Patrick Smith - Getty Images for NASCAR
Here's a look back at the NASCAR Dover race by sorting through the winners and losers from the weekend:
The thinking is that by pitting with 10 laps to go, Denny Hamlin stubbed his toe by having to relinquish second-place and ultimately finishing in the eighth position. And while the points he lost could prove costly, if you look at the big picture you'll see that Hamlin came out ahead at Dover.
Out of the 10 tracks in the Chase, Dover was by far Hamlin's worst and the one place where Jimmie Johnson held a decided advantage over him. And as he said himself, beforehand if he would have been given the option, he would have gladly taken a top-10 finish and considered himself lucky.
So knowing all this, I don't see why Hamlin finishing eighth is a bad thing and something he should beat himself up over. And especially so with a host of upcoming tracks where the No. 11 Toyota will be a favorite and has plenty of time to make up a 16-point deficit.
When his throttle hung at Chicagoland and ended what would have been a top-five run, Jeff Gordon - while also acknowledging that it was going to be tough - was resolute that he could still win the championship. Although, he still needs a lot of help to climb back up the standings, Gordon has been true to his word as he finished second and third the past two weeks. And with chaos likely to reign at Talladega, who knows, it might just be the opening the 24 team needs to make things interesting down the stretch.
Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus
Sometimes when you lose you actually win and that's what happened to Jimmie Johnson on Sunday. Leading with less than 50 laps to go, crew chief Chad Knaus recognized that if his driver kept up his current pace he would need to make another pit stop. So Knaus made the bold call of telling Johnson to handoff the lead and slow to a pace that would allow him to stretch his fuel to the finish. And in the end, Johnson saved just enough to cross the line in fourth and what could have been a disaster was anything but.
When Dodge returned to NASCAR in 2001, the goal unquestionably was to win a championship at the highest level. Although there have been some close calls, 11 years later the manufacturer is still in search of it's first title.All of which makes the recent events all the more ironic, as Brad Keselowski is sitting on top of the standings with seven races left in the season, even as his Penske Racing team prepares to switch to Ford at the end of the year.
And as Keselowski continues his pursuit of his and Penske Racing's first series title, it does make you wonder how Dodge failed to keep Penske in the fold? With nowhere else to turn, shouldn't Dodge have just agreed to whatever terms Penske wanted - no matter how obscene or outrageous they may have been? If Dodge was truly committed to winning, why will Penske be racing Fords in 2013?
Toyota Racing Development
Another race, and yet another issue with the engines produced by Toyota Racing Development. This time around the culprit was poor fuel mileage, as both Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin had to pit out of the lead with 10 laps to go. And despite the speed TRD is turning out with their motors, it's hard to envision a Toyota driver winning the championship until this problem is rectified -- especially with a host of tracks on the schedule where fuel-mileage races are the norm and not the exception.
As championship contenders Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin all turned in fine performances at Dover, one contender did not, as Tony Stewart once again struggled at the Monster Mile. The defending series champ was a nonfactor throughout and ended the day in 20th, three laps off the pace. More telling, this marked the fifth consecutive race Stewart failed to finish a race at Dover on the lead lap.