NASCAR » 16 May 2011
Kenseth out-thinks Johnson and Edwards to claim win
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers were among the surprising number of drivers to adopt the same two-tyre gambit; but amazingly, none of the former top three contenders (Bowyer, Johnson and Edwards) went the same way and all decided that the extra time fitting a full set of four fresh tyres would be rewarded by extra pace on track that would easily put them back to the front before the chequered flag.
Johnson was startled to find that he had dropped to 11th as a result. "I guess in our minds we didn't think that would take place, so many guys taking two tyres," Johnson said. "It was certainly the call. I knew basically, from the numbers, we were in trouble when we left pit road and there were so many guys in front of us ... There at the end, I really think that it was just dirty air and track position was the issue why the four-tyre guys couldn't get through."
"I thought we would be able to march up through there and I thought the race would be between Clint and I," said Edwards. "I did see a couple cars go fast early on two tyres but I really felt we were going to have something. If we had had a caution who know what would have happened."
"Obviously, probably two tyres may have won the race right there," said Bowyer. "But, when [crew chief Shane Wilson] said four and that many guys stayed out or were on two, I really thought we would be able to get back up through them, especially, as greasy and slimy as the track was on restarts. But it just didn't.
That split-second decision was the difference that tipped the race result on its head. At the restart, Kenseth's decision to take two tyres gave him the immediate edge over Mark Martin, and the #17 beat the veteran campaigner second time around after the green flag and went on to pull out a near two-second lead over the ensuing laps.
Martin simply didn't have the pace to go with Kenseth, but he had enough - and track position - to fend off Marcos Ambrose and Kyle Busch who had climbed up to third and fourth place. "It was another great race at Dover," Martin said. "I love this place. I always get excited about coming here to race. We had a really fast race car. Great call [to stay out] by Lance McGrew and great teamwork. We've had great teamwork all year."
Road course specialist Ambrose was equally happy with a strong result on a notoriously tricky oval: "Today I'm really excited about, because we had a really good day at Darlington and it didn't go our way," Ambrose said. "We've had some terrible luck. I'm really excited that my team is learning me, I'm learning them and I'm learning how these cars work."
Busch had been one of those to have taken four tyres but still had a fast enough pit stop to retain decent track position at the same time. While it wasn't the victory (let alone the triple crown he had been eyeing coming into Dover), it was still a remarkable recovery for Busch: "It was a tough race for us, but we ended up looking really good considering how our weekend was ... It was a rough weekend: it started out rough," Busch said. "We took four tyres on that last stop, and we kind of worked our way up and passed most of those guys on the restart ... Fortunately for me, I was in the right lane, and I could do that. I made the outside work."
Further back, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson found that they had been simply unable to work their way though traffic anywhere near as quickly as they had expected despite their fresh rubber advantage, and ended up stuck in sixth, seventh and ninth respectively at the chequered flag.
"You can't look back, you have to look forward," said Edwards. "We still have the points lead and the fastest car here today."
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