After a strange and controversial night at Charlotte, NASCAR’s best get ready to take on Dover. With a nickname like “The Monster Mile” and people referring to this place as “Bristol on Steroids,” you don’t have to know much about NASCAR to know that this is one tough track. It’s fast; high banked and is notorious for taking out a good chunk of the field in a matter of seconds. One driver stands above the rest as the favorite every time we visit this venue and his name is Jimmie Johnson. 5-time is a 7-time Dover winner capturing the checkered flag in four of the last eight races. With an average finish of 8.6 and well over 2,300 laps led in his career at Dover, you’d have to be crazy to bet against him. I guess I’m crazy then…
Jimmie is no doubt going to be fast at Dover and will probably lead for a good portion of the event but when the dust settles, he won’t be standing in victory lane. Why would I make such a bold statement? Well, I think he’s going to have some very stiff competition in the form of Matt Kenseth. Matt has been the fastest man on track this year winning three times and having a car capable of reaching victory lane in almost every single event thus far. Matt has two wins at Dover coming in 2006 and 2011 and with how blistering fast he’s been this year, he is my number one pick to keep Johnson out of victory lane for a record setting 8th time. Matt’s not the only driver that may give Jimmie a run for his money though; there are a couple more that drivers that will be contenders on Sunday.
Carl Edwards is another driver that will run well and could be a player at the end of the race. One of his many nicknames is “Concrete Carl” due to how dominant he is when we visit concrete tracks including Dover. He may only have won win in 17 starts at this track but his average finish is the best in the field. (8.3) He has eight top fives and twelve top tens at Dover leading multiple laps in 10 of his 17 starts. He will be strong and so will Kyle Busch. Don’t be surprised if you see Kyle in victory lane three times this weekend as he’s participating in the Truck, Nationwide and Cup race. He dominates at Bristol and Dover is simply a bigger and faster version of that Tennessee short track with a very tricky exit to the corners thrown in. Kyle has won at Dover at least two times in all three national touring divisions. You have to attack this track and throw it off into and out of the corners just trusting that it will stick. That suits Busch’s driving style very well. He’s not a very patient driver and he likes to go after it from the very start which is probably part of the reason why he’s never won the Coca Cola 600 but is so successful at tracks like Dover and Bristol.
Kasey Kahne has been very strong in 2013 and won at Bristol so one may think he would be a contender here but history says otherwise. This is actually one of Kahne’s worst tracks statistically. In 18 starts, he’s never won and only once has he posted a finish inside the top five. Kasey’s only led a handful of laps and with over half his results being 20th or worse, his average finish of 21.4 isn’t very promising. Although his speed in 2013 may tempt you to pick him as a favorite Sunday, I’d advise that you stay away from Kasey just this once. Another driver to stay away from is 2-time Dover winner Tony Stewart. Yes, you read that right; I said stay away from a 2-time Dover winner at Dover. Tony’s two wins came back in 2000 and since 2010, he has had a miserable time at the Monster Mile. In his last five starts, he has failed to finish better than 20th and most of that is due to just a poor handling racecar; not bad luck. Even in his 2011 championship run when he won half the chase races, he finished 25th at Dover which was by far his worst result during the play-offs.
Dover is a very tough track that is unique in more ways than one. You are going up a hill when you drive out of the corner and the banking goes from 28 degrees to 9 with no transition period which launches the car onto the straightaway. It makes the car light and very hard to control which can get you into trouble real fast. When someone spins, it’s nearly impossible to not hit something. When a couple cars crash; the rest of the field usually comes piling in like the “big one” at Talladega. The track gets blocked and there is nowhere to go except for directly into the melee. To win here you have to be physically tough, you can’t let the Monster unnerve you and a driver has to be committed. You have to throw the car off into the corner and just pray that you make it. If you second guess yourself, then Miles the Monster is going to grab you and you’re going for a ride.