Round One of the 2007 Chase For The Nextel Cup featured few major stories, as none of the 12 championship contenders suffered major misfortune.
Round Two? Not so much.
Carl Edwards won Sunday's Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway, jumping from eighth to third in points, just three behind leader Jeff Gordon. But while Edwards soared, a number of his fellow title contenders fell by the wayside with major problems.
Matt Kenseth dominated much of the day, leading a race-high 192 laps before his engine went up in smoke on lap 373, leaving him in 35th place and dropping him to 10th in the title chase. Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch were swept up in the same multi-car tangle, with Johnson finishing 14th and falling to fourth in points, just four off the lead, while Busch finished 29th and dipped to 11th in the standings. Denny Hamlin wrecked with Kyle Petty just prior to halfway -- prompting a raised-voice confrontation with Petty in the Nextel Cup garage -- before making lengthy repairs and stumbling home 38th, good for a drop to 12th in points. Kevin Harvick battled tire problems for much of the day before finishing 20th and dropping to ninth in points.
Edwards dodged a bullet of his own Sunday, overcoming a sticky throttle linkage in the early going that had him racing with one hand on the kill switch. A timely spritz of WD-40 on a balky heim joint solved the problem, and enabled Edwards to outlast Roush Fenway teammate Greg Biffle for the win. Biffle finished a season-best second, followed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Mark Martin and Kyle Busch.
Tony Stewart made the most of a mediocre racecar, avoiding the trouble that dogged so many Chase contenders en route to a noth-place finish that vaulted him to second in points, just two behind Gordon. Gordon, Stewart, Edwards, Johnson and Kyle Busch are now separated by just 10 points with eight races to go. Clint Bowyer is 18 out, followed by Martin Truex Jr.(-28), Jeff Burton (-75), Harvick (-115), Kenseth (-116), Kurt Busch (-148) and Hamlin (-158).
UPDATE: Carl Edwards' winning Ford was determined to be too low in Sunday night's post-race technical inspection, and the car has been confiscated by NASCAR for further examination.
NASCAR found similar infractions on the cars of Johnny Sauter and Kyle Busch at New Hampshire International Speedway in July, violations that resulted in a penalty of 25 driver and owner points and a $25,000 fine for both crewchiefs. A 25-point sanction would drop Edwards from fourth to sixth in the championship standings.
Stay tuned to Sirius NASCAR Radio Monday for further updates.