Jimmie Johnson claimed a perfect score and brought his NASCAR Cup title defense back on track with a commanding victory at Dover on Sunday.
The reigning champion started from pole, led the most laps and went on to win for the sixth time at the track known as the "Monster Mile," moving to second in the Chase standings after a poor race at New Hampshire last week.
While two of the main title contenders, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, had altercations both on and off the track during the weekend, Johnson and his team placed all their focus on the job at hand and ended up taking all the points they needed to get back in championship contention.
AJ Allmendinger proved to have the measure of Johnson in the first part of the race and led plenty of laps before being forced to make an early pit stop for a deflating tire. After that, Kyle Busch looked as the only real threat to Johnson once he stole the led from him in the pits, but despite a modest day for the Hendrick Motorsports crew, Johnson did enough to make up for it and went on to reclaim the lead and hold it until the checkered flag.
"I'm excited about what we have ahead," said Johnson. "Last weekend; anything can happen. I know Talladega is out there. We did a great job today. We're in the right position but we've got to keep this Impala fast and be there after Talladega. That's the goal. So we did the best thing possible [today]. I'm very, very excited about today."
Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton finished second but his teammates were unable to get in contention at the front following poor qualifying efforts. Bowyer struggled with balance, hit the wall, got a pit speeding penalty and finished 25th. Meanwhile Harvick never quite managed to get the proper handling on his No. 29 Chevrolet and finished 15th.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Joey Logano was third behind Burton, while his teammate Kyle Busch dropped down to sixth place after looking a contender for victory. Hamlin was ninth and scored well enough to remain in the Chase lead by 35 points, the biggest margin ever held after two races in the playoff.
"It was a decent day," said Hamlin. "I said in my head today that the number was eight. We missed it by one, but it was a good fight for the team. We didn't have the best car today, but we fought through and made something of it. This is what we needed to do to get by this weekend and we feel like we can run with them from here on out."
Penske's Kurt Busch recovered from a pit speeding penalty to finish fourth ahead of Roush Fenway's Carl Edwards, whose teammate Matt Kenseth looked set for a good result until he locked up the brakes while trying to enter the pits under green, causing the left-front tire to explode and massively damage the bodywork on his No. 17 Ford.
Tony Stewart was another Chase contender to hit trouble with an early pit speeding penalty which put him off of the lead lap. He was unable to recover after that and just managed a 21st place in the end
Allmendinger recovered in the final two stints of the race to finish inside the top 10, while his teammate Paul Menard rounded a good showing for Richard Petty Motorsports taking seventh at the flag.
"It was fun to lead, no wonder Jimmie is smiling so much. It's actually a lot of fun to lead," said Allmendinger. "The car was dialed in and just a stupid five-cent washer got inside the tire. I'm not sure when. It must have been right when we pitted and left the pits. I knew the right-rear was going down and after that you're just fighting back the rest of the day."
After two Chase races, Greg Biffle, Stewart, Kenseth and Bowyer – whose appeal against his New Hampshire penalties is pending -- are already more than 140 points off from points leader Hamlin.
Pos Driver Car Laps
1. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 400
2. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 400
3. Joey Logano Toyota 400
4. Kurt Busch Dodge 400
5. Carl Edwards Ford 400
6. Kyle Busch Toyota 400
7. Paul Menard Ford 400
8. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 400
9. Denny Hamlin Toyota 400
10. AJ Allmendinger Ford 400
11. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 400
12. Mark Martin Chevrolet 400
13. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 400
14. Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 400
15. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 400
16. Reed Sorenson Toyota 400
17. Elliott Sadler Ford 399
18. Matt Kenseth Ford 399
19. Greg Biffle Ford 399
20. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 399
21. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 398
22. Brad Keselowski Dodge 398
23. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 397
24. David Ragan Ford 397
25. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 397
26. Regan Smith Chevrolet 397
27. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 397
28. Kasey Kahne Ford 396
29. Casey Mears Toyota 395
30. David Gilliland Ford 395
31. Tony Raines Ford 394
32. Scott Speed Toyota 393
33. Travis Kvapil Ford 388
34. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 383
35. David Reutimann Toyota 373
36. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 349
37. Kevin Conway Toyota 129
38. Landon Cassill Chevrolet 126
39. Michael McDowell Dodge 71
40. Mike Bliss Toyota 60
41. Joe Nemechek Toyota 58
42. JJ Yeley Dodge 43
43. Dave Blaney Chevrolet 29