‘Points as they run’ is running a little thin
• When all was said and done in Sunday’s AAA 400, one driver who was among the bottom four of points (Denny Hamlin) entering the race moved into the top 12. Listening to the TV and radio broadcasts of the race and their insistence on using the “points as they run” statistic left you with the idea the race was filled with roller-coaster emotions on every lap. Instead, it’s nothing more than a lazy way to “create” drama where there might not be any on the track. Consider this: There are fans – many likely – who are sitting in the grandstands watching the race without listening to radio or TV. Are we really to believe they are missing out on excitement because they can’t see a points rundown every lap? Or is it more likely they find entertainment from watching the race?
• While his finishes are not bad during the Chase – 11th, ninth and 17th – the performances seem a bit off for Dale Earnhardt Jr. than how he and his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team have performed most of the season. Earnhardt hasn’t led a lap since the Aug. 17 race at Michigan and hasn’t been in serious contention for a win since his victory at Pocono on Aug. 3.
• The first round of the Chase turned out to be a microcosm of the season so far – with strong performances from Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon (and three wins among them).
How the Chase drivers fared:
1 . Brad Keselowski (All Chase drivers reset to 3,000 points)
When Kevin Harvick suffered his tire problem, it opened the door to Victory Lane for Keselowski, but this time Jeff Gordon was able to run him down.
2. Joey Logano
Last week’s winner was surprisingly quiet this weekend but did rally for a fourth-place finish.
3. Kevin Harvick
He led the first 147 laps Sunday and 223 of 400, but a problem with the inner valve stem on his left-front tire gave him a flat tire and derailed his chance at a win.
4. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson easily advanced to the second round of the Chase, but Sunday was the first time he didn’t lead a lap at Dover since the 2007 spring race.
5. Jeff Gordon
If Harvick had not had problems, the outcome might have been different. But with him out of the picture, Gordon’s ability to run down Keselowski shows promise for the rest of the Chase.
6. Kyle Busch
A solid 10th-place finish – and without the comeback dramatics of a week ago – is just what Busch and his No. 18 team needed.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt’s average performance during the first three races has been one of the biggest surprises. He hasn’t led a lap since the Michigan race last month.
8. Matt Kenseth
Strong day on one of Kenseth’s better tracks. His fifth-place finish is his best in the Chase thus far.
9. Ryan Newman
He basically held serve and finished eighth after running stronger during the second half of the race.
10. Carl Edwards
Not a great day, but an 11th-place finish was best among Roush Fenway Racing cars and allowed him to advance to the second round of the Chase.
11. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin predicted a strong run and didn’t disappoint. His 12th-place finish was good enough to move into the top 12 of points and advance.
12. Kasey Kahne
Kahne at one point was four laps down after pitting under green for a loose wheel. He managed to rebound to one lap down and his 20th-place finish allowed him to squeak into the Chase’s second round.
Chase drivers eliminated
13. A.J. Allmendinger
Never really had a car capable of challenging for a strong run Sunday, which he needed to make the cut to the second round.
14. Kurt Busch
Spent the final laps battling Kahne for the last transfer position to Round 2 of the Chase but came up short.
15. Greg Biffle
Had a decent run during the first half, but he dropped off late and fell a lap down.
16. Aric Almirola
Despite being among the top five during final practice, he never was in contention and ended up 28th.
5 key monents
1 . Pole-winner Kevin Harvick led the first 147 laps, setting a fast pace.
2. Kasey Kahne’s chances to continue in the Chase nearly are ruined when he has to pit under green on Lap 161 for a loose wheel.
3. Shortly after a pit stop, Harvick slows on the track on Lap 252 with a flat tire and Brad Keselowski moves into the lead.
4. Jeff Gordon runs down Keselowski to take the lead on Lap 305 as the two battle numerous lapped cars in the process.
5. A final round of green-flag pit stops, completed on Lap 331, does little to alter the outcome and Gordon easily holds off Keselowski.