Published: Mon, October 15, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Harvick wins 1st stage in NASCAR race at Dover

Harvick wins 1st stage in NASCAR race at Dover

Chase Elliott had been burdened by lofty expectations that come as the son of a Hall of Fame driver and the replacement of a four-time NASCAR champion.

As a outcome, with the field set according to owner points, Kyle Busch will lead the 39 Cup drivers to the green flag in Sunday's Gander Outdoors 400 at the Monster Mile, the opening race in the Round of 12 of the Playoffs.

Dover starts the next three-race playoff round that includes Talladega and Kansas, with eight drivers advancing.

"Hopefully, that means something for us and we can take advantage of the opportunity we were put in last week and go out there and have a good rest of the playoffs and maybe make it to the Final Four", Larson said.

But it was one big celebration on Sunday.

More importantly, the victory earned Elliot a spot in the next round of the NASCAR playoffs.

"When he won the race at Watkins Glen, it was like the world was lifted off his shoulders", Hendrick said.

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"I wouldn't say we're a championship favorite", he said.

Almirola teammate Kevin Harvick had led 251 laps at Dover before a pit stop where the valve stem was knocked off the tire forced him to pit under green, leaving Almirola as the vehicle to beat. "I'd say we're in the hunt, and honestly we've been in the hunt all year".

Elliott's win means he can breathe a bit easier as the series shifts to treacherous Talladega, where anything can happen on the superspeedway. Team Penske drivers Keselowski and Logano have combined to win five of the last seven races at Talladega.

One of his drivers, Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time Cup series champion and 11-time victor at Dover, fell off the pace and headed to the garage area for repairs for a broken lower ball joint.

SHR was in control with Kevin Harvick early and Almirola late. Harvick led 286 laps and was on pace to sweep the Dover races until tire issues derailed his run and he finished sixth.

The win is the second of Elliott's career and his first on Dover's Monster Mile.

Joey Logano finished third, followed by Erik Jones and Kurt Busch. After the October 21 race at Kansas, the playoff field will be trimmed from 12 drivers to eight. That triggered a multi-car wreck that collected championship contenders and brought out the red flag to force overtime. That said, he still bounced back to secure a fourth place finish. "I guess that makes up for the bad luck of losing the race with an absolute dominant auto". The team's slow stop on the subsequent trip down pit road cost Almirola the lead, and then a poor restart ended his shot at the win.

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Larson has led laps in 10 of the season's 29 races so far.

"Man, you know he (Chase) has been so close here", Hendrick said.

Johnson's bid for a record eighth NASCAR Cup title ended last week when he was eliminated from the playoffs. "Even if Denny would have passed us, which was certainly a possibility, it was still going to yield us more points than I think it would have had we pitted".

After last week's close call at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, Jimmie Johnson was a logical choice to contend for a victory at Dover International Speedway, where he has accumulated 11 of his 83 career victories. NASCAR teams could make their own gambling policies, especially as more states plan to legalize sports betting.

McGlynn said sports betting won't save NASCAR but it could be part of the cure for a sport impacted by sagging ratings, dwindling attendance and longtime sponsors pulling out of the series.

Sports betting is legal in DE and this weekend fans at the track could bet on the race.

The kiosk opened at 9 a.m. and a modest line formed with fans, some who had questions about the NASCAR prop bets; specifically, did the stage cautions count toward the total number of cautions?

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