Mash The Gas – Dover

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Championship continues Sunday afternoon as the Dover International Speedway hosts the AAA 400. Known to NASCAR fans as “The Monster Mile”, Dover is an extremely fast high-banked one mile oval that features a concrete surface, similar to Bristol, only bigger. Track position is key here as Dover’s high-banks are self-cleaning, meaning a car in trouble will almost certainly slide down the race track, making it very easy to get caught up in someone else’s mess for those drivers running back in the pack. Then to top it off, Dover has an inside retaining wall which often times will ricochet that car in trouble back across the track into oncoming traffic.

There are very few single car incidents at Dover and the Chase drivers will have to keep their head up as to not get swept up in an incident and lose valuable points. Corner speed is equally important at Dover and the driver who can rocket his car through those concrete high banked turns faster than anyone else will likely be holding the special “Monster Mile” trophy when all is said and done.

The green flag is scheduled to kick off Chase race number three at 2:15 pm EDT on Sunday, September 29th. 400 laps make up the distance at the Monster Mile – Dover International Speedway. ESPN and MRN will bring you the action if you are not able to make it to the track.

The following are some drivers to watch as notable favorites in Sunday’s AAA 400

Matt Kenseth
Dan Margetta: After handily winning the first two Chase races at Chicago and New Hampshire, Matt Kenseth and the #20 team are the new kings of the circuit and they’re the target everyone else is aiming for. Dover is one of Matt Kenseth’s favorite tracks and with two wins and thirteen top five finishes here, he stands a good chance to make Chase history and win three in row. The team cannot lose focus however as Dover has also dealt Kenseth a raw deal on numerous occasions. He finished 40th in June after encountering engine problems while racing for the lead and Dover has been the site where previous championship runs have been derailed, most notably a crash into the pit road water barrels in 2004, a cut tire late in the race in 2005, and running out of gas while racing Jeff Burton for the lead in 2006. In 2013, Matt Kenseth is stronger than he has ever been and a solid run at Dover could potentially put over half the Chase field out of championship contention with only a third of the Chase completed.

Kyle Busch
JW: It is seeming like drivers are just going to battle for second place. Right now the king of second place is Matt Kenseth’s teammate Kyle Busch. With the two runner-up finishes to Kenseth, Busch has lost eleven points in the first two races and sits fourteen points behind the standings leader. Busch has two wins at the Monster Mile, finished fourth in this season’s earlier race at the track and led all but 98 laps in this event last season. Busch knows how to get around Dover, now let’s see if he knows how to get around Kenseth.

Carl Edwards
DM: Carl Edwards sits fourth in the points standings, barely able to catch a glimpse of the top three on the horizon at 36 points out of the lead. That’s nearly a full race to make up and “Concrete Carl” is in desperate need of a win. He dominated the race on the concrete surface at Bristol a few weeks back before engine issues sidelined him and he has one career Dover win to go along with eight top five finishes. The perception is the Roush-Fenway Fords are a step behind the Gibbs and Hendrick cars and that perception was heightened during Carl’s post race interview at New Hampshire where he stated the Gibbs cars needed a large point cushion as insurance against their past engine issues this year. When you’re relying on your rivals to break, it’s a sign you are getting out run and Carl needs to run up front, lead laps, and win a race to show the #99 team is capable of taking on Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Johnson, the top three.

Jimmie Johnson
JW: Two straight top five’s show that the #48 team has definitely flipped the switch from the regular season. Now they need to turn up the dial to compete with Joe Gibbs Racing. Currently eighteen points out of the standings lead, Jimmie Johnson could narrow the gap this weekend on a track where he is tied with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison as the all-time leader in wins with seven. Johnson leads the pack in almost all the statistical categories at the Monster Mile. This race has certainly been circled on Johnson’s calendar as his best track and where he can rack up the points. The #48 should be the class of the field this weekend and it will be interesting to see how the others match up.

Kevin Harvick
DM: It’s time for “The Closer” to start closing as Kevin Harvick sits sixth in the points, some 39 markers behind the leader. The team is bringing a proven chassis to Dover as Harvick will pilot the same car that he drove to victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May. Harvick’s Dover record is decent with two wins, seven top five, and fourteen top ten finishes and if he has any hopes of being champion, he needs to start making up points on the leaders. The traditional late season surge we’re accustomed to seeing from Harvick needs to start this weekend as he can’t afford to let the leaders get any farther ahead. Kevin Harvick seems to shine just when you count him out, and he’s on the verge of being out as the circuit heads to Dover. Maybe he’s got them right where he wants them.

Greg Biffle
JW: A strong third place run last weekend at New Hampshire has vaulted Greg Biffle into fifth place in the standings. But, being thirty-eight points out of the lead means he needs to keep those type of finishes coming of he wants to be considered a challenger. With just four top five finishes on the season so far, including last weekend, Biffle needs to find consistency and run at the front of the pack. Dover is a good track for Biffle and he has two wins amongst six top five finishes. Even with only two races into the Chase season, Biffle can be considered the bubble at almost a race worth of points behind the leader. A win this weekend would be huge not only for bumping Biffle up in the standings but also for breaking up the Joe Gibbs Racing juggernaught.

Juan Pablo Montoya
DM: Juan Pablo Montoya is my long shot pick this weekend as he enters this race at 75-1 odds in Las Vegas. He all but should have won the last race here in June when he gave up the lead in the waning laps to eventual winner Tony Stewart. Montoya has eight races to capture that elusive oval track stock car victory before heading back to Indycar in 2014 and Dover is the oval circuit that best suits his style fast and hammer down. Montoya has had some solid races of late and he should view Sunday’s AAA 400 as a great chance to redeem himself for the one that got away here in June.

Jeff Gordon
JW: Jeff Gordon finished third at Dover earlier this season and second in the AAA 400 last season. Gordon has always been a threat at Dover, the home of longtime sponsor Dupont. With fourty-one races at the Monster Mile Gordon has won four times, finished in the top ten twenty-three times and has an average finish of 11.8. Fourty-two points behind points leader Matt Kenseth and in eighth place, Gordon should be able to increase his season total of thirteen (interesting number) top ten finishes this season and pass a couple drivers in the standings. It should be an interesting group at the front of the pack this weekend and I expect the #24 will be in the mix when the checkered flag waves.

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