NSCS Practice: 11 a.m. ET Friday on SPEED
NSCS 2nd practice: Friday at 2:30 pm ET on SPEED
NSCS Qualifying: 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday on SPEED
NSCS Race: Dover International Speedway – AAA 400 – 1 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN
The first two races of the Chase have not been too driver friendly for our chase contenders. The Monster Mile is the type of track that throws a piece of concrete into the mix; The Monster Miles reduces a points lead like a common stirring of a bear invading a hornets nest. So will we exit from the Monster Mile with a new Chase leader?
For current Chase points leader and five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson, holding onto seven wins, 10 top fives, 15 top 10s and three poles might be an easy task due to his previous visits to Dover. Let’s just say the No. 48 team has figured the right science on set-up to conquer the concrete at Dover. And by the way – don’t forget, Johnson won the last race there in June.
Johnson also won the championship in 2007, coming in fourth after two events. Johnson was second in the points after two Chase events for three consecutive years beginning in 2008. The true test for the current championship leader will be at Talladega.
Brad Keselowski is the one Chase contender that doesn’t have a big track record at Dover. Keselowski has just five starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the fewest among the other Chase qualifiers. Keselowski finished 12th in June and 20th last September with just two laps led at the track.
Heading into Dover is considered to be Denny Hamlin’s second-to-worst track. Here he had an 18th finishing position in June’s race. His best Dover finish is fourth, twice; Hamlin has five finishes of 20th or worse.
Three-time champion, Tony Stewart, is currently holding fourth-place in the Chase point standings, and has back-to-back 25th-place finishes at the Monster Mile. Dover is not considered to be one of Smoke’s favorite tracks, although he had won there once before.
However, do not count Stewart out – this is about the same time last year when Stewart turned up the heat despite not running well in the races leading into the Chase before winning five of the final 10 events to take the Cup last season.
As for one of the wild card entrants, Kasey Kahne, Dover seems to be considered about an average run on the concrete track. Kahne holds two wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; two poles at Dover and is currently in fifth in the points after last weekends race in Loudon. Kahne is the one driver in the Chase that just might have the most adds against him. His worst tracks gobbled up a good chunk of the Chase, where Kahne has a finish of 20th or worse at five Chase tracks: Phoenix, Talladega, Chicago, Martinsville and Dover. Charlotte is to be considered his best track throughout, however it being only where he’s got an average finish of 12.7.
Clint Bowyer has one top five, six top 10s at the Monster Mile. Bowyer never really comes up during a championship conversation, mainly because he’s not quite mounting up enough top 5 finishes to really scare the leaders. Bowyer is currently 6th in the point standings. Considering that his best tracks has passed (Chicago, Richmond), Bowyer will be looking to challenge his worst track in the Chase in the near future – Charlotte – where he’s achieved only a 17.5 average finish.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., is now 26 points behind the leader heading to Dover, where he’s won before and probably needs a good finish to keep up with frontrunners Johnson, Keselowski and Hamlin.
So don’t count Earnhardt Jr., out either. Up and coming tracks like Talladega, Martinsville and Texas are on his side.
As far as Kevin Harvick is concerned at Dover, the Monster Mile seems to be a mediocre run where he has three top fives and 10 top 10s with an average running position of 16.7, 15th-best. Harvick’s best Chase track(s) will be that of Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final track on the schedule and the finale of the Chase. Harvick’s stats stack up to nine top 10′s in 11 starts there. The not so favorable track down the road will be Talladega with 3 top 5′s and seven finishes of 20th or worse.
I will predict that Greg Biffle will be moving back up in the point standings, as I see his stats will agree. Biffle marks two wins, six top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole at the Monster Mile, with his average running position to be that of 9.7, third-best. Biffle’s survival race in the Chase will be at Martinsville. In 19 starts, he has just two top 10s with the most recent top 10 being in 2007. Biffle’s best track is yet to come at Kansas. How will he do now that it’s been repaved? Biffle has a history of running well at 1.5 mile tracks. Before the repave at Kansas Speedway, Biffle was at two wins and 7 top fives in 12 starts.
Martin Truex Jr. is the silent runner here and may just have a few surprises up his drivers sleeve. Truex Jr. is one team drivers that has placed MWR into the Chase for the first time. The main reason he’s in this year’s Chase is not based on wins, but rather Truex Jr.’s strong performances with 14 top 10s. Heading into Dover, this is the track where Truex had his first win, as well as placing 7th in last June’s race. Truex Jr.’s worst tracks are ahead are Martinsville, however, he finished fifth earlier this season. Talladega can be anyone’s race, and Kansas, well don’t forget – that’s like a “new” track since it has been repaved. Something to look forward to.
Matt Kenseth‘s only chance, I predict, for his next win just might be at Dover. Kenseth is a strong runner on the concrete, with two wins, 13 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole and has an average finish of 11.8 in the past 27 races.
Kenseth still has his best track to look forward to going to Texas, where he has an average finish of 8.6. He’s only had two finishes outside the top 10 and that was back in 2005. Kenseth’s worst track is considered to be Talladega, where his average finish is 18.6.
In 39 starts at the concrete track, Jeff Gordon, a four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, shelves four wins, four poles, 14 top-fives and 21 top-10′s. He has also led 2,291 laps on the Monster Mile.
Last June, Gordon started 14th and led 60 laps, but an unscheduled green-flag pit stop for a loose wheel ultimately led to a 13th-place finish. With his luck possibly turning, don’t count out the No. 24 team to make a winning statement at Dover.
Standings as of Loudon, N. H.
- Jimmie Johnson
- Brad Keselowski
- Denny Hamlin
- Tony Stewart
- Kasey Kahne
- Clint Bowyer
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Kevin Harvick
- Greg Biffle
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Matt Kenseth
- Jeff Gordon
Sources: Google, NASCAR Media