How the race was won
Kenseth Matt Kenseth ran most of the race in or around the top five, including leading a chunk of laps in the early/middle stages of the day. Some cautions and pit strategy helped put Jamie McMurray out front, where he stayed for most of the final 100 laps. But McMurray had a little trouble with lapped traffic, and Kenseth – who stayed out for track position during a late caution and got better as the runs went on – simply had the better car at that point. He outdueled the likes of Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch before running down and passing McMurray with just three laps to go for the win to further establish himself as a top title favorite.
Story of the race
With the long green flag runs and then the slew of cautions, this was a tale of two races. More on that later.
And, of course, a fantastic finish.
Give 'em credit
Stewart. Had he just turned some laps while hurt, he still might have ended up here. But cruising from the back up to 25th was impressive. And Rudd did a solid job of finishing the race, though a speeding penalty erased any hopes of a lead-lap finish.
Roush Racing. Again. Aside from the 1-2 finish with Kenseth and McMurray (big day for him), Roush also placed Greg Biffle (eighth) and Mark Martin (ninth) in the top 10 (Carl Edwards was 15th). RCR (led by Harvick and Burton) and Hendrick (led by Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson … and Jeff Gordon) also were stout.
Speaking of Johnson, going from the verge of two laps down to finishing sixth is pretty impressive. Of course, it did take some cautions, but that's the way the game is played.
Another Burton mention. His last seven points finishes: Sixth, ninth, fourth, 15th, ninth, sixth, fourth.
What were they thinking?
Did pitting under that late caution cost Gordon a top-10 finish?
Dover and/or NASCAR for the Johnson/Scott Wimmer shared pit debacle. For Dover's part, they are making improvements to solve the problem. And really, the situation forced NASCAR into a bit of a corner. Good call by Chad Knaus for the 48 crew to pit both cars, but the alternating stop strategy backfired when both Johnson and Wimmer fell off the lead lap. Wimmer was forced to stay out too long, running out of gas in the process. Perhaps the leader of the two cars should have been able to pit with lead lap cars (though that would have introduced even more problems) to ensure one of them wouldn't have to wait so long to pit.
Better luck next time
J.J. Yeley. He was running well early before tire problems.
Elliott Sadler. Yates' woes continue.
This was a huge performance for Gordon. At least, that's what we were ready to write earlier in the day. And Martin coulda, shoulda finished higher, too.
By the way ...
Green flag stops. Love 'em.
This might be a week late and seven dollars short, but anyone else think perhaps the Coca-Cola 600 should be held on Saturday (or maybe Monday)? It would allow the Indy-Charlotte double, and Saturday night racing usually works well for the fans.
Instead of 400 laps on a mile-long track, maybe 350 miles/laps at Dover would generally be enough, especially a week after 600 miles at Lowe's.
Grading the race
Those long green flag runs early on might have been boring to some, but I saw it as Bristol-like action without the nonsense of cautions every five laps. Still, periodic cautions do help add some drama and strategy, but not enough of them and the race had the potential to be the Neighborhood Mediocrity 400. This race had virtually none (Jekyll) … and then way too many (Hyde). But those late cautions helped to set up a fantastic finish, as the action among the top five was top notch – and good finishes always are worth at least half a grade. Grade: B+
From the source
Matt Kenseth: "It was an exciting race to be part of it, and I'm glad that we came out on top."
Tony Stewart on watching from the pit box: "Not a lot of fun."