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Published on October 4th, 2011 | by Shannon Baxter

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AAA 400 Review: Icing On The Cake For Kurt Busch

Kurt Busch started his day at Dover International Speedway in second position and was in the lead by Lap 3.  Busch led the first 50 laps of the race, until Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards took the lead from him on a restart.  Edwards led for about 150 laps, but was sent to the rear of the field after a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 251.  Jimmie Johnson took the lead on Lap 195 and led for 163 laps. Then, Busch regained the lead with 42 to go.  Busch was able to hold off his rival to get his second win of the season.

Busch said after the race, “To beat your arch nemesis, that’s just icing on the cake.  It’s pretty sweet.”  He moved up five positions in standings, to fourth position.  Busch is just nine points behind leader Kevin Harvick, currently tied with Tony Stewart.

I think critics overlook Busch as a championship contender because of his recent erratic behavior and rivalry with Jimmie Johnson; however he has finished in the Top-10 in four of the last five races and has been consistent all season long.  If he can control his temper and keep his head in the game, I believe he will be a top contender for the Sprint Cup title.

Rough Day For Chase Contenders

Tony Stewart told media that Dover would be a tough race for his team, and he predicted it correctly.  Stewart started the race in 28th position and finished the race in 25th, two laps down.  If you look at statistics for Stewart at Dover, he has finished 21st or worse in the past three races, so his struggles at the Monster Mile in this race weren’t a shock.  His bad day cost him the points lead, dropping him to third place in standings.

Luck was not on Dale Earnhardt Jr’s side at Dover.  He started the race in 21st position and looked as if he had a competitive racecar.  Shortly after the first caution of the race, Earnhardt realized on the restart that something wasn’t right with the car.  He was forced to pit with a broken sway bar.  This put him back in 41st position, racing three other drivers for the Lucky Dog.  On the competition caution on Lap 40, Earnhardt received the Lucky Dog and rallied back to 15th position by Lap 190.

Unfortunately, his bad luck didn’t stop there.   Dale Jr was forced to pit on Lap 271 for a loose wheel, putting him two laps down.  This relegated Earnhardt to a 24th place finish, two laps down.  He is now 10th place in standings, 34 points behind the leader.  Does this eliminate Junior for the championship?  I wouldn’t count him out just yet.  He has good statistics at many of the races left in the season, and has plenty of time to make it up. But, it certainly doesn’t bode well for him.

Brad Keselowski and his Penske Racing team struggled throughout the race, leaving them with a 20th place finish.  Just after Lap 250, Keselowski came down pit road after running over debris, forcing the team to replace the power steering belt.  Keselowski eventually fell two laps down behind the leaders, leaving him racing for the Lucky Dog position.

With 48 laps to go, Mike Bliss crashed down the backstretch, bringing out the caution.  Keselowski was in the Lucky Dog position, gaining one of his laps back.  Shortly after that, caution came out again with 40 to go, getting him back on the lead lap.  Keselowski doesn’t have good statistics at Dover, with an average finish of 17th position.  I think the No. 2 team can shake this off and will be back at the top of the standings before we know it.

Points Standings Leaving Dover

With Stewart’s misfortune and Harvick’s Top-10 finish, Harvick is now tied with Carl Edwards for the points lead.  Stewart dropped two spots to third position, tied with Kurt Busch.  Johnson, finishing the race in second position, gained five positions in points to fifth place.  After a rough day for Keselowski, he has fallen three positions to sixth place, 14 points behind the leader.  Matt Kenseth is tied with Keselowski in seventh position.  Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon both dropped positions, leaving them in eighth and ninth position, respectively.  Dale Earnhardt Jr, Ryan Newman, and Denny Hamlin round out the Top 12.

There are just seven races left in the season with many opportunities for the point’s standings to be shaken up once again.  We head to Kansas Speedway next weekend for the Hollywood Casino 400.  Tune into ESPN on Sunday to watch the action unfold.

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