AAA 400 Preview
September 23, 2014
By Micah Roberts
We've had two Chase races so far and seen two Penske drivers win. Is there any reason to suggest something different will happen this weekend at Dover? How about the fact that we have the all-time winner in track history coming in on a two race win streak there.
Jimmie Johnson has totaled nine wins over his career at Dover and grabbed one of his three wins on the season there in the June 1st race. Johnson was in the middle of his best run of the season. After winning the Coca-Cola 600, he won at Dover the following week and then again two weeks later at Michigan for his first win ever there. Since then, a span of 13 races, Johnson hasn‘t been back to victory lane. Could this be the week Johnson makes his move in the Chase?
No one has more Chase wins than Johnson and there isn’t a better track on the circuit Johnson could ask for. He’s taken a special liking to Dover’s high banked 1-mile concrete oval -- shaped like a big paperclip. Before the Chase started, Johnson even listed Dover as one of his advantages over others as to reasons why he would win his seventh season championship this season.
While he hasn’t been running his best since that mid-season push, he has shown improvements. In a seven race stretch after Michigan, Johnson didn’t have any top-5s that included two 42nd-place finishes, a 39th and 28th. But in the last six, he hasn’t finished worse than 12th and has three top-5s. No wins, but he’s improving, which is a good sign. Between his credentials on the track and his improvements, he deserves to be the favorite.
Since Dover is so unique, there aren’t a lot of other tracks to go off of like we do for layouts at New Hampshire or Charlotte, but I always take a peak at what happened on Bristol’s high-banked half-mile concrete layout. Three of the top-4 finishers from the June Dover race finished in the top-4 in the August 23 Bristol race. Dover is much faster, but the balance set-up appears to make them similar which is good enough for me when wagering.
It just so happens that Penske drivers had a big say in those two races. Joey Logano won the last Bristol race and Brad Keselowski finished second in both. Keselowski won this race during the 2012 Chase when he eventually won the title and Logano has finished 10th or better in his last five Dover starts.
Then you have Matt Kenseth who is still searching for his first win of the season. He's a two-time winner at Dover, the last in 2011, and finished third in the June race as well as third at Bristol in August. He'll need a little luck to win this week because of the Johnson and Penske trends right now, but he offers good enough value to make him one of those secondary selections.
Jeff Gordon is a four-time winner at Dover, but hasn't won there since 2001. However, he's been very good on the track over his past 20 starts there with a 12.3 average finish. He's finished fourth or better in three of his last four starts there.
Everything points to Penske winning again because of current circumstances, but Johnson is so historically good here that he gets the edge.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
2) #2 Brad Keselowski (6/1)
3) #22 Joey Logano (8/1)
4) #20 Matt Kenseth (12/1)
5) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
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