Normally we marvel at Victory Lane, fixate on the victors of a race on any given weekend.
And that held true on Sunday, as Kyle Busch passed Chase Elliott on the second-to-last lap to win at Dover. It was his fourth win this season and second in a row, not to mention a magnificent pass at the finish, and he deserved to take his signature bow with the checkered flag after everything settled.
But for the first time in these NASCAR playoffs, there was attention paid to the middle of the pack, too. Specifically, there was attention paid to that imaginary line in the standings separating 12th place from 13th. Stay above it and you’re fine, but drop below and your season is over.
Four drivers – Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and Austin Dillon – failed to stay above that line and were eliminated from the playoffs as a result.
Stage 1: A red flag midway through the first stage delayed the race for 15 minutes. Coming out of pit road after the subsequent caution, Brad Keselowski just edged Kyle Busch. Keselowski kept that lead for the rest of the stage to claim his fifth stage win of the season and first since Martinsville in April.
Stage 2: Not a ton of shakeups in the second stage, as Kyle Larson led for the majority of the 120 laps, albeit with Martin Truex Jr. on his tail for most of that time. Larson ultimately held off Truex and won his fourth stage this season.
Stage 3: Elliott led for the majority of the end of the race, and ultimately it came down to him and Kyle Busch at the end. Elliott tried to hold Busch off, but with two laps left to go, Busch overtook him on the top and managed to win his second consecutive race.
Three who mattered
Kyle Busch: This was his second consecutive win in the playoffs, and he’s clearly among the favorites to make it to Homestead.
Chase Elliott: It was a tough break for Elliott, who could see his first Cup Series win ahead of him. Unfortunately for him, he comes up with his second runner-up finish so far this postseason (although the other at Chicago was encumbered).
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson only led five laps on Sunday, but he was still in the running to win in the last few laps of the race. Had he won, it would have been his 12th victory at Dover.
▪ Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t had a terrific farewell season thus far, so his seventh place finish at Dover was a welcome sight for fans. Earnhardt has run well at Dover historically, and his 2001 win (which was the first NASCAR race after the terrorist attacks of 9/11) is one of the highlights of his career.
▪ It’s easy to just say Jimmie Johnson is dominant at Dover, but the numbers are ridiculous. He’s won more times at this track (11) than half the field has won races, period. And those wins stretch across the years too, ranging from his first-ever run here in 2002 to the spring race earlier this season.
▪ The media center at Dover is the closest restroom to the track, so drivers often sneak in for one last pit stop before the race begins. Interesting to see Truex and others chatting about the race near the sink and paper towel dispensers.
They said it
“Put on a heck of a show for the fans.” - Kyle Busch on his win at the end.
Bank of America 500
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.