Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dover FedEx 400 Storylines

Kevin Harvick got punted by Kyle Busch late in the Darlington race
Well, that was interesting.

An abundance of juicy storylines unfurled at Darlington Raceway over the weekend, all of which should spin forward – big time – in the near future.

For one, Regan Smith nabbed his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win, with single-car team Furniture Row Racing. With the new Wild Card format – which awards Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths to the two biggest winners outside the top 10 (and inside the top 20) – could Smith now fall under the “Chase contender” umbrella?

Second, a late-race spin coupled with a post-race scuffle sparked a possible Feud for the Ages between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, a pair of feisty competitors – and championship contenders – who enjoy a dust-up every now and then.

And third, Busch captured his 48th NASCAR Nationwide Series victory, leaving him one short of tying Mark Martin’s all-time series record of 49.

How will those – and a number of other tidbits – play out this weekend at Dover International Speedway, a.k.a. The Montster Mile?

The triple-header weekend unfolds on Friday, in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event – Lucas Oil 200.

On Saturday, the NASCAR Nationwide Series will run the 5-hour Energy 200.

And on Sunday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will run the FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks.

Storylines follow…


With First Victory, Smith Becomes Immediate Chase Contender
Regan Smith was a 500/1 long shot in Las Vegas
The many feel-good angles to Regan Smith’s win on Saturday night…
· It was Smith’s first career victory. He’s the 179th driver to win at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
· It’s the second time this season a single-car team won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. It just so happens that those victories came in two of NASCAR’s “Crown Jewel” events: the Daytona 500 (Wood Brothers and driver Trevor Bayne) and the SHOWTIME Southern 500 (Furniture Row Racing and Smith).
· Smith is now officially a contender for a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth. After race No. 26 at Richmond, the top 10 in points will be locked into the Chase. Spots 11 and 12 will go to the two drivers outside the top 10 who have the most wins, provided they are in the top 20. Smith currently sits 27th in the standings, but only 29 points outside the top 20.
· Furniture Row Racing is based out of Denver, Colorado, a rarity in a NASCAR world where most teams surround the Charlotte area. The team’s first win was also its first top-five finish.

Kevin Harvick vs. Kyle Busch: Enough Said
This one’s a heavyweight, PPV-esque bout.

The seeds of the Kevin Harvick-Kyle Busch feud were first planted at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November. Harvick got into Busch, and later said, “He raced me like a clown all day.”

Fast forward to Darlington last Saturday night, and Busch’s “revenge served cold” payback. This time, Busch spun out Harvick. Post-race tempers flared on pit road, with Harvick climbing out of his ride and approaching Busch’s for a “discussion.”

Busch drove off – spinning the unmanned No. 29 Chevrolet in the process.

Both combatants went to the NASCAR hauler. Both were brief in their comments after.

Their next on-track meeting: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice on Thursday at Dover. Their first in-race affair: the NCWTS race on Friday.

The stakes involved makes this feud big – maybe even one for the ages.

Harvick and Busch are both championship contenders. They are also the only drivers to win multiple races this season.

And both have a long history of feuds (Harvick vs. Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, etc.; Busch vs. Keselowski, Hamlin, Burton, etc.)…but this one’s the juiciest of the bunch.

Johnson The Real Monster At Dover
Johnson has won three of the last four Dover races
Speaking of feuds, the Juan Pablo Montoya vs. Jimmie Johnson skirmish was overshadowed a bit. That one might not last, as Montoya quickly apologized after spinning Johnson out at Darlington.

And Johnson might be too busy leading at Dover to worry about payback.

In his last four Dover races, Johnson has these laps led totals: 298, 271, 225, 191. Three of those races, he has won.

Johnson has six wins in all at Dover, one short of the all-time track record held by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Allison. Johnson also ranks first in Driver Rating at Dover, with a 116.3.

Johnson has been so dominant at Dover, that the state’s giving him a day. Sunday, May 15, 2011 will be known as “Jimmie Johnson Day” in the state of Delaware.

Runner-Up To The (New) Stars
Carl Edwards sits atop the standings, a robust 23-point cushion separating himself and Jimmie Johnson.

He has a win, at Las Vegas, which at the time made it three wins in four races.

He leads the series in top fives with six, and top-10s with eight.

But he also has another odd nod: In the two biggest surprises of 2011 – Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500 and Regan Smith winning the Southern 500 – Edwards finished second.

Go figure.

Wild Card Watch
Like last week, Jeff Gordon and AJ Allmendinger sit in the two Wild Card spots for Chase-field berths.

And like last week, it’s looking more and more like some big names will need to rely on those Wild Card berths, namely: Jamie McMurray (21st), Jeff Burton (24th), Joey Logano (25th) and David Reutimann (28th).

- NASCAR Media Services

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