Under threatening skies at the beginning of the race and with one caution for precipitation, the sun emerged and then beat down upon the Monster Mile at Dover, Delaware for the remainder of the race.
Here is what was surprising and not surprising from the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks.
Surprising: It was surprising to see the comers and goers at Dover and in the end, to see who gambled and who did not. And in a town where the casino resides right next to the track, the gambling paid off, especially for those that either stayed out without tires or who took two instead of four.
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, was probably the biggest gambler, staying out on the last pit stop with no new tires to finish in the runner up position. This was his first top five of the season.
“Lance McGrew and the GoDaddy.com team deserve this,” Martin said. “We just about pulled one off there. We finally had a good finish.
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Wiley X Sunglasses Ford, also gambled with a two tire stop, and finished his day in Victory Lane.
“Obviously it was a great day for us and pretty exciting for us to win that way here at Dover,” Kenseth said. “I was happy we were able to pull it off.”
The gambling also paid off in the point standings, with Kenseth jumping four spots to the sixth position and Martin moving up three spots to the 11th position.
Not Surprising: With so many drivers taking either no or just two tires, it was not surprising that the dominant cars throughout most of the race, including the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson and the No. 99 Aflac Ford of Carl Edwards, finished a bit further back in the pack in ninth and seventh respectively, after deciding on a four-tire strategy.
This was the second week in a row that Edwards and company took four tires and did not win. Both Edwards and Johnson, however, maintained their top standing in the points, first and second respectively.
Surprising: It was surprising just how different the Monster Mile treated teammates throughout the race. One of the best examples was the split between Richard Petty Motorsports teammates A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose.
After starting from the outside pole, the ‘Dinger not only had high hopes for a great finish but he even fulfilled his wish of leading a lap. But instead of potentially contending for a race win, the engine on his Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Best Buy Ford gave up the ghost.
“I don’t know, it was weird because it all happened at once and there was no sign of it,” Allmendinger said. “We were going to run them (the leaders) down and all of a sudden off (turn) two, it went.”
“Honestly, it sucks,” Allmendinger continued. “I really wanted this for us and Ford and Best Buy and everybody, the King especially. I hate this.”
On the flip side, his RPM teammate Marcos Ambrose, in the No. 9 Dewalt Ford, had a stellar day, finishing in the third spot.
“I get a good feel on these concrete tracks,” Ambrose said. “On concrete, I think it’s the steep banking that helps me feel the tires.”
“It was a great day and a really good call for two tires there at the end.”
Not Surprising: The tale of two teammates continued with the results chasm between Brian Vickers, piloting the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, and his teammate Kasey Kahne in the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota.
Vickers, who at the time of last year’s Dover race was in the hospital “with two IVs stuck in both arms”, finished fifth, while Kahne blew an engine and was out of the race.
“This was a great team effort,” Vickers said. “I feel great. It was a special race.”
Kahne, on the other hand, started fourth and was running in the top ten for much of the race, only to experience engine issues.
“We had a great Red Bull Toyota,” Kahne said.”The car was really fast early on. I think I over-revved it so it may be my fault that it let go.”
Surprising: Both cars in the Stewart-Haas Racing stable, including the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet of Ryan Newman and the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet piloted by Tony Stewart, were surprisingly bad at the Monster Mile. In fact, Stewart deemed his car evil, finishing 29th, multiple laps down. Newman battled all day as well, taking the checkered flag in the 21st position.
Stewart summed up the SHR day overall on one of his radio communications during the race, saying “I’ve got no (expletive) confidence in our team right now.”
Not Surprising: Kyle Busch in the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota surprised no one in driving from the rear of the field due to an engine change to a fourth place finish.
“Considering how far behind we started with the engine failure and how I ran it into the fence, it was a really good result,” Busch said.
Surprising: After a hard crash in the Nationwide run that ruined a potentially winning day, Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, had high hopes for redemption, starting in the fifth spot. Logano, however, brought out the first caution, spinning and hitting the wall. Logano’s car was not right for the rest of the race, again hitting the wall in the waning laps of the race to finish 27th.
Not Surprising: Living up to the track’s nickname, there were some monstrous moments on pit road during the race in Dover. David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford, had an adventure getting to his pit, spinning, hitting the guard rail and then almost blocking the entrance trying to get his car pointed in the right direction.
“I just locked up the rear brakes a little coming into the pits during the green flag stop,” Ragan said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever wrecked like that getting to pit road.”
“I guess I pushed it a little too hard today.”
Rookie Andy Lally, in the No. 71 Interstate Moving Services Ford, also had a pit misadventure, with a major slide down pit road late in the race. Lally finished in the 33rd position.