Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sprint Cup 2012: Race 29 -- Dueling with the Monster

The qualifying order looks bright for the Toyotas in the chase for tomorrow’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway with Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. taking the first three starting positions to lead the field. Greg Biffle in the #16 Ford in 6th, Jeff Gordon in the #24 Chevy in 7th are the next chasers in the lineup. Second round practice tells a much different tale with teammates Jeff Gordon in 1st and Jimmie Johnson in 3rd for the best practice results. Brad Keselowski in 6th is the only other chase driver in the top 10 and no additional chasers check in until Kasey Kahne check in driving the #5 Chevy in 13th and Greg Biffle in 14th while pole sitter, Denny Hamlin’s practice results were only 17th best.

Dover is one of the trickiest tracks on the circuit, but recent history certainly likes Jimmie Johnson who won the June race in Delaware. Johnson’s seven wins, 10 top 5’s and 15 top 10’s while posting an average 8.9 finish clearly show the five time champ’s affinity for the Monster Mile, a good stepping stone toward a possible 6th championship.

Yen chase drivers start in the top 13 on a track where position is most important for good results with Kevin Harvick at the bottom of that pack. The burden is much tougher for Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. who lineup in 24th and 25th.

There is no way to put it politely, there is way too much garbage cluttering up the field that has no business running in the top series in NASCAR.  While having 48 cars entered to qualify for 43 starting positions, not a single of the five cars failing to make the field are ones that would not start and park. On top of that, far too many junk entries did make the field with the rolling free loaders starting as high as 23rd for the#25 Ford drive by Josh Wise. Up to eight cars could be long gone when the checkered flag drops and at a track where accidents happen early, it would be disgraceful if a team racing for the championship could be buried beneath an entry with no intention to complete the race at all.

Trial by fire, Danica Patrick starts 38th in one of her limited Sprint Cup starts for 2012. This will be a tough initiation into the big league world that awaits her. Having completed the entire 200 laps in Nationwide competition is only a hint of what a full day of cup racing has to offer. Another driver getting ready for full-time action, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. starts 17th in the #6 Ford. 

Starting Lineup: (Chase drivers shown in CAPS)
1 11 DENNY HAMLIN Toyota FedEx Office 159.299
2 15 CLINT BOWYER Toyota 5-hour Energy 159.264
3 56 MARTIN TRUEX JR. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 159.201
4 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 158.758
5 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries 158.667
6 16 GREG BIFFLE Ford Scotch-Brite 158.541
7 24 JEFF GORDON Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 158.444
8 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 158.297
9 5 KASEY KAHNE Chevrolet Farmers Insurance 158.256
10 2 BRAD KESELOWSKI Dodge Miller Lite 158.151
11 48 JIMMIE JOHNSON Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 158.089
12 17 MATT KENSETH Ford Ford EcoBoost 157.992
13 29 KEVIN HARVICK Chevrolet Budweiser 157.971
14 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 157.971
15 99 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal 157.95
16 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Kingsford 157.819
17 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford Cargill 157.784
18 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 157.653
19 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards / CertainTeed 157.604
20 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 156.958
21 43 Aric Almirola Ford Super 8 156.924
22 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 156.829
23 26 Josh Wise* Ford MDS Transport 156.631
24 14 TONY STEWART Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 156.597
25 88 DALE EARNHARDT JR. Chevrolet National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew 156.542
26 55 Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's 2000th Store / Bronx, NY 156.488
27 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Dewalt 156.298
28 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 156.23
29 91 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet Plinker Tactical 156.223
30 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 156.182
31 34 David Ragan Ford Long John Silver's 156.02
32 98 Michael McDowell Ford Phil Parsons Racing 155.885
33 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 155.709
34 95 Scott Speed Ford Jordan Truck Sales 155.44
35 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 155.38
36 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 155.253
37 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 155.059
38 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet 155.025
39 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 154.646
40 36 J.J. Yeley+ Chevrolet Drive Sober, Drive Alive DE 154.553
41 32 T.J. Bell+ Ford Greensmoke 154.182
42 38 David Gilliland+ Ford Taco Bell 153.689
43 37 Dave Blaney Chevrolet MaxQworkforce 155.025
Did Not Qualify
44 30 David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports 154.759
45 19 Mike Bliss Toyota Plinker Tactical 154.639
46 49 Jason Leffler Toyota Robinson-Blakeney Racing 154.467
47 33 Cole Whitt Chevrolet Little Joes Autos 153.741
48 79 Kelly Bires Ford Bestway Disposal 153.682

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