The Monster Mile is up next this season, and if Sunday’s race is anything like the previous twelve races this season, we’re in for a show. Sunday’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks also marks the midway point of the regular season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and just one year ago, nine of the top-10 drivers in the points standings leaving this June race at The Monster Mile ended up in the field of twelve in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
On the horizon this week at Dover, five-time champ Jimmie Johnson looks to unseat legends Bobby Allison and Richard Petty at the top of the all-time win list at Dover International Speedway. He is the defending race winner and scored his seventh win at the Monster Mile in Delaware’s capital city.
Sunday also marks the return of key personnel from the Penske camp at a time when defending series champ, Brad Kesolowski needs them the most.
Last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 marked Bad Brad’s first DNF since the 2012 Daytona 500, and sitting tenth in points with not a win to his name yet in 2013, this team needs to get moving to punch their ticket to the big dance at the end of the year. Crew chief Paul Wolfe and other members of Penske Racing will make their return to the pit box this weekend, following their suspension stemming from the April 13th race at Texas. It’s been only two points races since Wolfe was ousted by NASCAR, but in those two races, Kesolowski finished 32nd at Darlington and 36th last week at Charlotte. There couldn’t be a better time for Wolfe’s return and Brad has done his part so far this weekend for a solid finish, qualifying the Blue Deuce in 8th for tomorrow’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks.
I was off last week and with nothing to recap, we’ll roll on to my pick’s for Dover.
Had I written this column on Wednesday, it would have been tough to pass up Jimmie Johnson’s immaculate record at The Monster Mile, but it’s Saturday and Johnson hasn’t won a race at Dover after starting outside the top-10 since completing the season-sweep at Dover in the fall race in 2002. Jimmie is not my pick this week.
There is no other driver hotter than Matt Kenseth right now, and as a two-time Dover winner, there is nothing to shake a stick at about this team this weekend. He’s notched eight top-5 finishes in eight of his last ten starts at The Monster Mile, his win in 2011 included in that number. Considering the top four starting spots for tomorrow’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks are Toyotas, I think I’ve gone with the right manufacturer for the win tomorrow. Kenseth is also racing for Joe Gibbs Racing in today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series’ 5-Hour Energy 200, gaining valuable seat time at a track as difficult as any to master. This guy is hot and he’s returning to a place he likes and has won before.
Dark Horse Pick
I’m not sure if a guy with “Concrete Carl” as one of his many nicknames can be considered a Dark Horse, but he’s flown under the radar all season, despite sitting second in points. The current odds show Carl at 12 to 1, but I think those are fantastic odds given the fact he boasts the series’ best average finish (8.3) at Dover. He has been one of the best on these surfaces between the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup series, and in the fall, Edwards finished fifth despite the horrific 2012 season he was having. Concrete Carl is a contender this week and he will roll off 18th tomorrow at The Monster Mile.
That’s all for this week, so until we head to the Tricky Triangle, you stay classy NASCAR NATION!