In the Chase event, which took place this past Sunday at Dover saw Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin manage to close in on Jimmie Johnson, the top ranked NASCAR Sprint Car racer in the third Chase round. Johnson has been an all time favorite taking his previous track record into account out of which four were in Chase events.
This time round however, he could only finish 11th in qualifying with Hamlin taking the pole position. Hamlin and Johnson were in close competition with Johnson leading when the caution flag was waved. Keselowski emerged at the top of the order while Johnson and Hamlin had to drop back thus making him claim his fifth win of the year.
His victory saw him up four spots to 16th overall position just one position short of his all time best. In the current week’s Castrol EDGE USA Drivers Rankings top five positions see Will Power in the lead in No.1 position while Jimmie Johnson of Sprint Cup is in No.2, Denny Hamlin of Sprint Cup, Nationwide NASCAR Trucks No.3, in No.4th position is Brad Keselowski of Sprint Cup, Nationwide, NASCAR Trucks, while Tony Stewart of Sprint Cup, Nationwide is at No.5.
Auto news release: Championship coming down to fuel efficiency
Brad Keselowski and his team have mastered the art of increasing fuel efficiency. This past Sunday at Dover, Keselowski was able to squeeze every last drop of fuel out of his car to take the victory while all those around him were forced to head to the pits or find a way to conserve fuel. This win was Keselowski’s fifth in 2012 and his second of the Chase series, helping him to jump 5 positions in the Castrol EDGE Rankings.
Jimmie Johnson may not be able to become a six-time Chase champion if they cannot figure out the No. 2 team’s trick for conserving fuel. At the Dover, Johnson seemed as though he would be able to be victorious, however faced a difficult choice… to give up positions and save fuel, or race hard- plan for another pit stop- and hope for a caution. By slowing down to conserve, he handed away the race. Is his forth place finish an indicator of what is to come with seven races left in the Chase? Will he give up the championship and his No. 2 spot on the Castrol Rankings because of fuel efficiency?
This week’s Castrol EDGE USA Driver Rankings – Top 5 are as follows:
1. Will Power – IndyCar
2. Jimmie Johnson – Sprint Cup
3. Denny Hamlin – Sprint Cup, Nationwide, NASCAR Trucks
4. Brad Keselowski – Sprint Cup, Nationwide, NASCAR Trucks
5. Tony Stewart – Sprint Cup, Nationwide
Keselowski and Hamlin close on Johnson after Dover
Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin both closed in on top-ranked NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Jimmie Johnson following the third Chase round at Dover.
Johnson had been a heavy favourite heading into the one mile oval, given his previous record of seven victories – four of which came in Chase events.
The five-time champion could only finish 11th in qualifying however, with pole instead going to Hamlin, an emphatic winner last time out at Loudon.
Come the race both Hamlin and Johnson were in contention for victory, with the latter leading when the caution flag was waved for the final time.
Keselowski in contrast didn’t appear a victory threat until that final caution, which turned the event into a fuel-saving race to the flag.
Under those conditions, Johnson and Hamlin both dropped back while Keselowski flourished, rising to the top of the order and hanging on to claim his fifth win of the year.
As he did so he also re-captured the lead of the Chase and closed in on Johnson in the Castrol EDGE Rankings.
Victory propelled him four spots to 16th overall, just one position shy of his all-time best.
Johnson was forced to cut back his pace in order to limp across the line, but even so did enough to claim fourth.
In the Rankings however he was a victim of his previous success at Dover. Second last year, missing out on the podium proved costly as he slid one spot to ninth.
That puts him just one place above Hamlin, who gained ground despite slipping to eighth when his fuel saving proved insufficient and forced him to pit late on.
In contrast to Johnson however Hamlin was defending a relatively lowly 18th from last year’s event at Dover, meaning that eighth was still enough to send him climbing up the Rankings order.
10th equals the highest he has ever ascended, the last occasion coming in September 2010 – when Johnson was again the highest-ranked Sprint Cup driver.
The biggest gainer of the weekend was 53-year-old Mark Martin, who scored his fourth podium of the season in third.
It proved well timed. Having dropped to an all-time low of 68th on the previous week, he climbed back into a more customary position inside the top 60 as a result.