This weekend’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway marks the second of 10 races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Dominated last year by Jimmie Johnson, it will be the second consecutive race on a one-mile oval, although unlike New Hampshire the Dover track is heavily banked.
Clint Bowyer shocked us all by winning last weekend’s race at Loudon, but the news that his team altered rear end parts may have dried up all hope for that team. Bowyer’s whopping 150-point penalty basically makes it as if he finished last in the race, and puts him back in 12th in the Chase standings.
Yet again, we’ll stick with the tradition of picking one Chase driver as our lead driver each race in the Chase, and not re-using them for the duration of the event. This means Denny Hamlin (second place last weekend) can’t be my lead pick. So who will be this weekend? And who else looks good at Dover?
I’m going to go with Carl Edwards this time around. While Roush Fenway is struggling in the Chase standings, with all of its three candidates in the bottom half of the standings, Edwards showed a lot in the early to middle stages at Loudon. At Dover, his 7.9 average finish makes him the only driver to keep that stat in the single digits. Might as well use him up while he’s hot.
As for a dark horse pick, consider semi-local boy Martin Truex Jr., the New Jersey native who picked up his first career Sprint Cup win at the Monster Mile. He won the pole for the Dover spring race and has posted a solid 14.9 average finish, buoyed by three top-10s.
Three more for the road
I’ll state once more that I want to save Jimmie Johnson for the end of the Chase (or as close to it as I can), but he’s statistically the second best finisher at Dover behind Edwards. His 10.2 comes from a magnificent five wins in 17 starts, while he has led at least 100 laps six times (including in each of the past three Dover events).
Solid? I think so.
Next up, Greg Biffle hasn’t failed to complete a lap at Dover since the fall of 2005. Even then, that was a single lap. In that stretch of nine races since, Biffle has scored one of his two Dover wins and eight top-10s, with a worst finish of 13th. Despite Roush’s uncertainty after their New Hampshire runs, Biffle’s always a strong Dover contender.
Finally, for a left-field pick, consider Brad Keselowski. Last week’s pole winner has a strong Dover record in the Nationwide Series, scoring a victory in the spring of last year that helped propel his rise to Sprint Cup. Since joining JR Motorsports in that series, and now driving for Penske Racing, he has finished no worse than seventh in six Dover starts.