May 16, 2021
Twelve races have been run in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season between three different race packages with 10 different winners suggesting parity at its highest in the series.
But one of those particular race packages, the one with 750 horsepower used on the smaller tracks, has seen four winners in six races come from Joe Gibbs Racing with three of them won by Martin Truex Jr. who not so coincidentally is the 7-to-2 favorite to win Sunday’s Drydene 400 at Dover Speedway’s 1-mile high-banked concrete layout.
NASCAR Drydene 400 Analysis
If we simplify it even more, the races using the 750 HP that don’t matter as a historical background for Dover are the Daytona road course race won by JGR’s Christopher Bell and the Bristol Dirt Race won by Joey Logano. In the four other races, Truex won three of them, and Alex Bowman won the other at Richmond.
Dover runs nothing like any of the tracks run on so far and they wasted the Bristol date for a race with dirt, and I mention this because Bristol’s half-mile high-banked concrete layout was usually a good precursor or comparison to Dover for me. What we have now is the same group of guys doing well with the 750 HP package with some of the same scenarios happening every week.
Tell me if you’ve heard this before so far using the 750 HP package? Logano or Hamlin lead a bunch of laps, Truex takes the lead, and has a hard-charging Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet reeling him in but runs out of time. Truex three wins, Bowman one win. Hamlin is still looking for his first win, along with Kevin Harvick and defending Cup Champion Chase Elliott.
Drydene 400 Betting Resources
Drydene 400 Contenders
The Drydene 400 is scheudled to take place on Sunday, May 16 from the Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. (AP)
Handicapping NASCAR at Dover
Hamlin isn’t worried about no wins yet.
“We’ll get it,” he said. “We’ve been running up front all season, so eventually the odds will come back to us. If we continue to do what we’ve been doing, we’re going to be in really good shape. We’re still getting smarter and better every single week.”
Hamlin leads the series with nine top-five finishes this season, including being the only driver with top-fives in all six races using the 750 package. The last two races on them (Richmond, Darlington) have seen three JGR drivers finish in the top five. Hamlin has led laps in all of them.
So while the stats show parity happening in the series with the three 2020 big shots still having no wins, the races that matter with the 750 package tell a story worth following from the betting perspective. It should start this week with the favorites of Hamlin and Truex.
Truex won his first career Cup race in 2007 at Dover after winning Xfinity races there in 2005 and 2006. It’s a special place for him.
“Just ever since I went there the first time, it’s a place I really enjoyed going to,” Truex said. “It’s a unique track where you can use a lot of past history and I think for me when I go there, I don’t really worry a whole lot about how fast we are or exactly what the setup is or things like that.
“I really just kind of go by feel of the car and know what I’m looking for. That’s really a key for a lot of places is once you figure it out, if you can duplicate that feel or those certain little tendencies your car has to do well, you can carry that through the years and we’ve been able to do that there. Hopefully, we’ll get it feeling the way I like this weekend and get up there and try to win another one.”
Truex has three Cup wins at Dover, two in the last nine there. But what is truly amazing about his last 14 races there is his worst finish being 15th and 11th and the other 12 finishes being ninth or better. After winning in 2019, he’s been runner-up in the last three races there.
It took Hamlin 29 Cup starts to finally win at Dover in the first of a weekend doubleheader last season. He led the first two stages and led 115 laps. The year before he led 218 laps and finished fifth.
Kyle Busch has been blessed with some of the JGR good stuff in the 750 package with top-10s in his last three using them culminating with third-place Sunday at Darlington in what started as a terrible day with an early spin out. He’s tied with Truex, Harvick, and Ryan Newman with three wins each as the leaders among active drivers. Jimmie Johnson took his track record 11 wins and retired. Busch also has multiple Dover wins in the Xfinity and Truck Series as well.
Drydene 400 Long Shot Bets
The fourth Gibbs driver is Bell and he absolutely loves Dover as evidenced by his two Xfinity Series wins in 2018 and 2019.
“It’s a great race track for me,” Bell said. “I’ve always run really well there in the Xfinity cars, even in the trucks too. I never did win (in trucks), but I had a couple of good runs. It’s just a track where you can drive really hard and attack really hard and that’s something that fits my driving style. Going into Dover this year, I’m super excited about it because I just ran really well at Darlington last week, but it was one of my worst race tracks last year in the 95 car. A little bit confused as to why that was, but I think us running well this year with the 750 package and especially having a great showing last weekend with the same rules package at Darlington is going to help us.”
Can I sell you on Bell driving a solid JGR Toyota with great past history at odds of 30-to-1? That is what the SuperBook at the Las Vegas Westgate is offering this week. Bell has to be part of your wagering strategy this week even if it’s only $5.
Will Bell win? Maybe, but I know he’s got a car capable of winning. I know he has the skills on the concrete. He won’t be that guy leading the whole race like Hamlin or Truex, but he’ll be that guy sitting around in sixth most of the race that gets a lucky break in the pits or leaders experiencing issues who happens to be in the right place at the right time.
For the same reason as betting Bell to scoop a late win, I like William Byron and Alex Bowman to do the same. The best I saw with Byron was 20-to-1 at the SuperBook and Bowman’s best price was 25-to-1 at William Hill sportsbooks. These guys have the same Hendrick stuff as Kyle Larson but get much better odds. Byron has top-10s in his last 10 races and top-10s in his last five races with the 750 package. Bowman scooped up the Richmond win last month and he’s confident coming in this week.
“This weekend, we are going to a track that has previously been pretty good for our team,” said Bowman. “Dover is one of my favorite places to go because it is a physically demanding race. It is demanding on both the driver and the car, so you really have to make sure that you take care of your stuff all day. We haven’t had the best of luck the past few weeks, but this Ally team is going into this week with a positive mindset and looking for a reset.”
Bowman wasn’t just referencing Johnson’s 11 Dover wins in the No. 48 as past team success, he’s mentioning his own team that has top-five finishes in three of his last four at Dover.
Past Dover Driver Winners to Consider
I have to mention Larson because he’s the second betting choice at 4-to-1. He loves Dover. He leads all active drivers with a 7.4 average finish and won on it in 2019 in his last start there. Six top-fives, 617 laps led, and he’ll lead some on Sunday.
But wow, the sportsbooks really outpriced Larson. It’s not like he’s got Truex, Hamlin, or Logano numbers using the 750 package. He’s good, but let’s see him win with it first. I’ll probably regret not betting him this week, but I’ve got to take a stand somewhere. I can’t bet everyone, right?
As for three-time Dover winner Ryan Newman at 200-to-1 odds this week, before you bet him because of being a past winner, consider that all three of his wins there came in his first six starts. His last win there was 2004.
Start Position Important at Dover
Of the 103 NASCAR Cup races run at Dover since 1969, 20 of them (19.6%) have been won from the No. 2 start position. That isn’t just an old-school thing where qualifying meant much more than it did in recent years.
Five of the last nine races have been won from the No. 2 slot, the last being Denny Hamlin in August. Kyle Larson also did it in 2019, Kevin Harvick in 2018, Kyle Busch in 2017, and Martin Truex Jr. in 2016.
Hamlin will start second next to Truex on the front row Sunday. The Pole winner and the No. 3 slots are both tied for the second-best starting spot with 13 wins each. So 45% of the Dover wins comes from starting positions of 1-2-or-3. By the way, the last pole winner to win was Jimmie Johnson in 2010.