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NASCAR Cup Series Driver Power Rankings after 2018 Gander Outdoors 400 (Dover)

10 October 2018

"I think for '19, we'll have some rules that we'll put in place", Phelps said Sunday at Dover.

For the second time in his young career, Chase Elliott is a race victor, but no win could come sweeter than this.

If something unusual happens to Kevin Harvick, it's more likely to happen at Dover International Speedway than anywhere else.

The top eight drivers after the next two races move on to the next round and Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman are the bottom four after the first playoff race in the round of 12.

The victory in the opening race of the Round of 12 playoffs locks Elliott and his Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet into the Round of Eight, which begins in three weeks at Martinsville Speedway.

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"We've had so many opportunities and been so close and had the auto to win and been in position, and I don't know, it just seems to not come through", a disconsolate Almirola said after the race. "The way the rulebook looks today, I think the teams and the drivers understand what it looks like, and I think we'll clarify for '19 with more specific language in it".

NASCAR red-flagged the race, and Elliott outran Hamlin in an overtime that extended the event four laps beyond its scheduled distance.

"When he won the race at Watkins Glen, it was like the world was lifted off his shoulders", Hendrick said. But Bowyer had to a pit with a flat tire on Lap 382, after racing side-by-side with Ryan Newman, Harvick had his issue on pit road, and Almirola lost his winning chances when Bowyer hit the wall late in the race.

Lap Leaders: K. Busch 1-15;K. Harvick 16-74;R. Stenhouse Jr.

Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing - a non-playoff driver - finished second while playoff driver Joey Logano of Team Penske was third. NASCAR playoff drivers took 10 of the top 15 spots.

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For Kevin Harvick, Sunday was a case of a dominating drive turning into disaster. Eventually advancing to finish sixth, Harvick was short on words after leading 286 laps. Harvick swept the first two stages, as he had done during his June victory at the Monster Mile and appeared headed for another ideal afternoon, but the 2014 series champion had to return to pit road under green for an extra tire change after a flying lug nut knocked the valve stem off Harvick's left rear tire. "We were lucky there avoiding that crash but maybe that makes up for losing the race with an absolutely dominant vehicle".

Coincidentally, in the July race at New Hampshire, Bowyer also caused the final caution when Almirola had a good-sized lead.

"I think that was our best opportunity to win the race, and it was our best opportunity to score the most points we could score", crew chief Alan Gustafson said.

Johnson's bid for a record eighth NASCAR Cup title ended last week when he was eliminated from the playoffs.

Jimmie Johnson, who has the Dover record with 11 wins, was forced to the garage during the pace laps because of mechanical woes on the No. 48 Chevrolet. NASCAR does not prohibit its drivers or team members from betting on the race. Busch and Harvick each had 3-1 odds to win the race.

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NASCAR Cup Series Driver Power Rankings after 2018 Gander Outdoors 400 (Dover)