Matt Kenseth became the fourth Joe Gibbs Racing driver to win a race this season – dodging big wrecks and hard-charging Rookies at the end of the race to take the checkered flag Sunday at Dover. But here are five other things that we noticed from the weekend of racing at the Monster Mile:
1. Matt Kenseth won the race, but Kyle Larson stole the show: Where has this Kyle Larson been for the past season and a half? Everybody knows the kid has tons of talent, but it has been easy to forget that fact, as he has been thoroughly mediocre of late. But something happened to wake the ‘other Kyle’ up right about lap-180 at the Monster Mile, and he transformed into a one-man highlight reel – battling fiercely with Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex, Jr. and finally Kenseth for the lead- and only a decision to race the No.20 clean prevented him from winning. Whatever motivated Larson Sunday – he needs to keep racing the same way, an he’ll finally get that first Sprint Cup win in short order. It was impressive to watch.
2. The main reason Sunday’s Cup race was so much fun: It wasn’t because of tires or aero-packages – this race was fun for a single reason: drivers never gave up. Wrecks, pit penalties, slow stops, poor starting position – just about everyone who finished the day in the top-10 had to overcome some sort of issue. Heck, Larson was a lap-down early in the race. But because nobody gave up, we saw enough ‘comers and goers’ that the outlook of the race changed every 50 laps or so – making things not only unpredictable, but a heck of a lot of fun. Brad Keselowski said last week that once a driver wins one race and locks themselves into the Chase, the motivation goes away to keep winning. All he has to do is go back and watch the tape of this Dover race to know that assessment is incorrect.
3. Put a big payday at the end, and Erik Jones will win it: Is Jones doing his best Jeff Gordon impersonation, or what? The youngster won his second Dash4Cash race of the season Saturday at Dover, taking home another $100,000 in the process. It seems like whenever you put a big price-tag on the race, Jones shows up – and it only makes things harder for Joe Gibbs to figure out where he’ll fit into their Cup Series program. By the way – this race was more proof that the Xfinity series doesn’t need Cup drivers to make it interesting…just sayin’…
4. Joe Gibbs Racing just doesn’t quit: Even without Kyle poaching in the Xfinity series – JGR collected two more Trophies at Dover. That makes seven wins in the Cup Series this season, and six in Xfinity. Someone will catch up to Gibbs this season, but at the rate they are going, it isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Until someone stops them, they are pretty much unstoppable…which is incredibly profound, I know.
5. Who’s more unlucky – Larson, or Martin Truex, Jr.?: Larson raced the tires off the car against three of the best in the sport, and still lost. Truex had a car capable of winning and led a ton of laps, but found disaster in the form of Jimmie Johnson’s transmission grenading in front of him on a restart. So who had it worse? It’s no contest – if Truex didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any at all. For two-straight races he could have easily won, but circumstances beyond his control cost him. He was still upbeat after Kansas, but was noticeably more frustrated this weekend – hopefully the effects don’t carry over. The No.78 team is lucky this string of disappointment is heading into All-Star weekend, giving them the chance to regroup.
Next Week – The All-Star Race in Charlotte – listen to this week’s In The Draft Show for our race preview and Picks!