NASCAR Barometer: Johnson Captures Record 11th Dover Victory

NASCAR Barometer: Johnson Captures Record 11th Dover Victory

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Sunday at Dover International Speedway was a historical moment. Jimmie Johnson scored his 11th win at the circuit and tied one of the sport's all-time greats on the career win list. Johnson didn't have a cakewalk to get the job done either. It took coming from the rear and making a perfect late-race restart to become the first three-time winner of the season. He held off Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr., as one of them looked most likely to hoist the winner's trophy at the end of the distance. Instead, Johnson played his afternoon to perfection and came out on top.

Despite appearing to have caught up to the competition, Toyota remained behind Chevrolet with just one of their machines finishing inside the top five. Chevrolet dominated the afternoon, and the highest-placed Ford was Kevin Harvick in ninth. Truex continues to carry the banner for the brand, and Kyle Busch continued to fall short of winning. The manufacturer has a chance to reassert itself this week at Pocono Raceway, however. The long straights make horsepower an important factor, which truly will show how much their engines have closed the performance gap.

UPGRADE

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson worked hard all afternoon to remain inside the top five, and his work paid off when a green-white-checkered finish enabled him to overtake Kyle Larson to score a record 11th victory at the oval. Johnson was among the fastest in practice but stumbled slightly in qualifying. His team also made a change to

Sunday at Dover International Speedway was a historical moment. Jimmie Johnson scored his 11th win at the circuit and tied one of the sport's all-time greats on the career win list. Johnson didn't have a cakewalk to get the job done either. It took coming from the rear and making a perfect late-race restart to become the first three-time winner of the season. He held off Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr., as one of them looked most likely to hoist the winner's trophy at the end of the distance. Instead, Johnson played his afternoon to perfection and came out on top.

Despite appearing to have caught up to the competition, Toyota remained behind Chevrolet with just one of their machines finishing inside the top five. Chevrolet dominated the afternoon, and the highest-placed Ford was Kevin Harvick in ninth. Truex continues to carry the banner for the brand, and Kyle Busch continued to fall short of winning. The manufacturer has a chance to reassert itself this week at Pocono Raceway, however. The long straights make horsepower an important factor, which truly will show how much their engines have closed the performance gap.

UPGRADE

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson worked hard all afternoon to remain inside the top five, and his work paid off when a green-white-checkered finish enabled him to overtake Kyle Larson to score a record 11th victory at the oval. Johnson was among the fastest in practice but stumbled slightly in qualifying. His team also made a change to the car that forced him to start in the rear, but it wasn't enough to stop him from moving forward and having a clean afternoon and scoring the win. He is the first three-time winner this season, and the victory tied him with Cale Yarborough at sixth on NASCAR all-time wins list. The defending champion will look to repeat next week in Pocono where he has three career victories.

Kyle Larson – Larson started the weekend at Dover by topping the first practice session on Friday. He didn't fully reach his stride until the third segment of the race when he took the lead and stretched away from Martin Truex Jr. and Johnson, though. It looked as though he had the package to win late in Sunday's race, but a late caution and restart saw him spin his tires and lose position to Johnson. His runner-up finish was his third top-10 in the last three races, though. His momentum continues to be the best in the paddock. He hasn't finished worse than 12th in his six visits to Pocono Raceway and he led 37 laps in the fall race last season en route to a sixth-place finish.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex added to his collection of stage wins by taking the first and second segments at Dover on Sunday. The No. 78 machine has always been good at the concrete mile, and he took over the point once Kyle Busch encountered trouble. Unfortunately, he fell behind in the third segment and couldn't mount a quick enough challenge on the final restart to overtake Larson and Johnson and settled for third. However, that third-place finish marks his third top-five in the last three races. He is certainly on a roll. Truex won the spring Pocono race in 2015, but that is his only top-10 at the track in the last five races. In fact, he has just two top-10 Pocono finishes in his last eight tries.

Daniel Suarez – Things are beginning to click for Suarez. He has had a fantastic start as a rookie with quiet and composed race finishes but has yet to show the flashes of speed that fellow rookie Erik Jones has shown. He took a big step forward Sunday in Dover after he excelled in practice and qualifying, however. He may not have jumped out to lead laps, but his responsible sixth-place finish is exactly what he needs to come out on top in the battle for Rookie of the Year honors. The top finish was his fourth top-10 of the season and his second in the last three races. Continuing to run inside the top 10 will give him opportunities to win races, which he undoubtedly could accomplish.

DOWNGRADE

Kyle Busch – It didn't take long for things to go wrong for Busch at Dover. His first stop under caution led to leaving pit road without a rear wheel, which caused significant damage as he returned to pit road for a second time to get a tire put on. The huge mistake left him at the rear of the field with a damaged car but still on the lead lap. He worked his way back into the top five, but a late pitstop forced him out of contention for a top finish. Instead, he will walk away frustrated for yet another week and another finish outside of the top 10. Pocono is another track where Busch has never won and he has only led 23 laps in the last five visits.

Brad Keselowski – For the second consecutive week Keselowski was out of the race before the first stage was even complete. He was on the outside of Kurt Busch when the No. 41 machine lost control and turned into the No. 2. The contact pancaked Keselowski against the outside wall and ultimately out of Sunday's race at Dover. He has less to worry about than other drivers with a win already under his belt, but the loss of momentum is still a tough pill to swallow. With three consecutive top-fives at Pocono, this coming week could be an opportunity for him to break his current streak. However, he has only led 11 laps in those races, which could make him a less than optimal fantasy option.

Kurt Busch – After losing control and taking out Keselowski, Busch found himself struggling along. The struggles became too much to handle, and a blown tire sent him into the wall and completely out of contention. It was the second instance of contact for him in just a matter of a few miles, making his day a disaster. Like Keselowski, he does have an all-important win, but Sunday's problems ended a string of top-10 finishes he had begun scoring on a regular basis after a difficult early start to the year following his Daytona victory. Like Keselowski, Pocono presents an opportunity, however. He won this race last season and has three career victories at the circuit.

Clint Bowyer – A mechanical issue caused Bowyer to lose fluid and leave the fray to head to the garage for repairs. It was an early disappointment considering the race hadn't even completed the first stage. His start to the season with Stewart Haas Racing has been nothing short of impressive, but Sunday's trouble put an end to his streak of not finishing outside of the top 15 since Daytona. He was 16 laps off of the lead in the final stage of the race in what quickly became a testing session for the No. 14 team. Bowyer has been hit or miss at Pocono, too. He does have nine top-10s from 22 career starts, but he also has eight finishes outside of the top 15.

Joey Logano – Logano's woes extended another week with a blown tire in Dover. The Penske Racing driver has one win under his belt, but it doesn't count toward the playoffs. That means he is essentially still fighting for his ability to be part of the playoffs to determine this season's champion. Unfortunately, he lost a front tire in Sunday's race and clouted the wall causing significant damage. He does have one victory at Pocono but that was back in 2012. He finished fifth there in the spring last season but backed it up with a 37th-place in the fall after tangling with Chase Elliott. He was the favorite to win that race but will likely be considered an underdog this week.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Ty Dillon – Dillon spent a good amount of time leading Sunday's race in Dove and it wasn't because he cycled through a pitstop late. He deserved to have his car out front and was racing solidly in the top five in the final miles on Sunday, closely battling series winners and champions. For a rookie driver in a one-car team, that is remarkable. He ultimately was part of the multicar crash that ended the race but had it not been for that incident he likely would have walked away with hi first top-10 of the season. His run at Dover should give him confidence in the coming weeks, and that could mean bettering his best Pocono finish of 18th this coming Sunday.

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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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