This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.
Hendrick Motorsports teams and Chevrolet have had their fair share of success at Dover in over the years, so this event will be great news for Chase participants Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott. Johnson has 10-career victories at the Monster Mile and Elliott racked up a stellar third-place finish here earlier this season, so they have the resume to succeed in the Citizen Soldier 400. Both are still very much in the running for
Hendrick Motorsports teams and Chevrolet have had their fair share of success at Dover in over the years, so this event will be great news for Chase participants Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott. Johnson has 10-career victories at the Monster Mile and Elliott racked up a stellar third-place finish here earlier this season, so they have the resume to succeed in the Citizen Soldier 400. Both are still very much in the running for the championship, so you know they'll be racing hard in this 400-mile battle. The races at Dover International Speedway are usually anything but dull. Most are led by a number of drivers, and are very competitive. The parity that we currently have at this track is a good indicator of the entertainment factor associated with this race. In recent years, we have seldom seen one driver run away and dominate at the Monster Mile. The Sprint Cup Series schedule presents a very appropriate race and a challenge for the drivers in this third race in the Chase for the Championship.
The Monster Mile is quite unique in configuration. It's comparable to Bristol Motor Speedway, but much larger. The concrete surface that was placed in 1995 made it the first concrete oval that NASCAR raced on. Little has changed since then. With this in mind it will be really useful to take a look at the loop stats for this one-mile oval. For this event we will place a great deal of emphasis on the recent history of Dover International Speedway, specifically the race here earlier this summer. The configuration and concrete surface really appeals to a select group of drivers, and they'll be easily identifiable from the numbers below. Here are the loop stats for the last 23 races at Dover.
|DRIVER||AVG FINISH||QUALITY PASSES||FASTEST LAPS||LAPS LED||LAPS IN TOP 15||RATING|
|Martin Truex Jr.||14.8||487||366||405||5,494||92.4|
What used to be a track of manufacturer parity has begun to tilt in one direction the last few seasons. Chevrolet drivers have taken six of the last seven wins at the Dover oval, and for the moment have broken Ford and Toyota's grip on the facility. The bad news is that Toyota has only three-career wins at the high-banked oval, but the good news underlying this is that a Toyota driver was our last winner at the Monster Mile. Ford's last victory came in 2011 when Matt Kenseth still raced for Roush Fenway Racing. Both the Gibbs and Roush camps have a lot of ground to makeup at this concrete oval. This season's race in June at the Monster Mile bears close examination. The now-Joe Gibbs star Kenseth and Chip Ganassi Racing star Kyle Larson battled over the final 100 laps, but in the end it was Kenseth who would prevail and take his third-career victory at the facility. It snapped an 11-race winless streak for Toyota at the one-mile Delaware oval and gave Kenseth his first win of 2016. Considering that Kenseth has been gathering some momentum leading into the Chase for the Cup, this is a timely visit to Dover International Speedway. For the surging driver of the No. 20 Toyota, it's an opportunity to get back into the thick of the championship quest. Before you get the sense that Kenseth and Larson will return to Dover this weekend and pick up right where he left off in June, we must not forget our 2014 champion, Kevin Harvick. He's fresh off the big win at Loudon last weekend that automatically advances him into the Round of 12 of the Chase. The driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet won this event one year ago and he also finished runner-up here in June of 2015. He's led well over 800 laps in just his last five visits to Dover International Speedway. Harvick has been incredibly fast each of the first two races of the Chase, so you know he'll be on his game for this one. We'll examine the Dover historical stats, and we'll take a good look at the current trends to give you the lineup of drivers you need to dominate the high banks of the Monster Mile this Sunday afternoon.
The Contenders - Drivers in the hunt for the win
Kevin Harvick – Harvick is a great fantasy racing play this weekend. He's coming off a win that Loudon that advances him in the Chase, but he'll still be hungry for the checkers to improve his ranking in the Chase standings. Harvick has 14-career Top-10 finishes at the Monster Mile and two of those have come in his last three starts at the high-banked oval. He's won two pole positions, one victory, and led over 800 laps in his last five Dover starts. It's really a wonder that Harvick has only won the lone event there in the last three seasons. With the Stewart Haas Racing star looking squarely at another chance to win the Cup, we expect to see the driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet racing with some urgency in the Citizen Soldier 400.
Matt Kenseth – The team with the great Monster Mile pedigree this weekend is the No. 20 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota team. Kenseth has been solid as a rock at this one-mile oval over his 17-year career. The Monster Mile presents the perfect opportunity for this veteran driver to pick up yet another win in the Chase for the Cup. Kenseth owns three-career victories at Dover and he's led 904 laps on the concrete high banks. In addition to that the veteran driver has 23 Top-10 finishes at the facility, which works out to a lofty 66-percent rate. Kenseth won here in June in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. You can't argue with results and this driver has them at Dover International Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr. – The last few weeks have been a wild ride for the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team. Truex has won two of the last four events and set himself very well for a deep run into the Chase for the Cup. He won at this Delaware oval in 2007 for former team Dale Earnhardt Inc. and he's won two career pole positions at the concrete one-mile track. Truex, a New Jersey native, has always considered the Dover events a home-coming of sorts so he looks forward to racing here. He has four Top 10's in his last five Dover starts coming into this Sunday's 400-mile battle. Right now the Furniture Row Racing star is performing well enough to win any given weekend.
Jimmie Johnson – Johnson is looking to make up ground in the Chase for the Cup standings as we roll into Dover this weekend. It's funny how the No. 48 team always seems to step up their performance when it's championship time. After a Top-15 finish at Chicago and Top-10 finish at Loudon to start the Chase, the Hendrick Motorsports star is poised to up his game a notch this Sunday afternoon. Johnson is the active wins leader at the Monster Mile with 10, including three of the last six events at the track. The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion has led over 3,000-career laps at the Delaware oval. That's 26-percent of the total laps raced at the Monster Mile since 2002! That makes Johnson a top contender for this event.
Solid Plays - Drivers who are near locks for the top 10 with an outside shot at winning
Joey Logano – The Penske Racing driver shook off some poor Loudon performance of late with a decent 11th-place finish at the Magic Mile to continue his quest for the championship. Logano now finds himself fifth in the standings at 14 points behind leader Brad Keselowski coming to Dover. He has strong career numbers at Dover International Speedway with nine Top 10's in 15 starts. Logano raced to a solid 10th-place finish in this event one year ago. So he now has seven Top 10 in his last nine Monster Mile starts coming into Sunday's race. We expect the No. 22 Ford team will have extensive notes from those performances, and Logano will put them to good use in the Citizen Soldier 400.
Brad Keselowski – This Penske Racing driver has elevated his game in the last several races. It was enough to give the veteran a good seed in the Chase for the Cup, and to make him a championship contender over these next handful of races. Keselowski is seen racing with the leaders every week and a major threat to win each race going forward. In his last five seasons of racing at the Delaware oval, the driver of the No. 2 Ford has collected one pole position, one victory, two runner-up finishes and five Top-10 finishes. He led 49 laps at the Monster Mile in June before eventually finishing sixth in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. Keselowski will be on a mission to complete that unfinished business and take another step towards this season's championship.
Kasey Kahne – It has been a tough season for the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team. Kahne missed the Chase for the Cup field and he's battled consistency issues all season long. However, the last month has been a complete 180 for this veteran driver and team. Kahne rides a four-race Top-10 streak into Delaware and the No. 5 team looks like the team we expected all season long. His Dover resume is a bit spotty with only a 32-percent career Top-10 rate at the one-mile oval. However, recent outings have been pleasantly surprising. Kahne rides a three-race Dover Top-10 streak into Sunday's contest at the Monster Mile. He'll be challenged, although capable, to equal his fourth-place showing here in June.
Kyle Larson – The driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet has been working on a career-best season and he's getting it together for a strong finish as we approach the end of the season. Larson made the Chase for the Cup and he's fresh off a respectable 10th-place finish at Loudon. The young driver's Dover resume is nearly spotless with four Top 10's in five-career starts. He scored a strong runner-up finish at Dover in June and that now makes him a very high profile fantasy racing driver at the Monster Mile. We expect his Dover excellence to continue this Sunday afternoon at the Delaware oval.
Sleepers - Drivers with good history at Dover who can provide a solid finish
Jeff Gordon – The No. 88 team looks to Gordon again this weekend to drive in the absence of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He now has Top-15 finishes in three of his last four races, so performance level is improving since returning to NASCAR late-summer. While Dover International Speedway hasn't been one of his best tracks in the later stages of his career, Gordon has the mettle to post a great finish in the Citizen Solider 400. The Hendrick Motorsports star is a five-time winner at the Monster Mile, and he's a Top-10 finisher in 57-percent of his starts at this oval. If there is any driver outside the Chase field capable of cracking the Top 10 this weekend, Gordon is it.
Carl Edwards – If Edwards hopes to win his first Sprint Cup Series championship, this will be a pivotal weekend to advance in that effort. The Joe Gibbs Racing star is looking to continue his pursuit of that elusive championship at one of his favorite tracks this Sunday afternoon. We expect Edwards to have his best on display in this 400-lap event. The recent pole position and Top 10 at Bristol showed the potential of this driver and team on a high banked oval. He owns one victory and 12 Top-10 finishes in 24-career starts at the Monster Mile and he's led well over 500 laps at the facility. Considering how good Edwards has been at this one-mile oval, it would be a shock to see him racing anywhere but up front at Dover.
Chase Elliott – We got a glimpse of just how good Elliott can be on a tough oval this past Sunday at Loudon. The Hendrick Motorsports rookie raced inside the Top 10 all day, but a series of late pit stops would relegate him 13th at the checkered flag. It was a gritty performance on one of his lesser tracks. The news is much better this week as Dover plays more to Elliott's driving strengths. His stellar third-place finish here in June was no fluke. That was Elliott's first-career Cup start at the Monster Mile, but it dovetailed nicely with his two Top-5 and four Top-10 Xfinity Series efforts at this one-mile oval. The rising Hendrick Motorsports star doesn't know that he's not supposed to win the championship, but he'll certainly race like it this Sunday afternoon.
Denny Hamlin – One of the hottest drivers in the series the last 2-1/2 months has been Hamlin and his No. 11 Toyota team. In the last 10 races leading up to this weekend's Citizen Soldier 400, the veteran driver has 238 laps led, two victories, five Top-5 and nine Top-10 finishes. Dover International Speedway has not been a venue of consistency for this driver and team, but Hamlin has had his flashes of brilliance here over the years. He's won three of the last eight pole positions at the Monster Mile and grabbed a trio of Top-10 finishes. More recently, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota started sixth on the grid here in June and led 15 laps in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism before finishing seventh that day. Hamlin has a ton of momentum and a lot of upside for this 400-mile event.
Clint Bowyer – Bowyer has been nothing short of flawless in his trips to the high-banked concrete oval over his 11-season career. The veteran driver has 12-career Top-10 finishes at Dover International Speedway, and he hasn't finished outside the Top 15 at the Monster Mile since the 2010 season. It's been a tough season of transition for Bowyer, but he's managed to race well at some of his better tracks. Bowyer qualified 32nd and finished a strong 12th in the Dover mixing bowl in June, so it's obvious that he knows how to race through traffic at this oval. The HScott Motorsports No. 15 team has been a real disappointment this season, but Bowyer has some real potential to outperform this weekend.
Ryan Blaney – If you're looking for a low-profile driver that has been racing extremely well of late, then Blaney is your guy this week. The driver of the No. 21 Ford has been a strong performer over the last several races, and has a pair of Top-5 and four Top-15 finishes in his last five events. The Wood Brothers Racing driver has only one-career Cup start at the Monster Mile, but it was a doozy. Blaney qualified 18th on the grid that weekend in June and raced his way to the front in impressive, non-rookie looking fashion. He posted a strong eighth-place finish in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. Blaney grabbed the pole and finished an impressive fourth in this last Xfinity Series start at the Monster Mile, so this is a place he likes to race.
Slow Down - Drivers to avoid this week
Kyle Busch – The Joe Gibbs Racing star is trying to keep up with the standings leaders and his Top-5 finish at Loudon this past week helps in that regard. Busch will be very focused on following up at Dover this week. However, his results at the Monster Mile have been mixed at best that last few seasons. Despite carrying a 61-percent Top-10 rate at this oval into Sunday, the last three seasons have been full of struggles for the No. 18 team at this facility. Since the 2014 season, Busch has one runner-up finish, but he also has three crashes and DNF's at Dover over the recent five-race span. So that's one Top-5 vs. three finishes outside the Top 30 during this sample. Busch had a fast car here in June but crashed and finished 30th. The stakes are too high this late in the season. It's better to bench Busch this week and opt for safer choices.
Austin Dillon – We've not featured Dillon in the slow down list very much this season. He's been a steady competitor and Top-20 finisher most weeks. However, his short resume at the Monster Mile is a big caution flag. In six-career starts at DIS, the driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet has come away with five finishes outside the Top 20. In Dillon's two-season Xfinity Series career, he posted Top 10's at the one-mile oval, but never really was one to lead laps or contend for the win at this facility. It could simply be that the RCR youngster just doesn't have a good feel for this concrete oval. Top-20 finishes for this driver and team are great, but we're willing to bet he won't be there this Sunday.
Kurt Busch – After cracking the Top 5 at New Hampshire last weekend, the pressure is on the SHR No. 41 team. Busch comes to the Monster Mile 11th in the Chase standings and on shaky ground. Unfortunately, the news is not good for the veteran driver. Dover has been an oval of struggles over the years for Busch. With only nine Top 10's in 32 starts, he checks in at a lowly 28-percent Top-10 rate. Times have been particularly difficult in recent seasons. Busch has only one Top 10 in the last nine starts at the Delaware oval. His performance there in June was encouraging, but not enough to overlook the risks associated with starting the No. 41 team in your fantasy lineups this weekend.
Greg Biffle – The Roush Fenway Racing veteran has been a big disappointment the last few weeks. Despite his season-long struggles he had been posting some good finishes on his better ovals, but now even that has seemed to cease. Biffle hasn't visited the Top 10 since July and now rides a nine-race Top-10 drought into Dover. His last four starts have been particularly disappointing with only one effort finishing on the lead lap. Biffle used to be a good performer at the Monster Mile earlier in his career, with a pair of victories and 10 Top-10 finishes leading up to the 2010 season. However, he's cratered at this oval since then. Only one of his last 12 starts here have netted a Top-10 finish and he was a crash and DNF victim here in June. Stay clear of the No. 16 team in the Citizen Soldier 400.