DOVER, Del. – It was a short day for the NAPA Racing team as a right front tire blew out on lap 83 of the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. All driver Michael Waltrip could do was hold on and hope for the best. Unfortunately, the NAPA Toyota hit the Turn 2 wall hard. The driver took his NAPA Toyota behind the wall, and after further evaluation, it was determined the car was damaged beyond repair. Waltrip and the team were relegated to a 36th-place finish.
“I really don’t know what happened,” said Waltrip after surveying his NAPA Toyota. “What a great tire Goodyear brought. Loved the stagger – you could really run off the corner good with it. They did a great job so I commend them on their choice of tire. I must have run over something. No one else has had problems so far. That was the longest green flag run. If there is an issue, someone will find out in a little while. The NAPA car was good. I was just talking to Steve Hmiel (Chip Ganassi Racing). We could run 24.8s, 24.9s, just like the leader. I ran one lap at 25.10 and 25.05 and boom – it just blew out. I don’t understand what happened. It didn’t shake. It never shook. It didn’t give me any indication. Other than now, it pushed a little bit for maybe a-lap-and-a-half. It just got a little tighter than it was. And it ended. It was amazing. I was surprised. I’ve been racing for a long time and I don’t ever take the softer walls for granted. But, at Dover, when you blow a right front – that’s career ending. We’ve seen people just not be able to race again because of it. And here I stand talking to you. Dr. Melvin, Dean Sickling, NASCAR, Tony George – from the bottom of my heart, a guy who has hit real walls before – I thank you! I’m happy all and all. The NAPA car was good.”
Jimmie Johnson led the 43-car field to the green flag. Due to the morning rain, NASCAR threw a competition yellow on lap 25. Waltrip, who qualified 38th, drove up to 34th at the time of the caution. The NAPA Toyota was extremely loose on entry which was the same condition the team battled all weekend.
Crew chief Gene Nead called for a track bar adjustment along with four fresh tires and more fuel. Waltrip returned to the track in 34th position and Ryan Newman was the new leader.
The track went green on lap 30, but before a full circuit was completed, Chase contender Tony Stewart made contact with Joey Logano. It triggered a multi-car crash. Logano was hit a second time by Reed Sorenson, which caused the rookie to go end over end. He climbed out unscathed and NASCAR red flagged the race to clean up the track.
After 20 minutes, the race restarted and Waltrip was in 27th position. In the early running of this green-flag sequence, he was loose on entry and tight through the middle and off the corners. It cost him a few positions, but by lap 56, he regained the spots back and was turning lap times as fast as the leader, Kurt Busch. Unfortunately, less than 20 laps later, the tire failure took Waltrip out of the race.
Dominating and winning the race was Jimmie Johnson. He led 271 of 400 laps and just 10 points separate him from the championship points leader Mark Martin.
Following Johnson to the finish line and rounding out the top 10 were Martin, Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, AJ Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman.
As for Waltrip’s teammates, Marcos Ambrose and David Reutimann finished 14th and 21st.
Next Sunday, The Chase continues at Kansas Speedway. Broadcast coverage gets underway at 1 p.m. eastern on ABC. It can also be heard on MRN and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
AAA 400 Unofficial Results:
AAA 400 Lap By Lap: