Jimmie Johnson was narrowly ahead of Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Matt Kenseth at the halfway point of today’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Pole sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the first 25 laps of the race before Kenseth was able to pass him for the point on Lap 26. The two swapped the lead again before the first yellow of the day came out for debris at Lap 37.
During the subsequent pit stops, Earnhardt fell back to fifth after taking four tires while the top four off of pit road – Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya – all took two tires.
Busch, who has finished second to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kenseth in each of the first two Chase races, promptly opened a gap of almost two seconds before Ryan Newman started to chop the deficit.
On Lap 71, Newman was able to reel in Busch and pass him for the lead on the frontstretch. But just five laps later, Earnhardt – after dusting Busch for the runner-up position – returned to the front once again, getting by Newman on the backstretch to reach P1.
Earnhardt built his lead up to more than four seconds as green flag stops began just after the Lap 100 mark. But when he attempted to come down to pit road on Lap 117, he missed the opening and was forced to go around one more time before pitting.
As a result, Johnson and Kenseth moved up to the top two positions while Earnhardt dropped back to eighth place thanks to his early mistake.
Johnson, a seven-time Dover race winner, put some distance between himself and Kenseth in the stint but when the yellow came out again for debris at Lap 165, Kenseth was able to leapfrog Johnson in the pits and take the lead.
However, Johnson was able to hunt down Kenseth in the middle stages of the green flag run, and passed him for the lead on Lap 198. At Lap 200 of 400, Kenseth led Johnson by 0.7 seconds followed by Busch in third, Earnhardt in fourth and Newman in fifth.