Mash The Gas: Dover Preview

Martin Truex Jr. races Jimmie Johnson during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Citizen Solider 400 at Dover International Speedway. [Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images]

Martin Truex Jr. races Jimmie Johnson at Dover International Speedway. Which one will be the top driver this weekend? [Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images]

by Dan Margetta and John Wiedemann

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes its first stop at the Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware for the AAA 400 on Sunday afternoon.

AAA 400 Drive for Autism
Dover International Speedway
400 miles (400 laps)
Sunday, June 4
1 p.m. ET
FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on lap 120)
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 240)
Final Stage (Ends on lap 400)
e. Often times those sliding cars then contact the inside wall and ricochet back across the track making it very easy for a single car incident to sweep up additional cars. Dover’s concrete surface makes it similar to the short track in Bristol so the races there can be used to gauge which drivers should race well in Dover.

Time is running short to qualify for the playoffs and with new faces in victory lane the last few weeks, the number of spots available for those without a win are beginning to dwindle. That along makes Sunday’s AAA 400 even more important and here are some drivers to watch …

Kyle Busch (Dan Margetta)
Kyle Busch has been the hottest driver on the circuit without a victory the last few weeks and after his second place finish at Chartlotte, not winning despite being one of the best drivers is starting to get old with him. Busch has finished in the top five for the last three races and won the All Star race in between. Still he is without a playoff qualifying victory and Dover could be the place that changes as he has two victories here to go along with eleven top fives and fifteen top ten finishes. He is listed at 6-1 odds this week and has finished second in two out of the last three races at Dover. Once again Kyle Busch should be one of the favorites on Sunday and it’s hard to come up with yet another way this team could be denied a victory. Then again, nothing surprises me…(mic drop).

Martin Truex Jr (John Wiedemann)
Although he has only one win in the last eight races at the Monster Mile, Martin Truex Jr has scored the most points in those events. With only one finish outside of the top ten (11th in 2015) in the last six races and scoring the win at the track last fall, Truex may be making a case for being the new king of Dover. He will need a few more than his current two victories at the track to take the crown away from Jimmie Johnson, but this just may be the Truex era. Since joining Furniture Row in 2014, Truex has an average finish of 6.7 and has led three of those races for a total of 365 laps including 187 of the 400 last fall. With two wins and a boat load of points, Truex currently leads the Driver Standings heading into the Monster Mile this weekend. Truex is safe to make the playoffs, now it is time to add to the his series leading bonus points total.

Kyle Larson (DM)
Kyle Larson will be looking to rebound from his first DNF of the season at Charlotte after finding the wall in both practice and the race. Dover is one of Larson’s better tracks as he lost a thrilling duel for the win in this event a year ago with Matt Kenseth. He has two top five finishes and four top tens here and is listed at 6-1 odds to win this week. Larson also ran well at Bristol, another concrete track, where he led the most laps and finished sixth. Already solidly in the playoffs, Larson should be free to take some chances at Dover and he may not be quite as polite should he be involved in another late race battle for the victory. Dover suits Kyle Larson’s style well and he should be one of the contenders on Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson (JW)
If it’s Dover International Speedway, it’s time to think about Jimmie Johnson. But… not so fast. Johnson has won a record ten times at the Monster Mile, but he hasn’t won there since 2015 and his average finish in three races since that win is 24th. He did finish seventh last fall, on his way to winning the series championship and Johnson has two wins this season so far. So, I wouldn’t say he’s finished at Dover, but I would say that others may have caught up and the dominance of the past may not return for the #48. Look for Johnson to be in contention this weekend and maybe make a run at winning for the 11th time at Dover.

Matt Kenseth (DM)
Last year Matt Kenseth came into Dover needing a victory to turn around his season and when the checkered flag fell he was standing in victory lane. If this movie looks familiar, it’s because Matt Kenseth is in the same situation this season and coming off a solid fourth place finish at Charlotte, he should be excited about heading to Dover. Dover is one of Kenseth’s favorite tracks and he owns three victories, seventeen top fives, and twenty four top ten finishes. He’s listed at 10-1 odds this week mainly because he has yet to win this season but the #20 team has found some speed the last few weeks and they could be ready to break through to the win column. Kenseth finished fourth at Bristol earlier this year and he should come into Dover confident of a strong race. Matt Kenseth proved how hard he is to beat at Dover last year and he is a strong candidate to win again on Sunday.

Joey Logano (JW)
Joey Logano is still looking for that playoff eligible win to put himself in the running for a championship. I’m sure he is going to grab a victory somewhere this season, but the way things are going in the series right now, it is getting tougher and tougher. Logano is tenth in points heading into Dover but is fourteenth in the playoff standings. As we approach the halfway point in the “regular season”, there is still time left but it starts ticking away quickly. Logano has yet to win at the Monster Mile with his best finish being third in 2010 and 2013. Last fall he finished sixth after starting fifth. This doesn’t look like Logano’s weekend but when you consider he has finished in the top ten in 10 out of his 16 starts at the track, it shows he knows how to get to the front. Could Logano be the series ninth different winner (again)? It wouldn’t be a surprise.

Clint Bowyer (DM)
It’s been a long time since Clint Bowyer visited victory lane and Dover could be a place that winless streak comes to an end so I’m making him my long shot pick this week. Listed at 30-1 odds, Bowyer has yet to win at Dover but does have two top five finishes and twelve top ten results. Both Bowyer and the #14 team have shown vast improvement this season and his best finish of the season came at the concrete track in Bristol where he finished second. Bowyer has found the consistency this season and the next step is to put everything together and score a victory. That next step could very well happen this weekend at Dover and Clint Bowyer should not be counted out when looking for drivers as favorites this weekend.

Erik Jones (JW)
With all of his teammate’s success at the Dover International Speedway, is it possible for some of that to rub off on Erik Jones? Jones has been pretty good right out of the starting gate this season and has been improving each week, including scoring his first top five last weekend in the Coca-Cola 600. Is he ready to win this weekend? Well, that may be a bit of a leap. But, when you consider teammate Martin Turex Jr’s success at Dover, it is logical to put Jones in the running. Of course he would have to out duel his teammate as well as the drivers of sister team Joe Gibbs Racing for the top spot – now that would be exciting. Jones will be racing for the first time at Dover in the Monster Entergy NASCAR Cup Series, but last year he swept both NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the Monster Mile running with Joe Gibbs Racing. Will there be another first time winner this week? It could happen.

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