Gander RV 400 Preview
May 1, 2019
By Micah Roberts
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For the second straight week, the NASCAR Cup Series visits a race track celebrating its 50th anniversary. Last week it was the monstrous Talladega Superspeedway. This week it's Dover International Speedway, the high-banked, 1-mile concrete layout known as the Monster Mile.
Sunday's race will be the 99th Cup race held at Dover. It will also be the 11th race of the season and fifth race using the race package with an engine producing 750 horsepower and no aero ducts. The four previous races using this package were at Phoenix, Martinsville, Bristol, and Richmond with a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota winning three of them and a Team Penske Mustang driven by Brad Keselowski dominating at Martinsville. A Chevrolet only had two top-five finishes combined between the four races. JGR had nine, Penske had six and Stewart-Haas Racing had three, one of which was Clint Bowyer who was third at Richmond three weeks ago.
“Dover is always a cool track that I think every driver looks forward to because it’s a driver’s track," said Bowyer who was runner-up last spring at Dover. "You’ve got to man up, get on top of that wheel and make things happen. There are just so many things going on there on that concrete surface and high banks. It’s a lot of fun. If you win there, you’ve earned it.”
Bowyer is posted at 12/1 odds at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and while he's never won a Cup race at Dover, he does have two Xfinity Series wins. There's a feeling from a few NASCAR minds I respect that the SHR Mustangs are going to be next to join the winner's circle after Chevrolet finally joined the party last week.
Bowyer's teammate Kevin Harvick won this race last year to give him four wins on the season. He dominated both races last season finishing first in both stages of each and leading 452 laps combined. He was sixth in the fall. Harvick just hasn't looked comfortable with the new package and it was evident right out of the gate at Phoenix, a track he's dominated at with different packages, teams and manufacturers in the past when he finished ninth and couldn't hold his usual line. However, in the last race using this package at Richmond he led 30 laps and finished fourth.
The SuperBook thinks highly of Harvick this week and posted him as the second choice to win at 4/1 odds. He's won two of the past seven races at Dover.
Last season Kurt Busch drove the SHR No. 41 to two fifth-place finishes at Dover and Daniel Suarez takes over with it being his best track averaging a 6.7 finish between four starts while driving for JGR.
“Dover is probably my favorite track and it’s probably my best track, too,” said Suarez who the Superbook posted at 50-to-1 odds. “I’m not really sure why it’s so good for me, but it’s a lot of fun. With the new package, it should be crazy fast, so it’s going to be a lot of fun, I hope. I always have it marked on my list of tracks that I think we have a really good shot to win at. Kevin and Clint were both so good there last year and my crew chief Billy Scott and the 41 team were really good there last year, too.”
Both Bowyer and Suarez had top-10 finishes at Bristol last month with this package. While Dover is unique to itself, I have seen correlations in performances over the same season with Bristol's half-mile, high banked concrete layout. Suarez's best finish in the Cup Series was third in this race last season and he also won an Xfinity Series race there in 2016. It's a good track for Suarez and he's worth throwing $5 on at 50/1 odds.
Sitting atop the SuperBook's odds board is Kyle Busch as the 3/1 favorite. He's got three wins at Dover in the Cup series, five wins in Xfinity Series and four wins in the Truck Series. It's obvious that he's fond of the concrete layout.
“I love that place," said Busch. "It’s fun to race there and it’s a place I’m looking forward to going to with our PEDIGREE Camry. I went there when I was 18 to race in the Xfinity Series for my first time. It will scare you the first time you race there. You carry so much speed at that racetrack and, for it to be a mile in length and for it to be concrete – concrete surfaces that we race on, anyway – are a little bit slick.
"It’s definitely a rollercoaster ride and you need to treat it like it’s fun and not to be scared of the place, I think because you can get so much out of that place. There are two ways about it – you can probably be really, really good there, or really, really bad there. Some days are going to be better than others, obviously, with how you can get your car set up compared to the competition.”
So far in 2019, there have been no bad days for Busch. He leads the Cup Series in points on the basis of top-10 finishes in all 10 races this season, which includes three wins, two of which came using the 750 HP package at Phoenix and Bristol.
The Gibbs cars, minus Erk Jones, have all had success using this race package. Denny Hamlin has finished fifth in all four races and Martin Truex Jr. finished second at Phoenix and won at Richmond after leading a race-high 186 laps.
Truex at 8/1 odds might be someone to key on this week and not just because he won the last race featuring the 750 HP package. This is the home track for the Mayetta, New Jersey native and he's been great at it from the beginning of his NASCAR career with back-to-back Xfinity Series wins in 2004 and 2005. He won his first career Cup race at Dover in 2007. He won there again in 2016 and since then has finished third, fourth, fourth and 15th. He probably should have at least two more wins because he had the best car in both 2017 races.
Chase Elliott comes off his first win of the season and now goes to his best track where he's averaged a 4.3 finish in six Cup starts. That's five top-five finishes in six starts and his last start there in the fall saw him take the checkers. His best using the 750 HP package this season was runner-up at Martinsville.
Joey Logano won four straight Xfinity Series race at Dover in 2012 and 2013, but he's yet to win in the Cup Series in 20 starts. He was third last fall. Perhaps the angle to look at most with him this week is the race package being used. He led 146 laps at Bristol before finishing third and led 52 laps at Richmond before finishing second.
Along those same lines, Logano's teammate Ryan Blaney needs to be considered despite never doing anything extraordinary at Dover. It's the car. It's this package that he led 94 laps at Phoenix before finishing third. He then finished fourth at Martinsville and then led a race-high 158 laps at Bristol and finished fourth.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #19 Martin Truex Jr. (8/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (3/1)
3) #22 Joey Logano (8/1)
4) #9 Chase Elliott (12/1)
5) #12 Ryan Blaney (20/1)