NASCAR Cup Series
Chase Elliott Blocks Out the Narrative and Noise at Dover
May 2, 2022
In typical fashion, Ross Chastain wasn’t going to throw a driver he respects under the figurative bus, even after a battle with Martin Truex Jr. that resulted in the 2017 Cup Series champion spinning from inside the top-five on the final lap.
Truex confronted Chastain about the racing and resulting block, but the conversation never got heated.
When asked about it on television, Chastain said they were simply discussing where they planned to go fishing next week, seemingly an honorable deflection.
Chastain went on to finish third, sharing a podium with 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott and two-time Xfinity Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., on a day where he led 86 laps with a chance to win for the third time in 2022.
"I’m racing with champions," said Chastain on pit road after the race "and I got beat."
As for the final several laps, Chastain says he would have run that last lap different.
"Racing hard, I crowded him up and should have left him more of a lane," Chastain said.
All told, Chastain finished around where he anticipated entering the rain delayed conclusion, and probably picked up two spots when Kyle Busch and Alex Bowman were forced to restart at the rear of the field when a caution came out after their green flag pit stop on Lap 323.
"Super-proud of this effort," Chastain said. "I thought we were a fifth-place car, and a couple guys had misfortune with the cautions coming out, and that cycled us to the lead. The pit crew was incredible today. They were just picking up spots every stop and got us the lead."
All told, it continues a breakout stretch for Chastain in his debut season for Trackhouse Racing. He leads the Cup Series in wins (alongside William Byron) with two and is second in playoff points behind the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 driver.
Truex fell to 12th and wasn’t required to speak to the media as a result.
ALEX BOWMAN UNLUCKY AT DOVER
In finishing fifth, Alex Bowman had a good view of the battle between Chastain and Truex, although he didn’t entirely know what happened.
"No, but I know how Ross races, so I am sure he was just battling hard," Bowman said.
Given that the No. 48 team drove all the way through the field over the final 70 laps, Bowman really thought he very well could have been the Hendrick Motorsports driver standing in Victory Lane on Monday afternoon.
He was running second to Kyle Busch when they both began green flag pit stops on Lap 323. One lap later, a loose wheel for AJ Allmendinger’s No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet froze the field and trapped both contenders a lap down.
There just wasn’t enough time to get back through the field, especially on a day where passing was occasionally challenging due to turbulent dirty air off the draggy Next Gen car.
"Just a bummer day for us because obviously we had a shot at the win there in our No. 48 Ally Chevrolet; and then that caution in the middle of the pit cycle had us starting the last run last. To go last to fifth at a place like this is nothing to be ashamed of because it’s hard to pass.
"As far as my guys and the race car that we brought, just wish it would have gone a little better for us."
Bowman was the defending winner of this race, and not even a new car changed the feel he and crew chief Greg Ives had for the Monster Mile.
They again unloaded a race winning car and just needed one thing to go differently.
"Starting last on the last run," Bowman said. "There is no other way to say that. It’s tough around this place."
SOMETHING POSITIVE FOR STENHOUSE
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. didn’t get the win, but he really needed a day like Monday at Dover Motor Speedway.
The two-time Xfinity Series champion finished second to Chase Elliott and snapped an eight race stretch of finishes of 28th or worse. The results have been bad, but not entirely indicative of the performance this season.
Stenhouse was a contender in the Daytona 500, at Las Vegas, Atlanta and Bristol Dirt, but the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team have suffered countless mechanical issues and three DNFs due to crashes.
"Man, it’s been a rough start to the season," Stenhouse said. "Our short track program has been off. All of our other good races that we’ve had good runs going, something has always happened. Really good to put this all together. I felt like we had a car capable of winning, obviously getting off pit road at different times. My pit crew did a great job keeping us up front all day.
"This feels good. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum on. The big tracks, the tracks we’ve got coming forward, are really good tracks for us. That was a lot of fun. A lot of battling. It was tough to pass, but it was fun running through lapped traffic. I really wish we had, like, a 70-lap run to end there. All in all, our Kroger team is doing a great job, looking forward to carrying that momentum on."
And they need it too.
Even with the runner-up, Stenhouse is 27th in points and 93 points out of a provisional playoff spot.
"Our team has been putting together really good race cars," Stenhouse said. "A lot of our good races, we’ve had issues. We have been good on some of the bigger tracks. Our short-track program is definitely off a little bit, but it was an awesome day. We feel like we’ve been better than where we are right now as a race team. We’ve put a lot of fast race cars together, just haven’t had much to show for it. Really happy with this performance today.
"It was a tough battle out there. The track was tough. The cars were tough to drive. Our car was dialed in, and our pit crew did a fabulous job on pit road. Just came up one spot short."
GOODYEAR, NEXT GEN DELIVER AT DOVER
Look at the rubber laid down on the concrete surface at Dover on Monday.
The inherent draggy nature of the Next Gen car stifled passing early on Sunday but once the race resumed under sunny conditions on Monday, the Goodyear tire compound stuck to the track and the racing surface widened out as a result.
So even if a faster car would get stuck in the buffer zone behind a leading car, that driver could simply go to the outside to find front downforce and it made for compelling racing with a lot of passing.
According to NASCAR loop data, there were 21 green flag passes for the lead across Sunday and Monday, the most at Dover since 2013.
There were cording issues for drivers who pressed too hard throughout a run, but the track was overall very dynamic.
"We had some cording issues on and off throughout the day," Elliott said. "It had been getting better those last two runs. Just based on how hard everybody was driving, the fact it was getting better with the added aggressiveness over the last couple runs made me feel better about it."
The temperatures resulted in a grip limited race track.
"Knowing the sun was out, we knew it would be a treacherous race track, and it was a battle out there," Stenhouse said.