This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.
Since this is our first race of the season at
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. The Dover oval is such a unique animal that those who have historically performed well here tend to edge out those current streaking drivers. Dover had favored one particular stable for the last several seasons, that of Joe Gibbs Racing. However, times are changing and the faces at the top are getting younger and come now from multiple racing camps. The loop stats in the table below cover the last 12 years or 24 races at Dover International Speedway.
|DRIVER||AVG FINISH||QUALITY PASSES||FASTEST LAPS||LAPS LED||LAPS IN TOP 15||RATING|
|Martin Truex Jr.||14.2||501||448||592||5,894||94.8|
|Dale Earnhardt Jr.||17.0||421||257||86||4,601||82.7|
The Monster Mile used to be one of Ford's most successful venues in the Monster Energy Cup Series. However, Chevrolet and Toyota drivers have changed that in recent seasons. Drivers from the bowtie and Toyota camps have reeled off eight-straight victories at the Monster Mile, leaving Ford completely shut out here since the 2011 season. Matt Kenseth won this event one year ago for the Joe Gibbs Racing team and in the fall installment at Dover, fellow Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. was victorious. The pair of wins marked the first visit to Dover victory lane for this manufacturer since 2010 when Kyle Busch last took JGR to winner's circle at the Monster Mile. The teams of Joe Gibbs Racing will look to keep this current streak going as they all looked strong this past week at Charlotte and displayed speed we have not seen all year from this manufacturer. Truex Jr. was a monster himself at Charlotte last weekend, although he didn't collect the win. It would not be that surprising to see the No. 78 Toyota show up strong this Sunday and hotly defend their Dover win of last October. If Ford hopes to get back into victory lane at Dover, those hopes will mainly ride with Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. The duo are each one-time winners at the Monster Mile and have raced at a very high level of performance at this one-mile track in recent visits. Chevrolet's primary hopes of retaking the Dover throne from Toyota will focus around Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson. Johnson is a staggering 10-time winner at the Monster Mile, the last coming in 2015, and Larson who's never won at Dover but finished inside the Top 3 twice in his last four starts at the Delaware oval. 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
Martin Truex Jr. – The driver of the No. 78 Toyota has been fantastic for the past few weeks. With one victory, 453 laps led and four Top-10 finishes in the last five events, Truex comes to the Monster Mile riding high. His near-miss of victory lane this past week at Charlotte 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 12-season Monster Energy Cup Series career. Truex has two pole positions, two victories and 11 Top-10 finishes in his 22 starts at the Monster Mile. That works out to a strong 14.2 average finish over the span. The Furniture Row Racing star sat on the outside pole, led 187 laps and won at the Monster Mile last October. Truex will be the driver to beat Sunday afternoon in this 400-mile battle.
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 staggering 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 Monster Energy Cup Series visits here. Busch led 102 laps, and finished runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. in his last start at the Monster Mile last October. That performance gave the Joe Gibbs Racing star now two runner-up finishes in his last three Dover starts. Busch has been painfully close to nabbing that third-career trophy at the one-mile oval. He's coming off a strong runner-up performance at Charlotte, so momentum is on his side. Busch's chances of contending for the win in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism is very high.
Kyle Larson – Charlotte was a complete disaster for the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team. Larson had a very fast car, but failing to qualify was one set back, then hitting the wall late in the race was the other. The talented youngster will look to rebound at one of his better small ovals at Dover. Larson has just six-career starts at the Monster Mile, but they're starts that are packed full with results. He has one runner-up finish, two Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes in those efforts. That puts his average finish at a sparkling 9.3 at the facility. In this event one year ago, Larson piloted the No. 42 Chevrolet to 85 laps led and a runner-up finish. You can bet the notes from that performance will come in handy for this driver and team again Sunday afternoon.
Jimmie Johnson – The winner of three of the last seven Dover races and a total of 10-career victories at the Monster Mile has to be considered a top contender entering this event. He'll look to put the empty fuel tank and near-miss victory of Charlotte this past weekend in his rearview mirror. Johnson loves the high-speed mixing bowl in Delaware, as his 3,000+ career laps led attests. So this is the perfect oval for the No. 48 team to visit after a tough-luck outing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. If by some chance Johnson isn't in the running for the win in the closing laps, his staggering 50-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.
Solid Plays - Drivers who are near locks for the top 10 with an outside shot at winning
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 six Top-6 finishes that he has in the last nine 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 ability to finish well at this one-mile oval is undeniable. Keselowski won a pole position and racked up a pair of Top-10 finishes at this concrete oval in 2016. 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.
Matt Kenseth – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver can hardly wait to take to the high banks of DIS. Kenseth is currently turning around the slow start to the 2017 season, and his career numbers at this oval are nothing short of impressive. He has three-career victories at Dover International Speedway, including this event one year ago, and a 47-percent Top-5 rate at the Monster Mile. Kenseth has an amazing 17 Top-5 finishes at the concrete oval, and well over 900-career laps led at this facility. Coming off the strong fourth-place finish this past weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, we expect Kenseth to be a big performer this weekend at the Monster Mile.
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 Monster Energy Cup Series. The veteran driver has three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes in his last five starts and that includes his pole position and strong eighth-place finish at Charlotte this past week. Harvick's career resume at the Monster Mile is lacking, but has shown signs of dramatic improvement the last three seasons. With two poles, one win, one runner-up finish and well over 700 laps led in the last three seasons at this facility, the Stewart Haas Racing star is poised to be an impact driver in this 400-lap battle.
Joey Logano – The Penske Racing driver is looking to erase three weeks of heartache at Talladega, Kansas and Charlotte 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 has only finished outside 11th-place once in his last 10 trips to this one-mile oval, and that places his career Top-10 mark at 63-percent at this challenging facility. The driver of the No. 22 Ford enters the Dover race 10th in the driver standings and looking to improve his position in the Chase. These are all encouraging indicators for the young driver. With the recent career record at the Monster Mile it's difficult to imagine that Logano won't rebound this weekend. He's a must start in all weekly fantasy racing lineups.
Sleepers - Drivers with good history at Dover who can provide a solid finish
Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing flexed their muscles at Charlotte last week. Hamlin and his teammates, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, all cracked the Top 5 in the Coca-Cola 600. In addition, rookie teammate Daniel Suarez finished a not-so-shabby 11th. JGR is on the upswing at the right time as the series visits the Monster Mile. Hamlin has been improving at the one-mile oval as two of his eight-career Top 10s have come in just the last two visits. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota has enjoyed years at success at the similar, but smaller banked oval in Bristol. It has just taken some time for that same success to come for Hamlin. He presents a Top-10 threat this Sunday afternoon.
Chase Elliott – The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team has hit a rough patch of luck the last month or so. The speed has been there, but the finishes haven't come for one reason or another. Elliott was in the wrong place at the wrong time this past week at Charlotte, and that's been demonstrative of his struggles. He should rebound at the Monster Mile. The young driver made his first two Cup starts at the Delaware speedway last season and came away with an impressive pair of third-place finishes. Elliott qualified on the outside pole and finished seventh at the highly banked oval in Bristol a few weeks ago. That could be a good indicator of what to expect this weekend in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism.
Clint Bowyer – In this career reviving season that Bowyer is experiencing, his best ovals have been places for success for his new Stewart Haas Racing team. The driver of the No. 14 Ford has been building quite a Dover resume over the years. Bowyer has 12 Top-10 finishes in 22-career starts, which works out to a strong 55-percent rate. Even when he's not finishing inside the Top 10, he's staying on the lead lap and proving to be competitive. Bowyer has only one finish outside the Top 15 since the 2011 season at Dover International Speedway. This weekend will be the best car that the veteran driver has brought to this one-mile oval since the 2014 season. Bowyer won't have any difficulty making the most of it in this race.
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 has claimed a pair of Top-10 finishes at Dover International Speedway in his last four attempts. He's also been a regular face inside the Top 15 when not cracking the Top 10. The No. 1 CGR team has three Top 10s and five Top 15s in the last five evets leading up to this weekend. McMurray looks like a safe bet to crack the Top-15 this Sunday afternoon in this 400-lap battle in the concrete bowl.
Austin Dillon – Coming off his first-career victory at Charlotte this past week, the No. 3 RCR team is flying high coming to Dover. Dillon and his new crew chief were rewarded for their fuel mileage strategy in the Coca-Cola 600, and Dillon came away with the big win. He may not win at Dover this week, but signs point to a good effort. The driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet will be making his eighth-career Dover start this Sunday. In his last start at the Monster Mile, Dillon registered a career-best mark of eighth-place when the checkered flag waved at the track last October. That performance is fresh in our memories as is Dillon's Top-15 finish at the similarly banked oval in Bristol a few weeks ago.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – The No. 17 Ford team has been very strong through April and May. Stenhouse claimed the win at Talladega a few weeks ago, and he's registered 11th- and 15th-place finishes at the intermediate ovals of Kansas and Charlotte. Now the Roush Fenway Racing driver sets his sights on the one-mile concrete oval in Delaware. Stenhouse has only one Top-10 finish in nine starts at this track, but recent results have been pretty dependable. Finishes of eighth-, 14th- and 11th-place have been his recent Dover results. Given the current level of performance of this driver and team, and considering Stenhouse's improved Dover efforts, he should be a solid performer in Sunday's 400-mile race.
Slow Down - Drivers to avoid this week
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Despite collecting his second Top-10 finish of the season at Charlotte this past weekend, it may be a bit premature to say that Earnhardt's slump is over. The Top 10 was far from an easy effort. Dover presents another opportunity for the No. 88 Chevrolet team to rebound from this poor season. However, it will be an uphill battle considering Earnhardt's recent history at this one-mile oval. His 12-career Top 10s at Dover represent a 36-percent rate. More recently, Earnhardt has only visited the Top 10 once in his last four trips to the Monster Mile. The variables and trends are not good enough to warrant safe fantasy racing deployment this weekend.
A.J. Allmendinger – This has been a pretty tough season so far for the JTG Daugherty Racing veteran. Allmendinger comes to Dover 29th in the driver standings with only two Top-10 finishes so far this season. This is another 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 18-career starts, his average finish sits around a disappointing 23.0. The veteran driver has only cracked the Top 20 once in his last seven visits to the Delaware oval. This is a good weekend to give the Dinger a break in weekly fantasy racing lineup leagues.
Ryan Blaney – The Wood Brothers Racing driver has made real waves the last few weeks on the big ovals. Blaney's pole position and fourth-place finish at Kansas recently is ample evidence of this fact. However, the smaller ovals have presented a problem for the driver of the No. 21 Ford. Blaney's 33rd- and 36th-place finishes at Bristol and Richmond recently illustrate that point. Dover International Speedway will present another challenge for the young driver. He has two career starts at the Monster Mile with very mixed results. One was a Top-10 finish and the other was a finish outside the Top 35. Given how much Blaney has struggled on the short tracks this season, it's a risky play to roll him in fantasy lineups at the Monster Mile.
Kasey Kahne – After a tough luck finish at Charlotte this past week, Kahne now has only one Top 10 in the last 10 events. It's been a poor turn of events for the No. 5 team and a bad string of finishes. Kahne has slipped from ninth- to 20th-place in the standings over the last two plus months. Now he comes to the Monster Mile looking to turn things around. The veteran driver has a lowly 31-percent Top-10 rate at Dover over 13 seasons of racing. That's a mark that's well below the expected rate for a preferred fantasy racing play. This Sunday afternoon Kahne should come in somewhere around his 18.7 average finish mark at Dover, and that's less than desirable for fantasy racing deployment.