Quick takeaways from Dover: Kyle Busch is on a concrete roller coaster

From The Marbles
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/947/" data-ylk="slk:Kyle Busch">Kyle Busch</a>, was 35th on Sunday. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Kyle Busch, was 35th on Sunday. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Welcome to our weekly post-race column of fire takes. Let’s see what’s in store this week.

Kyle Busch has been up and down at Dover

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Busch is really good at Dover. He also has some really bad finishes there.

Busch finished 35th on Sunday because of a drivetrain problem. He noticed a vibration in his car in the early laps of the race and told his team he didn’t think the engine would make it the entire race.

After a routine pit stop, the team wondered about a possible drivetrain problem. And sure enough, Busch’s car broke 271 laps into the race.

“Oh yeah, it just kept getting worse and worse the more the day was going, especially after restarts it was really, really bad, so I was just trying to bide it out, see if we’d make it to the end,” Busch said. “At first, I thought that it was an engine problem, but that wasn’t the case. It was certainly in the drivetrain – something else. You know, this isn’t very popular of a failure for us, so we have an idea – I already know what was wrong – but we’ve got to go back to the shop and kind of diagnose and figure out why it was wrong and kind of go from there.”

Since the start of the 2014 season, Busch has four top-10 finishes at Dover and three inside the top two, including a win in the fall race a year ago. In that same nine-race span he’s also finished 30th or worse four times. There seems to be no in-between.

But the bright side is that Busch is still the regular season points leader even after Harvick’s win.
His consistency and three wins through the start of the season gave him enough of a cushion to keep that lead despite a bad day on Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson, center, talks with crew chief Chad Knaus, left, during a weather delay in the NASCAR Cup series auto race, Sunday, May 6, 2018, at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Jimmie Johnson, center, talks with crew chief Chad Knaus, left, during a weather delay in the NASCAR Cup series auto race, Sunday, May 6, 2018, at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Jimmie Johnson’s slowly but surely working forward

Johnson was the highest-finishing Chevrolet driver on Sunday. He was ninth.

Being best in class is good, but not especially so when you’re at the back of the top 10. For whatever reason(s), Chevy teams haven’t figured out what they need for consistent speed with their new Camaros.

And Johnson’s performance has relatively struggled as a result. The most recent win of his career came last June at Dover and with that ninth-place finish he’s creeping up on a year since his last win.

Kind of crazy to think about, right? To be fair, Johnson was a lot closer to the front for most of the day. The team’s pit strategy wasn’t in line with the rest of the field and he was one of just a few drivers who made pit stops after Busch’s car caused a caution. That strategy lost him a ton of track position.

“We had a couple of restarts being in the wrong lane,” Johnson said. “We pitted and we expected a lot more [cars] to come but they didn’t, so we had to start in the teens and start all over again. It’s a good driving car. I’m was really happy with it. It’s amazing how much faster I was when I was up in third and fourth; just had a half a second of speed on our side just due to the cleaner air.”

Ew, “cleaner air.” At a one-mile track. Ew.

Daniel Suarez ties a career-best

The 2017 Xfinity Series champion was third on Sunday. It’s the second time he’s finished third in his Cup Series career and his best finish on an oval. The previous third came at Watkins Glen a year ago in a fuel-mileage frenzy.

This was straight-up. And it had Suarez feeling pretty good after the race.

“We had a little rough start in the first few weeks – month, month and a half – and now definitely we are moving in the right direction, so I’m just very proud of this team, Joe Gibbs Racing, [Toyota] engines, everyone that makes this possible. This is pretty cool to finally get moving in the right direction.”

Suarez is 17th in the standings and has finished in the top 11 in four-straight races. He showed improvement in the second half of the season a year ago when the Cup Series started visiting tracks for a second time. Could he be one of the guys that sneaks into the playoffs on points?

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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