Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM
Drydene 400 Preview
Sunday’s Drydene 400 at the Monster Mile of Dover International Speedway will the fourth race of the playoffs and first of the Round of 12. It’s the second time this season the series has visited the high-banked concrete layout, the first coming in May won by Martin Truex, Jr. who leads the series with six wins through the first 29 events of 2019. The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has installed Truex as the 4/1 co-favorite to win on his home track and also has him listed as the 4/1 favorite to win his second Cup Championship.
Joe Gibbs Racing is going to be tough to beat down the stretch and it’s possible we could see all three eligible drivers racing for the championship in seven weeks. The four-driver team has won 15 of the 29 races this season. JGR’s Erik Jones was one of the four drivers chopped from playoff competition last week, but Truex, Kyle Busch (9/2 to win his second championship) and Denny Hamlin (7/1 to win his first championship) are going to be tough to beat the rest of the way.
Kevin Harvick is 6/1 to win the championship and also 6/1 to win Sunday’s race at Dover. He’s a two-time winner at Dover and all of them have come since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. His last nine starts at Dover have been incredible leading at least 91 laps in five of them. He led 355 of 400 laps on his way to a 2015 win. Last season, he won the first two stages of both races and grabbed his second win in May. After leading 201 laps, he led 251 laps in the fall race before finishing sixth. He was fourth in May this season.
Yes, Harvick is going to be tough as well as giving the Gibbs’ stable some trouble, but the driver I’m looking at this week and beyond is Chase Elliott who is 8/1 to win the championship and 7/1 to win Sunday. He comes off a win on the Charlotte Roval giving him wins in two of the last four races using the race package with engines producing 750 horsepower. He’s really good at Dover, too.
“We’ve had fast cars there,” Elliott said. “To be honest with you, I think probably the biggest reason we’ve had some good runs at the racetrack is because of Jimmie (Johnson)’s success over the years. I think he’s been so good and he’s put a really good baseline for us to go there and have a decent place to start for the weekend. I think a lot of it is because of that. Obviously, he’s won how many races there, so he has a really good feel of what he needs to do and he does a better job than I do a lot of times in being able to describe things and put things into words. Sometimes things are really complicated in what you’re feeling and it’s hard to put that into simplifying terms to explain it, and he does a really nice job of that. I think that’s why he’s had a lot of the success that he’s had.”
His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson owns several Dover records such as 11 wins, 17 top-fives, and 3,109 laps led. HMS has also won a record 20 times at Dover, including this race last season by Elliott to start the second round of the playoffs. He’d also won at Kansas to close the round out. And the middle race between those two tracks is Talladega which he won at for the first time in the spring this year. He looks like a shoo-in to advance to the Round of 8 which makes 8/1 odds to win the title very attractive. You got this round, right Chase?
“I hope so,” Elliott said about getting more playoff wins. “You know, it's nice to have an extra six points going into the next round, for sure. But it's hard to carry anything really from Sunday into next week just because it's back to the ovals. Anything we learned from a road course standpoint obviously we don't have another one the rest of the year. But can definitely take those six points with you as long as you're alive in this playoff system, and hopefully, we don't need them but we got them."
Elliott has seven starts at Dover and has six top-fives. His average finish is 4.4, which is the best average in track history and makes 7/1 odds to win Sunday seem attractive.
In the May Dover race, he led a race-high 145 laps and finished fifth. His HMS teammate Alex Bowman finished second and is being offered at 30/1, which I strongly recommend adding to any odds to win wagering strategy this week. Another HMS teammate William Byron finished eighth after leading five laps and he’s also 30/1 to win, as is Johnson who finished 14th. Hendrick has the set-up requirements dialed in, and don’t forget that Johnson’s crew chief who set-up Johnson’s 11 wins is now the chief for Byron’s No. 24.
But those Gibbs cars are going to be tough to beat, especially with this race package that they’ve won seven of the 11 races with. Hamlin has never won at Dover, but no one has been more consistent than his this season with this particular package that has seen him win nine of 11 races with it. Hamlin’s Bristol win in August is something to justify a wager on him at 12/1 odds this week because Bristol’s high-banked concrete layout is basically a mine-Dover requiring similar set-ups.
Kyle Busch won the April Bristol race and is a three-time winner at Dover, the last coming in the fall of 2017. He comes in as the 4/1 co-favorite with Truex who has four wins this season using this race package. Truex, from Mayetta Township in New Jersey, has been successful at Dover his entire racing career which also includes two Xfinity Series wins. His first Cup win came at Dover in 2007.
And then there’s Erik Jones (20/1) who won an Xfinity Series race at Dover in 2016. He was sixth in the May race and fourth in this race last season. Just because he’s out of the playoffs doesn’t mean anything.
The most bizarre-looking number on the odds board this week is Kyle Larson at 6/1 odds to win. The guy hasn’t won anywhere the past two seasons, but he has shown amazing affection for Dover. He’s a two-time runner-up and he’s probably had the best car there in three of his 11 Cup starts. In the May race, he started third and finished third, his best finish using the 750 HP package this season. He also has a 2017 Xfinity Series win at Dover on his resume. But 6/1?
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