Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Kurt Busch has something to prove at Dover

Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images

The Sprint Cup Series headed to Dover for race number 3 of the Chase to the Sprint Cup and to tangle with Miles the Monster.

Leaving Dover, the top 9 drivers are only separated by 19 points, thanks in part to NASCAR's new points policy.

Here we recap how the Chase contenders did leaving Dover.

1. Kevin Harvick (Tied for the points lead with Carl Edwards) -By Lindi Bess

The Chase is heating up and if Kevin Harvick wants that coveted 2011 Sprint Cup championship, he’s going to have to pick up the pace. Although he walked away in first, he did so tied with the No. 99 of Carl Edwards. Harvick, with four race victories to Edward's one, holds the top position. Edwards, along with five-time champ Johnson, dominated the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, the third race in the Chase.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Rheem “Chasing the Cure” Chevrolet, began the race back in the 29th position, ending the race in 10th. With the No. 14 driver Tony Stewart losing two spots in the points and the No. 22 Penske Kurt Busch visiting Victory Lane, currently Kevin Harvick and Edwards lead by nine points as they head to Kansas Speedway, a 1.5-mile track where Kevin finished in 11th when they passed through back in June.

Harvick's 2011 season has been one of his best. In 29 starts, he has completed 97.7% of laps, leading 343. Winning four races with eight top 5s and 15 top 10s, I somehow doubt that Kevin is losing steam, maybe he’s just building some up!

Off we go for the Hollywood Casino 400 for a few laps around Kansas Speedway as the NSCS looks to continue to bring its fans to their feet as we get closer to Homestead.

The drivers and their respective teams will need to race every race like it's Homestead. Keeping their eyes on the prize and their foot on the gas, I hope you are all just as excited as we are at Skirts and Scuffs because this is gonna be a race to the finish, you can bet on it!

2. Carl Edwards (Tied for the points lead with Kevin Harvick) - By Unique Hiram

Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, showcased a dominating run at the start of the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway – “The Monster Mile.  Beginning on Lap 52, he led for a total 116 of the 400-lap race before making a costly mistake on pit road. On Lap 246, Edwards was clocked speeding on exit from pit road and had to serve a pass-through penalty, which put him running back in the 25th position – one lap down. (Note: Edwards was running in the top five before this incident occurred.)

"It was a great day, other than that feeling I had when I ruined it there on pit road," Edwards said. "That's about as small as you can feel in a race car. We talked about it before the race. We looked at the pit-road speeding lines and that last line. ... Bob and I actually discussed the last section. It's 25 feet, 8 inches long, and we talked about that run and how I was not going to speed through it, and I just blasted right through it.”

On Lap 300, Edwards was the recipient of “The Lucky Dog” after J.J. Yeley (No. 38) hit the wall and brought out the eighth caution of the race. “Concrete Carl” restarted in the 21st position (tail end of the lead lap) and was able to make his way back up through the field, cracking the top 10 with 50 laps to go. With 26 laps to go, Edwards was able to pass Kyle Busch for third and remained there until the checkered flag waved.

"We were very, very fortunate. As frustrated as I am with myself for messing that up, I'm really, really grateful for the gift that was given to us with that caution and the ability to come back up there. And the other thing that was really important to me was my guys sticking behind me, because they had every right to be really, really upset with me. So it ended up being a good finish."

Starting on the grid in fourth position, Edwards rallied back to a third-place finish after his speeding penalty. He is currently seeded in second position ,but tied for the lead with Kevin Harvick in the points standings.

3. Tony Stewart (- 9) A day of struggle at Dover - By Rebecca Kivak

After back-to-back wins, Tony Stewart’s hot streak came to a painful halt at Dover International Speedway. Stewart, the points leader entering the Monster Mile, left the concrete track in 25th place, two laps down after struggling throughout Sunday’s AAA 400. The finish cost Stewart the points lead and dropped him to the third spot in the standings.

The two-time Sprint Cup champion had his work cut out for him after qualifying 28th, putting him at a disadvantage from the get-go. After Sunday’s race got under way, Stewart reported a tight condition, the beginning of the handling problems for the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet. When the competition caution came out on Lap 40, crew chief Darian Grubb called for two tires to gain track position. The strategy worked, and the driver of the No. 14 drove his way up to 18th. But by halfway, Stewart was one lap down and mired in the 20s, unable to find the speed he was looking for. The day got worse for Stewart as he went two laps down in 28th on Lap 236 and ran as low as 30th. He crossed the finish line in 25th, the second of two finishes outside the top 20 at Dover this season.

Stewart said the No. 14 struggled with “just the whole package. Even when we got the balance half-way decent it didn’t have speed. So we just missed it.”

Despite losing two spots in the standings, Stewart is just 9 points behind co-leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.

4. Kurt Busch (-9) Winning Dover and silencing the critics - By Unique Hiram

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge, bounced back from an unfortunate challenging weekend in Loudon this past week to charge his way to Victory Lane at Dover International Speedway - “The Monster Mile.”  He started off the grid second at the start of the race and was able to dominate the last 42 laps, with a two-tire change on his last pit stop, to capture the checkered flag.

There were two cautions that Busch had to deal with before he was able to race to the finish and beat five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who was running a close second with Carl Edwards in tow.On Lap 351, Mike Bliss (No. 32) hit the wall bringing out the ninth caution. Approximately 10 laps later, Greg Biffle (No. 16) spun and hit the inside wall which brought out the 10th and final caution of the race. Both of these restarts allowed Kurt Busch to make up ground on Jimmie Johnson, who didn’t get a great restart either time.

"It was just perfect execution today, with pit stops and with making the car better during the race," Busch said. "I couldn't be happier right now. To win a Sprint Cup race in the Chase, this is what it's all about. This is the playoffs.  We had everything go wrong for us last week. We had everything go right for us this week. We just need nice smooth races from here."

The “Double Deuce” team and its driver are looking forward to heading to Kansas Speedway where they had a strong run this past June. Busch was able to capture the pole for the STP 400 and showed a dominating performance throughout the race; however, fuel mileage played a role in costing this team the victory. The Penske stable is very competitive with their 1.5-mile track program; therefore, they are headed to this track with a huge amount of confidence.

Busch is currently seeded fourth, nine points behind current leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.

5. Jimmie Johnson (-13) Five-time in a new position this year - By Katy Lindamood

Five-time series champion and six-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson started Sunday's race from the sixth position and sitting 10th in series standings. By the end of the day, Johnson had moved up five positions in the points after a second-place finish, proving that he's not ready to be counted out just yet.

Johnson stayed inside the top 7 all day, reporting on several occasions that the car was free, but after a series of adjustments Knaus and the crew were able to put a strong car under their driver. On Lap 115, during green-flag stops, the team made an air-pressure adjustment and changed four tires. When the yellow came out on Lap 138 after an accident in Turn 1, Johnson took two right side tires and returned to the track in the fourth and quickly moved into the second position behind leader Carl Edwards. On Lap 195 Johnson took the lead from Kevin Harvick pulling ahead by over one second in the next four laps. Although Johnson lost the lead during the green flag stops coming around Lap 250, he quickly regained position and went on to lead a total of 157 laps before a series of poor restarts late in the event saw Johnson struggle and Kurt Busch earn his second win of the 2011 season.

Following the race Johnson said, "Obviously a great day for us, to lead that many laps and to have great stops on pit road across the board, very, very strong effort. Wish that we could be one spot better but I just did not get two good restarts at the end of that thing and cost myself. So all in all, though, exactly what we needed. We needed to run in the top three here at one of our better racetracks, and mission accomplished."

As the series heads toward Kansas for the fourth race in the Chase, look for five-time to continue his rebound.

6. Brad Keselowski (-14) Battling back after power steering issues and still in the Chase title hunt - By Amanda Ebersole

Heading into the weekend, Keselowski tweeted his thoughts on Dover and said "Feeling really good about Dover this weekend. It's kinda like a bigger concert, high bank version of Bristol. And I LOVE Bristol."

After qualifying in 15th, Keselowski had his work ahead of him.

Making gains, by Lap 75, Keselowski was already up to sixth place. He reported that the handling was tight in the center and loose late off the corners. The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team went to work to make adjustments and a short while later he radioed into report "this run was the best my cars been all day."

Things were looking good until around Lap 250, when after hitting something on track, the power steering went out. Crew chief Paul Wolfe and Keselowski made the call to head down pit road for an unscheduled stop, repairs were made to the power steering belt which had apparently slipped off and Keselowski made it back out on track although a lap down.

Trying to battle back onto the lead lap, Keselowski was about to take the wave around when the caution come out for a single-car accident involving Mike Bliss. This now out Keselowski two laps down and as he said. "absolute worst time possible," in reference to when the caution happened. Keselowski would settle for a 20th place finish in the AAA 400.

After the race, Keselowski said, "It was just one of those races where everything was meant to work against us and we still fought back. Sometimes you've got to take those disaster days and keep fighting and get the good days or a respectable day."

7.  Matt Kenseth (-14) Still in the battle but searching for a win - By Amanda Ebersole 

Returning to the site of his first career Sprint Cup start and the track he calls his favorite, Matt Kenseth needs a win to stay in the Chase title hunt. Currently sitting in seventh place and now 14 points behind leader Kevin Harvick,  Kenseth is is need of consistent finishes to overtake the points lead.

Qualifying in 18th, Kenseth had ground to make up. Through pit strategy and hard racing, Kenseth and crew chief Jimmy Fennig made adjustments on the Crown Royal Ford to fix the loose condition they were battling in order to get Kenseth into position to battle for the lead.

By Lap 151 Kenseth broke his way into the top 5 after a two-tire call by Fennig. Now battling a tight handling car, Kenseth reported that the handling was coming around as the run went on.

At Lap 248, Kenseth took the lead, passing Jimmie Johnson, only to lose the lead for just a couple laps to Jeff Burton. Kenseth retook the lead once again at Lap 253 and led a total of three laps during Sunday's race.

As the checkered fell, Kenseth finished in fifth and stays in seventh place in the Chase, holding steady.

8. Kyle Busch (-15)  Fighting back after damage, not to be counted out of the Chase - By Melissa Wright

As we all know the No. 18 is always a “who to watch for” in any race, especially with Kyle Busch already having two victories at Dover International Speedway. On Friday during both practice sessions, Kyle ran a combined number of 117 laps. In the first practice he was fifth fastest and at the conclusion of happy hour he was 11th on the board. He rolled out fifth for the AAA 400 at the Monster Mile on Sunday.

After the first caution came out due to A.J Allmendinger's spin, Kyle restarted in sixth. Shortly after that caution he asked for a splitter check. Something was on the race track in between Turns 3-4 and he hit it. He reported that after hitting what ended up being the sway bar arm that was knocked off of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car, that his Toyota was loose and had a little damage to the right side. The team opted to stay out until the competition yellow on Lap 40.

The chatter on the radio was unusually quiet. Busch said that he needed more rear and front grip and took four tires throughout his pit stops while some teams only took two. He maintained an average position of sixth and also led one lap.

Approaching the checkered flag, his crew chief, (Dave Rogers) stated, “Way to fight all day bud, thank you. We'll take a look at the splitter but I believe it messed us up a little more than we wanted. The 88's sway bar broke and fell off, that's what you hit.” Kyle said, “10-4. Good fight all day guys. Sorry. We just missed a little bit there. I hate it.” Rogers went on to say, “ Alright bud. We fought all day and that's what counts. P6. We'll take it.”

9. Jeff Gordon (-19) Needs to put it into overdrive to win the Chase - By Katy Lindamood

Jeff Gordon started Sunday's race from the 34th position after a poor qualifying run on Friday. The Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was fast during portions of the AAA 400 from Dover, but when it counted the No. 24 didn't have enough steam to take the checkered flag. In the opening laps Gordon was one of the fastest cars, picking up 15 positions by the time the competition caution came out on Lap 40. The team struggled from that point forward, never moving inside the top 10 as the laps wound down. Complaining of the car plowing through the corners, the team made a series of adjustments during each round of pit stops, but none of the changes seemed to help. Although the team performed solidly on pit road, they lost several positions when the car stalled during a series of green flag stops on Lap 249.

Gordon came home in the 12th position and sits ninth in series standings with seven races left in the Chase. If the four-time champ wants to stand a chance of winning the championship, he needs to put it in overdrive for the remainder of the season.

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-34) Struggles abound but the Nation remains hopeful - By Lacy Keyser

Dale Earnhardt Jr. started Dover in 21st and was making ground when the first caution of the day came out on Lap 5. But something was amiss with the No. 88 car. Earnhardt pulled off to the side and was dropping positions left and right. Something was either broken or a tire was flat on the car. Earnhardt radioed to Steve Letarte that he thought the sway bar was broken. Earnhardt’s crew quickly got to work to make a brand new sway bar. When the competition caution came out at Lap 40, Earnhardt quickly went down pit road and got his sway bar fixed.  He went one lap down and would have to battle his way for the lucky dog.

With a brand new sway bar, Earnhardt’s No. 88 car looked like a rocket. He got the lucky dog and was back on the lead lap, battling his way to the top. Earnhardt even had a great battle with leader Carl Edwards to prevent himself from going a lap down again. Earnhardt battled his way to a nice top-15 position and was getting up to 14th and 13th; it looked to be a great turnaround day for Earnhardt.

That was short-lived with 50 to go, when suddenly a vibration made Earnhardt feel like he had to pit and pit fast because he didn’t feel like it would hold. After pitting, it was discovered that Earnhardt did in fact have a loose wheel. Sadly the day ended badly for Earnhardt. He finished a disappointing 24th place, two laps down. He resides 10th in points, but have no fear Junior Nation, he can bounce back.

A few post-race quotes from Dale Jr:

"It was just too loose, and I didn't think we could make it many more laps," said Earnhardt Jr. "So we had to come in and fix that, and that got us behind pretty bad. From there on, it was a little too late to play catch-up."

"It's really hard to look yourself in the mirror when you don't give it your all, even when it doesn't look great and your opportunity to win a championship doesn't look great," he said. "It's hard to look at yourself in the mirror if you don't try every time, every lap."

11. Ryan Newman (-41) - Title hopes diminishing - By Genevieve Cadorette 

Ryan Newman started the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway in 20th position and stayed in the 20th spots throughout the race and he finished in 23rd position. It was an uneventful race; he simply didn't have the car this weekend to get ahead of the game.

"When it ain't your day, it ain't your day," Newman was heard saying on the radio when he was in 29th position on Lap 295.

He started 11th in points and after Sunday's race, he is still 11th in points, 41 points behind co-leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards. With six more races to go, the chances of a Cup title seem to be over for Newman and the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet team.

12. Denny Hamlin (-68) - Down and out of Chase contention - By Holly Machuga

Going into the AAA 400, Denny Hamlin sat last in the point standings and that is where he remains after the race.

Hamlin started in 11th at Dover International Speedway, but dropped back to 17th by Lap 100. Within those first 100 laps, he was racing hard and got into the top 10. As the scoring pylon showed Lap 200, he was nowhere to be found in the top 20.

However, Denny and the No. 11 FedEx Toyota team brought it back for an 18th-place finish. They fought a race car that seemed to be possessed all day long. While sitting in 12th place in points, they have nothing to lose. Just as Denny said, they will be fighting these last seven races for wins.

Next up, the NSCS heads to Kansas for the Hollywood Casino 400 as we enter race number four of the Chase. Stay tuned to Skirts and Scuffs this week as we will have previews for all Chase drivers on Friday headed into the race weekend. 
Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Kurt Busch has something to prove at Dover Skirts and Scuffs Takes on The Chase: Kurt Busch has something to prove at Dover Reviewed by Admin on Monday, October 03, 2011 Rating: 5