After a complete washout on Sunday afternoon, drivers got up bright and early to race at noon at Dover. A late race yellow made the final dash to the finish pretty exciting after only a handful of cautions all day. However, that doesn't mean the race wasn't without controversy and excitement.
Martin Truex Jr. Gets Back To Victory Lane
At the site of his first NASCAR Cup Series victory in 2008, Martin Truex Jr. gets back to victory lane in his final season after a 56 race winless streak. Truex missed the playoffs last year despite being 4th in the regular season standings, but has now secured himself a position to race for a championship in his last full time NASCAR season. Martin's younger brother Ryan scored his first career Xfinity win just two days earlier, making a Truex family "sweep" on the weekend. Just an awesome moment for Martin and his whole family. I'm sure everyone was happy to see the 2017 champion get one more win at his home track.
Ross Chastain Makes Headlines Again
A week after his questionable move on a GWC attempt at Talladega, Ross Chastain gets involved in another incident. Just 8- laps into the race, Ross Chastain wrecked the #15 Rick Rare Racing machine driven by Brennan Poole. Poole was making his first Cup start of the season, and doing a pretty serviceable job. Poole slid across the apron, back up the track, and collected Kyle Larson. Larson went behind the wall, but was able to return to the racetrack. He didn't really make up any points, however he was able to hold up Ross Chastain with 20 las to go as Ross was trying to obtain the lead of the race. Drivers need to do something about Ross, or he's going to keep doing this. After the wreck, Brennan Poole said Ross "probably needs his butt whooped." Yes, he does - but no one is trying to get back at Ross. He has no incentive to change his driving style at this point.
Toyota Was Class Of The Field
For really the first time this season, Toyota looked like the strongest manufacturer. At one point, there were only thirteen cars on the lead lap and six of them were all of the Toyota cars. At one point or another, every Toyota was inside they top 5 or 6 at some point. At end of the day, all Toyotas finished inside the top 13, four of them in the top-10. Ty Gibbs looked extra impressive today and was running in the top-5 until he was told he was seven laps short on gas and had to save over a gallon and a half of fuel. He was saved by the late caution, but Gibbs has been having one of the best rookie campaigns in recent memory. Drivers like Cole Custer and Austin Cindric won in their rookie years, but Gibbs has already shown more consistent speed than either of them did in their respective first full seasons.
Penske Has Another Terrible Day
I don't know why, but Penske has had a pretty rough 2023 so far. Ford has been down overall (again) but they haven't looked like the best Ford team at many times this season. Joey Logano was in the top-10 early on, but dropped like a rock in stage two to outside the top 25 and several laps down. Not to mention his wreck with 10 laps to go, bringing out the final caution of the day that set up a 7 lap dash to the finish. Austin Cindric finished 26th on pure speed. Cindric now has four finishes outside the top 25 in the last five races - a stat virtually unheard of for team Penske. On the flip side, Ryan Blaney was up at the front all day and left Dover with a solid 3rd place finish. It's just super odd how hit or miss Penske has been this year.
Denny Hamlin Frustrations Are Mounting.
A lot of people hate on Denny Hamlin for a multitude of reasons, but we all have to agree that Hamlin has had the worst luck this season. Denny's pit crew once again took him out of contention for the win early on the day, and he continued to lose spots on every stop until the last cycle of the day. NASCAR is a team sport, and no one knows that more than the #11 team right now. No matter who is behind the wheel of the racer, they won't be able to overcome those inconsistencies. Also, not to mention Hamlin's frustrations with teammate Christopher Bell after he felt like Bell was holding him up too much. Honestly, I don't think this is a big deal as Denny was probably just heated after another horrendous pit stop and knowing he had a top-three car.
Hendrick Starts Ts Show Vulnerability
William Byron led over 100 laps in the first two stages, but this didn't matter because at the beginning of stage three he fell back to the end of the top-10. After fading, Byron was able to recover a 4th place finish because of the late restart. Rest of Hendrick wasn't anywhere near Byron's level. Larson obviously had a stroke of bad luck with the Ross incident, but neither other driver looked like a real contender. Chase was off all day, but Josh Berry managed to snag another top-10 finish subbing for Alex Bowman this past weekend.