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DOVER, Del.—Toyota driver Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing tamed Dover’s Monster Mile Sunday. Busch led 158 laps of the 400-lap race and crossed the finish line nearly six seconds ahead of the runner-up, Carl Edwards.
“The guys on pit road did a phenomenal job,” Busch said. “We didn’t have the best car at the start of the race. We had about a third-place car and they gave me what I needed to win the race.”
It was Busch’s fourth win of the season but the first for him at Dover.
Carl Edwards’ second-place finish gave him his sixth top-five finish of the year. Even though he was able to lead several laps, at the end his Roush Ford was no match for the JGR Toyota.
“That’s all I could do,” Edwards said. “I have to force a smile when I have to settle for second. The people at the shop get things done, and we have a fast car, but it wasn’t fast enough. I felt like we had a car that could beat Kyle most of the day, but they were just better there at the end.”
Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, two other Roush drivers, finished third and fourth.
“We lost our alternator and I had to shut down all the cooling,” Biffle said. “The car was tight, but we finished third and that will help us in the points.”
The fourth-place finish for Kenseth was his best finish of the year.
“We were a little bit off, but I guess you could say we’re pleased with our progress,” he said. “We’re going the right way.”
Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, Dave Blaney, and Jamie McMurray finished sixth through 10th.
“Miles,” the so-called Dover Monster, struck early in the race. During lap 18 there was an 11-car pileup. It all started when Elliott Sadler came down low trying to pass Sam Hornish. The only problem was that David Gilliland was under Sadler.
Sadler hit Gilliland and spun up into the outside wall. Tony Stewart was the first to slam into Sadler, then Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Labonte, Kasey Kahne, Scott Riggs, Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer all took turns piling in.
“I was trying to go under the 77-car, and the 38-car came under me, and we just tried to make it three-wide. It didn’t work,” Sadler said.
Hamlin was one of the last cars to join the melee, but he really rammed into the pile of cars all stopped by this time.
“I feel bad for Elliott,” Hamlin said. “I really came in there and hit him. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, just one of those racing deals.”
Eight of the 11 cars had to be towed to the garage area for repairs. Stewart, Hamlin, Sadler and Tony Raines never made it back into the race.
Earnhardt finished 35th but remains third in points.
Top-12 Nextel Cup Chase contenders: 1. Kyle Busch-2,050, 2. Burton-1,908, 3. Earnhardt-1,779, 4. Edwards-1,713, 5. Biffle-1,658, 6. J. Gordon-1,646, 7. Johnson-1,644, 8. Bowyer-1,633, 9. Hamlin-1,630, 10. Harvick-1,566, 11. Stewart-1,551, 12. Kahne-1,524.
Top-10 Nationwide Series leaders: 1. Bowyer-2,028, 2. Kyle Busch-1,907, 3. Edwards-1,884, 4. Reutimann-1,862, 5. Keselowski-1,816, 6. Bliss-1,772, 7. Ragan-1,740, 8. Leffler-1,634, 9. M. Wallace-1,624, 10. Stremme-1,619.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: 1. Crawford-1,131, 2. Crafton-1,111, 3. Hornaday-1,107, 4. Bodine-1,082, 5. Benson-1,077, 6. Sprague-1,066, 7. Skinner-1,064, 8. Starr-1,063, 9. Cook-1,049, 10. McCumbee-1026.
NASCAR’S CLOWN PRINCE,
Joe Weatherly’s career path into NASCAR racing was different from that taken by Glenn “Fireball” Roberts. About the time “Fireball” and his parents were moving to Daytona Beach, Fla., Weatherly was serving in the U.S. Armed Forces in North Africa and Europe. While in North Africa, a German sniper’s bullet struck Weatherly in the face, knocking out two of his teeth and leaving behind a mean-looking scar that would forever belie Little Joe’s sense of mischievous good humor.
After the war, Weatherly resumed a pre-war love affair with motorcycles, racing in the AMA, where he attained a degree of fame and no small amount of success. He earned three AMA championships between 1946 and 1950. “Little” Joe, as he came to be called, might easily have made a career as a motorcycle racer were it not for his entry into NASCAR racing in 1950. Such was his skill on four wheels that he won the first modified race he entered.
A volume could be written about Weatherly and his pranks on and off the track. He was known as the “Clown Prince of Automobile Racing” and he enjoyed behaving outrageously and wearing wild clothes. He once he took practice laps wearing a Peter Pan suit. Moreover, he frequently stayed out partying until the early hours, usually with fellow driver and buddy Curtis Turner.
But behind the happy, fun-loving exterior, Little Joe held the heart of a champion. In a NASCAR Grand National career from 1952 and 1964, Weatherly won 25 races. The number of victories is more astounding considering he never ran anything approaching a full race season until 1962. Not surprisingly, in 1962 (his first full season) Little Joe won the NASCAR championship, claiming seven victories over a grueling span of 52 races.
The following year he backed up his dominating performance with six victories and another NASCAR championship. The 1963 championship is all the more amazing when we consider that team owner, Bud Moore, didn’t have the resources to campaign a car throughout the entire season. Rather than sit out those races, Little Joe “bummed” rides in other team’s cars, thus salvaging the championship in grand fashion.
So it seems that “Fireball” Roberts and “Little” Joe Weatherly were nearly opposites in their approach to racing. “Fireball” is remembered as calculating, deliberate and goal oriented. Weatherly is remembered as a prankster, a fun-loving clown who just happened to be tough to beat on the track come race day.
Are independent racetracks on the way out?
NASCAR’s three major series will all be at different tracks. The Craftsman Trucks race on Friday at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway. The Nationwide teams will be at the 1.33-mile Nashville Speedway for a Saturday race, while the Cup Series races at the 2.5-mile Pocono facility on Sunday.
Friday, Craftsman Trucks Sam’s Town 400K; Starting time: 8:30 p.m.; TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, Nationwide Series Federated Auto Parts 300; Starting time: 7 p.m.; TV: ESPN2.
Sunday, Cup Series Pocono 500; Starting time: 12:30 p.m.; TV: TNT.
RACING TRIVIA QUESTION
What year did Matt Kenseth win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship?
Last Week’s Question: How many races has Jimmie Johnson won this season? Answer. Johnson’s only win this season came at Phoenix.
GERALD HODGES is a Beacon correspondent. You may contact the Racing Reporter at: firstname.lastname@example.org.