RELATED: Full Dover results " Updated Chase grid " Updated standings DOVER, Del. -- Kyle Busch , still looking for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, remains in the title picture thanks to a runner-up finish in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . The result proved to be more than enough to push the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the top 12 in points, a necessity for those hoping to advance into the Contender Round of this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Busch led five times for 19 laps in an event that was dominated by defending series champion Kevin Harvick . During a weekend that saw rain limit practice time and force the cancelation of qualifying, Busch said there was enough of an unknown going into Sunday's race to hold his attention. "I had a little bit of concern just based off the short amount of practice time that we got and the way the car was feeling in those practice sessions," Busch said. "You know, I just wasn't quite as confident in it as I wanted to be. "I never really got a good feel for what I thought I needed to race. But right then and there, for today, the way we ran, I can't say enough about my team. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys, they made some really good calls and … some smart changes overnight, and we had a really fast car today. "You know, I shouldn't have been too worried, I guess. I should have put my faith in my team, which they prevailed today for me." Busch missed the season's first 11 races after suffering a broken leg and fractured foot in an XFINITY Series crash in February at Daytona International Speedway . He returned to Victory Lane five races later, and captured four of five during a hot summer stretch that saw him begin to work his way back inside the top 30 in points. Now, he's one of 12 still contending for this year's title. He's advanced through the opening Challenger Round by rallying from a 37th-place finish a week ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Although outside the top 12 heading into Dover, Busch said he wasn't counting points as the race played out. "I think when you're in the position that we were in when we were running second there the whole race, you don't have to watch it," he said. "You just do the best you can and that was the best that we were going to do today. "Fortunately we came out with that finish and second-place was what we needed to do. ... The points reset so we're back even with those guys and hopefully we can have a good, solid next three races." Bonus points for race wins, awarded for during the first 26 races and used to help determine seeding for the opening round, are not awarded after the first round. Therefore, the 12 drivers advancing into the Contender Round each have 3,000 points heading into next weekend's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway .
22-year-old has made 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts MORE: Full entry list for Martinsville RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Kyle Fowler will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend in the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway . Fowler will drive the No. 32 Ford for owner Frank Stoddard Jr. and GO FAS Racing. Eight other drivers have taken turns behind the wheel of the No. 32 car: Travis Kvapil (16 races), Terry Labonte (four races), Blake Koch (three races), J.J. Yeley (three races), Boris Said (two races), Joey Gase (two races), Timmy Hill (one race) and Eddie MacDonald (one race). Labonte's 11th-place finish in the rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July has been the team's best finish so far this season. The 22-year-old Georgia native has 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts in his career, including one this year in the spring at Charlotte Motor Speedway . He finished 32nd in the History 300 . The Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 is set for Sunday, Oct. 26 at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kyle Fowler makes hard contact the wall during the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway
RELATED : Full race results " Who's on the Chase Bubble? LOUDON, N.H. -- One of the strongest drivers all summer long, Kyle Busch now sits on the outside of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings looking in with one race remaining before the field is cut to 12. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver's title hopes took a significant hit Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , as he clocked the wall between Turn 3 and 4, sending his No. 18 Toyota to the garage. "It's killed," Busch told his crew after bringing out the fifth caution flag of Sunday's Sylvania 300 . Busch, who declined comment to NASCAR.com after the race, veered out of the racing groove on Lap 159, making heavy contact with the right side of his car. "We had that short run there and the handling went away and just blew a right-front (tire)," No. 18 crew chief Adam Stevens said. "It looks like it just had a slow leak and just overworked the shoulder and finally blew out. The balance was free and it's not like we abused it, especially after we just had a fuel run. Just one of those things that happens. Sometimes you get a pin in the hole or run something over and find the fence." The result sent him tumbling toward the bottom of the 16-driver Chase field -- 13th overall and 39 points behind leader, teammate and Loudon winner Matt Kenseth -- with only Sunday's race at Dover International Speedway to advance to the Contender Round, the next three-race stage of eliminations. "( Kyle ) is bummed that we weren't a little bit quicker and he's bummed that we had a problem," Stevens said. "We can control the quicker part; we can't control the problem." Busch finished ninth in the Chase opener last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway . That effort, combined with bonus points for his four regular-season wins, gave him solid footing after the Challenger Round opener. But his extended stay in the garage for major repairs at New Hampshire dropped him to a 37th-place finish, putting extra pressure on next weekend's event. Despite the grisly outlook, by virtue of being a single point outside the cutoff behind Dale Earnhardt Jr ., it's not a do-or-die scenario at the "Monster Mile." "It's not a win-at-all-costs situation at all, which is comforting," said Stevens. "Sure (I think we can make the next round on points). Dover's a strong track for us. I haven't seen the (standings) yet at the end of the race, but a bunch of guys ran out of gas there. We were going to run third (at Dover) in Kyle's second race back and wrecked with a lapped car. I'm sure our cars have gotten better (since then) and Kyle's gotten more in shape. "There's no reason we can't go there and have a good day. Things like this happen, too. They happened to us and they can happen to anybody else." Contributing: Staff reports
Kyle Busch hits the wall after a tire goes down, putting his Chase chances in jeopardy.
RELATED: Full race results " Updated Chase grid " Series standings SHOP: Harvick gear DOVER, Del. -- By Jove, he's done it again! Forced to win at Dover International Speedway to keep his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship hopes alive Sunday, Kevin Harvick did just that, dominating Sunday's AAA 400 to stave off elimination from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . In a virtual carbon copy of last year's Chase race at Phoenix, where the 2014 premier series champion had to win to advance to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway , Harvick led 355 of 400 laps (a career best at any track) in winning for the third time this year and the 31st time in his career. "I think we're better than we were last year, just because of the experiences and things that we've had," Harvick said after the race. "I think when we look at everything that’s gone on over the last couple of years, it's just been a lot of fun. "So, it's just that never-quit attitude. That's what (team co-owner) Tony Stewart said when we went to Homestead last year. He said, 'Whatever you do, do not quit until they throw that checkered flag.' " Harvick won the race and secured his first Sprint Cup title by a half-second over Ryan Newman in the 2014 race. But there was one major difference between last year's must-win race and the one on Sunday. Phoenix is Harvick's best track. At Dover, on the other hand, he had never won before and had posted just four top-five finishes in 29 previous starts. As fast as Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was, however, none of the statistics mattered. After a restart with 24 laps left, he pulled away to a 2.639-second victory over Kyle Busch , who, likewise, secured a berth in the 12-driver Contender Round with his second-place finish. Nor did the stats help Jimmie Johnson , whose shocking ouster from the playoffs took place at the Monster Mile where he holds a record 10 victories. The six-time series champion pitted his No. 48 Chevrolet at Lap 104 and brought it to the garage shortly thereafter, with a failed rear axle seal. Johnson lost 36 laps while his team replaced the rear end housing and was credited with a 41st-place finish, leaving him 12 points shy of the Chase cutoff, which came down to a tiebreaker for the 12th and final spot between third-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr . and fourth-place Jamie McMurray . Joining Johnson and McMurray on the Chase sidelines were Paul Menard (25th Sunday) and Clint Bowyer (14th), who, like Harvick, faced a win-or-bust scenario at the one-mile oval track. Narrowed to 12, the field for the Contender Round now includes Challenger Round winners Matt Kenseth (Chicago), Denny Hamlin (New Hampshire) and Harvick, as well as Carl Edwards , Martin Truex Jr ., Kurt Busch , Jeff Gordon , Brad Keselowski , Kyle Busch , Newman and Earnhardt Jr. But on Sunday, Harvick showed his hand as the speed horse in the Chase, just as he was last year. Harvick's car was fast last week at New Hampshire, but he ran out of fuel while leading with three laps left to create the must-win scenario at Dover. "Anytime you can go through moments like this and gain some momentum and prove to yourself that you can do things like this, there's no way you can't be stronger," Harvick said. "I'm just so proud of those guys and so proud of our fans and everybody for all their support all week. There it is -- stay the course." Kyle Busch conceded Harvick's victory was bad news for everyone else still in the Chase. "The way he ran today -- hell, yeah," Busch said. "That was a guy that we wanted to knock out. That's a guy that can win all these races, and you don't want to have to compete against a guy like that. "But that's why they're as good as they are, and they were last year's champion, so they're going to have an opportunity to continue on. We'll see what happens. There's still two more rounds to figure out who's going to make it to Homestead."
Below is a breakdown of how the full 43-car field fared at Dover International Speedway . 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick scored his spot in the Round of 12 in dramatic fashion by leading a career-best 355 laps and notching the 750th victory for manufacturer Chevrolet. 2. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Post-race, Busch said he was pleased with where his team finished, citing it had a second-place car, but also adding it had quite a bit of ground to make up to catch the "lightning-fast" No. 4 team. 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The final caution flag was a lucky break for Earnhardt, who took the opportunity to address a loose wheel. He then used a solid restart to slip past fellow Chase contender Jamie McMurray and punch his ticket to the next round. 4. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . "Nice work guys. Nothing to be ashamed of," McMurray radioed his team after just missing the cut for Round 2. For more in-car audio, sign up for RaceView . 5. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola was posting top-five lap times with 55 laps to go, but needed those remaining circuits to pick up seven spots and match his best Dover result. 6. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The decision to stop twice during the fifth caution period to ensure the No. 5 was full of fuel didn't hurt Kahne, who earned his seventh Dover top 10. 7. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth, already a Round 2 contender thanks to his Loudon victory, spent the remaining 125 laps on Sunday looking for more corner speed. 8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse restarted 10th after the fifth caution flag, and he held on for his best Dover finish. 9 . Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson looked to play the spoiler when he moved into the top three in the final 100 laps, but a decision to stay out during the final caution flag hurt his chances. 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Logano advances to the next round of the Chase with his ninth Dover top 10. 11. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . Truex, a Round 2 contender, climbed through the field after starting from the rear when NASCAR had a post-inspection issue with the flare on his side skirt. 12. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . " Man, it's never easy," Gordon told his team after a rough final restart. "I know that wasn't easy," spotter Eddie D'Hondt said. "But we did what we needed to" (to advance). For more in-car audio, sign up for RaceView . 13. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush-Fenway Racing. Biffle got sideways with 11 laps to go, but saved his car while running 15th . 14. Clint Bowyer , No. 15, Michael Waltrip Racing . Bowyer recovered after dropping from eighth to 25th when he made an unscheduled stop on Lap 175 for a loose wheel. 15. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Crew chief Darian Grubb didn't want to risk the No. 19's spot in the next round of the Chase so he called his driver back down pit road during the sixth caution flag for a right-front tire issue. 16. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Around Lap 60, Keselowski was running 16th when he reported that his engine temperatures were dropping. He maintained and will compete in the second round of the Chase. 17. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . An issue with the left-front jack bolt caused Busch to lose ride height late in the race. The team corrected the issue but still had to make additional repairs during the Lap 374 stop under caution. 18. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin won the race off pit road after a four-tire stop during the competition caution, but his forward momentum was stalled because he was tagged for speeding. A second penalty sealed the deal, but he still advanced because he won Chicagoland. 19. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman earned the beneficiary pass after the third caution flag and managed to stay only one lap down as the race progressed. He advanced to the second round of the Chase. 20. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Hornish and his team chased the handling of his No. 9 Ford all day, even as the track took on rubber. 21. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick worked with her team to help her No. 10 Chevy take off better around Dover's 1-mile oval. 22. David Ragan , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Ragan, who fell off the lead lap by Lap 105, had previously told his team he was "too free on exit and pretty snug in the center." 23. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon's team made several chassis adjustments during the second half of the race to help him get into the corner better. 24. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears was running 25th during the first half of Sunday's race when he was hooked in the right rear and saved his car from spinning on-track. 25. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard rolled off the grid 14th and almost immediately went backward as he watched his first Chase run fade. 26. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart recently announced he'd retire from driving after 2016 to focus on ownership. But on Sunday, the driver of the No. 14 focused on pit strategy to improve his track position. 27. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Allgaier received the beneficiary pass during the competition caution, but spent much of the race looking for mid-corner grip. 28. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Like his teammate Brett Moffitt , Whitt discovered that his car improved around Dover as the 1-mile concrete oval took on rubber. 29. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG-Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger was going too fast trying to get onto pit road when he spun up the track on Lap 311. 30. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Gilliland reported a tight-handling condition during the final 60 laps of Sunday's race, which his team worked to address. 31. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Halfway through a fuel run when the fifth caution flag was waved, Bayne elected to take the wave-around like most cars one or more laps down. 32. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Bowman and his team continually made adjustments on the No. 7 Chevy throughout Sunday's race trying to find balance. 33. Reed Sorenson , No. 98 Ford, Phil Parsons Racing. Already three laps down and in 36th, Sorenson told his team that he was "just racing the track right now" when they informed him leader Kevin Harvick was bearing down. 34. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . "Holy crap," DiBenedetto said while running 37th on Lap 101 when he learned leader Kevin Harvick was on his bumper -- again. 35. J.J. Yeley, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . Long green-flag runs were a struggle Sunday for Yeley. 36. Josh Wise , No. 32 Ford, Go FAS Racing. Wise sustained minimal nose damage after making contact with Jeb Burton on Lap 3. 37. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . During the fifth caution flag, Annett reported that his entry was neutral and he couldn't pick up the gas when he wanted to. 38. Alex Kennedy , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport . Kennedy rolled off the grid 36th in his Dover debut. 39. Timmy Hill , No. 62 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports . Starting 43rd at the fast 1-mile oval made forward progress an immediate issue for Hill in his fourth Dover appearance. 40. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. Cassill's fear that his engine was "letting go" was realized on Lap 372 and prompted the eighth caution flag. 41. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . A torn rear axle seal sidelined Johnson in his 500th Cup start and ended his quest for a seventh championship. 42. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Moffitt's lap times were improving as the track picked up rubber, but his car was "killed" when he blew a right-front and made hard contact with the wall to bring out the seventh caution flag. 43. Jeb Burton , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Burton spun on Lap 3 and cut a tire on Lap 192 to bring out the caution flag twice on Sunday.
Editor's note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author. RELATED: Harvick and the most clutch moments in sports history DOVER, Del. -- How strong was Kevin Harvick and the Stewart-Haas Racing team in Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway ? "If we would have had qualifying on Friday," crew chief Rodney Childers said Sunday evening, "we'd have led 400 (laps)." Folks laughed and Childers smiled. But beneath the euphoria of another victory, Childers wasn't kidding. Harvick, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, didn't lead every lap in the series' 29th race. He led 355. The dominating performance came one week after the No. 4 Chevrolet was out front for 216 of 300 laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . A miscalculation cost Harvick that particular victory -- his fuel cell ran dry just three laps from the finish to drop him from first to 21st. Combined with a crash at Chicagoland Speedway the previous week, Harvick arrived in Dover with seemingly little chance of advancing out of the Challenger Round of this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Fifteenth in a field of 16 that would see four drivers eliminated from Chase contention, Harvick didn't accomplish the impossible at Dover. The improbable? Yes. The impossible? No. We've seen this movie before. Faced with elimination last year, Harvick thrashed the field at Phoenix and then went on a week later to win the race and the championship at Homestead. Pressure rolls off the 39-year-old like rain off a freshly waxed car. Being put in a must-win situation isn’t pressure in Harvick's world. It's opportunity. Pressure is being thrust into the spotlight following the loss of one of the sport's legendary figures. "That was pretty high," Harvick said of the call-up to fill the ride formerly held by seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt in 2001. "There will never be anything close to that one. "When you look at the sport's biggest hero gone, you look at millions of race fans that are depending upon somebody to drive that car and you have 350 people that have jobs and families and you're their guy, never done it before, but good luck. You know what I mean? That's a lot of pressure." Before Sunday, Harvick had never won at Dover. Cross the 1-mile concrete track off the list. Only Sonoma , Texas, Pocono and Kentucky remain to be conquered. In a span of barely three-and-a-half hours Sunday, Harvick and his team went from the best team not expected to advance to the team to beat from here on out. Runner-up Kyle Busch , extending his own amazing season by racing his way into the next round from outside the top 12, said as much. "That was a guy," Busch admitted, "that we wanted to knock out ... that's a guy that can win all these races and you don't want to have to compete against a guy like that." Harvick has finished second 10 times this year, and to come so close without closing the deal can be disheartening. It can also build character. "If you're going to get frustrated over running like we've run this year, you're probably going to be a detriment to your team," Harvick said. Win or lose, he said, you show up at the start of a new workweek and begin anew. "It's just the nature of this team and what they do, and the character of it is deep, and they all believe in each other," he said. "When you have a group of people like this that doesn't do things out of the ordinary for situations like this, you know, they just look at it as another task at hand." He has led more than 2,000 laps for the second consecutive season, a mark as impressive as this year's 19 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes. It was a demoralizing defeat for those who thought they had the defending champion on the ropes. But there are more opportunities ahead for Busch and others in the Chase field. "We'll see what happens," the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said. "There are still two more rounds to figure out who's going to make it to Homestead." In the meantime, Harvick and his group aren't making any apologies for Sunday's runaway. "“We're not going to ride around fifth all day and wait to take the lead at the end," Childers said. "That's not what we're made out of. "We came here to lead laps and to do our job and to end up with that car in Victory Lane." And at the end of the day, that's exactly what they accomplished.
RELATED: Watch the live stream here From 8-11 a.m. ET on Tuesday, NASCAR.com will live stream the post-race inspection process at the Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C. The three-hour look takes you behind the scenes as NASCAR officials inspect NASCAR Sprint Cup Series vehicles following Sunday's race at Dover International Speedway . The cars at the R&D Center this week are: the No. 4 Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick (won Sunday's race), the No. 18 Toyota of Kyle Busch (finished second in Sunday's race), the No. 43 Ford of Aric Almirola , the No. 88 Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr . and the No. 1 Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray . For more information on what the inspection process entails, click here.
Chip Ganassi Racing will host its second annual Sound Garage event on Monday evening at the team shop -- and you can watch the action on NASCAR.com. Following the success of last year's event, which is geared toward millenials, the 2015 outing will feature recording artist A Thousand Horses as well as Ganassi's diverse stable of young drivers. That list includes Kyle Larson , Sage Karam, Dylan Kwasniewski , Sebastian Saavedra and Brennan Poole . Tonight's stream will run from 8 to 9 p.m. ET. Come back then to watch the action.