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Johnson monsters the Dover mile

Before Gordon could deliver on that threat, the track was under caution for David Reutimann's engine blowing up. Martin's car was clearly not what it had been earlier in the day and he soon lost places to Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon in quick succession. Of them all, it was Jeff Gordon who was really on it and who picked up the gauntlet thrown down by his team mate, leaving old friends Busch and Harvick to discuss third place amongst themselves.

Harvick has just won that battle when the third caution was out: Carl Edwards had hit the wall in turn 2 on lap 164: "Our front right tire went flat, I don't know exactly why," he said. "Hopefully we can get back out there and get some points. It is so frustrating to have that good of a car [and go out.] I love racing here."

After a round of pit stops under the yellow, the restart saw a Hendrick 1-2-3 at the front with Johnson and Gordon now joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr. ahead of Harvick and Kenseth. Kyle Busch, meanwhile, was far away from the front in 19th place after having to come back into pit lane a second time because of a loose tyre; even after that second stop there was something seriously wrong with the #18, and just past the halfway point of the 400-lap race the engine breathed its last and Busch had no choice but to crawl into the garage area and call it a day.

"Unfortunately we had a valve spring break and then dropped the valve, which hit the pistons,” said Busch, a two-time winner at Dover in 2008 and 2010. "It's real unfortunate. You know, we had good car. We were running up front there. We were biding our time."

Johnson had been leading and it looked like the two Hendricks cars were formation flying (Earnhardt had been picked off by Harvick for third, however). Sure enough, Johnson did all but roll out the red carpet to invite Gordon to take up residency in the lead for a while, which lasted through another round of pit stops under a debris caution on lap 226. Gordon and Johnson resumed at the front, but Kevin Harvick overshot his pit stall and dropped down to 19th place as a result leaving Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer on the second row for the restart ahead of Earnhardt.

But Gordon's strong run was about to hit a problem: on lap 249 he slowed and radioed in to his pit crew that the car felt "weird", forcing him into an unscheduled and costly pit stop for an emergency diagnosis.

"I'm not really sure what happened, but obviously something happened," he said later. "We definitely had a loose left rear. It didn't go on right to begin with and the left-rear tire-changer knew that. And so when I started to complain about it, we knew that there might be an issue there and there was. So, in some ways we got fortunate today. I could have stayed out there and wrecked because it wasn't really vibrating [but] it was getting real loose."

With Martin no where in sight and Gordon also out of the running, that left Johnson virtually unchallenged for the rest of the afternoon, almost 4s ahead of Kenseth. Because of his off-sync pit stops, Gordon did briefly retake the lead on lap 300 when everyone else came in for their next routine fuel-and-tyres call, but then he was in himself was in on lap 325 and promptly dropped off the lead lap and down to 19th position, although at least he needed no more pit stops to make it the full distance

But any remaining hopes Gordon might have had of recovering were dashed when a debris caution came out on lap 5. Gordon got his lap back as everyone else came in for their final round of stops, but there was little hope he would be able to get all the way back to the front in the remaining 60 laps. When a sixth caution came out almost immediately after the restart for Kurt Busch's engine blowing up, Gordon at least had an opportunity to pit for fresh rubber to try and make a go of it, but in the end 13th place immediately in front of Mark Martin would be the best he could achieve.

"We don't care about finishing top 15 or top 10 right now, that does nothing for us [in the championship standings.] We need wins," he said. "The fastest car doesn't always win the race. We're sitting here in 13th or whatever - it's silly."




Related Pictures

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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet, races Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on June 3, 2012 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Madagascar Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on June 3, 2012 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, Regan Smith, driver of the #78 Furniture Row/CSX Chevrolet, and Landon Cassill, driver of the #83 Burger King Toyota, and others are involved in an incident early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on June 3, 2012 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick (L), driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, talks to Regan Smith, driver of the #7 TaxSlayer Bowl Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart at Dover International Speedway on May 30 2014. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR Media)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fifth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and his team celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Doublemint Toyota, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 STP Ford, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ENEOS Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualified for seventh position Friday, August 22, 2014 for Saturday evening`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Busch is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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