DuraMAX Drydene 400 Preview: The Monster Mile

DuraMAX Drydene 400 Preview: The Monster Mile

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

Dover International Speedway plays host to this week's DuraMAX Drydene 400. This is the only race this season at the concrete oval in Delaware. For many years this track had two annual NASCAR Cup Series events, but schedule shuffling has reduced that. 

Dover International Speedway is also known as the "Monster Mile," for good reason. It's like a super-sized Bristol Motor Speedway, with similar banking and track surface all in a one-mile oval. Dover has a short track feel, but produces the high 160-plus mph speeds of the larger tracks on the circuit. The high speeds are due to the 24-degree banking in all turns and the extreme grip that the concrete paved surface provides. It's a lightning fast track, and it produces some exciting, side-by-side racing. As many drivers have shown in the past, it takes a good balance of aggression and patience to tame the monster. It's this balance that the drivers will need to master if they hope to conquer the competition and this fierce track. With this being the first and only race of 2022 at the Monster Mile, the learning curve will be steep this weekend. Those teams that can adapt the fastest after the green flag drops will be the ones to succeed this Sunday afternoon. This is race number 11 of the season, so urgency to better one's position in the driver standings will pick up the pace at the Dover oval. We'll surely see some of that urgency in the racing this

Dover International Speedway plays host to this week's DuraMAX Drydene 400. This is the only race this season at the concrete oval in Delaware. For many years this track had two annual NASCAR Cup Series events, but schedule shuffling has reduced that. 

Dover International Speedway is also known as the "Monster Mile," for good reason. It's like a super-sized Bristol Motor Speedway, with similar banking and track surface all in a one-mile oval. Dover has a short track feel, but produces the high 160-plus mph speeds of the larger tracks on the circuit. The high speeds are due to the 24-degree banking in all turns and the extreme grip that the concrete paved surface provides. It's a lightning fast track, and it produces some exciting, side-by-side racing. As many drivers have shown in the past, it takes a good balance of aggression and patience to tame the monster. It's this balance that the drivers will need to master if they hope to conquer the competition and this fierce track. With this being the first and only race of 2022 at the Monster Mile, the learning curve will be steep this weekend. Those teams that can adapt the fastest after the green flag drops will be the ones to succeed this Sunday afternoon. This is race number 11 of the season, so urgency to better one's position in the driver standings will pick up the pace at the Dover oval. We'll surely see some of that urgency in the racing this Sunday afternoon at the Monster Mile.

Since this is our lone race of the season at Dover, we need to check in briefly with the electronic loop stats from this high-banked oval. Current trends at this track should hold pretty true to form this weekend despite the x-factor of the Next-Gen car. The Dover oval is such a unique animal that those who have historically performed well here tend to edge out those current streaking drivers. They are easily identified in the table below.  The loop stats cover the last 3 years or 5 races at Dover International Speedway.

DriverAvg. FinishQuality Passes# of Fastest LapsLaps LedLaps in Top 15Driver Rating
Kyle Larson2.0612044171,191131.3
Kevin Harvick3.81441992241,773119.9
Martin Truex Jr.5.21301892511,636113.7
Denny Hamlin10.61201263351,404106.6
Alex Bowman6.41441501141,429100.2
William Byron11.413056281,44896.2
Brad Keselowski11.214125671,71094.9
Joey Logano12.010965311,32691.8
Ryan Blaney17.68525371,55690.9
Kyle Busch11.41547541,15883.5
Cole Custer10.3647060982.6
Tyler Reddick13.06610060881.6
Chase Elliott18.07514717299580.5
Austin Dillon15.098314997479.5
Aric Almirola18.888382287778.5
Erik Jones15.4831601,03775.5
Kurt Busch17.6872531,19971.5
Daniel Suarez18.457352265266.0
Chris Buescher21.2575047265.9
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.23.26929139463.2

The Monster Mile used to be one of Ford's most successful venues in the NASCAR Cup Series. However, Chevrolet and Toyota drivers have changed that in recent years.  Drivers from the bowtie and Toyota camps have evened the odds recently at the Monster Mile, leaving Ford in a three-way battle of parity. Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota drivers have each won in the last three events at Dover. However, Ford has just one win in the last six events at this one-mile track. 

In this event one year ago, we witnessed Alex Bowman surge late and upstage a seemingly stronger Kyle Larson to capture the win in the Drydene 400. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet led the final 97 laps of that event en route to capturing his first-career Dover victory. The Bowman-Larson duel was really the main storyline of that spring afternoon. Chase Elliott and William Byron were also strong as Chevrolet drivers swept the Top 4 spots. It will be interesting to see if the bowtie brand can hold onto that success in light of the new Next-Gen car. It would seem to be an equalizing factor for this Sunday afternoon. Drivers like Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick were sideline stories last May, but we'll see if they can turn the tables back in their favor this weekend. We'll outline the drivers who will likely dominate and a few others about to make surprise runs at Dover International Speedway.

The Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win

Martin Truex Jr. – The driver of the No. 19 Toyota is coming off the strong Talladega Top-5 finish and looking to build some momentum coming to Delaware. The one-mile Dover oval has been one of his better tracks during his 16-season NASCAR Cup Series career. Truex has four pole positions, three victories and 18 Top-10 finishes in his 31 starts at the Monster Mile. That works out to a strong 11.7 average finish for his career at the Delaware oval. The Joe Gibbs Racing star has won or finished runner-up in four of his last five starts at DIS, and over that span he's led a whopping 251 laps. Truex has grown to love racing this track later in his career, and we don't see that changing in this 400-lap battle. 

Kyle Larson – Larson had a shot at the win this past week at Talladega but the frantic action of the last lap would see him shuffled out of the battle for the lead coming to the finish line. He'll look to race for the checkers once again Sunday at Dover. Larson has just 13-career starts at the Monster Mile, but they're starts that are packed full with results. He has one victory, three runner-up finishes, seven Top-5 and 10 Top-10 finishes in those efforts. That puts his average finish at a sparkling 7.0 at this facility. Larson led 263 laps in this event one year ago, but finished runner-up to Alex Bowman. This steeply-banked one-mile oval is one of his favorite tracks on the Cup Series circuit, and you can bet Larson will be intent on getting into victory lane this Sunday afternoon. 

Kyle Busch – Busch extended his current Top-10 streak to four races with his strong third-place finish at Talladega this past Sunday. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota is a three-time winner at DIS, and he sports a staggering 39-percent Top-5 rate at the track. His lofty 61-percent Top-10 rate at the one-mile oval is also among the best in NASCAR. Busch's recent victory on the Bristol dirt half-oval signals that he may be stronger right now on the short tracks than the larger ovals. He's finished inside the Top 10 in his last four-straight Cup Series short track events. Considering how well he's racing at the moment, we have to give Busch contender status this weekend at the Monster Mile.

William Byron – Byron is quickly becoming the newest member of the elite tier of drivers in NASCAR's top division. With two victories and four Top-5 finishes already in 2022, he comes to the Monster Mile a lofty third in the series point standings. Byron will be making just his eighth-career Dover start this Sunday, so the statistical sample size is a bit small. The young driver has a pair of fourth-place finishes in his last two starts at the Dover oval. Byron's start in this event one year ago netted a career-best 21 laps led and fourth-place finish in the Drydene 400. Considering his 334 laps led and third- and first-place finishes recently at Richmond and Martinsville, we really like Byron and the No. 24 team as potential contenders to win the DuraMAX Drydene 400. 

Solid Plays – Near locks for a Top 10 with an outside shot to win

Joey Logano – The Penske Racing driver is looking to get back to his Top-10 ways returning to Dover this week. Logano has quite a streak of recent consistency at the Monster Mile coming into the DuraMAX Drydene 400 this Sunday afternoon. Logano has 15-career Top-10 finishes at DIS, and that places his career Top-10 rate at 60-percent at this challenging facility. The driver of the No. 22 Ford enters the Dover race sixth in the driver standings and looking to improve his position for the upcoming Chase. A win at Dover would help in that regard. He rides a three-race Dover Top-10 streak into this event. With his recent career record at the Monster Mile it's hard to imagine that Logano won't be racing among the leaders this Sunday afternoon.

Chase Elliott – The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team has put together a modest three-race Top-10 streak after Elliott's seventh-place Talladega finish last Sunday. He'll look to keep it rolling in the DuraMAX Drydene 400. The young driver has made 11-career starts at Dover International Speedway, and they've been eye-popping efforts. Elliott has eight Top-5 finishes in those starts, including a victory in 2018. The last few seasons have been a bit of a mixed bag with three Top-5 finishes and two DNF's but he still sports a strong 10.5 average finish at this track despite his recent uneven luck. Elliott may not be one of the top fantasy racing choices this weekend, but he carries a lot of upside with his selection. 

Tyler Reddick – Reddick has been pretty consistent this season, but he's certainly been stronger on the small and intermediate ovals as opposed to the larger tracks. Two weeks ago he challenged for the win and finished runner-up in the Bristol dirt race. That's just the latest example of his performance on small tracks. Reddick has three-career Dover starts under his belt, with his most recent yielding a strong eighth-place finish last season. During his three-season Xfinity Series career, the Richard Childress Racing youngster raced the Monster Mile to a pair of Top-5 finishes. Reddick has experience dating back to 2017 at this one-mile oval despite his three Cup Series starts at Dover. We believe the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet has tons of potential in Sunday's DuraMAX Drydene 400.

Ryan Blaney – The Penske Racing star has been zeroed-in on the short tracks this season. Finishes of fourth- (Phoenix), seventh- (Richmond), fourth- (Martinsville) and fifth-place (Bristol dirt) have been his body of work so far. The wins have been slow to come but tantalizingly close. Blaney has had mixed results at this one-mile oval, but he's been better in more recent outings. He's nabbed a pair of 12th-place finishes in his last two Monster Mile starts. Blaney has tons of Dover potential as his past Xfinity Series results demonstrate. He won, finished runner-up and posted four Top-5 finishes at the track in his last four starts in that division. We like Blaney to surprise in this 400-mile Dover battle.  

Sleepers – Drivers with good history at Dover & solid upside

Ross Chastain – The Trackhouse Racing veteran is now a two-time winner in 2022 thanks to his big victory at Talladega this past week. Chastain slipped through the lead-pack storm in the final lap of that race to capture the win. The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet will look to keep the hot streak going in the Dover mixing bowl this Sunday. Chastain has seven-career Cup Series starts at this track, but not much acclaim to this point. He did post a Top-15 finish in this event one year ago for former boss, Chip Ganassi. We believe that mark could be the floor for this driver and team this weekend. With the exception of the Bristol dirt race, Chastain has been strong on the short tracks this season with a pair of Top-5 finishes (Phoenix and Martinsville).

Chase Briscoe – The disappointment of Briscoe's crash and DNF at Talladega this past weekend will soon fade with Dover looming large. The Stewart Haas Racing youngster will get to hit the reset button this weekend. Short tracks have been right up Briscoe's ally in 2022. He nabbed a surprising Phoenix victory earlier this season and respectable 11th- and ninth-place finishes at Richmond and Martinsville. The driver of the No. 14 and his crew chief, Johnny Klausmeier, have been pretty in-tune with the bull rings this season. Briscoe has just one Cup Series start at the Monster Mile, but when we look back to his Xfinity stats we see some stellar results. The SHR rising star has one win, three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes in five-career Xfinity Series starts at this challenging oval.

Alex Bowman – Bowman must have absolutely loathed this oval prior to 2019. His first six Cup Series starts at this track failed to yield a finish inside the Top 20. However, from 2019 onward he has racked up some great results. Bowman's last five efforts at the Monster Mile have yielded a victory, a runner-up finish and four Top 5's. He won this event one year ago with a late-race surge, and left a pretty big impression heading into this season's Dover race. Bowman has been a pretty steady performer on the short tracks this season with a pair of Top-10 finishes so far, the latest being a sixth-place finish on the Bristol dirt. The No. 48 Chevrolet team have been in a groove for much of the season, and we don't see that changing in the DuraMAX Drydene 400.

Christopher Bell – The Joe Gibbs Racing youngster's first three Cup Series starts at Dover have yet to yield much in the way of results, but we believe this weekend he'll post a career-best finish at the track. Bell has been a bit on-and-off to this point in the season, but his short track racing has stood out. A recent sixth-place finish at Richmond and strong seventh-place finish on the Bristol dirt a couple weeks ago are quite noteworthy. Bell had the speed to win the pole at Talladega this past week and lead laps, but his luck didn't measure up for a good finish. He'll right that wrong this week at the Monster Mile. His four-career Xfinity Series starts at Dover Speedway netted two victories and three Top-5 finishes.       

Kurt Busch – Busch is coming off a subpar 16th-place Talladega finish, but he'll look to rebound this weekend at the Monster Mile. The veteran 23XI Racing driver has been pretty on-point with his short track performance thus far this season. Busch's fifth- and sixth-place Phoenix and Martinsville finishes stand out. The Monster Mile has been a track of some recent success for the driver of the No. 45 Toyota. Since 2018, Busch has two Top-5 and three Top-10 finishes in his last seven Dover starts for a respectable 14.0 average finish. Busch has been much better on these short tracks in the new Next-Gen car than the old stock car. He should net some good results in Sunday's 400-lap contest.   

Austin Dillon – Dillon is doing his best to not be overshadowed by RCR teammate, Tyler Reddick. He's doing a pretty good job thus far this season with three Top-5 and five Top-10 finishes to this point and coming off a strong runner-up finish at Talladega. Dillon has made some waves on the short tracks too this season. His recent third-place finish at Martinsville and 10th-place finish at Richmond are standouts. Dillon doesn't have a stellar Dover resume, but his recent starts have been very encouraging. He has one Top-10 and three Top-15 finishes in his last three starts at the Monster Mile. The new Next-Gen car has really been a boost for the No. 3 Chevrolet team. That shouldn't change this weekend in the Dover mixing bowl.  

Slow Down - Drivers to avoid this week

Kevin Harvick – One of the biggest wildcards in the deck is Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing team. He's a three-time winner at the Monster Mile, and all of those victories have come since the 2015 season. Harvick rides a seven-race Dover Top-10 streak into this weekend's action. However, the primary reason for our pessimism is that he's just not running as well as the other Stewart Haas Racing drivers are right now. Harvick's 12 laps led to this point and 40-percent Top-10 rate for 2022 is well below our expectations. His 14.7 average finish 10 events into the season is a bit inflated as well. Harvick has great potential to break out of his rut this weekend, but we feel he's simply too risky to trust for fantasy racing deployment just yet.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – The veteran driver has been a short track poor performer thus far in 2022. Stenhouse has finishes of 28th-, 28th-, 27th- and 29th-place thus far on tracks one-mile in size or less this season. He comes to Delaware a disappointing 31st-place in the driver points. Not much has gone right for Stenhouse this season except the lone Top 10 he posted early in the year on the huge Fontana oval. Stenhouse has 18-career Dover starts to his credit and just three Top 10's (17-percent). The average finish at the Monster Mile stands around a subpar 20.6. He's only cracked the Top 10 once in his last five trips to Dover Speedway. Stenhouse is a slumping driver visiting one of his poorer ovals on the circuit this weekend.           

Brad Keselowski – If you're examining Keselowski's historical stats at Dover, then you're likely expecting better than a middle-to-upper teens finish this weekend. However, that's what you're likely to get with the driver of the No. 6 Ford. Keselowski is a one-time Dover winner and his 44-percent Top-10 rate at the track is more than acceptable. The 12.8 career average finish for the veteran driver at Dover is also better than the norm. Still, we have to look at the struggles of Keselowski this season in the new Next-Gen car. Outside of a strong Daytona 500 performance, the rest has been laid bare. His 17.3 average finish thus far and 29th-place rank in the driver standings tell the story for this driver and team. Keselowski led no laps and finished a disappointing 23rd-place this past week at Talladega, one of his favorite race tracks.

Denny Hamlin – The Joe Gibbs Racing star as well as his teammates at JGR have enjoyed tremendous success at the Monster Mile in recent seasons. Hamlin won this event in 2020 and he's posted Top 10's in three of his last four Dover starts. However, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota has been anything but dependable this season. If he hadn't backed into that Richmond victory a few weeks ago, the cupboard would be pretty bare. Entering this weekend, Hamlin has a three-race Top-10 drought in tow and he's ranked a distant 24th-place in the driver standings. Dover has been a good track for Hamlin in recent seasons, but we feel his current cold streak trumps his historical success at the Monster Mile.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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