Drydene 400 Preview: The Monster Mile

Drydene 400 Preview: The Monster Mile

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

Dover International Speedway plays host to this weekend's Drydene 400.  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 2021 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 No. 13 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

Dover International Speedway plays host to this weekend's Drydene 400.  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 2021 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 No. 13 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. 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 15 years or 32 races at Dover International Speedway.

DriverAvg. FinishQuality Passes# of Fastest LapsLaps LedLaps in Top 15Driver Rating
Kyle Busch13.88607201,21310,047103.5
Kyle Larson7.42993066173,713103.3
Martin Truex Jr.11.57367589808,779101.2
Kevin Harvick12.37309491,5338,87298.6
Brad Keselowski12.65232864036,32393.2
Chase Elliott11.32611883212,93391.5
Cole Custer10.5565052989.2
Denny Hamlin16.66893136097,63188.9
Kurt Busch17.27023914168,08487.2
Joey Logano13.6611173416,54986.8
Ryan Blaney19.618244372,60684.1
Erik Jones13.01863702,18583.3
William Byron14.31253771,26983.2
Ryan Newman16.65091822476,36481.3
Tyler Reddick15.5499034778.9
Aric Almirola15.8264124862,67778.1
Daniel Suarez13.813945221,71677.3
Austin Dillon19.324984492,24272.2
Alex Bowman20.8166132421,44170.4
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.20.625369351,90767.5

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 five events at this one-mile track. 

NASCAR typically races in May and October at the Monster Mile, but last season's COVID pandemic postponed the spring event at the facility.  Instead of racing five months apart, the sanctioning body was forced to schedule a doubleheader weekend at the track last August.  Those two races that were ran in the same weekend and make up the most recent data we'll look to for forecasting this weekend.

Coming off the huge Darlington victory this past week, the No. 19 team must surely be eager to get to the Monster Mile this week.  The three-time Dover winner, Martin Truex Jr., considers this to be his home state track.  He'll be eager to keep his current momentum rolling and add another Monster Mile trophy to his personal collection.  Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick split the doubleheader weekend at Dover last season.  Neither have been to victory lane thus far in 2021, so it will be interesting to see if these two drivers can step up their game in Sunday's Drydene 400.  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 won his third race of the season last weekend at Darlington and now enters Dover clearly as the driver everyone is trying to beat.  The one-mile Dover oval has been one of his better tracks during his 15-season NASCAR Cup Series career.  Truex has three pole positions, three victories and 18 Top-10 finishes in his 30 starts at the Monster Mile.  That works out to a strong 11.5 average finish for his career at the Delaware oval.  The Joe Gibbs Racing star has won or finished runner-up in his last four starts at DIS, and over that span he's led a whopping 235 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 Darlington Raceway but he ran out of laps and ran out of tires trying to chase down Martin Truex Jr.  He'll attempt to beat that Joe Gibbs Racing star once again Sunday at Dover.  Larson has just 12-career starts at the Monster Mile, but they're starts that are packed full with results.  He has one victory, two runner-up finishes, six Top-5 and nine Top-10 finishes in those efforts.  That puts his average finish at a sparkling 7.4 at this facility.  Larson didn't race last year at the Monster Mile due to his suspension, but he did collect impressive third- and first-place finishes here in 2019.  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. 

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 has been improving at the one-mile oval and the recent statistics bear this out.  The driver of the No. 11 Toyota has one victory, one runner-up finish and three Top 5's in his last five starts at Dover International Speedway.  During this span he's led over 330 laps at the one-mile track, and been in the running to win more often than not.  That's been typical of his recent outings at the Monster Mile.  With Hamlin still searching for his first win of the 2021 season, this track makes the perfect venue for him to get off the goose egg this weekend. 

Kyle Busch – Busch extended his current Top-5 streak to two races with his strong third-place finish at Darlington this past Sunday.  The driver of the No. 18 Toyota is a three-time winner at DIS, and he sports a staggering 41-percent Top-5 rate at the track.  His lofty 63-percent Top-10 rate at the one-mile oval is also among the best in NASCAR.  Busch's victory and runner-up finishes here since the 2015 season has rekindled his excellence at the Monster Mile.  In the first race of last season's Dover doubleheader weekend, Busch led 3 laps and finished an impressive third-place.  Considering how well he's racing at the moment, we have to give Busch contender status this weekend at the Monster Mile.

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

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 4 in driver rating in the above loop stats table.  However, Harvick is a three-time winner at the Monster Mile, and all of those victories have come since the 2015 season.  He led a combined 223 laps in the two races here last season, and walked away with a win and fourth-place finish.  The No. 4 SHR team is not in a good place right now, and Harvick is still searching for the ingredients to get into victory lane in 2021.  Dover is just the kind of place that could get him back on track, but at the very least another Top-10 finish in the bank.

William Byron – Byron is quickly becoming the newest member of the elite tier of drivers in NASCAR's top division.  After last Sunday's fourth-place finish at Darlington Raceway, the young driver is carrying a whopping 10-race Top-10 streak into Delaware this weekend.  Byron will be making just his seventh-career Dover start this Sunday, so the statistical sample size is a bit small.  The young driver has just two Top 10's in those six starts, but his career-best performance came in the second race of last season's Dover doubleheader.  Byron peddled the No. 24 Chevrolet to a brilliant fourth-place finish in the Drydene 311 that Sunday afternoon.  Considering what he recently accomplished at Richmond, Byron should be pegged for another mid-Top-10 effort in the Drydene 400. 

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 four efforts at the Monster Mile have yielded second-, third-, 21st- and fifth-place finishes.  He got into some trouble and finished a couple laps down in the one subpar finish, so we'd consider that to be the outlier.  Other than the mulligan, Bowman has been razor sharp at Dover.  The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet recently won at the Richmond oval and that bodes well heading into this weekend.  He's had it a bit tough the last three races, but should rebound nicely in Sunday's 400-lap contest. 

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 Drydene 400 this Sunday afternoon.  Logano has 14-career Top-10 finishes at DIS, and that places his career Top-10 rate at 58-percent at this challenging facility.  The driver of the No. 22 Ford enters the Dover race fourth in the driver standings and looking to improve his position for the upcoming Chase.  A win at Dover would help in that regard.  His eighth- and sixth-place finishes at this facility last season are indicative of what to expect this time around.  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.

Sleepers – Drivers with good history at Dover & solid upside

Chase Elliott – The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team has put together a modest two-race Top-10 streak after Elliott's seventh-place Darlington finish last Sunday.  He'll look to keep it rolling in the Drydene 400.  The young driver has made only 10-career starts at Dover International Speedway, but they've been eye-popping efforts.  Elliott has seven Top-5 finishes in those starts, including a victory in 2018.  The last two seasons have been a bit of a mixed bag with two Top-5 finishes and two DNF's but he still sports a strong 11.3 average finish at this track despite his recent luck.  Elliott may not be one of the top fantasy racing choices this weekend, but he carries a lot of upside with his selection. 

Brad Keselowski – The Penske Racing star is looking to rebound after his subpar finish at Darlington last Sunday.  Keselowski has shown some flashes of brilliance on the high banks of Dover.  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 has one victory, two runner-up finishes and 10-career Top 10's at Dover International Speedway.  His effort in the doubleheader weekend last season yielded ninth- and eighth-place finishes in the Drydene 311's.  Keselowski isn't a major threat to win, but he should peddle that No. 2 Ford to yet another Top-10 finish at this high-banked oval.       

Austin Dillon – Dillon was one of the drivers who had no trouble adapting to last season's Dover doubleheader with no practice or qualifying laps.  The driver of the RCR No. 3 Chevrolet led 49 laps in the first race and cruised to a steady 15th-place finish.  Dillon would come back the next day and secure an even better ninth-place finish in the second race of the twin bill.  Those efforts built on his recent performance at the Monster Mile.  Dillon now has two Top 10's and three Top 15's in his last five starts at the Delaware oval.  The average finish across the span stands at a respectable 13.6, which is almost six spots better than his career average of 19.4.  Considering how Dillon has raced of late he should challenge the Top 10 and certainly crack the Top 15 in the Drydene 400. 

Tyler Reddick – The last several races have seen Reddick put on a pretty good show of consistency.  With three Top 10's and four Top-15's across his last five starts, the Richard Childress Racing youngster is clipping along at a strong 10.8 average finish in his last five events.  Now the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet sets his sights on the tough oval in Dover, Delaware.  Reddick has just two-career Cup Series starts at this track and they were respectable 13th- and 18th-place finishes in his Dover debut doubleheader weekend last year.  He learned a lot from that experience and should respond accordingly in his third-career start this Sunday.  Reddick and crew chief Randall Burnett should show some improvement in their effort this Sunday afternoon.

Chris Buescher – The Roush Fenway Racing veteran is carrying a two-race Top-10 streak into the Monster Mile this weekend and looking to extend it to three races.  Buescher's eighth- and ninth-place finishes recently at Kansas and Darlington have been quite a pleasant surprise.  The driver of the No. 17 Ford has 10-career starts at the one-mile concrete oval, but his best two finishes came in doubleheader weekend last year.  Buescher clicked off respectable 16th- and 14th-place finishes in those efforts.  They were by far the best efforts of his career at this track.  Given his current momentum and noticeable improvement at Dover last season, we believe Buescher will be a good lower tier driver for this 400-lap battle.

Ross Chastain – The Chip Ganassi Racing veteran seems to be finally settling in at his new No. 42 Chevrolet team.  After laboring to start the season it seems this driver and team are getting their act together.  Chastain has reeled off three Top-15 finishes in the last four events entering Dover weekend.  It's a pretty dramatic improvement over his performance in the first eight events of the season.  Chastain has six-career Cup Series starts at Dover International Speedway, but all came with a lesser team than his current No. 42 CGR team.  The experience of his past starts will come in handy, but the expertise of his current team should elevate Chastain's performance Sunday at the Monster Mile.  We expect a career-best finish at the high-banked track.

Slow Down - Drivers to avoid this week

Kurt Busch – After his disappointing 35th-place finish at Darlington Raceway, Busch saw his Top-10 slump grow to 10 races.  It's one of the longest droughts of his Cup Series career.  Busch will continue to seek the Top 10 in Sunday's Drydene 400.  Dover International Speedway has been stingy with the veteran driver over his career.  With just 12 Top-10 finishes in 41 starts, Busch checks in at a lowly 29-percent Top-10 rate.  Recent times have been just as lean for the driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet with just one Top-10 finish in his last four starts (25-percent).  It's difficult imaging Busch breaking out of his slump this weekend and one of his lesser ovals on the circuit. 

Aric Almirola – The Stewart Haas Racing veteran is still mired in his season-long slump of 2021 after his disappointing 37th-place finish at Darlington last Sunday.  Almirola comes to Dover with just one Top-10 finish this season and a distant 28th-place in the championship standings.  He'll look to break the grip of the slump at the Monster Mile.  Almirola has 17-career starts at this track in NASCAR's top division.  With just four Top 10's across those starts the percentage is checking in at 24-percent, although the average finish is more respectable at 15.8.  The bottom line is that Dover is not one of Almirola's better tracks, and his current slump has saddled him with finishes outside the Top 25 the last two weeks.

Ryan Blaney – This young driver had it tough during his brief career of racing at Dover International Speedway.  Blaney seemed to finally figure things out in 2018 at the challenging one-mile oval.  He piloted the No. 12 Ford to eighth- and 11th-place finishes at the Monster Mile.  However, he's failed to crack the Top 10 in his four starts since then.  With just two Top-10 finishes in 10-career starts, Blaney checks in at a lower-than-average 20-percent Top-10 rate and a subpar 19.6 average finish.  His 14th- and 12th-place finishes at Dover last season fell short of expectations and cast some doubt on his outlook this weekend.  This is a tough track to tackle without practice and qualifying laps, and the No. 12 Ford team could once again struggle in the Drydene 400.

Ryan Preece – Preece has had some fantasy racing utility at times this season, primarily on the super speedway ovals.  However, the JTG Daugherty Racing driver has fallen on some hard times of late.  Four of his last five starts have been finishes of 25th-place or worse.  Preece has slipped from 18th- to 24th-place in the point standings over the recent span.  He'll look to turn things around with his start in Sunday's Drydene 400.  Preece's four-career starts at the Monster Mile have netted just one Top-20 finish and an average finish of 24.5.  Last season he registered 25th- and 26th-place efforts in doubleheader weekend.  Right in line with his career average.  We certainly don't consider Preece an outperform driver for this weekend, in fact, he carries a lot of risk into Dover International Speedway.

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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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