Rowdy steals Dover win from Elliott to close Round of 16

Rowdy+steals+Dover+win+from+Elliott+to+close+Round+of+16

Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images

It ain’t over until the fat lady sings—er—until the checkered flag flies.

That old saying rang true once again on Sunday at Dover International Speedway, as Kyle Busch rocketed by Chase Elliott with two laps to go in the Apache Warrior 400 presented by Lucas Oil to win his fourth race of the season and leave Elliott heartbroken once again.


ONE ROWDY FINISH

Rowdy led 30 laps on the afternoon, but only led two on the final green flag run—the last two.

Kyle Busch ran down Chase Elliott from more than four seconds back over the course of 40 laps, ultimately taking the lead from the No. 24 coming to the white flag and not looking back.

Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

“I got within five lengths and I stalled out and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I think that was it,’” Busch said to NBCSN after winning his third race in the last six tries. “But I got back to the top and got enough momentum back rolling. Chase (Elliott) was kind of plugged up with the lapped cars in front of him, so I think the lapped cars actually helped us with that one.”

Those lapped cars Busch was referring to included Ryan Newman, who was battling for the final playoff spot. Elliott struggled to get by the No. 31 and other lapped traffic in a timely manner, which slowed his momentum and allowed the No. 18 to close rapidly. The victory was also Busch’s second in a row, dating back to last weekend at New Hampshire.

Overall, just (a) great day for us,” Busch went on to say. “Great job by the team being able to get in Victory Lane here in Dover. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in Victory Lane here, and it’s hard to come by wins here because Jimmie (Johnson) takes up all the darn trophies.


STILL CHAS(E)ING HIS FIRST

Chase Elliott has been notorious for being extremely hard on himself in the past. And on pit road after his second-best finish at Dover International Speedway, it was no different.

I thought if I had a clean track, I could have run as fast as he did, but I didn’t, and I should have done something different,” Elliott said in the media center post-race. “So that’s just on me, and he did a better job than I did. At the end of the day that’s what it comes down to.”

Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Elliott could be seen burying his head in his hands upon parking his No. 24 Chevrolet on pit road, trying to equate himself with the events that just unfolded. Before doing his television interview with NBCSN, teammate and seven-time champion and 11-time Dover race winner Jimmie Johnson came over to console the 21-year old Hendrick Motorsports driver.

Elliott will most likely become the sport’s most popular driver next year once his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. hangs up his full-time helmet at season’s end, but the Dawsonville, Ga. native knows, like the rest of us, that he needs to find the winner’s circle soon—very soon.


THE FIELD

Following Busch and Elliott across the finish line was 11-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson in third. Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five. The No. 42 led 137 laps, but was forced to restart in fifth after his engine wouldn’t restart during a caution. He failed to maintain pace car speed. In doing so, he was penalized four positions and could never recover.

Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 10, with Matt Kenseth and Erik Jones coming home in 11th and 12th, respectively. Other playoff contenders that advanced included Kevin Harvick in 17th, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 19th, Ryan Blaney in 23rd and Denny Hamlin in 35th after hitting the wall late.


WHO’S OUT

Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman were the four drivers eliminated when the Apache Warrior 400, and the Round of 16, concluded from the Monster Mile.

Jamie McMurray started mid-pack, but took care of his business and made it into the Round of 12 easily. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made it in by the skin of his teeth, two points to be exact. And if it weren’t for his third-place finish in stage one, he would’ve been on the outside looking in.

Photo: John K Harrelson/NKP

The No. 17’s luck was at an all-time high on lap 86, when Jeffrey Earnhardt spun into the barriers at the entrance to pit road, bringing out a caution. Stenhouse Jr.’s crew chief, Brian Pattie, opted to keep the Olive Branch, Miss. native on track for longer than most in hopes of a caution to trap most the field one lap down. And they got exactly what they wanted.

There were only five cars on the lead lap at that time, meaning he restarted in the top five. Pattie’s strategy call paid off. Stenhouse Jr. wound up being able to hold onto his track position until the end of the stage and garnered seven stage points.

In the end, those were the difference, as he bested Newman by two points in advancing to the next round of the 2017 NASCAR postseason.

The Richard Childress Racing teammates of Newman and Dillon finished 13th and 16th, respectively, with Kahne finishing in 14th and Kurt Busch coming home in 20th.


GORDON AND NEWMAN EXCHANGE WORDS

There were no fisticuffs, but there was a slight confrontation between Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon on pit road following the conclusion of the Apache Warrior 400 from Dover.

Here’s the backstory you need to know: Gordon, albeit a broadcaster for FOX, has an ownership stake in Hendrick Motorsports. Although his duties as driver of the No. 24 are no more, he can be frequently seen sitting on their pit box, as he was this past weekend in Delaware.

Newman has a reputation in the garage as one of, if not the hardest guy to pass on track, whether it be for position or as a lapped car. And as the race was winding down, Elliott, then the leader, approached Newman, who was aiming to get into the Round of 12.

Newman slowed Elliott’s momentum down a slight amount, allowing Kyle Busch to close in on the No. 24. The No. 18 eventually went on to pass Elliott and win the race. Gordon wasn’t too thrilled with Newman and how he raced the leaders in the closing stages.

“Thanks for the help,“ Gordon seemed to tell Newman sarcastically in regards to not letting the leaders go by. Newman, who is also known for being one of those guys you don’t want to mess with, didn’t take too kindly to those words uttered by the four-time Cup champion.

“You don’t think I was racing for my own position?” Newman questioned as Gordon aimed to defend himself, shown in the video. “Just watch what you say, man. You said it as a smartass.”

The two were later captured talking things out in the garage, and no problems seem to be imminent, as Gordon denied any ill-will towards the driver of the No. 31 RCR driver.


WHAT’S NEXT

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads home to Charlotte, N.C. for the Bank of America 500 from Charlotte Motor Speedway. That event marks the first of the Round of 12, consisting of three more races at CMS, Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway.