Last weekend at New Hampshire, Denny Hamlin
overcame a horrible qualifying effort, powering his way to Victory Lane after starting 32nd. That being said, the chances of a driver repeating the feat this weekend at Dover are slim. Three of the last four winners at the "Monster Mile" have started on the front row, and eight of the last nine winners have started eighth or better. Since the start of the 2001 season, only two races at the track have been won by a driver starting outside the top 20, and only one driver in the Dover's 37-year history has ever won after qualifying outside the top 30.
Of course, Hamlin won't have to worry about charging to the front if he wants to win at Dover because he claimed the pole for Sunday's race. Coming into the Chase, the Monster Mile figured to be the biggest hurdle between Hamlin and a potential championship. After all, he has a 20.5 average finish at the track and has finished outside the top 15 in his last three starts. However, his pole-winning lap followed an excellent pair of practices, and it appears that Hamlin has a strong car. Considering he has won three of the last five races overall, it is tough to justify benching him despite his poor history at Dover.
Other big names starting in the top five include Hamlin's teammate Kyle Busch, along with Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. With four finishes of sixth or better in his last five starts at Dover and two career wins at the track, Busch has an excellent chance of becoming the first non-Chaser to win during this year's playoffs. Meanwhile, Bowyer and Truex both finished in the top 10 at Dover in June, and considering they have been near the top of the speed charts all weekend, a repeat performance could be on tap for both drivers.
Fantasy owners won't want to forget seven-time Dover winner and pre-race favorite Jimmie Johnson, who will be lurking in 11th when the green flag waves. However, those looking for sleepers should consider Sam Hornish Jr. or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Hornish qualified fourth and will be driving for the same No. 22 team that won this race last season with Kurt Busch behind the wheel. Stenhouse, on the other hand, could make some noise in just his second Cup start of the season. He is the defending Nationwide Series champ, and he will be driving for a Roush Fenway Racing organization that has enjoyed a ton of success at Dover. After qualifying 17th, Stenhouse could be a sneaky source for a top-15 finish Sunday.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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