DOVER, Del. — Martin Truex Jr. dominated Sunday at Dover International Speedway for his second victory in the first three Chase races.
Tony Stewart finished 13th and the three-time NASCAR champion was knocked out of contention in the first elimination race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Chris Buescher and Chip Ganassi teammates Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray also dropped out of the Chase. The field was sliced from 16 drivers to 12. Austin Dillon finished eighth and moved from outside the Chase to a transfer spot and has moved on to the next round.
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch joined Truex and Dillon in the next round that opens at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Truex won for the fourth time this season in the No. 78 Chevrolet and paired this Chase win with his opening victory at Chicagoland. Only six cars finished on the lead lap.
“We’re not messing around, I guess,” Truex said. “We are here to get it done.”
Truex won his first career Cup race at Dover in 2007 and didn’t win again until 2013. But his career took off at Furniture Row Racing and he used a win at Pocono last year to make the Chase and become one of four drivers racing for the championship in the finale.
His career exploded this season. Truex led a stunning 392 laps in a Coca-Cola 600 victory and then won at Darlington just two races before the Chase opened. He has led at least 140 laps in three of the last four races.
“The last month has just been ridiculous,” he said.
Harvick won last week at New Hampshire and was the only other driver to earn an automatic berth in the second round.
Here are other items of note from Dover:
Smoke out: Stewart, the 2002, 2005 and 2011 Cup champion, will retire at the end of the season without a fourth championship.
“I’ll tell you one thing, this one race, whatever happens, is not going to define the season this team has,” Stewart told his team over the radio.
Ganassi gaffes: Ganassi went from two Chase drivers to none.
Larson’s race turned into a disaster early when the No. 42 Chevrolet lost power. His Chevy was pushed to pit road and a battery was changed. He then had to serve a pass-through penalty for having too many crew members over the wall during the pit stop.
Larson, one of the top, young drivers in the sport, had held the final transfer spot entering the race.
Jamie McMurray saw his Chase end at Dover for the second straight season. He battled problems in the No. 1 Chevy for most of the race before he engine blew near the halfway point. McMurray was 13th and hoped to race his way into the next round. He held the final transfer spot heading into last year’s race and lost his spot to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
McMurray didn’t consider the season a lost one for Ganassi.
“We just have had great cars and it stinks that it ended this way,” he said.
First to (almost) worst: Harvick had to take a deep breath in thanks that he won last week at New Hampshire or he would have faced sure elimination. Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet had a broken track bar early in the race that sent the car to the garage. Harvick returned more than 40 laps off the pace and finished 37th. Harvick, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion, had never finished last in a race in his career.
He won a must-win race at Dover last season to advance in the Chase.
Junior and Jeff: Earnhardt watched the race from atop the pit box for the first time since his season ended in July because of a concussion. Jeff Gordon finished xx in Junior’s regular 88 Chevrolet ride. Gordon, who had retired at the end of last season, has one more race left subbing for Earnhardt later this month at Martinsville. Gordon led some
Double dip: Daniel Suarez won the Xfinity Series delayed a day by rain to kick off 600 miles of racing. NASCAR ran its first Xfinity-Cup doubleheader since April 25, 2010, at Talladega Superspeedway.
Up next: The second round of the Chase opens at Charlotte and Logano is the defending race winner.