Parks Pit Report: AAA 400 at Dover

Brad Keselowski got his first win at Penske Racing thanks to fuel mileage. At Dover, he won his fifth race of the season thanks to the same strategy.

Fuel mileage races always seem to baffle me, especially when it’s usually at a track where that type of strategy is normally never considered.  Tracks like Michigan, California, Pocono, and even Homestead have seen their share of fuel mileage races.

But Dover, the track nicknamed the “Monster Mile?”  Seriously?

That was the last thing I ever expected at a track that has a gigantic statue outside the entrance that holds a full-size stock car in it’s hand.  Sure enough, that’s what happened, but the fuel strategy this time cost guys, while one is rather baffling.

First, the race appeared to be between the two top guys in the race, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson.  But, because of how the cautions fell, Busch was going to be about eight laps short on the fuel needed to make it, while Johnson was right on the cusp of making it to the finish, barring a green-white-checkered situation.  Busch, with about seven laps remaining, had to make the trip to pit road for a splash of fuel, as did teammate Denny Hamlin.

A few laps earlier, Johnson yielded the lead to Busch as crew chief Chad Knaus told him to back off the throttle in order to make it to the finish.  But, as he did that, he began falling into the clutches of other drivers who were close on fuel or could make it.

Busch ended up finishing seventh, while Johnson saved enough to take the checkered flag in fourth.

Then, there’s race winner Brad Keselowski.  His team was on the same strategy as Johnson, trying to make it to the end.  But, Keselowski passed Johnson for position, and once Busch and Hamlin pitted, inherited the lead.  He was being run down by Jeff Gordon, who on the race’s final caution elected to come in for fuel, which would give him enough to make it to the finish.

Keselowski backed it down enough to hold off Gordon to make it to the finish, winning his fifth race of the year, but even I am questioning how much fuel really was in the tank.

I say this because of how he celebrated the victory.  After getting the American Flag put in the window, as is traditional the last few years, but when he started doing the burnouts it lasted through turns 1 and 2, then he did a standing burnout at the start/finish line right up on the wall.  After a small smoke show on the front straightaway, he then did more donuts in turns 3 and 4, long before going to victory lane.

So how much fuel was really in the tank?  Did every driver get snookered by the blue deuce in thinking he may not make it to the finish, but still had enough to burn down a set of Goodyear racing slicks?

Guess that’s a mystery that will remain unsolved.  Keselowski has the trophy, end of story.

RESULTS:  1-Keselowski  2-Gordon  3-Martin  4-Johnson  5-Edwards  6-Truex Jr.  7-Kyle Busch  8-Hamlin  9-Bowyer  10-Logano

NOTABLE FINISHES:  11-Earnhardt Jr.  13-Harvick  15-Kahne  16-Biffle  20-Stewart  35-Kenseth

CAUTIONS:  5 for 28 laps.  Lap 70-76 (Debris), 180-184 (Debris), 247-252 (Debris), 310-315 (Debris from #17), 318-321 (#17 accident-T4).

LEAD CHANGES:  11 among 6 drivers.  Hamlin 1-34, Kyle Busch 35-145, Gordon 146, Bowyer 147, Keselowski 148-151, Kyle Busch 152-180, Hamlin 181-184, Kyle Busch 185-311, Johnson 312-354, Kyle Busch 355-389, Hamlin 390, Keselowski 391-400.

TIME OF RACE:  3 Hrs, 11 Mins, 53 Secs.

AVERAGE SPEED:  125.076 MPH

MARGIN OF VICTORY:  1.078 Seconds

2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup:  1. Keselowski, 2142 points; 2. Johnson, -5; 3. Hamlin, -16; 4. Bowyer, -25; 5. Stewart, -32; 6. Bowyer, -32; 7. Earnhardt Jr, -39; 8. Truex Jr, -42; 9. Harvick, -46; 10. Gordon, -48; 11. Biffle, -51; 12. Kenseth, -72

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