It has been a quiet weekend at Dover International Speedway so far as the pre-race favorites at the track have been taking care of business. The top four qualifiers have all won races this year, and three of the top four are former Dover winners, including eight-time track winner Jimmie Johnson. Lurking just outside the top five are point-leader Jeff Gordon and the red-hot Kevin Harvick, who qualified sixth and eighth, respectively. The same group of drivers also performed well in the practice sessions at the track Saturday afternoon.
We don't talk about him enough....
From a fantasy standpoint, the qualifying results and practice times have to be encouraging, especially at Dover. Thanks to the track's concrete surface, Dover is less susceptible to temperature changes than a track with an asphalt track. As a result, drivers that are fast leading up to the race tend to live up to expectations. With that in mind, this weekend's race could be a good opportunity to be a little aggressive with your lineups and load up on some big names.
The top 3
1) Jimmie Johnson
His numbers at Dover are in a class by themselves, and Johnson remains the top option in the final rankings after qualifying fourth and posting strong times in practice. He leads the series with eight wins and an 8.7 average finish at Dover, and in the last 10 races at the track, he has been incredibly dominant. Johnson has five wins in his last 10 starts at Dover, and he has led more than half the laps at the track during the stretch. He should be the centerpiece of any lineup this weekend.
2) Kyle Busch
Busch has been fast all weekend, and after qualifying on the outside of the front row, he jumps to second in the final driver rankings. Of course, Busch is used to running well at Dover. He is a two-time winner at the track, and he has finished seventh or better in seven of his last eight races. Busch has also led the second-most laps in the last 10 races at Dover, and he should be able to carry a fantasy team in any format this weekend.
3) Kevin Harvick
He has led more laps than any other driver in 2014, and Harvick could have another strong showing this weekend at Dover. He will start eighth Sunday after a solid qualifying effort, and he was one of the best cars on the track in practice Saturday. Meanwhile, Harvick's 10.0 average finish in the last 10 races at Dover is the second best in the series. He should be a safe bet for a top-five finish this weekend.
11) Brian Vickers
Although Vickers has started only three of the last eight races at Dover, he managed top-15 finishes in all three starts, posting a 10.1 average finish and logging a 12th-place finish last fall. After qualifying ninth Friday and running well in race trim during Saturday's practices, he seems to have car that is capable of delivering another solid finish. Vickers also enters the race in the middle of strong stretch of racing, and he has scored the fifth-most points in the series in the last 10 races.
13) Ryan Newman
Dover has always been one of Newman's best tracks. In 24 starts, he has 12 top-10 finishes to go along with a 12.9 average finish. Meanwhile, his three wins at Dover are his most at any track on the schedule, and he ranks in the top 10 in several scoring loop categories, including driver rating, green flag speed and laps in the top 15. Newman will start in the top 15 Sunday, and based on his practice times and history at Dover, there is a good chance he finishes in the top 15, as well.
17) Kyle Larson
Larson is a bit of a gamble since he will be making his first start at Dover in the Cup Series, but he has been fast at the track so far this weekend. After securing a top-five starting spot in qualifying Friday, he cracked the top 10 in practice Saturday. Larson has a ton of upside this weekend, and he looks poised to add to his rookie resume that currently includes a 15.3 average finish and 10 top-20 finishes in 12 starts in 2014.
20) A.J. Allmendinger
He was my sleeper special to open the week, and after qualifying 11th and cracking the top 10 in race trim, he moves up into the top 20 in the final rankings. Allmendinger enters this weekend's race with five finishes of 16th or better in his last seven starts at Dover, and he has three top-10s in the same span. He could make a solid addition to rosters in just about any format.
Big names outside the top 10
16) Kurt Busch
Since winning at Dover in the fall of 2011, Busch has struggled in his last four starts at the track. Granted, those starts came while he was driving for smaller teams, but his first trip to the track with Stewart-Haas Racing isn't going much better. Busch qualified a disappointing 24th, and he couldn't crack the top 15 in either practice session Saturday. He appears headed for a mediocre performance this weekend.
19) Tony Stewart
Stewart used pit strategy to steal a win at Dover last June, and it looks like he will have to pull another rabbit out of his hat if he is going to earn a decent finish this weekend. He qualified 20th Friday, and he posted good-not-great speeds in Saturday's practice sessions. Stewart has finished 20th or worse in five of his last six starts at Dover, and expecting more than a top-20 out of him this weekend is asking for trouble.
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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