NASCAR Barometer: Elliott Wins Rain-Delayed Dover Race

NASCAR Barometer: Elliott Wins Rain-Delayed Dover Race

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Chase Elliott joined his Hendrick Motorsports teammates with a 2022 win Monday afternoon at Dover Motor Speedway. The former champion survived the trouble that befell many of the contenders in the rain-delayed race and drove away from the competition in the final miles while also capturing stage points in the first two segments. Tires were the story of the day after multiple bouts of rain washed the track clean, enhancing its abrasiveness. Elliott managed his tires well to deliver maximum speed at the end when he needed it most and the track had finally taken in enough worn rubber to be less of a concern. Many teams struggled to get on top of the abrasive circuit and even lobbied NASCAR to provide an extra set, as tire wear had been a problem throughout the weekend. That attrition and some ill-timed cautions upset the running order multiple times making it a very unpredictable day for teams and fans alike.

Teams will now have a short turnaround to prepare for NASCAR's throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. took the wins there last season and both left Dover Monday afternoon wanting more. Nine of 16 playoff positions have been taken by 2022 race winners, and only two races remain before the All-Star race at Texas Motor Speedway. Pressure to get a win and entry into the playoffs will only build as the season rolls onward. 

UPGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott used the final restart

Chase Elliott joined his Hendrick Motorsports teammates with a 2022 win Monday afternoon at Dover Motor Speedway. The former champion survived the trouble that befell many of the contenders in the rain-delayed race and drove away from the competition in the final miles while also capturing stage points in the first two segments. Tires were the story of the day after multiple bouts of rain washed the track clean, enhancing its abrasiveness. Elliott managed his tires well to deliver maximum speed at the end when he needed it most and the track had finally taken in enough worn rubber to be less of a concern. Many teams struggled to get on top of the abrasive circuit and even lobbied NASCAR to provide an extra set, as tire wear had been a problem throughout the weekend. That attrition and some ill-timed cautions upset the running order multiple times making it a very unpredictable day for teams and fans alike.

Teams will now have a short turnaround to prepare for NASCAR's throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. took the wins there last season and both left Dover Monday afternoon wanting more. Nine of 16 playoff positions have been taken by 2022 race winners, and only two races remain before the All-Star race at Texas Motor Speedway. Pressure to get a win and entry into the playoffs will only build as the season rolls onward. 

UPGRADE

Chase Elliott – Elliott used the final restart in Monday afternoon's rain-delayed race at Dover to jump to the lead and drive away from the competition to win for the first time in 2022. He was the last of the Hendrick Motorsports teammates to enter the playoff picture with a victory. It was his first win since July of last season and his first on an oval since winning at Phoenix in 2020 to earn that season's championship. With the victory Elliott should feel a lot less weight on his shoulders as he heads to Darlington this week. He crashed out of the fall race there last season but finished seventh in the spring event. He has two top-fives and four top-10s from 10 starts at the track. 

Kyle Larson – After finishing sixth in the first stage Larson lost control off of turn 4 and spun to the inside wall early in the second segment. The incident threatened to end his day, but he kept the car off of the wall. The spin flattened both of Larson's right-side tires, and the flailing rubber further damaged the car's fender and hood, but the team made quick repairs, and Larson charged back through the field. By the finish, he had climbed all the way back into the top 10 and finished in sixth, salvaging what could have been a disaster. With seven top-10s from eight Darlington starts, this coming week's race could be a chance for him to quickly rebound.

Erik Jones – Monday afternoon's race at Dover turned into another top-10 outing for Erik Jones and his Petty GMS Motorsports team. He spent the entire afternoon running amongst the top 10 and stayed mistake-free while nearly everyone around him suffered some kind of trouble. The smooth and consistent performance was the fourth top-10 finish for him so far this season and second in as many races. It came with the added bonus of moving Jones into 16th position and into the playoff spots in the championship standings with Darlington on the horizon. Jones won at the track in 2019 from the 15th position and has six top-10s from eight career starts. His best finish there in a Petty car was 18th in this race last season.

Denny Hamlin – After the rain delay, Hamlin moved to the lead with less than 10 laps remaining in the first stage and went on to carry the segment. The high of that stage win faded quickly after a mistake on pit road sent the car out without its left-front wheel attached. Hamlin pitted to have it reattached to the car, but the team now faces fines and suspensions for upcoming races. Things only got worse later in the stage when he was hit by a car spinning ahead, causing damage to the body that his team then had to repair. He struggled for the remainder of the race, ultimately falling a lap down to the leaders in the final stage. Hamlin has four Darlington wins from his 19 starts at the track including last year's fall race. He also led laps in each of the last four races there.

Ryan Blaney – Winning a stage ultimately wasn't an omen of good things to come Monday at Dover, as Blaney took the honors in the second segment only to be caught two laps down with awful luck as cautions completely changed the complexion of the race. Blaney's Team Penske Ford appeared capable of racing with the fastest cars at front, taking the stage 2 victory and leading eight total laps. Luck was not on the side of any Penske driver, though, and Blaney suffered a finish of 26th, three laps down to the leaders. Blaney has yet to win this season and is watching his chances slip away as other winners fill up the playoff positions. Monday's finish was his worst since Las Vegas and ended a five-race run of finishes 11th or better. 

DOWNGRADE

William Byron – The Dover race weekend was a disaster for Byron. The Hendrick Motorsports driver crashed Saturday, which forced the team to move to a backup car to run in the race. He didn't get to qualify due to that incident, and the first laps he took in the backup car were in the actual race. Things seemed to be going well as the race restarted Monday afternoon. Byron did manage to grab some stage points with a seventh-place finish in the first segment. That was the highlight, though. By the finish, Byron had slipped off the lead lap and fell to 22nd position for the finish. Still, he has multiple wins this season and can afford the off week. He'll be back at it again this week at Darlington where he was on pole in 2019 and has two top-fives from the last three visits.

Kurt Busch – Busch also struggled with handling issues in the second stage, spinning mid-corner and also making contact with the inside wall. He drove the car to pit road to repair as much as possible and returned to the race three laps down to the leader. He circulated for as long as he could but was well off the pace and finished the race 12 laps down in 31st position, his third finish worse than 30th in the last five races. He needs to get things turned around quickly. Busch has never won at Darlington, but he was a player in one of NASCAR's most memorable finishes when he ended up second to Ricky Craven in 2003 by just 0.002 seconds. The former champion has gone on to tally four top-fives and 12 top-10s at the track.

Tyler Reddick – Reddick was one of a number of drivers to suffer tire trouble Monday at Dover. His problem came late in the second stage when a front tire failed, sending him to pit road under green with less than 20 laps remaining in the stage. His day continued to be a challenge late in the final stage when he lost control coming onto the back straight and made contact with the inside wall. That incident was the final nail in the coffin for the day and means he waits yet another week to capitalize on his early-season pace to secure his first Cup Series victory. Reddick has one top-10 finish from five Darlington starts. He finished 12th and 18th in the two races at the track last season and now must overcome the problems at Dover to make the most of his day at Darlington. 

Joey Logano –  Like the rest of the Penske stable, Monday was not a good race for Logano. The Penske driver slipped backward quickly as running got underway. He struggled with getting what he needed from the car and suffered other compounding problems by running deeper in the pack than he would have liked. An abrupt lane change from Erik Jones while the two were racing sent Logano into the outside wall in one of a handful of setback that left him with a 29th-place finish. It was Logano's second finish of 29th or worse in as many races as he continues his quest for his first win this season. He leaves Dover 12th in points as playoff spots for 2022 victors rapidly fill up. He'll have to step up his game at Darlington to do so. He has four top-fives from 16 starts at the track and finished eighth there last fall.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Dover always promised to be a place Stenhouse could outperform his typical expectations and he delivered for fantasy players trusting enough to choose him last week. The JTG Daugherty Racing driver had a best finish of 10th so far this season and hadn't finished in the top 20 since back in February at California. He was able to keep his nose clean and avoid the tire issues that plagued much of the field, giving him the chance to stretch his legs and show the competition how much speed his car actually has. He finished the second stage in fifth position and went on to consolidate the runner-up spot for the finish in the final miles. It was a much needed top-shelf performance for the No. 47 team as they work to get out of their early-season slump.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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