Drivers’ nerves in NASCAR’s Chase will be on edge a little more than they would be anyway this weekend at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
After a tumultuous race last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – in which seven Chase drivers either overcame or succumbed to significant adversity – the stage is set for a lights-out race Sunday at Dover’s Monster Mile.
Dover is the third and final race of the Chase’s opening round, with the bottom four of the 16-driver field facing elimination.
Let’s take a look at how events unfolded for those seven drivers at New Hampshire, and where that leaves them coming to Dover:
▪ Defending champion Kevin Harvick ran out of gas while leading with three laps to go. After wrecking the previous week at Chicagoland, Harvick sits in 15th place, 23 points out of 12th. He’s still got a mathematical chance at advancing without a victory, but a win is what’s really needed. He’s never won at Dover, incidentally.
▪ Brad Keselowski was caught jumping a restart while running second, and had to serve a pass-through penalty. That would drop him to 12th. He’s still in eighth place in the Chase and doesn’t appear to be in danger of not advancing.
▪ Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. also both ran out of gas late, Busch finishing 19th and Earnhardt 25th. Busch (seventh in points) looks safe, but Earnhardt (12th) has work to do Sunday.
▪ Kyle Busch wrecked midway through the race and eventually finished 37th, 38 laps down. He’s now 13th in points. For a driver who had such a great summer – four victories in five races after returning from injuries that cost him the first 11 races of the season – there’s still a chance at making the second round, but he has to have a strong performance at Dover to do it.
▪ Carl Edwards had to go to the rear of the field after his team was penalized for a pit-road violation. Edwards will finished fifth and is third in points.
▪ Jimmie Johnson had a flat tire and also went a lap down at one point. But he ended up sixth in the race and is fifth in points. He’s safe, too.