FedEx 400 Preview
May 28, 2013
By Micah Roberts
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The northeast gets their first live look at the touring NASCAR series this week when it arrives in Dover, Delaware for the 13th points race of the season. Also, 13 races will remain until the Chase begins. Dover International Speedway is a unique 1-mile concrete oval with 24 degrees of banking that has been part of the Sprint Cup series schedule since 1969. They call it the "Monster Mile".
"Dover is one of my favorite tracks," said Paul Menard, driver of the RCR No. 27 SS Chevrolet. "It's one of the few tracks that you get your greatest sense of speed. You can really feel the speed inside the car and anything can happen at that one-mile oval, making the nickname 'Monster Mile' very fitting. When you drop off into the corner, you feel the speed the most. We've had mixed results at Dover in the past, but I feel like we've got some momentum going into this weekend with our Libman/Menards Chevrolet."
The best way to handicap this weeks race is by using a little bit of past track history, what has happened on a few tracks this season, and also what teams are in a groove right. The final part of the equation will be known on Saturday after the final two practices are run in race trim.
Because there is no other track like Dover, we have to piece together a few elements from others tracks to come up with the top candidates to win. The track requires lots of horsepower, but not to the degree of Charlotte, Texas or Fontana. It also requires a great set-up with a premium placed on the balance of the car, which makes Bristol's high banked half-mile track similar in some ways.
Over the last few years, I've noticed several crew chiefs using their Bristol chassis at Dover and if that logic is good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
To recap what we saw at Bristol on March 17, Kasey Kahne led six times for 109 laps and beat Kyle Busch by 1.7 seconds. Denny Hamlin finished 23rd, but led twice for a race high 117 laps. All three of those drivers should be in contention this week. Kahne and Hamlin have never won at Dover, but Busch has two wins there, the last coming in 2010.
Hamlin is only 53 points away from moving into 20th in season points, which would make him eligible for one of the two wild cards. But he's got to start winning some races soon, because that is the main criteria to getting a wild card. Between his Gibbs horsepower and near desperation for wins, Hamlin wouldn't be a bad choice to win this week.
Carl Edwards has the best average finish (8.3) at Dover, which includes a 2007 win. Among the many nicknames given to him, "Concrete Carl" seems to fit him best because he's been one of the best between competitive in the Nationwide and Cup series on concrete surfaces. In his last race at Dover, Edwards finished fifth.
Jimmie Johnson has seven Dover wins, the most among all active drivers. He won this race last year which gave him four wins in seven races there. Should he win Sunday, he'll pass NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison for the all-time track record.
Brad Keselowski won in the fall last season and has a 14.3 average finish in six career starts. If we put Bristol into the equation, Keselowski becomes an even better candidate to win this week. He's a two-time winner at Bristol and was third there in March. The one problem betting on Keselowski this week is that he's struggling. His 35th-plcae finish at Charlotte last week was his first DNF since the 2012 Daytona 500. The good news is that he gets crew chief Paul Wolfe back after serving a suspension.
Matt Kenseth has been good just about everywhere this season and is a two-time Dover winner, the last coming in 2011. He's had top-5 finishes in eight of his last 10 starts there.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #11 Denny Hamlin (11/1)
2) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
3) #20 Matt Kenseth (7/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (6/1)
5) #5 Kasey Kahne (8/1)