NASCAR at Dover notebook: Truex finishes second-best at Dover this time around

DOVER — Martin Truex Jr. has always had a friend when it comes to Dover International Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr. waves to the fans prior to the start of Sunday’s race at Dover. Special to the Delaware State News / Chuck Snyder

After all, he recorded the first victory of his NASCAR Cup Series career back in the spring of 2007 on Dover’s steeply banked, one-mile oval, and has since won three times at the track — including the race in May at the Monster Mile.

It appeared as if things were playing right into his hands again in the Drydene 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 playoff race at Dover as he remained near the front of the pack all day and took the lead as the second stage was nearing a close.

However, this time around, Truex was doomed by a length pit stop between the second and third stages as one of his pit crew members slipped during a tire change and he fell from the top of the leaderboard to seventh place.

Truex was able to rally over the final 160 laps to second place, but just couldn’t reel in eventual winner Kyle Larson.

All in all, he was pleased with the effort. He has finished among the top-10 finishers 16 times in 28 races at Dover.

“Every week it’s just about doing the best you can and getting all the points you can,” said Truex, who took the lead in the Monster Energy Series points standings by 15 points over Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, who are now tied for second. “It was a positive day for us, we had a shot at the win and came up short.

“It would’ve been nice to have that win and the free pass (at Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday), but second’s the next best. It was a good job by all the guys and a good rebound on the pit crew. Just a good solid day here at Dover. I wish we could have won again, but that’s how it goes.”

Hamlin hot after Drydene 400

Denny Hamlin wasn’t happy with how Joey Logano raced him during Sunday’s Drydene 400 at Dover.

Hamlin said he was confused as to why Logano was battling him when he was leading and Logano was multiple laps down after suffering a mechanical problem at the outset of the race, falling more than 20 laps off the pace.

Denny Hamlin, center, talks with Corey LaJoie before introductions, Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“You’ve got to get out of the way,” Hamlin said. “If you’re 20 something laps down, you’re not going to make those positions up. It ain’t gonna make one position difference at any point in the race and it didn’t. It is proven that most of these guys would get out of the way and let the leaders race for the stage at that time.

“I probably shouldn’t call Joey an idiot. He’s not an idiot. But that was just a bad choice to say that he’s fighting for something.”

Hamlin finished fifth despite winning the pole and leading a race-high 218 laps.

Logano left Dover on the playoff cutline entering next Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. He is tied with William Byron, but is technically behind him because of the tiebreaker of best finish in the round.

“We’re out there racing,” Logano said. “I’ve got to race. Here’s the situation, there’s four or five cars that I could possibly catch. That’s five points. I’m in by zero points right now, so we’d better get them all.

“So, when you think of that, I’ve got to try to get every car I possibly can. I’m still racing. I ran as hard as I could this whole race. I don’t have anything to show for it, but I ran it as if we were on the lead lap and did everything we possibly did to be better.”

Not here for ‘friendship’

Alex Bowman finished second in the spring race at Dover and entered race weekend at the Monster Mile with some unwanted attention after he was doused with water by fellow driver Bubba Wallace following an on-track altercation at the event at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval race the prior weekend.

Bowman, who rallied for a second-place finish at Charlotte, said he is a naturally quiet guy and didn’t really want to address the incident.

“I don’t really like attention, good or bad,” Bowman said. “I just kind of like to do my own thing and fly under the radar. That’s almost like ‘why do people want to talk to me?’, but I’m just focused on moving forward. I feel like that comes with doing my job.”

He added that he’s not out to make friends with his fellow competitors in the Monster Energy Series.

“I feel like, for me, I don’t really talk to those guys anyways,” he added. “I kind of bring my friends with me to the race track. I’m not here to be (the other) driver’s friend. I’ve said that since I started here.

“I’m not here to be friends with the people that I’m paid to beat every weekend. There are some guys that get along really well in the garage, but I just kind of stick to myself. It’s not anything against anyone. I’m just kind of quiet and keep to myself.”

As for Wallace, no apology was offered to Bowman following his water throwing spree at Charlotte.

Wallace said Saturday that he apologized to Jeff Gordon and Dr. Angela Fiege, medical director of the AMR NASCAR Safety team, and also reached out to Hendrick Motorsports executive Jeff Andrews, who also was splashed in the incident.

Wallace, when asked if the feud is finished with Bowman, said “We’ll see. He’s already on six strikes.”

The drama didn’t appear to have any effect on Bowman during Sunday’s Drydene 400. He drove around to an appropriately quiet third-place finish.

“I felt like we struggled a little bit on the short runs but really made up for it throughout the middle of the runs, and it felt like I had to pass the same guys over and over again after a couple of bad restarts and an issue on pit road,” Bowman said. “I’m just so proud of my guys for keeping their heads on straight and staying focused on what we needed to stay focused on. We’ve just got to continue moving forward.”

Bowman left Dover in seventh place in points, one spot ahead of the next round’s cutoff point.

One tire-ing track

The steep 24-degree banking in the turns at Dover can prove taxing when it comes to engineering a reliable and fast tire for the Monster Energy Series teams.

High banking at tracks such as Dover creates higher loads specifically on the right-front tire.

Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, was confident the company had the right tire composition heading into Sunday’s Drydene 400.

“When we went to Bristol for the second time in 2019, we saw exactly how many gains these teams have made with this package since the first race there in the spring, and we expect the same at Dover,” Stucker said. “Right-front durability at Dover is always on our radar because of the speeds and loads generated by these cars in the high-banked corners.

“We certainly understand that in the teams’ efforts to gain as much grip as possible, being aggressive on air-pressures is one of the tools they use.”

With that in mind, Goodyear worked with the teams in stressing the importance of proper car set-ups as well as air pressures on the right-front tire.

Goodyear also performed additional simulation work for Dover to give teams the most current information on how air pressure affects both durability and performance.

Sunday’s race at the Monster Mile featured NASCAR’s 2019 rules package with no aero ducts on the cars’ bodies and a tapered-spacer engine which generates a targeted 750 horsepower.

Each team had three sets of tires for practice, one set for qualifying and 10 sets for the 400-mile race – nine race sets plus one set transferred from qualifying or practice.

Before the green flag …

The pre-race ceremonies for the Drydene 400 had a bit of a local flair at Dover on Sunday afternoon.

Mike Tatoian, president and CEO of Dover International Speedway, and Dave Klinger, president of new fall race sponsor Drydene Performance Products, provided the welcoming remarks to the race fans gathered.

The 436th Airlift Wing Honor Guard from Dover Air Force Base brought out the colors and the USO Show Troupe sang the national anthem. The invocation was given by Dan Schafer, pastor of Calvary Assembly of God in Hightstown, New Jersey, and the flyover was provided by the roar of four F/A-18 Hornets from the Naval Air Station in Oceana, Virginia.

John Arnold, owner of Drydene Performance Products, served as the grand marshal and Klinger was the honorary starter.

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