Fantasy NASCAR race preview: FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks

by Eric McClung on May 11, 2011 @ 16:53:15 PDT


With high-banked concrete racing surface with wide corners and narrow straightaways, Dover International Speedway has earned its nickname, The Monster Mile. It is considered by drivers to be among the most difficult tracks to race on; finding a setup that will allow the car to handle well in multiple grooves, not just at the bottom, is a challenge. The wide turns allow drivers to stay in the throttle the entire time. The speeds are quite fast for a race track that is only one mile long, which makes the physical demands on turning the car that much more difficult.

Owners facing prequalifying deadlines will get the benefit of two Friday practice sessions prior to qualifying on Saturday. Checking these results is a huge benefit in order to see what drivers have unloaded with an early edge and most likely to score a prime starting position.

Location: Dover, Del.
Shape: Oval
Length: 1.0 mile
Laps: 400
Turns: 24 degrees
Front stretch: 9 degrees
Back stretch: 9 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

With six career wins in 18 career starts at Dover, including three of the last four, starting Johnson is a no-brainer. Over the last two years, the five-time defending series champ has maintained an average running position of at least third thanks to excellent qualifying runs, highlighted by two poles in four attempts. In that span, Johnson has led an average of 246.3 laps per race. Yes, on average. It doesn't matter what format you play, find a way to get Johnson active.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Last May, Busch swept the weekend at Dover with victories in both the Cup and Nationwide races. While speeding on pit road by Johnson with just 34 laps to go opened the door for Busch's second career win at The Monster Mile, his performance was still very impressive with 131 laps led and an average running position of second. Busch went on to finish sixth in the fall race with 46 laps led and an average running position of fifth. Among the elite drivers, Rowdy is strong alternative to Johnson.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

From 2003 to 2004, Newman captured three wins at Dover in four starts. While he hasn't won at the site since, Newman has been very reliable. Since loop data was introduced in 2005, his average running position has not dipped below 16th and has been 10th or better in eight of those 12 starts. The results have matched with six straight top-15 finishes and an average finish of 11th in a span o f six races. Newman just snapped a streak for four finishes of 14th or worse with a fifth-place result last week at Darlington Raceway. Even during those poor finishes, Newman still ran well and currently sits third among the season leaders in average running position.

A.J. Allmendinger | No. 43 Best Buy Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

Over the last three starts at Dover, Allmendinger has held an average running position of 12th or better each time out. For the first 140 plus laps of last year's May race, Allmendinger was running in the top three until an awful put stop and caution flag left him two laps down. However, he would battle back to finish 14th, despite a pit road speeding penalty along the way. Thankfully, the fall race was much cleaner. After qualifying on the outside pole, Allmendinger led 143 early laps while holding a career-best average running position of ninth.

Kasey Kahne | No. 4 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

In the last two races, Kahne has put an end to strings of poor results at both Richmond International Raceway and Darlington by finishing in the top five. With that in mind, don't fret over Kahne's average finish of 24th a year ago at Dover. For starters, he scored a pair of top-10s in 2009 and led 24 early laps last May after starting on the outside pole. Speaking of qualifying, Kahne is coming off a pole at Darlington and a second-row placement at Richmond. Owners in formats that reward qualifying efforts take note.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 56 NAPA Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Martin Truex Jr.
High risk, high reward

Considered his home track, Truex qualified on the pole last May at Dover and finished 12th with an average running position of 10th while spending all 400 laps running inside the top 15. In the fall race, Truex started third and was running second at the midway point right before a broken axle sent him to the garage. After two consecutive crashes this season, Truex has led at least one lap in three straight races, finishing 13th or better twice. Those willing to gamble could find an excellent value if everything holds together.

Jeff Burton | No. 31 Caterpillar | Richard Childress Racing

Now 10 races into the season, Burton is still in search of a top-10 finish. He appeared to have one in the works until blowing an engine with fewer than 30 laps to go at Darlington. Dover is a place where Burton's steady improvements over the last few weeks could culminate. In addition to a win from the fall of 2006, Burton recorded a pair of top-10s in 2008 and finished as the runner-up in each event last year. Between his three RCR teammates, there are two wins, eight top-fives and 13 top-10s this season. It's only a matter of time before Burton gets a piece of the action.

Joey Logano | No. 20 Home Depot Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

With three finishes of 13th or better over the last five races, Logano is starting to turn around a season that began with five finishes outside the top 20. As a rookie in 2009, Logano finished 15th at Dover in the spring and was involved in a highlight reel, rollover wreck in the fall. A year ago, he improved with finishes of 10th and third, respectively. In the Nationwide car, Logano has won the pole and finished second in each of the last two Dover races.

Temper your expectations

Kurt Busch | No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

While it has been said that Busch's epic, profanity-laced tirade over the radio in Richmond has improved the communication at Penske, it didn't show last week at Darlington. Busch did qualify better but finished 27th, with an average running position of 29th, several spots worse than at RIR. Despite three top-fives in his last four Dover starts, owners should avoid the temptation until the results show up on the track.

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

Coming off a third-place result at Darlington, some may think Keselowski could be a sleeper pick this weekend. However, that finish was a result of a late-race call to stay out and roll the dice. The move paid off for both Keselowski and race winner Regan Smith despite each holding average running positions outside of the top 15. Keselowski finished 18th and 22nd last year at Dover, two laps down in each.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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