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NASCAR Dover Sprint Cup race preview

by Dave Grayson
Friday, May 14, 2010

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup teams are in Delaware this weekend for Sunday's running of the Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey. This is 400 challenging laps around a one mile all concrete oval known as "The Monster Mile." While there is room on the track for double wide, and sometimes even three wide, racing this particular facility also displays the characteristics of short track racing. The track will push the driver's patience to the breaking point, the crew chiefs will be frayed over handling set ups versus concrete and the fans will be frequently jumping to their feet during what traditionally is a very good race.

THE STORY BREAKDOWN

There's going to be plenty of off track stories to pay attention to at Dover as well. Certainly one of them is the sad news regarding driver Brian Vicker's sudden hospitalization last Wednesday evening. Neither the nature of the illness or the location of the hospital has been disclosed. He was taken to the hospital early Wednesday evening where doctors felt it was in Vickers best interest to be held there for further tests and evaluation.

The illness was certainly serious enough for his team, Red Bull Racing, to withdraw his name as their driver for the upcoming Dover race. They retained the services of Casey Mears to drive their #83 Toyota this Sunday. Mears was scheduled to drive the #36 Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing at Dover. It now appears that driver Johnny Sauter will be taking over that ride.

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For those of you who have been thinking that we haven't heard anything regarding embattled driver Jeremy Mayfield in quite awhile, he's back in the NASCAR news. It appears that his lawsuit Mayfield VS NASCAR,  set for trial in September, has finally reached the pre trial deposition stage.

It also appears that Mayfield's legal team has their sights set on two of NASCAR's biggest names to participate in the pre trial proceedings. On Thursday morning Hendrick Motorsports confirmed that their four time champions, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, were served subpoenas to appear at depositions regarding sworn statements they gave in the past relative to this case. It appears that the two drivers themselves were not actually contacted by the process servers. The subpoenas were received by representatives acting on their behalf.

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On the subject of Hendrick Motorsports, team owner Rick Hendrick was participating in the recent Hall Of Fame grand opening ceremonies earlier in the week. During the course of an interview he was asked the inevitable question about feeling the pressure of competition from Joe Gibbs Racing.

The Gibbs Toyotas. driven by Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, has won the last two Sprint Cup races in a row as well as four of the last six races. When asked if Joe Gibbs was catching up with the Hendrick performance levels, Hendrick said "it looks like he's passed me. He didn't catch me, he lapped me."

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To no real surprise driver Danica Patrick refuses to acknowledge that her sluggish start in the 2010 Indy Racing League series has nothing to do with her earlier debut in NASCAR stock car racing. In the first five IRL events so far Patrick has one top ten finish and is ranked 16th in the championship points standings.

That of course raised more than a few eyebrows and it was only a short matter of time before someone asked if her future NASCAR plans was a distraction to her current IRL performance levels. During an interview last week, Patrick pointed the finger as poor qualifying runs, track set ups and some general bad luck. Addressing the NASCAR issue she said "NASCAR has nothing to do with it. It's just a really easy thing to look at, an easy excuse. I don't think there's anything to it."

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Driver David Reutimann reported this week that negotiations to renew his contract with Michael Waltrip are ongoing and are progressing in a very positive manner. Reutimann made it clear that he loves the team, the people and he definitely wants to remain with them. Regarding the contract process he said there were 'a few minor compromises to be worked out here and there." He also made it clear that MWR is the only team he's talking to at the moment adding "I'm not running around the garage talking to anyone else."

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On the topic of negotiations, Tony Stewart was informed this week that Old Spice will not be returning as the co-primary sponsor for his #14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet. A spokesman for the company, who sponsored Stewart for 14 races this year, said the decision was "based solely on a change in our marketing strategies."

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THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey is 400 laps, and 400 miles, around the Dover International Speedway's one mile concrete oval.

The race has 46 entries. 11 of the entries are on the go or go home list meaning they are not guaranteed a starting berth in the race because they are currently outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points. These teams will have to earn a starting berth based on their qualifying speed.

Jimmie Johnson is the defending race champion and swept both events at Dover last year. He also leads the active driver's list in most Dover wins at five.

Richard Petty and Bobby Allison leads the all time driver's list with seven Dover wins each.

The Monster Mile has smiled on the bow tie brigade the most often over the years. Chevrolet leads all manufacturers with 30 wins there. The monster has also smiled on the Chevrolets from Hendrick Motorsports. They lead the stats for team wins at Dover with 12.

When it comes to consistent performances at Dover, NASCAR modern day icon Mark Martin is one of the best in the business. Martin, a four time winner there, also leads the stats in top five finishes with 22 as well as top ten finishes at 30.

Qualifying is important to crew chiefs when racing at Dover because starting position also determines pit stall selections. When it comes to qualifying Jeremy Mayfield holds the track record, 161.522 MPH, set back in 2004. Also, when it comes to qualifying, NASCAR icon David Pearson holds the record for Dover poles at six. Among the modern day active drivers Ryan Newman, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon has won the Coors Light Pole award four times each there. 12 races at Dover has been won from the pole positions. 48 races has been won by drivers who started from within the top five starting positions.

Two, of the last three, Dover events has been won by a margin of less than one second.

Yellow flags, and the carnage that launches them, can often be a major factor at the "Monster Mile." The track record for caution flags at Dover is 16 set back in 1993. There was actually one time when the race ran caution free but that hasn't happened since 1971.

Weather could be a problem on Friday in Dover. Showers and daytime highs of 78 degrees are forecast for late in the day Friday. Saturday's forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and 73 degrees while sunny skies and 74 degrees are expected for Sunday.

The Grand Marshall for the race is Hall Of Fame inductee Richard Petty who will give the command to start engines on Sunday.

The race will be broadcast live by Fox Sports beginning at 12 pm eastern time. The re broadcast will be on the SPEED Channel on Wednesday, May 19th, at 12 pm eastern.

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THE TRACK BREAKDOWN

The Dover International Speedway officially opened in 1969 with the first NASCAR Sprint Cup held in July of that year. NASCAR Hall Of Fame Inductee Richard Petty won the first Dover event. Since 1969 the track has hosted 80 Sprint Cup events that has sent 32 different winners to victory lane.

The first two races were 300 miles long, the events were changed to 500 miles in 1971 and then shortened to 400 miles in 1997.

The track's surface was changed from asphalt to concrete in 1995.

The track has 24 degrees of banking in all four turns and nine degrees banking in the straightaways. The front stretch and backstretch are equal in length measuring 1,076 feet.

The pit road has 43 stalls measuring 15 feet wide and 32 feet long. The pit road speed is 35 MPH.

The Dover International Speedway presently has seating for 135,000 fans.

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THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN

The Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE), for very obvious reasons has driver Jimmie Johnson on top of their favorites list this week at 4 to 1 odds. That's because Johnson swept both races at Dover last year and has five wins there.

Second in the rankings is Johnson's team mate and one of the most aggressive drivers in the NASCAR circuit. Jeff Gordon, a four time Dover winner, is rated at 6 to 1 this week. Behind him is Kyle Busch another former Dover winner at 7 to 1 while his team mate, the red hot Denny Hamlin, comes in at 8 to 1 this week.

Somewhat of a surprise, not to mention a very interesting wager consideration, is the presence of Mark Martin at 12 to 1 odds. The fact that Martin is a four time winner at Dover and leads the top five and ten finish stats at Dover makes one wonder why his ranking isn't higher. 12 to 1 on Martin is a bet worthy of your gambling budget. Also in the 12 to 1 group is Kurt Busch.

At 15 to 1 odds you will also find an interesting group comprised by former winners Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton along with the series championship leader Kevin Harvick.

At 20 to 1 is a quartet of drivers led by two time Dover winners Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle along with former winner Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer. At 25 to 1 is a large group of drivers led by three time winner Ryan Newman, former winner Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kasey Kahne, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano.

NASCAR wants us to remind you that these odds numbers should be considered as entertainment. They neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their events. I'm sure they would much prefer that you spend your gambling budget on something of greater importance such as the NASCAR Store.

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