As the warriors of NASCAR took on the Monster Mile of Dover International Speedway this weekend, history was brought to life at an historically known track.
Bar Harbor 200
Kicking off the weekend was Friday night’s Bar Harbor 200, which would leave fans gripping their seats, wondering if a rookie driver could repeat an XFINITY win at the Monster Mile. While Brad Keselowski Racing driver Chase Briscoe would pick up the pole with a pole speed of 156.474 MPH, a 200-lap race would prove too much for this young driver. Instead, two other NASCAR Camping World Truck Series young guns would begin to dominate the first race on concrete this season.
Ryan Truex was the first young driver to lead the way in this race after picking up the Stage One win, but he lost his stamina to well-known Truck Series drivers like Ben Rhodes, who would lead a race-high 71 laps, and Matt Crafton, who would pick-up the win in Stage Two.
While these drivers all saw success in this race, the final laps came down to two – the No. 33 of Daytona winning driver Kaz Grala and 2016 Camping World Truck Series Champion Johnny Sauter. Although 18-year-old Grala would lead the field following the wave of the caution flag on lap 118, Sauter was able to move his way to the lead within a few laps. From that point on, the former champ and current point leader hugged the bottom and kept Grala in dirty air for the victory.
“This wasn’t our best-handling truck, but we were able to get a win with it,” said Sauter.
This victory, which followed three straight second-place finishes, was Sauter’s first of the season and his first at the Monster Mile.
One Main Financial 200
As the historical weekend continued at Dover, another well-known NASCAR name found his way to Victory Lane following Saturday’s One Main Financial 200. The No. 42 of Kyle Larson would lead the field to the wave of the green flag during Saturday’s race and prove that his experience competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is beneficial, as he led all but 28 laps of this 200-lap race.
The only other driver who would give Larson a run for his money was second place finisher Ryan Blaney, who led each of the remaining laps. Despite his efforts, Larson would lead the most important lap to bring home the checkers.
“Our cars have been really good on both sides, (Monster Energy NASCAR) Cup and XFINITY,” Larson said. “Especially XFINITY; we’ve been extremely good. We’ve done a really good job adjusting to this new (lower-downforce) aero package.
“This is the best car I’ve had here,” said Larson. “In fact, it seems like this is the best XFINITY car I’ve had thus far this season.”
Although Larson would bring home the race win, another driver would bring home the biggest consolation prize ever after being named the Dash 4 Cash winner. JR Motorsports driver William Byron would become one of the richest 19-year-old drivers around when his sixth-place finish in Saturday’s OneMain Financial 200 would propel him to the fourth and final XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash prize of a cool hundred grand.
“Hopefully we can keep building on this,” said the XFINITY Series rookie. “I wish we could’ve gotten a win, but a hundred grand’s really good. Good top-six for us. Hopefully we can get better next week. I think this is really something to build on.”
Elliott Sadler’s seventh-place finish allowed him to stretch his lead atop the XFINITY standings. He leads JRM teammate Justin Allgaier, Saturday’s 11th-place finisher, by 12 points. Byron sits third in a 1-2-3 sweep atop the standings by JR Motorsports drivers.
AAA 400 Drive for Autism
Jimmie Johnson Ties Cale Yarborough on All-Time Wins List
While history had already been made at one of NASCAR’s most popular tracks prior to the start of Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism race, Jimmie Johnson would bring home the most talked about historical win of the weekend. Despite Kyle Busch taking the pole for Sunday’s big race, he would be unable to keep this lead to pick-up at least one Stage win. Instead, the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr. would be declared the victor in the first two Stages of this race after leading three times for 102 laps, but was shuffled back after a Lap 343 caution flag fell during a pit-stop cycle giving the No. 42 of Saturday’s XFINITY winner the opportunity to take the lead.
Although Larson would lead six times for a race-high 241 laps, a yellow flag for a crash brought out by David Ragan would leave four laps left in regulation. As these laps wound down they would erase Larson’s lead and bunch up the field to eventually send the race six laps past its scheduled 400-lap distance.
Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet struggled to get going on the final drop of the green flag after being bumped from behind by rookie Ty Dillon’s No. 13 Chevrolet. This would give the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson, who started from the back of the pack after his Hendrick Motorsports team made an unapproved pre-race gear change prior to the start of this race, an opportunity to take the overtime race lead and ultimate win.
Johnson’s 11th win achievement at this one-mile track became the 83rd of his career in NASCAR’s premier series, which tied the Hendrick Motorsports driver with NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough on the all-time win list.
“To be here and tie him at 83 wins is amazing,” Johnson said of Yarborough. “We just got the tribute helmet. I wasn’t sure how quickly we’d be, or if we’d be able to go there, and get it done. But, Cale, you’re the man. Thank you for all you have done for our sport.”
NASCAR veterans will return to the track next weekend at Pocono Raceway. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for all the details from the world of NASCAR.