AAA 400 Preview
June 1, 2017
By Micah Roberts
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This week we get the first race of the season in the northeastern part of the country with the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway's 1-mile high-banked concrete layout known as the Monster Mile. It's a fast track track with lots of room and multiple grooves, but it's still kind of a short track so drivers get in the way of each other and keep things interesting. All drivers respect the Monster.
“It’s called the Monster Mile for a reason – the track can chew up cars and spit them out," said 2011 Dover winner Kurt Busch. "It’s because of those tough transitions into the corners with the high banking and even the high-banked straightaways. It’s tough to do that sharp of a turn on a mile racetrack. It’s like you literally jump down into the corner and then jump back up out of the corner onto the straightaway, and so those points of the track are the toughest part – the transition from straightaway to corner. It’s a fun track to drive.”
There's no other track like the Monster Mile on the circuit, but the best comparison would probably be Bristol's half-mile concrete track. Because of the steep banking and concrete, crew chiefs that do well at Bristol usually brings the same car and set-up the Dover. So before you make your wagers this week, take a look at what happened in April at Bristol.
Jimmie Johnson won that race, taking the the lead from Kevin Harvick with 21 laps to go. Kyle Larson led the most laps (202) and finished sixth while Martin Truex Jr. led the second-most laps (116) and finished eighth. Clint Bowyer would finish second and Matt Kenseth would finish fourth.
Kenseth might be someone to keep an eye on this week and seek out high odds before practice begins. He hasn't won a race all season, nor has any of his Joe Gibbs teammates, but this is a place he likes very much and you have the Bristol thing going for you as well. You should be able to get 15-to-1 or higher on him. He's a three-time winner at Dover, including winning this race last year. He's been seventh or better in six of his last seven starts there and has a 12.8 average finish in 36 starts.
His teammate, Kyle Busch, deserves serious consideration this week just because he's on a roll. His second-place finish at Charlotte made it three straight top-five finishes for him. He's finished second at Dover in two of the past three races there. He's a two-time winner at Dover and his 1,139 laps led in second only Johnson among active drivers.
The entire Gibbs team is showing signs of life lately. Busch, Kenseth and Denny Hamlin all finished in the top-five at Charlotte and rookie Daniel Suarez finished 11th. It was their best collective team effort of the season and a win is coming real soon, like as soon as Sunday.
Larson and Truex should both be considered favorites in this race. Truex, a New Jersey native, calls this his home track and notched his first career win there in 2007 and won there again last fall. Keep Truex's teammate Erik Jones in the back of your mind to consider at 40/1 odds or higher. Trouble seems to often find him, but his car is fast every week and very similar to Truex. He's going to win at some juncture.
But the most amazing tamer of the Monster Mile has been Jimmie Johnson who holds the track record with 10 wins. He's averaged a 9.5 finish over his 30 starts and has led a track record 3,093 laps. He hasn't won in his last three Dover starts which is his longest drought there since 2008.
I'm taking an early shot with Kenseth to win and I'll be scouring the city to see where I can get the best odds. How about 20/1, please?
Second Vegas Date
Also, in case you didn't know Las Vegas Motor Speedway is getting a second date next season. The first date will be March 4 and the second date will be September 16. I've been campaigning for it for 18 years and it finally happened. It's well deserved, but the politics of NASCAR and their agenda with the tracks they own always got in the way. NASCAR doesn't own Las Vegas Motor Speedway so it wasn't in their best interest to give them a second date like they did for Kansas Speedway that they own. Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns LVMS, had to buy New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and then take away one of their two dates. I'm not a fan of losing New Hampshire's flat 1-mile layout, but I'm okay because only because it benefits my city.
Anyway, the second date is going to kick off the playoffs in grand fashion. It will be a day race which the casinos will like like so they cab get all the 100,000 people back to gambling at night. My hope was that Las Vegas would be where the championship race would be but NASCAR owns Homestead-Miami Speedway where the championship is so it wasn't in their best interest to move it. Politics. I would love to see is the championship race move to different tracks each year, but maybe I'll get that wish in another 18 years. Two races in Las Vegas is pretty awesome. So we've got that, an NHL team, and an NFL team? How about it Miami Marlins? You guys ready for a move? We're a big time city in Las Vegas now and we'll treat you well.
Dillon 100-to-1 Winner
It sure was nice seeing the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in victory lane again in the Cup Series. The last time it happened was in 2000 with a Dale Earnhardt win at Talladega. Childresss shelved the car number out of respect for the legend who passed at Daytona in 2001, but felt the time was right four years ago to bring it out of retirement. He gave the car to his grandson, Austin Dillon. Dillon's fuel mileage gamble paid off at Charlotte Sunday night giving him the first Cup win of his career. It was Childress' second win of the season (Ryan Newman at Phoenix) after not winning any races since Kevin Harvick departed. The win paid out at 100/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $10,000) at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, but only three people bet it for a total of $20. What a surprise, the house scoops all the chips again.
Top-5 Dover Finish Prediction:
1) #20 Matt Kenseth (15/1)
2) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
3) #78 Martin Truex Jr. (6/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (8/1)
5) #42 Kyle Larson (6/1)