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NASCAR Dover Preview

by Dave Grayson
Friday, June 01, 2012

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Kurt Busch was one of the winners last year at Dover
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves on to race number 13 of the 2012 schedule this Sunday at the Dover International Raceway for the running of the Fed Ex 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks. This is one of the more grueling races on the Sprint Cup schedule. It's four hundred miles around the raceway's famed concrete oval and it will provide an extreme physical challenge to the drivers.

There is also the matter regarding the legend of Dover's famed mascot: Miles The Monster. This large concrete creature, with his bright red eyes, stands tall in front of the raceway carrying a race car in his hand. Those menacing red eyes are front and center on the raceway's crash walls. The legend says it's almost like Miles is watching the race while determining which car he's going to reach out and grab. The legend also says that if a race team meets Miles' approval then that driver has a better than good chance of parking his car in victory lane. However, if a driver fails to gain the monster's approval, then that race team could find themselves dealing with a very long day in Delaware. It's all part of the good fun that comes with watching a race at the Dover International Raceway.

CRUNCHING THE LAS VEGAS NUMBERS

To determine who Miles The Monster might decide to smile on this Sunday, we again turn to the number crunching professionals at the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE).

Jimmie Johnson tops the WSE's Dover list at 6 to 1 odds. That's because he currently holds the modern day driver's record for making the monster smile six times. Currently fifth in the championship standings, 48 points away from the top, Johnson also has nine top five finishes and 14 top ten finishes to back up his half dozen victories. This, in turn, has created a very strong average finish ratio, (AFR), of 9.2. If you're into making relatively safe wagers with a very high expected return then this is your driver.

At 8 to 1 odds you will find the duo of Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle. Kyle Busch is always a wager worth considering in any race he enters. He's eighth in the points, at 62 away. His Dover stats are very strong, going into Sunday's race, and includes two wins, seven top fives, nine top tens with a healthy 13.3 AFR.

Series points leader Greg Biffle has been a model of consistency since the season started last February. He's a two time Dover winner with six top fives, 10 top tens and a 12.3 AFR. He has been a solid wager consideration from the very beginning of the year and that remains in place for Dover.

The WSE has the trio of Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin ranked at 10 to 1. Like his Roush Fenway Racing team mate Greg Biffle, Kenseth, who is the defending race champion, is having a very strong year and is currently second in the standings and only ten points away. He will be bringing some strong Dover stats with him this weekend that includes a pair of wins, 12 top fives, 17 top tens and a healthy 12.2. AFR.

Carl Edwards, the third Roush Fenway Racing team member, is tenth in the standings at 81 points away. He's a former winner at Dover and also has seven top fives and 11 top tens. But it's his 7.3 AFR that really stands out here. We've heard and read a lot of comments regarding the sluggish start this team has had so far in 2012. If there's a track where Edwards can respond to those comments, then it's Dover.

At first glance, one might wonder why Denny Hamlin is rated at 10 to 1 to win at Dover. His track stats really doesn't support the theory. He's still seeking his first Dover win and only has a pair of top fives and four top tens there. Also of concern here is the very high 20.7 AFR. However, there's a high level of added incentive here for Hamlin to perform well next Sunday. First off, his long time primary sponsor, FedEx is also the race sponsor. This race also benefits the Autism Speaks program, a long time personal cause for Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing team. That's plenty of incentive for this team to rise to the occasion at Dover.

Ranked at 12 to 1 you will find a quartet of drivers featuring Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart. Jeff Gordon's racing luck has been a source of mystery all season long that has left him 22nd in the standings and a whopping 174 points away. It's likely that he will have to rely on the wild card program to make the Chase for the Championship. Dover is a great place for Gordon to turn his season around. He has four wins there along with 14 top fives, 21 top tens and a healthy 12.2 AFR. Gordon is a very good long shot wager. The law of averages says his racing luck has got to turn around sometime soon.

Kasey Kahne will be riding on the momentum of last weekend's win at Charlotte. Here's another Hendrick Motorsports team that was heavily plagued with early season bad luck. At one point he was 31st in the standings. However, a hard charging reversal of fortune has elevated this team to 15th in the points. But, Kahne's Dover stats indicates he may have a tough time with Miles The Monster this Sunday. He's still looking for his first there, he only has one top five and just four top tens. The AFR is also very high at 22.6.

Kevin Harvick is seventh in the points. He's also seeking a first Dover win. He has two top fives, nine top tens and a 16.6 AFR at the monster mile.

Reigning Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart is currently ninth in the standings, 65 points away. However, he has some strong stats at Dover that includes a pair of wins, ten top fives, 15 top tens and a 13.0 AFR.

All by himself at 15 to 1 odds is Brad Keselowski. He has terrible stats at Dover that includes zero wins, no top fives, no top tens and a very high 18.2 AFR. So, why is this driver, with these numbers, rated so high on the WSE's Dover list? Simply put: it's Brad. He has a strong habit of charging his way to the front of a field. He's turned that talent into two wins this year. The bottom line is: this driver and his team really are that good.

At 18 to 1 is the ever popular Dale Earnhardt Jr. The standard bearer for Hendrick Motorsports is currently fourth in the standings and only 18 points from first. He's a previous winner at Dover who also has four top fives, seven top tens but the AFR, at 18.0 is a little on the high side.

At 25 to 1 are Michael Waltrip Racing team mates Martin Truex Jr and Clint Bowyer. Truex won his first ever Cup race at Dover back in 2007 on a Monday afternoon rain delayed event. However since then he only has accumulated one top five along with a 17.2 AFR. But this is a highly rejuvenated team in 2012 and Truex is currently sixth in the standings just 49 points away. He just might pull off a long shot win next Sunday.

Clint Bowyer is currently 12th in the standings and his seeking his first top five at Dover where he has a 14.2 AFR. At 30 to 1 is the third Michael Waltrip Racing driver Mark Martin who has four wins at Dover along with a healthy 12.4 AFR.

Completing the WSE's Dover list, three time Dover winner Ryan Newman is also ranked at 30 to 1. Now here's an interesting long shot consideration. Newman has three wins, four poles, six top fives, 11 top tens and a healthy 11.5 AFR. Those are actually very strong stats at 30 to 1.

A J Allmendinger is ranked at 40 to 1 but it should be pointed out that this is the same team who won the Dover race last October with Kurt Busch behind the wheel. Previous Dover winner Jeff Burton closes the list leading a trio of drivers at 50 to 1 that also includes Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano.

If you do not see your favorite driver on the WSE list that means they're automatically rated at 10 to 1 odds.

Now for the disclaimer: NASCAR wants us to remind you that these numbers should be viewed for entertainment and informational purposes. They neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their races.

So, who is Miles The Monster going to smile at this Sunday at Dover? One has to think that it's going to be Jimmie Johnson. It's very hard to ignore those awesome numbers.

CRUNCHING THE RACE NUMBERS

The FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks is 400 laps/400 miles around the Dover International Raceway's one mile concrete oval.

The race has 46 entries vying for the 43 starting positions. Ten of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning these teams are not guaranteed a starting berth because they are currently outside of NASCAR's top 35 in Owner's Points. These teams will have to rely on qualifying speed to make the race.

That could become a problem for a least three of those teams due to the weather forecast. The Saturday forecast for the Dover area calls for a 60% chance of showers which could cancel qualifying. The Sunday race day forecast is much better and calls for partly sunny skies and 78 degrees. In the event of rain, the speedway has a fleet of four jet dryers which can dry the track in approximately 90 minutes.

If Saturday's qualifying session does get rained out, then it will be bad news for drivers Mike Bliss, Mike Skinner and Scott Speed who will be going home early.

The challenging Dover Speedway has 24 degrees of banking in the turns which blends down to nine degrees of banking in the straights. Both straightaways measures 1,076 feet. The track is narrow. A brush with the outside wall there could lead to a car sliding down the hill and hitting the inside wall as well.

Pit road will also be a traditional challenge for the team. The 43 pit stalls are only 15 feet wide by 32 feet long. The pit road speed is a slow 35 MPH.

The track opened in 1969 and became a concrete clad oval is 1995. The speedway presently has grandstand seating for 135,000 fans.

The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races was held in July of 1969 and was won by Richard Petty. Since that time there has been 84 Sprint Cup races held at Dover that has sent 33 different winners to victory lane. Richard Petty and Bobby Allison tops the win list at seven each while Jimmie Johnson leads modern era drivers with six wins. Hendrick Motorsports tops the team wins list at Dover with 13.

The track qualifying record is 161.522 MPH and was set by Jeremy Mayfield back in June of 2004. NASCAR Hall of Famer member David Pearson holds the qualifying record with six poles.

13 of the 84 Dover Cup races has been won from the pole. The last driver to do it was Jimmie Johnson back in September of 2010. 51 of the 84 races have been won starting positions within the top five while 18 have won at Dover from starting positions outside of the top ten.

The FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks will be broadcast live by Fox Sports beginning at 12:30 PM eastern time. The race re broadcast will be on Wednesday, June 6th, on SPEED beginning at 12 noon eastern time.

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