With the post race fireworks between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch still fresh in everyones mind from “The Lady in Black” we head to a track whose nickname is “The Monster Mile”. This weeks race figures to be less about bumping and more about concrete.
As always Jimmie Johnson is the man to beat. In 18 career starts he has 6 trips to victory lane and 12 top-10 finishes. He was the fastest in practice and was awarded the pole position when qualifying was rained out. It’s going to be difficult to beat that.
Carl Edwards is one driver who will try to give Johnson a run for his money. Formerly known as ‘Concrete Carl’ he is fresh off a win in the Nationwide Series. Despite one win at Dover in 13 starts he is the only driver (7.7) who boasts a better average finish then Johnson. (9.7) He’s finished inside the top-10 in 9 of his starts.
Last year Kyle Busch won one of the events at Dover and finished 7th in the other. The scary thing about Busch in relation to the other drivers is that he is still getting better behind the wheel. Yesterday he came up a little short in his bid to tie Mark Martin at the top of the Nationwide wins list but a victory in the Cup series is worth a lot more.
The season of Denny Hamlin appears to be on the upswing. Hamlin hasn’t won at Dover in 10 starts and while his stats rank behind a good portion of top drivers you have to go with the hot hand here and expect the #11 car to give a good run.
I got a good feeling about Greg Biffle this week. He’s won 2 races at Dover, litters the leader-board at the track over the last 5 years and he’s hitting his stride. In his last four races the ‘Biff’ has run 4th, 7th, 15th, and 8th.
The Rocketman has also won three races at Dover but the last came in 2004. Still Ryan Newman has ran great at the track and is coming off a 5th place run at Darlington. He seems unfazed by the incident with Juan Pablo Montoya and sits in 6th place in the point standings. Though that number is a bit deceiving since he had ran no better then 14th in the four races leading up to Darlington.
Newman’s car owner Tony Stewart has also found victory lane at Dover. He had a nice string of three top-10′s at the track snapped by his finish at last years fall race. He was 9th at Richmond and 7th at Darlington and has fully recovered from his slump. There hasn’t been as much talk of Stewart as there was during his heydays at Joe Gibbs racing but he’s still got the ability to win anywhere.
It’s the slump that is forming at the #17 car of Matt Kenseth that I don’t have the best of feelings about. Kenseth won at Texas but has been snake-bitten since. He’s been riding a slide down the point standings and need to work hard to crawl up from the 24th spot he starts in Sundays race. Kenseth has been good at Dover in his career but all the surrounding details are placing him in the middle of the seesaw instead of on a side.
The old guys like Jeff Burton and Mark Martin have been good at this track but neither have done much to merit picking them this year. Burton has yet to crack the top-10 column and sits 24th in points. Bad luck or not this is unhealthy for anyone’s Chase dreams. Martin on the other hand does have three top-10′s but his best run was an 8th place finish at Talladega and has been somewhere between 10th and 20th on the results page this year.
A great buy low option is Martin Truex Jr. His lone win came at Dover and while his finishes there haven’t been as good lately he was quick in practice and has been running better since the whole brake failure fiasco, even if he did fire his whole pit crew.
Another driver who is generating buzz is AJ Allmendinger. Allmendinger is due for a run at the front, and has said he’s ready for his breakout. He’s ran alright at times at Dover, is cheap in fantasy circle and is stylish but the problem is he’s more alikened to former baseball player Jose Cruz Jr. Like ‘Dinger everyone knew Cruz had talent but he never turned out to be what they expected. He played a whole career based on expectations and aside from the returns in his early season was a wash for much of his latter career.
There could be someone not mentioned who will sneak up and steal the show. If I wrote about everyone I’d confuse your thinking in making your picks. Like you may have noticed I didn’t comment on Kevin Harvick because truthfully he’s not been very good at Dover and hasn’t completely stunk up the show either. I simply try to pick a few drivers I think will win, a few buy low or shot in the dark drivers, and then a couple to stay away from.