie Ross Chastain - impressed people finishing 20th.  

Coming after a week where the biggest discussions centered on the Truck Series schedule and costs - an issue that is part of the larger issue of costs - Dover managed to make the racing the big story even amid all the crashes.    And a number of drivers who ran stout or showed real promise will try to regain that momentum next week.

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