Round two of NASCAR’s 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship moves on to the Dover International Raceway this Sunday. This one mile concrete oval is governed by a large concrete mascot, with bright red eyes, known as Miles the Monster. Like its racing mascot, this track is known for aggressive behavior. The one mile oval has all of the short track characteristics of a half mile counterpart. Drivers have to pass carefully and if they take too long with the process race traffic behind them will quickly pull up on their bumpers. It’s also a track that is physically and mentally demanding on the drivers as well as a good source for road rage. Add the element of the Chase into the mix and the AAA 400 has all the makings of a highly entertaining Sunday afternoon.
THE STORY BREAKDOWN
We all know what “THE STORY” of the week is. It’s of course Wednesday’s announcement by NASCAR that said Clint Bowyer’s #33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet failed to pass an additional inspection at their R&D Center following last weekend’s New Hampshire race. The left rear of the car was reported to be too high, a mere sixty one thousandths of an inch to be exact.
The punishment for the crime was harsh. Crew chief Shane Wilson was fined $150,000 and suspended for the next six Sprint Cup races. Additionally Wilson was prohibited from participating in any NASCAR sanctioned events until November 3d and was also placed on probation until December 31st. Chad Haney, the team’s car chief, didn’t receive a monetary fine but was suspended under the same terms as Wilson. Bowyer and Childress were docked 150 driver and owner points respectively.
But what is most interesting here is the statement released by team owner Richard Childress Wednesday afternoon. The statement began with the obligatory apology to the team’s sponsors, fans and RCR employees. Childress also stated that his racing teams, and the people behind them, has a long standing reputation of integrity as well as obeying the rules.
Childress went on the say that the team was actually warned that the rear of the #33 Chevrolet was very close to being in violation approximately two weeks ago. “NASCAR informed us after the Richmond race that we were very close to maximum tolerances. They also told us they were going to take our New Hampshire car to the NASCAR Technical Center after that race. It doesn’t make any sense at all that we would send a car to New Hampshire that wasn’t within NASCAR tolerances. I am confident that we fixed the area of concern and the New Hampshire car left the shop well within the tolerances required by NASCAR,” Childress said.
Childress also shared a very interesting theory regarding how the rear of his car failed to pass inspection and said “we feel certain that the cause of the car being out of tolerance by sixty one thousandths of an inch, less than one sixteenth of an inch, happened as a result of the wrecker hitting the bumper when it was pushed to the winner’s circle, (after the car ran out of fuel). The rear bumper was also hit during the cool down lap by other drivers congratulating Clint on his victory. That’s the only logical way that the left rear of the car was found to be too high at the Technical Center.” Childress also announced that he intended to pursue the full appeal process available to him.
On Wednesday Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President of Competition, discounted the theory that it was the wrecker that raised the rear of the Bowyer car. The following day NASCAR officials said they would not be making any further comments on the matter pending the completion of the appeal process.
The theory regarding the wrecker pushing the Bowyer car, as well as the congratulatory bumps, is most interesting and we can all expect to hear a lot of lively debate on this issue from the television coverage during the Dover weekend.
After winning at New Hampshire Bowyer vaulted from 12th to second in the Chase standings. Wednesday’s loss of championship points returns him to 12th. There has already been speculation that says any driver 100 or more points out of first is already eliminated as a championship contender. Mathematically that’s really not true. But, realistically speaking, you have to consider the theory as being a valid point.
In addition to Clint Bowyer, drivers Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth are 100 or more points from the top of the standings. Stewart and Biffle understand how to find victory lane at Dover. They been there two times each. Burton and Kenseth are also previous winners there. Look for this group to charge hard next Sunday in an effort to dig themselves out of the points hole they’re currently in.
THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN
The Las Vegas based WSE-World Sports Exchange, has two drivers at the top of their rankings for Sunday’s race at Dover at 4 to 1 odds. The first is Kyle Busch. The driver of the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is a two time winner at Dover including the spring race earlier this year. That means he’s be looking for a sweep. Joining him at 4 to 1 is the heavily favored Jimmie Johnson and his #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Johnson is a five time Dover winner and is also the defending race champion which he won last year from the pole position.
At 10 to 1 this week you’ll will find two representatives from Roush Fenway Racing. Carl Edwards is a former race winner and has an outstanding record on concrete based race tracks. In fact, one of his many nicknames is “Concrete Carl.” Greg Biffle is a two time winner at Dover and is expected to be a major player during Sunday’s race.
The WSE has a large group of drivers ranked at 15 to 1 this week. This group is led by four time race winner Jeff Gordon and two time winner Tony Stewart as well as former race winners Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton. Also in this group are Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.
All by himself, at 18 to 1, is Clint Bowyer a driver that everyone is going to be watching this Sunday. Also in the middle tier this week, at 20 to 1, are Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team mates Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray.
At the lower end of the WSE list this week are drivers Kasey Kahne and David Reutimann at 25 to 1. At 30 to 1 is Martin Truex Jr a former race winner who considers Dover his home track. Ryan Newman and Joey Logano complete the list at 35 to 1. Newman might make an interesting long shot wager because he’s a three time Dover winner.
Another long shot bet is Mark Martin. It’s no secret that his #5 Hendrick Motorsports team has been wading through the frustration of a very disappointing season. But if there was a race track where this team can find their mojo again it’s Dover. Martin is a four time winner there. He also owns the track record for top five finishes, at 22, as well as top tens at 30. Martin is not ranked on the WSE’s official list this week. That means he’s included in the category known as “all others” which comes with 15 to 1 odds.
When it comes to the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship, the WSE has had Jimmie Johnson on top of their favorites list since January. Interestingly enough, that all changed this week. Denny Hamlin is now topping the WSE list at 3 to 1 odds followed by Kevin Harvick- 7 to 2, Jimmie Johnson- 4 to 1, Kyle Busch- 7 to 1 along with Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer at 8 to 1. The rankings for the remainder of the 12 Chase contenders are Jeff Gordon- 12 to 1, Kurt Busch- 18 to 1, Carl Edwards and Jeff Burton- 20 to 1, Greg Biffle- 30 to 1 and Matt Kenseth- 50 to 1.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The AAA 400 is 400 laps around the Dover International Raceway’s one mile concrete oval.
The race has 46 entries vying for the 43 starting berths.
11 of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning these teams do not have a guaranteed starting berth in the race because they are currently outside of NASCAR’s top 35 in owner’s points. These teams will have to rely on qualifying speeds to make the race.
The track record for most wins is shared by NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Bobby Allison at seven each.
Chevrolet leads the manufacturer’s Dover win list at 30. Hendrick Motorsports tops the team wins category at 12.
The track opened in 1969. The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held there in July of 1969 and was won by Richard Petty. Since that time there has been 81 Cup races there that has sent 32 different winners to victory lane.
Jeremy Mayfield holds the track qualifying record, 161.522 MPH, set in June of 2004. David Pearson holds the track record for the most poles at six. Among active drivers Ryan Newman, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon has won the pole four times each. 12 Dover races has been won from the pole.
NASCAR veteran Dick May holds the record for driving the most cars during a single race at Dover. In May of 1975 May parked his permanent ride, owned by Richard Childress, for a 35th finish early in the race. During the course of the day he performed relief driver duties for four other teams.
The Dover International Raceway’s one mile oval was changed to its present concrete surface in 1995.
The turns have 24 degrees banking while the straights are banked nine degrees. The front and back stretch each measure 1,076 feet.
The pit road speed is 35 MPH.
The track presently has seating for 135,000.
The weather could turn out to be an interesting dilemma for crew chiefs. The Saturday forecast for Dover calls for sunny skies and 87 degrees. However Sunday’s forecast calls for extreme clouds and 75 degrees. That’s going to mean cooler track temperatures that could impact tire grip and handling.
The AAA 400 will be broadcast live by the ESPN2 Network beginning at 12 pm eastern time. The re airs are scheduled for Monday, 330 am et on ESPN2, and on Wednesday, 12 pm et on SPEED.