Elimination format impresses at Dover, yet Wonder Boy shines

(Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
(Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)

As fans of Chase Nations sat on the edges of their seats, Dover International Speedway made the Elimination race one to remember.

The thrill came from The Bubble Battle and a few twists. It was apparent that there would be many green flag runs, yet that didn’t deter drivers. Strapping in, everyone had a goal and an animalistic focus of survival.

Kevin Harvick started from the pole and dominated much of the race. A brave Brad Keselowski hunted the No. 4 without prevail. When reports of an issue arose from the Stewart-Haas Racing camp, many weren’t surprised; the story of Harvick’s season includes domination and downfall. The team spiraled even more out of control when his left front tire blew. The inner valve stem was broken. Though he finished in the top-15, it wasn’t what he wanted.

Keselowski stepped up to bat. Team Penske’s muscle was too strong to ignore. The organization is nearly perfect and are serious championship contenders. However, as great as the No. 2’s performance was, he was overpowered by the No. 24.

Yes, Jeff Gordon ran him down and stole the lead. Anyone who’s made old man jokes about this guy needs to apologize. The Drive for Five is still alive, especially after he claimed his fourth win of 2014 Sunday afternoon. He visited the Monster Mile’s victory lane for the first time since 2001, a sure sign that the Rainbow Warrior is stirring in his soul (Can we make ‘#WonderBoyLivesOn’ a hashtag this season?).

Alas, the race had to be solemn for some. This was a cut-off race, one where four drivers were removed from championship contention. Folks were eager to see how the new addition to The Chase format would unfold. Honestly, it changed the complexion of Dover; it made it a can’t-miss event, a complete one-eighty from its usual stance. The Bubble Battle kept eyes and calculators busy the entire afternoon.

Flip-flopping highlighted the newest improvement. First Kasey Kahne was in, then it was Kurt Busch, and that tug-of-war match lasted until the checkered flag flew. Kahne ended up advancing, despite finishing 21st. Those eliminated are Busch, AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, and Aric Almirola. One thing’s for sure: if Kahne wants to be a serious Contender, he has to stop getting by with the bare minimum. That entire team –especially the pit crew—needs to get their heads in the game. If not, they don’t have a fighting chance.

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series dives into the Contender round, these next two races –which take place at Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway—are critical. Why? Because the next cut-off race is at Talladega Superspeedway.

No pressure, guys.

 

Chase Grid following Dover

  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Kevin Harvick
  4. Jimmie Johnson
  5. Jeff Gordon
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
  8. Matt Kenseth
  9. Ryan Newman
  10. Carl Edwards
  11. Denny Hamlin
  12. Kasey Kahne
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