Updated: June 3, 2013, 12:01 PM ET

Tony Stewart Gets A Monster Victory

Sprint Cup: 10 things we know so far in 2013

By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Halfway to the Chase and here are 10 things we know about the 2013 NASCAR season:

1. After a pitiful first half of the season, Tony Stewart finally made it back to Victory Lane on Sunday at Dover and is back in contention for a Chase spot.

Stewart-Haas Racing has looked lost all season, and Stewart has looked like anything but a playoff driver in the No. 14 Chevy, but his surprising victory Sunday put him inside the Chase for the moment.

He is 16th in the Sprint Cup standings, but the first driver outside the top 10 with a victory, good enough for one of the two wild-card spots if the Chase started today.

"Man, it's been such a tough year," Stewart said in the Victory Lane TV interview. "We've been down a long time, but hopefully we'll start building momentum now."

2. Jimmie Johnson is as good, or better, than ever, despite seeing a victory slip out of his hands at Dover for a rare jumping-the-restart penalty.

Johnson had the car to beat Sunday, but NASCAR said he jumped the gun on leader Juan Pablo Montoya on a late restart, costing JJ a likely third victory this season.

"I was half-throttle," Johnson said in the postrace TV interview. "At some point, I've got to go. [Montoya] wasn't even going. It's a bummer way to lose a race. We certainly had the winning car."

Johnson, who finished 17th, still has a 30-point lead in the standings.

Brad Keselowski
Robert Laberge/NASCA/Getty ImagesBrad Keselowski finished fifth Sunday at Dover, but his No. 2 Ford failed a postrace inspection.

3. Defending champ Brad Keselowski isn't as good as a year ago.

He's winless and now has to await another penalty decision from NASCAR after the No. 2 Ford failed a postrace inspection (front end too low) at Dover.

4. The new Gen-6 car is faster and way better looking than the old car, but whether it produces better racing overall remains up for debate.

Only 16 cars finished on the lead lap at Dover. At most tracks, it's still hard to make passes up front, but Stewart got it done against Montoya in an exciting finish to Sunday's race.

5. Kevin Harvick looks like the best lame-duck driver ever, and might even win the title in his final season at Richard Childress Racing.

Harvick has two victories, he finished eighth Sunday and he's fourth in the standings.

6. Kyle Busch is going to win the majority of minor league events he enters.

It's eight victories (six in Nationwide and two in Camping World Truck Series) and counting this year.

7. Kurt Busch has helped make Furniture Row Racing a threat to win in some races and a true contender for the first time.

Busch has led laps in each of the past five races. He has three top-5 finishes and ranks 17th in the standings, only 34 points behind 10th-place Paul Menard. At this point one year ago, the No. 78 Chevy was 25th with no top-10s when Regan Smith was the driver.

8. Danica Patrick has not been very good most of her rookie season, but every now and then, she surprises us.

She finished 24th at Dover, better than it sounds since she was four laps down, and she ranks 29th in the standings. But she did finish eighth in the Daytona 500 and a surprising 12th at Martinsville.

9. Matt Kenseth's move to Joe Gibbs Racing looks like the best decision of his career -- if the Toyota engines hold up, and that's a pretty big if.

He already has three victories this year and had a car capable of winning Sunday before the engine blew, his second engine failure of the year.

Toyota now has 17 engine failures this season compared to four for Ford and only two for Chevrolet. Something has to change, or the Toyota drivers are doomed.

10. NASCAR has its most talented crop of young drivers in many years, with future star Kyle Larson, 20, leading the way.

Larson is a once-in-a-generation type of talent who will become a star in Cup. But others are coming, including Jeb Burton (20) and skilled teenagers like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Darrell Wallace Jr.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer

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