Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview: AAA 400

by Eric McClung on September 25, 2013 @ 17:56:53 PDT

 


Featuring a 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, so the speeds are quite fast for a race track that is only one mile long, making the physical demands of turning the car more difficult.

Practice sessions: Friday, Sep. 27 at 11:00 a.m. EDT. Saturday, Sep. 28 at 11:00 a.m. EDT, 2:00 p.m. EDT
Qualifying: Friday, Sep. 27 at 3:10 p.m. EDT
Race: Sunday, Sep. 29 at 2:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Dover, Del.
Shape: Oval
Length: 1.0 mile
Laps: 400
Turns: 24 degrees
Front stretch: 9 degrees
Backstretch: 9 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Matt Kenseth | No. 20 Home Depot “Let's Do This” Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Kyle Busch
Rowdy ready for a win

Kenseth was once an automatic top-five driver at Dover, hitting that mark 10 times in 13 appearances from 2006 through the spring of last year. The last two races, however, ended early due to separate equipment failures. In fact, the most recent DNF - an engine failure in June after starting fourth and leading 29 laps - is the last one Kenseth has experienced all season. Dover is among the top remaining tracks for Kenseth, who has opened the Chase with back-to-back victories, despite the recent hiccups.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Since 2010, Busch has finished seventh or better in six of seven trips to Dover, and he's been particularly sharp in the last two. In last year's postseason race, Busch led 302 of the 399 laps and held a perfect average running position of first but gave the race away late by not having enough fuel to make it to the finish. He returned to the site in June to finish fourth with an average running position of third and 150 more laps led. Rowdy has finished runner-up to Kenseth each of the last two weeks and could very well challenge him once again.

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

Dover has been prime Johnson territory since sweeping the 2002 races as a rookie. He's added five more victories at the site since, most recently in the spring of 2012. Johnson might own eight career wins on the Monster Mile if not for jumping the restart with 20 laps to go earlier this season. Johnson would have to settle for a 17th-place finish after recording a solid average running position of eighth, ending a remarkable streak of eight straight Dover races running third or better.

Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Harvick has been a sound performer at Dover in recent years, with an average running position of 10th or better in four of the last five. He's also recorded eight consecutive top-15s with four top-10s. Last week's 20th-place finish ended a run of three straight finishes of 11th or better for Harvick. Those looking for a safe and reliable top-end driver should monitor Harvick throughout race week.

Kurt Busch | No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet | Furniture Row Racing

The elder Busch brother won at Dover for the first time in the fall of 2011 as a driver for Roger Penske. He struggled in much lesser equipment the following year with Phoenix Racing but looked good in June with his current team. Busch held an average running position of 10th but didn't get the caution he needed at the end to make the fuel mileage window he needed. Over the last 18 races, Busch has only finished outside of the top 15 three times with four top-fives in the last six.

Jeff Gordon | No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Gordon had finished outside of the top 10 in five straight Dover races prior to finishing on the podium in the last two. Gordon came into the second Chase race with four consecutive finishes of eighth or better but finished 15th a week ago. Gordon was out in front when the caution came out with 100 laps to go but slid through his pit box and had to claw his way to a 15th-place finish.

Clint Bowyer | No. 15 Raspberry 5-hour Energy/Living Beyond Breast Cancer Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

One week after opening the Chase with a top-10 finish, issues on pit road and a mistimed caution cost Bowyer track position on several occasions and left him to finish 17th. Bowyer has finished inside the top 10 at Dover in five straight appearances, all with an average running position of 13th or better. That streak is more impressive considering only one other driver currently owns three consecutive top-10s at Dover.

Joey Logano | No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford | Penske Championship Racing

Logano is that other driver with three straight top-10s at Dover. However, his average running position has been outside of the top 10 in the last two. Despite finishing outside of the top 20 in two of his last three starts, Logano continued to qualify well. Prior to the recent bumps, Logano had recorded six straight finishes of eighth or better with three top-fives.

Temper your expectations

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Filtrete Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Biffle hasn't seen a top-10 at Dover since the spring of 2010 but has won here twice in his career. In those six aforementioned races, he's only finished on the lead lap twice. The Biff is coming off a third-place performance at Loudon and has been a solid performer lately. That said, his recent numbers still aren't good enough to overlook his recent slide at Dover.

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Hamlin is a driver to pass on starting despite winning the last two poles at Dover. He's blown engines in two of the last four races, perhaps serving as a test subject for his Chase teammates, Busch and Kenseth. Hamlin hasn't put down a top-10 finish since June and may no longer be relevant the rest of the way.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also 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.

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