AAA 400 Preview: Monster Mile Mayhem

AAA 400 Preview: Monster Mile Mayhem

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

Dover International Speedway plays host to this week's AAA 400 Drive for Autism. This is the first race of two this season at the concrete oval in Delaware. Dover International Speedway is also known as the "Monster Mile," and 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 race of 2016 at the Monster Mile, the learning curve will be steep this weekend. Those teams that can adapt to the practice feedback the quickest will be the ones to succeed this Sunday afternoon. This is race number 12 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 first race of the season

Dover International Speedway plays host to this week's AAA 400 Drive for Autism. This is the first race of two this season at the concrete oval in Delaware. Dover International Speedway is also known as the "Monster Mile," and 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 race of 2016 at the Monster Mile, the learning curve will be steep this weekend. Those teams that can adapt to the practice feedback the quickest will be the ones to succeed this Sunday afternoon. This is race number 12 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 first 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. As we saw at Kansas this past weekend, historical trends can override any hot streaks or other factors coming to a "familiar oval". Dover has favored one stable in particular in recent seasons, and as you will see below the drivers of Joe Gibbs Racing have a monopoly on the top of the chart. The trio of Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have led their share of laps and taken their share of victories at the one-mile oval. The loop stats in the table below cover the last 11 years or 22 races at Dover International Speedway.

DRIVERAVG FINISHQUALITY PASSESFASTEST LAPSLAPS LEDLAPS IN TOP 15RATING
Jimmie Johnson7.54641,2072,6047,507120.1
Matt Kenseth12.45695007977,328107.7
Kyle Busch14.65574821,0376,870105.8
Carl Edwards10.55725115366,08598.6
Kyle Larson7.31143501,40898.1
Greg Biffle12.15484404635,93695.4
Clint Bowyer11.9516237425,87692.5
Kevin Harvick13.54684067055,66791.2
Martin Truex Jr.15.14583143585,09591.2
Kurt Busch17.74983264135,46691.1
Brad Keselowski13.32831571252,94089.8
Ryan Newman15.84111412465,33286.8
Joey Logano13.43727513,80285.3
Denny Hamlin19.24291442614,72484.7
Dale Earnhardt Jr.16.3405254864,30882.7
Kasey Kahne18.5447361544,93582.3
Jamie McMurray18.53791171323,96979.6
Aric Almirola14.41183201,15276.8
A.J. Allmendinger23.32331641521,87772.3
Tony Stewart18.93116492,93371.3

The Monster Mile used to be one of Ford's most successful venues in the Sprint Cup Series. However, Chevrolet has changed that thanks to the recent dominance of Hendrick Motorsports star Jimmie Johnson. The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion has tamed the Monster Mile three times in the last five races at the Delaware oval. Johnson captured wins in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, which includes this same event one year ago. Kevin Harvick won the last Dover race in September of last year for Chevrolet, breaking Johnson's stranglehold but maintaining this manufacturer's recent success on the high banks. This season, Harvick is 1-for-11 thus far, so the chances of a Harvick victory this weekend would seem slim. However, don't count out this dynamic driver as he can catch fire at any time. The teams of Joe Gibbs Racing haven't won at the Monster Mile since Kyle Busch's win in this event in 2010. He and teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards represent Toyota's best chances for a Dover trophy this Sunday afternoon. Kenseth has two career wins at the one-mile oval in his Ford days with Roush, and Edwards has one. Considering the current momentum of the No. 19 team and the momentum that the No. 20 team is building, both have a great shot at getting JGR back to their winning ways at Dover.

A good sleeper to keep an eye on this weekend is Martin Truex Jr. The Furniture Row Racing veteran has one victory at the one-mile oval and he's been a strong performer at Dover for most of his career. Considering that Truex just dominated at Kansas before a mechanical issue took them out of contention, the No. 78 Toyota team could very well sneak into victory lane this Sunday. We'll outline the drivers who will likely dominate and a few others about to make surprise runs at Dover International Speedway this Sunday in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

The Contenders - Drivers in the hunt for the win

Jimmie Johnson -
The winner of three of the last five Dover races and a total of 10-career victories at the Monster Mile has to be the top contender entering this event. He'll look to put the subpar finish of Kansas this past weekend in his rearview mirror. Johnson loves the high-speed mixing bowl in Delaware, as his 2,999-career laps led attests. So this is the perfect oval for the No. 48 team to visit after a tough outing in the GoBowling.com 400. If by some chance Johnson isn't in the running for the win in the closing laps, his staggering 54-percent Top-5 rate at the one-mile oval is a very reassuring statistic that he won't fall far into the field. The odds are pretty good that we'll see Johnson battling for the win in the closing laps of the AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

Kyle Busch -
Once again Busch will look to get back into victory lane at the Monster Mile. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota is a two-time winner at DIS, and he sports a 46-percent Top-5 rate at the track. Even though Busch hasn't won at the one-mile oval since 2010, he's been a contender virtually every time the Sprint Cup Series visits here. Busch led 7 laps, but finished a disappointing 36th in last year's AAA 400 Drive for Autism after a late-race crash. In his last start at Dover the JGR star qualified 13th on the grid before finishing a strong runner-up in the AAA 400. He's coming off his third win of the season this past week at Kansas, so momentum is on his side. Busch's 64-percent Top-10 rate at this oval is at an elite level.

Kevin Harvick -
One of the biggest wildcards in the deck is Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing team. He's not one for big stats at this one-mile oval, in fact, he's just barely inside the Top 10 in driver rating in the above table. However, Harvick is racing about as well right now as anyone in the Sprint Cup Series. The veteran driver has a runner-up and fifth-place finish in his last three starts and that goes well with his one victory already this season. Harvick's resume at the Monster Mile is lacking, but showed signs of dramatic improvement last season. With one win, one runner-up finish and close to 450 laps led in those two events, the Stewart Haas Racing star may be in line for his second Dover victory this weekend.

Martin Truex Jr. -
The driver of the No. 78 Toyota has been fantastic for the past few weeks. With one pole position, 313 laps led and two Top-10 finishes in the last five events, Truex comes to the Monster Mile on the upswing. His near-miss of victory lane this past week at Kansas is another very encouraging sign. There's good reason to believe he'll be a contender again this weekend at Dover. The one-mile oval has been one of his better tracks during his 11-season Sprint Cup Series career. Truex has two pole positions, one victory and nine Top-10 finishes in his 20 starts at the Monster Mile. That works out to a respectable 15.1 average finish over the span. This single-car team is painfully close to nabbing their first victory of the season, and it could happen at Dover International Speedway.

Solid Plays - Drivers who are near locks for the Top 10 with an outside shot at winning

Carl Edwards -
It's no secret that Edwards loves concrete ovals. The results show it in both the Xfinity and Sprint Cup Series statistics. Edwards enters this event coming off the hard-fought 11th-place finish at Kansas, and hopefully to a much better effort this weekend. The one-time Dover winner has a strong 10.8 average finish at this high-banked oval, and he rides an impressive 52-percent Top-10 rate at DIS into this Sunday's event. Edwards and the No. 19 Toyota team find themselves a surprising third in the overall driver standings entering this weekend and looking to make up for their subpar Kansas performance.

Matt Kenseth -
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver can hardly wait to take to the high banks of DIS. Kenseth is turning around the slow start to the 2016 season, and his career numbers at this oval are nothing short of impressive. He has two-career victories at Dover International Speedway, including this event in 2011, and a 44-percent Top-5 rate at the Monster Mile. Kenseth has an amazing 15 Top-5 finishes at the concrete oval, and well over 850-career laps led at this facility. Coming off the strong fourth-place finish this past weekend at Kansas Speedway, we expect Kenseth to be a big performer this weekend at the Monster Mile.

Joey Logano -
The Penske Racing driver is looking to erase a couple weeks of heartache at Talladega and Kansas coming to Delaware this week. Logano rides quite a streak of recent consistency at Dover into the AAA 400 Drive for Autism this Sunday afternoon. Logano hasn't finished outside 11th-place in his last eight trips to this one-mile oval, and that places his career Top-10 mark at 64-percent at this one-mile oval. The driver of the No. 22 Ford enters the Dover race seventh in the driver standings and having won the outside pole and finishing eighth at the Richmond short track just a few weeks ago. These are all encouraging indicators for the young driver. With the recent career record at the Monster Mile and his current level of performance, it's hard to pass up on Logano in your fantasy racing lineups this weekend.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. -
Coming off the 15th-place finish at Kansas Speedway, we're calling for an Earnhardt rebound this week at the Monster Mile. The Hendrick Motorsports icon is a one-time winner at Dover and he has 12-career Top-10 finishes. Earnhardt has better tracks in his Sprint Cup Series lineup. However, his recent performances draw the most scrutiny. Three of his last five trips to DIS have yielded Top-10 finishes. That includes a strong performance in his last appearance at the Monster Mile. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet qualified 12th on the starting grid and navigated his way to an impressive third-place finish in the AAA 400. We should see more of the same this time around at Dover International Speedway.

Sleepers - Drivers with good history at Dover who can provide a solid finish

Brad Keselowski -
The Penske Racing star is a recent winner at Dover International Speedway. Keselowski won at the high-banked oval in the fall of 2012 in a very savvy performance. That was one of four Top-5 finishes that he has in the last seven visits to the Dover oval. The career numbers and even loop stats aren't that impressive for the driver of the No. 2 Ford, but his luck seems to be turning at this particular track. Keselowski won a pole position and racked up a pair of runner-up finishes at this concrete oval in 2014. The No. 2 Penske team is coming on strong at this facility, so the Top-5 and Top-10 finishes should keep coming for Keselowski.

Chase Elliott -
This weekend will be Elliott's first Sprint Cup Series start at Dover International Speedway, but as the rookie has been showing all season these "firsts" are of little concern. The experience and excellence of the No. 24 team has helped Elliott to overcome the learning curve in a lot of instances. His predecessor, Jeff Gordon, enjoyed years of excellent performance at the Monster Mile and that should continue on Elliott's watch. In four-career Xfinity Series starts at this one-mile oval, the young driver claimed a pair of Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes. That will be all the experience Elliott needs to impress this weekend in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

Clint Bowyer -
Of the drivers that really needs a good run this weekend, Bowyer and his HScott Motorsports team stand out. With only two Top-10 finishes to this point in 2016, the veteran driver finds himself an uncharacteristic 26th in the overall driver standings. The driver of the No. 15 Chevrolet has been building quite a Dover resume in recent seasons. Bowyer is riding an impressive nine Top 10s in his last 10 starts at the Monster Mile heading into this Sunday's AAA 400 Drive for Autism. This streak has boosted his career Top-10 rate at the Delaware oval to right at 60-percent. Bowyer has shown some improvement of late with a pair of Top-10 finishes in the last four races, including an eighth-place finish at the similarly-banked Bristol Motor Speedway.

Jamie McMurray -
The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet made a lot of accomplishments at the Monster Mile earlier in his career. Five of his first 11 starts at this facility netted Top-10 finishes for McMurray. The middle stages of his career saw the veteran driver cool off at this oval, but he's been able to stage a comeback at Dover in the later stages of his NASCAR career. McMurray claimed a pair of Top-10 finishes at Dover International Speedway last season. That combines with four Top-15 finishes in his last five trips to the Delaware oval. It's been a good turn of events for the Ganassi Racing veteran at Dover. McMurray looks like a safe bet to crack the Top-15 this Sunday afternoon in this 400-lap battle in the concrete bowl.

Kyle Larson -
Although his record at this track is short, the accomplishments warrant a close look for this weekend's AAA 400 Drive for Autism. The Chip Ganassi Racing youngster is battling some struggles and bad luck of late, but a visit to Dover should lift his spirits. Larson piloted the No. 42 Chevrolet to 11th- and sixth-place finishes at this oval two seasons ago during his fantastic rookie campaign. The one-mile track is a tough place for rookie drivers, but Larson showed cool and calm beyond his years in those two starts. He followed those performances with third- and ninth-place finishes at the Monster Mile last season. This appears to be a very timely visit to DIS for Larson, in his efforts to turn this season around.

Aric Almirola -
The Richard Petty Motorsports driver comes to Dover looking to turn around his slow start to the season. Almirola has been very inconsistent to this point in 2016. For a driver that normally finishes in and around the Top 15, he's not been close in the first 11 races. He'll look to reset at an oval that has been pretty good over his career, and particularly good last season. Almirola claimed a pair of Top-5 finishes at the Monster Mile last season. Both of those performances were quite impressive and not flukes by any stretch. The No. 43 Ford team should make good use of those notes for Sunday's AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

Slow Down - Drivers to avoid this week

Greg Biffle -
The No. 16 Ford team hasn't been quite on their game of late. Tracks where Biffle has historically performed well haven't held much success at all this season. Dover ranks as one of Biffle's top six tracks on the circuit, but his recent performances there have been very forgettable. Biffle has only one Top-10 finish in his last 11 trips to the Monster Mile. The Roush Fenway Racing veteran limps into this weekend's event at the high-banked oval. He has no Top-10 finishes this season and sits a lowly 23rd in the driver point standings. It's best to stay clear of Biffle until he gets his problems and consistency sorted out.

A.J. Allmendinger -
This has been a pretty good season so far for the JTG Daugherty Racing veteran. Allmendinger comes to Dover 15th in the driver standings on the strength of three Top-10 finishes so far this season. However, this is a weekend to use caution with the No. 47 team. The Monster Mile is one of Allmendinger's worst tracks on the circuit. With just three Top-10 finishes in 16-career starts, his average finish sits around a disappointing 23.2. The veteran driver hasn't cracked the Top 20 in his last five visits to the Delaware oval. This is a good weekend to give the Dinger a break in weekly fantasy racing lineup leagues.

Kurt Busch -
The Stewart Haas Racing star has been a fixture in our solid plays and sleepers lists this entire season. There's not many tracks that Busch doesn't possess at least some fantasy racing worth. However, the Monster Mile has seemed to present many career-long challenges for the driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet. His eight Top-10 finishes in 31-career starts checks in at a lowly 26-percent rate. Outside of Martinsville, its Busch's lowest Top-10 rate oval on the circuit. He hasn't visited the Top 10 at Dover International Speedway since the 2011 season and last season's 31st- and 17th-place finishes do very little to change our opinion of Busch's chances this weekend.

Ryan Newman -
Newman piled up a lot of accomplishments at the Monster Mile earlier in his career. He nabbed four pole positions and three victories in just his first 11 starts at Dover International Speedway. It's been like a tale of two careers at this oval for the veteran Richard Childress Racing driver. In Newman's last 17 starts at DIS, he's claimed only five Top-10 finishes. That's pulled his Top-10 rate down here to a lowly 46-percent. Last season the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet couldn't stay on the lead lap in either Dover start, and he barely made it inside the Top 20 by the checkered flag of both those events. That's not the level of performance we expect from a veteran like Newman.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
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.
NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS:  Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS: Ambetter Health 400
NASCAR DFS Trucks: Fr8 208
NASCAR DFS Trucks: Fr8 208
Ambetter Health 400 Preview: New Slot for Atlanta
Ambetter Health 400 Preview: New Slot for Atlanta