One of the most frustrating things as a driver is to be told not to lay on the accelerator. Fuel strategy is built on trying to stretch what is in the fuel cell farther than originally planned. It's frustrating when leading because it means that there's a risk of falling into the clutches of those behind him.
On the other hand, it could be beneficial for those trying to chase down the leader because it means they too now have a chance to steal away a victory.
No question, that's how Dover ended up for many at the front.
The favorite, Jimmie Johnson, got the lead late on a restart, but questions as to how close he was on fuel began to come up. Sure enough, the fuel was coming short, and he was forced to conserve. That meant he lost the lead, and eventually would finish fourth.
Kyle Busch, the dominant car all afternoon, was in a worse spot. He was nearly eight laps short, and rather than conserve and try to hope for a caution, he had to pit for a splash-and-go, finishing seventh.
The one car that seemed to save enough fuel to make it to the end was one that was not on the radar all afternoon, until it mattered. Brad Keselowski inherited the lead when Busch and Denny Hamlin had to pit for fuel. He then tried to conserve fuel just enough to make it to the finish. Meanwhile, he also had to hold off a charging Jeff Gordon, who took fuel on a late caution and would make it to the finish and beyond.
Keselowski had enough fuel to make it to the end, and do some very long burnouts to celebrate his fifth win of the season, and also him taking over the points lead.
The win by Keselowski didn't give a writer a victory, however the points did take a shake-up. There's now a tie at the top, with wins being the deciding difference. The top nine are separated by just 19 points, and only 40 separate the entire field. Take a look at how everything now stands after the AAA 400 at the "Monster Mile":
James Broomhead (2129) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (3)
Dustin Parks (2129) Kyle Busch finished 7th (2)
Rob Tiongson (2128) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (4)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2128) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (3)
Kelly Crandall (2127) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (4)
Ryan O'Hara (2120) Jeff Gordon finished 2nd (2)
Christopher Leone (2117) Tony Stewart finished 20th (3)
Misan Akuya (2114) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (1)
Billy Fellin (2110) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (5)
Michael Hirshbein (2099) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (1)
Kara Martin (2092) Matt Kenseth finished 35th (3)
Patti Rodisch (2089) Matt Kenseth finished 35th (2)
Next Race: Now, the term "wild card" becomes a reality. Fuel mileage may be in the driver's control when they are able to keep their foot off the accelerator. Next weekend, there are so many elements outside of the driver's control, that anything is possible.
For the final time this year, the cooling system will be altered, the grille opening is moved higher, taller shark fins on the trunk and rear window, and a shorter, more curved spoiler will be bolted on. The most important change, restrictor plates are bolted onto the intake.
Dover may be called the "Monster Mile," but next Sunday NASCAR visit's the monster track. The 2.66-mile superspeedway awaits the Chase contenders, and 31 other brave souls. Next weekend, it arrives...Talladega.
Writers, this is a gamble worthy of Vegas. But, have your picks, or in some cases hopes, for victory in the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 submitted by Thursday, October 4, at 10 p.m. ET.