Erik Jones Finishes 12th At Dover

Erik Jones
Erik Jones battled an ill-handling No. 77 SiriusXM Toyota throughout Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway but his determination paid off with a well-earned 12th-place finish.

Jones maintained 19th place in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 29 races. His 728 points is 13 behind Joey Logano in 18th and 22 behind Clint Bowyer in 17th. He is 75 points ahead of Daniel Suarez in 20th.

“The SiriusXM Toyota was always way too tight firing off regardless of what we did,” said Jones. “Just a frustrating day. I had to chase it up the hill in the turns all day. It was like I was skiing on the track all day. Just frustrating. Somehow we were able to salvage a 12th-place finish out of it.”

Jones lined up on the outside of Row 5 for the start of the 400-mile race. The handling of the 77 SiriusXM Toyota was tight from the green flag and stayed that way throughout the first two stages despite numerous chassis and air pressure adjustments. Jones was scored 17th at the conclusion of Stage 1 and 11th after Stage 2.

Quick work by the Furniture Row Racing pit crew put Jones back on track 10th to start the final stage on Lap 249. He maintained that position until lead cars began to pit under caution on Lap 320.

Jones cycled out in 12th place after a final green-flag stop on Lap 334 set the stage for run to the checkered flag.

The handling issues continued throughout the balance of the event. Jones maintained his position to take the checkered flag 12th.

The race winner was Kyle Busch. Rounding out the top 10 were: Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Truex, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray and Brad Keselowski.

The race had four cautions for 24 laps and a red flag for nearly 16 minutes. There were 15 lead changes among six drivers.


Truex Fought For A Fourth Place Finish At Dover

Martin Truex, Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. earned a hard-fought fourth-place finish as he continued his playoff consistency Sunday in the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Truex, who started from the pole and led three times for 51 laps in his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, had some handling issues that prevented him from chasing down the leader.

“We were off a bit today,” said Truex. “The short-run, long-run speed weren’t quite there and the balance of the Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota shifted way too much. I thought maybe we should have been second or third, but that last run just really went away on us. It is what it is. When you run fourth and you’re disappointed it shows what your team is made of. Proud of everyone, they did a good job all weekend.”

The good news for Truex is that he enters the next round of the playoffs first in points – 3059, an 18-point lead over second place Kyle Busch. The three playoff races in the Round of 12 will be at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Oct. 8), Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 15) and Kansas Speedway (Oct. 22). The top eight drivers will advance to the next round. (see points standings below)

Truex completed the first round of the playoffs with a 3.3 finishing average, the best finishing average among the 16 playoff drivers. His fourth-place Dover finish was preceded with a victory at Chicagoland Speedway (Sept.  17) and a fifth in New Hampshire (Sept. 24).

“I am looking forward to the next round and feel good about where this Furniture Row Racing team is at right now,” said Truex, a five-time winner on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit this season. “We just need to maintain our consistency.”

The Apache Warrior 400 winner was Kyle Busch. Rounding out the top 10 were: Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Truex, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray and Brad Keselowski.

The race had four cautions for 24 laps plus a red flag for nearly 16 minutes. There were 15 lead changes among six drivers.


It Surely Wasn’t Pretty For Blaney At Dover

Ryan Blaney
It wasn’t pretty for Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team in Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway, but it was mission accomplished as they will advance to the Monster Energy Cup Playoff Round of 12 despite a 23rd-place finish.

Blaney qualified 11th but struggled from the start with an ill-handling car.

He had dropped to 20th place by Lap 63, but the real setback came just after he made his first green-flag pit stop.

Before the cycle of pit stops could be completed, Jeffrey Earnhardt struck the barrels at the end of pit road, bringing out the caution flag and trapping Blaney two laps behind the leaders who hadn’t stopped at that point.

Blaney regained one lap but was never able to get back the second, even as the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team worked on his car during pit stops and improved its handling.

Although Blaney remained in position to advance to the second round of the playoffs throughout the race, there were some anxious moments in the final laps as the rear gear temperature rose to a problematic level.

But the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion showed its durability as Blaney nursed the car to the checkered flag.

That put him among the 12 drivers who will advance to the second playoff round, which begins next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“It is definitely not the day we wanted, and we got trapped a lap down early, didn’t fire off very good,” Blaney said. “At least we got our car a little better the last 100 laps or so, but then we had an issue and I had to take it easy toward the end.”

But, in the bigger, playoff picture, all was good in the end.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood commended his young driver for showing great poise in a difficult situation.

“We didn’t have the best car, but Ryan took what he had and made it to the second round of the playoffs,” Wood said. “He didn’t put himself in any bad spots, and he realized that it wasn’t about gaining positions, it was about making it to the end of the race.”

Blaney said that with the first playoff round behind him, he’s looking forward not only to the upcoming race at Charlotte but also to Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, the other two tracks in the Round of 12.

“I think the tracks just play into our favor,” he said. “We are really fast at 1.5-mile race tracks and had a good run at Kansas earlier, and [on] speedways we run great.

“Charlotte, we had a broken axle earlier this year but we were pretty decent in that race before that happened. The 1.5-mile tracks seem to be our strong suit, and hopefully we can keep that up and keep making that our strong suit.”

Blaney enters the Round of 12 in ninth place in the standings with 3,008 points.


Danica Finishes In 18th Place At Dover

Danica Patrick's helmet
Date: Oct. 1, 2017

Event: Apache Warrior 400 (Round 29 of 36)

Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Location: Dover (Del.) International Speedway (1-mile, concrete oval)

Format: 400 laps, broken into three segments (120 laps/120 laps/160 laps)

Start/Finish: 24th/18th (Running, completed 399 of 400 laps)

Point Standing: 27th (440 points)


Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Brad Keselowski of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)


Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-120):

● Danica Patrick started 24th, finished fifth and earned six bonus points.

● The No. 10 Ford Warriors in Pink Ford Fusion team dropped to 30th on the initial start. Patrick was able to race her way back up to 26th. She went a lap down to the leader at lap 71 but cycled back onto the lead lap as teams started making green-flag stops 10 laps later. Crew chief Billy Scott called Patrick to pit road at lap 86, but her spotter called it off as the caution flag waved before she got to pit road.

● Patrick restarted from the fourth position at lap 92 and remained in the top-five through the end of the stage.

● The No. 10 team pitted under caution at lap 89 for four tires and fuel, and again at lap 123 for tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.


Stage 2 Recap (Laps 121-240):

● Started seventh and finished 19th.

● Patrick dropped back to 15th by lap 150. When the team pitted under caution for tires, fuel and adjustments at lap 169, she restarted in the 20th position at lap 173.

● She was able to pick up one spot before the end of the stage. The team pitted between stages for tires, fuel and adjustments.


Final Stage Recap (Laps 241-400):

● Started 18th and finished 18th.

● Patrick started the final stage from the 18th position and fell to 20th before green-flag stops started at lap 318. The No. 10 Ford Warriors in Pink team elected to stay out until lap 335 for its final stop of the race. Patrick pitted from the sixth position for tires, fuel and adjustments.

● Once the field cycled through green-flag stops, Patrick was scored in the 18th position, one lap down to the leader. In the closing laps she maintained her position and took the checkered flag in 18th.



● This was Patrick’s 11th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and her 183rd career NASCAR Cup Series start.

● Patrick earned 25 points in Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway, which puts her at 440 total points for the season thus far. She is ranked 27th in the driver point standings.

● There were four caution periods for a total of 24 laps.

● Only 12 of the 40 drivers in the Apache Warrior 400 finished on the lead lap.

● Kyle Busch won the Apache Warrior 400 to score his 42nd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his fourth of the season and his third at Dover International Speedway. His margin of victory over second-place Chase Elliott was .357 of a second.

● Martin Truex Jr. leads the championship standings with 3,059 points and has an 18-point margin over his nearest pursuer, Busch.


Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Ford Warriors in Pink Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“We’d hoped to get a top-15 run today, but it just didn’t work out in the end. We needed just a little bit more, but overall it was a solid day for the Warriors in Pink Ford team.”


Kyle Busch Steals The Apache Warrior 400 Win At Dover

Kyle Busch

You can call Kyle Busch the Grinch.

Halloween may be the next holiday on the calendar, but Kyle Busch, for sure, stole Christmas morning from Chase Elliott late Sunday afternoon at Dover International Speedway.

Running Elliott down from more than four seconds back in the last 40 laps of the Apache Warrior 400 at the Monster Mile, Busch powered his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around the outside of Elliott’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and cleared him off Turn 4 as the cars approached the white flag.

A lap later, Busch had his second straight victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff, leaving a disheartened Elliott still in search of his first victory in the series and agonizing over what he might have done differently.

Though Elliott was inconsolable, there were plenty of positives in his performance. The Hendrick cars showed real speed for the first time since the Playoff began two weeks earlier at Chicagoland, and Elliott moved on comfortably to the Round of 12.

Not as fortunate were Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch, who were eliminated from the Playoffs, as Ricky Stenhouse Jr., claimed the 12th and final spot in the next round by two points over Newman, thanks to a risky-but-serendipitous pit call by crew chief Brian Pattie.

But it was Busch who stole the show and stole the race, running the top line as he sliced into Elliott’s advantage and diced his way through traffic more adroitly than his less experienced rival.

“Man, I saw that carrot out there, and I wanted to go and get it,” said Busch, who won for the fourth time at Dover and the 42nd time in his career. “I got within five lengths and I stalled out and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I think that was it,’ you know? But I got back to the top and got enough momentum back rolling. Chase 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.

“But, overall, just great day for us. 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 (11-time Dover winner) Jimmie (Johnson) takes up all the darn Monster trophies. But it’s nice to have a third or fourth in my collection – I can’t remember.”

Johnson, who finished third, tried to console his teammate, but Elliott felt he let his team and organization down when he failed to beat Busch to the finish line.

“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,” said Elliott, still despondent when he arrived at the media center for his post-race interview. “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…

“Man, such a bummer, such a disappointment for my team. I don’t really have a whole lot to add.”

Series leader and pole winner Martin Truex Jr. ran fourth, followed by Kyle Larson and a trio of non-Playoff drivers—Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Daniel Suarez.

Busch, Truex, Larson and 10th-place finisher Brad Keselowski had clinched spots in the Round of 12 before arriving at Dover. Elliott, Johnson, Jamie McMurray (ninth on Sunday), Matt Kenseth (11th), Kevin Harvick (17th), Ryan Blaney (23rd), Denny Hamlin (35th) and Stenhouse (19th) joined them on Sunday.

But it was Stenhouse who won the nail-biter. But for Pattie’s decision to keep the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford on track as long as possible during a cycle of green-flag pit stops late in the first stage, Stenhouse would have been eliminated.

As luck would have it, Jeffrey Earnhardt spun into the barrels protecting the entrance to pit road on Lap 86 to cause the first caution of the race one circuit before Stenhouse was scheduled to pit. The fortuitous yellow left five cars on the lead lap and gave Stenhouse the track position he needed to score seven points as the fourth-place finisher in Stage 1.

That gave him the edge he needed over Newman.

“We caught the caution there right at the right time with a perfect amount of laps left in the stage to get stage points and that was the turning point of the day,” said Stenhouse, who battled back from disaster at Chicagoland and a lackluster run at New Hampshire. “Our Fastenal Ford was definitely not close to what we needed, especially the last two runs. We were close before the last two runs and made some adjustments there and really fell off.

“All in all, like I said, I feel lucky that we had all the mistakes at Chicago and really not a good car at Chicago, Loudon or Dover but we still made it in. Really, it’s hats off to the guys for fighting all day, and it’s nice that the round starts over.”

Check out the unofficial results of the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover.


Cole Custer Logs Another Top Ten Finish At Dover

Cole Custer
Date: Sep. 30, 2017

Event: Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 (Round 28 of 33)


Location: Dover (Del.) International Speedway (Mile oval)

Format: 200 laps, broken into three stages (60 laps/60 laps/120 laps)

Start/Finish: 6th/8th (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)

Playoff Point Standings: 4th (2,093 points, 14 points out of first)


Race Winner: Ryan Blaney of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 1 Winner: William Byron of JR Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner: Ryan Blaney of Team Penske (Ford)


Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):

● Cole Custer started sixth, finished eighth. Earned three stage points.

● In the opening laps of the stage, Custer piloted his Haas Automation Mustang in and around the top-five, but noted loose-handling conditions.

● At the conclusion of Stage 1, Custer pitted for four fresh tires, fuel, chassis adjustments and air pressure adjustments.


Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):     

● Started sixth, finished seventh. Earned four stage points.

● Custer ran as high as fourth place in the second stage.

● Throughout the stage, the balance of Custer’s Haas Automation Mustang shifted to the tight side as the stage wore on.

● Custer pitted for four more tires, fuel and adjustments at the conclusion of Stage 2.


Final Stage Recap (Laps 120-200):          

● Started seventh, finished eighth.

● On the initial restart of the final stage, Custer was caught in traffic and fell to the 12th position.

● He continued to note tight-handling conditions, but re-entered the top-10 halfway through the stage.

● Custer continued to move his Haas Automation Mustang up through the field, gaining a few more spots by the time the checkered flag waved in order to earn his 15th top-10 of the season.



 The Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 was Custer’s 33rd NASCAR XFINITY Series start and his seventh at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

● Custer earned his 15th top-10 of the 2017 season, his 17th top-10 in 33 XFINITY Series starts and his third at Dover.

● Custer earned a total of seven combined stage points.

● Five cautions slowed the race for 28 laps.

Ryan Blaney won the Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 to score his sixth career XFINITY Series victory, second of the season and first at Dover. His margin of victory over second-place Justin Allgaier was 4.852 seconds.


Playoff Standings:         

1.     Justin Allgaier (2,107 points)

2.     William Byron (2,104, points, -3)

3.     Elliott Sadler (2,094 points, -13)

4.     Cole Custer (2,093 points, -14)

5.     Daniel Hemric (2,090 points, -17)

6.     Brennan Poole (2,082 points, -25)

7.     Matt Tifft (2,067 points, -40)

8.     Ryan Reed (2,055 points, -52)

9.     Brendan Gaughan (2,053 points, -54)

10.   Michael Annett (2,048 points, -59)

11.   Blake Koch (2,043 points, -64)

12.   Jeremy Clements (2,035 points, -72)


Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“We had a solid Haas Automation Mustang. We definitely didn’t have the best car but we made it better all day. The last restart didn’t play out for us; it was tough to pass. We got held up in the wrong lane there. We didn’t make any mistakes and got the points that we needed. It was a good day and we’ll head to Charlotte with confidence.”


Ryan Blaney Dominated The Last 2/3 Of The NXS Race At Dover

Ryan Blaney
Once Ryan Blaney got the lead in Saturday’s Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway, it was “game over” in the second NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoff race of the season.

After Playoff driver William Byron led every lap of the 60-circuit first stage and banked a playoff point, Blaney took the lead off pit road under caution on Lap 64. Blaney kept his No. 22 Team Penske Ford out front the rest of the way, except for one lap led by Daniel Suarez on pit road under caution after the conclusion of Stage 2.

Playoff driver Justin Allgaier charged from fourth to second on the Lap 128 restart that began the final stage, which ran under a green flag to the finish. Though Allgaier was able to hold off Byron, his JR Motorsports teammate, and hold the series lead, he had nothing for Blaney, who finished 4.852 seconds ahead of Allgaier’s No. 7 Chevrolet.

“It’s really hard to get a car like that, and, to be honest, we didn’t have it in the first run,” said Blaney, who will try to advance to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 in Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400. “We were a little bit off on the first run. We made some great changes after the first stage to get it better to where it needs to be.

“We actually got it better for the last run… As a driver, that’s all you can ask for, great changes throughout. It’s awesome to get to Victory Lane with (sponsor) Fitzgerald. This is really cool. We were close the first race this year and just didn’t quite get it. Definitely learned a lot for tomorrow.”

The victory was Blaney’s sixth in the series, his second this season and his first at the Monster Mile.

Though he couldn’t catch Blaney over the final run, Allgaier also had reason to celebrate as the highest finishing series regular. Heading to Charlotte 54 points above the current cut line for the second round of the XFINITY Playoff, Allgaier is a virtual lock to advance.

So is Byron, who chased Allgaier for the final 73 green-flag laps but couldn’t find a way past his teammate. Byron is 51 points above the cutoff with the Playoff field scheduled to be pared from 12 to eight drivers next Saturday at Charlotte.

“I was trying to put it in Victory Lane,” Allgaier said. “We just needed a little more. I ran high some, low some. There at the end we made a great adjustment, and I was able to run the bottom, where I wanted to run all day.

“It paid off. Obviously, second place is not quite Victory Lane, but in the points battle we’re playing, it’s pretty darn close.”

In the battle to survive the Playoff cutoff, Brendan Gaughan gained ground with a 10th-place finish. Facing the elimination race at Charlotte, Gaughan is ninth in points, two behind eighth-place Ryan Reed, who finished a lap down in 16th-place at Dover.

Playoff drivers Daniel Hemric, Brennan Poole and Matt Tifft came home fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, to improve their chances to make the Round of 8. Daniel Suarez ran seventh, joining Blaney as the only non-XFINITY regulars to finish in the top 12.

Rookie Cole Custer and regular-season champion Elliott Sadler, both well above the current cut line, ran eighth and ninth respectively.


It Is Good To Be On Top

Martin Truex, Jr.
What’s it like to come to the race track knowing you’ll have one of the fastest cars every single week—even at venues that historically haven’t been your best?

Martin Truex Jr. now knows the answer to that question. The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota has enjoyed a dream season in 2017, winning a series-best five times and pacing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in laps led (1,835), stages won (19) and Playoff points accumulated (59).

Truex got a taste of success last year when he won four races and led 1,809 laps, but the surfeit of strong finishes hasn’t dulled his appetite for more.

And at this point, he seems to have inherited the expectation of speed from seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who was the dominant force in stock car racing from 2006 through 2010, when he won five of his titles in consecutive years.

Truex, on the other hand, won three races in his first 10 full seasons of Cup racing, before his pairing with crew chief Cole Pearn at Furniture Row Racing provided the critical mass for a meteoric ascent to the top of the sport.

And Truex is enjoying the view.

“I actually think I’ve talked to Jimmie about this before, you know, years ago at Champion’s Week or something,” Truex said. “I think every driver thinks about it at this level when you get here. It takes so many things to come together to be in a position that I’ve been in the past two years really, so, yeah, I’m very thankful and I’m definitely enjoying it.

“I’m trying to enjoy every single week one at a time. At the same time, there’s that chance at a championship out there, so you can’t lose focus and say, ‘Well, this is going great. We’re just going to show up to the track and everything is going to be fine.’ You still have to work hard. It’s still difficult.”

Truex underscored the importance of keeping his eye on the larger prize.


Kyle Busch Is Having A Breakout Year

Kyle Busch
Before this year, Kyle Busch had never won more than three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series poles in a single season.

Then the floodgates opened in 2017.

Busch has become the top qualifier in the series with eight Coors Light Pole Awards this season, but the success was hardly instantaneous. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota didn’t win his first 2017 pole until the 13th race of the season, at Dover International Speedway.

Including that event, Busch has topped qualifying for eight of the last 17 races. On Friday afternoon, he narrowly missed a sweep of Dover poles this year when he qualified second to Martin Truex Jr. by .038 seconds.

Fortunately for Busch, the advent of stage racing, where qualifying position often leads to additional points in the first segment of a race, has dovetailed perfectly with the driver’s newfound prowess in time trials.

Perhaps that’s deliberate, though Busch isn’t sure why his pole count has improved so dramatically.

“Obviously it’s great that we have that,” Busch said. “I don’t know why the breakout is. But being able to qualify up front each and every week and having that speed right off the bat gives you a chance of scoring more stage points.

“I feel like that’s one of the things that’s helped us this year of staying further up in the running the entire season long and being able to get some of those stage wins. It’s just a testament to (crew chief) Adam Stevens and the group of guys and everything we’ve got going on.

“We unload pretty close right off the truck every single week, and that certainly helps a lot of things out where we’re not chasing ourselves as soon as we get off the truck.”


Ryan Blaney Qualifies 11th For Apache Warrior 400

Ryan Balney
No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team advanced through the three rounds of knockout qualifying at Dover International Speedway on Friday to earn the 11th starting spot for Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400.

It was the 21st time in 29 qualifying sessions this season that Ryan Blaney and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion earned a spot among the top-12 starters.

Blaney was 15th fastest in Friday’s opening practice and posted best lap at 160.356 miles per hour in a session that saw him and his team deal with a failed brake rotor.

They bounced back strong in qualifying, posting the third-fastest lap in Round One with a speed of 159.426 mph. He had the sixth-best time in Round Two with a lap at the exact same speed he ran in Round One.

In the third round, Blaney toured the track at 159.025 mph which put him 11th on the starting grid and was second best among the Ford contingent.

“We were decent in qualifying,” Blaney said in his comments following the session. “I missed Turn Three and went way up the race track.”

Nonetheless, he remains confident about his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion and how it will perform on Sunday.

“I think we have decent speed,” he said. “I just didn’t get through that corner very well, and that hurt us all around.

“I think that we’ll have decent speed for Sunday. I thought we were OK in race trim. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning for Sunday.”