It was a separation Sunday for NASCAR’s Chase at Dover

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 30, 2012 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The trouble came early and for many in the Chase at Dover Sunday.  An early caution during a round of green flag pit stops trapped many drivers in the Chase including Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaving only eight cars on the lead lap.   In the end only two of the Chase drivers caught up in that caution on lap 69, Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon, were able to make it back onto the lead lap. The only Chase drivers finishing on the lead lap were race winner Denny Hamlin, Gordon in second Jimmie Johnson in fourth and Truex in sixth. For the rest of the Chase field, Sunday was a day they’d rather forget.

Entering the day the top five were separated by 15 points; when the dust settled at Dover Sunday the top three left with a 16 point separation.

Brad Keselowski along with crew chief Paul Wolfe are looking more and more like the team to beat. With masterful strategy Keselowski was able to stage a turnaround at Dover, where he had never finished better than 12th, and come away with his fifth win of the season and his second in the last three races. BK hovered around the top five all race long and began saving fuel 30 laps prior to everyone else.  And in the end while those around him pitted or coasted, Hamlin cruised to victory.

Jimmie Johnson certainly isn’t out of it.  He led a total of 43 laps on the day. At the end fuel mileage forced Johnson to give up the lead and slow, but with so many cars a lap down, he was able to coast to a fourth place finish and leaves Dover only five points out of first. MORE>>>

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