The NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship rolls onto the Dover International Raceway for Sunday's running of the A A A 400 on a one mile, concrete laden, speedway known as the Monster Mile. The official mascot for this speedway is a large, angry looking, concrete monster named Miles. Over the years Miles, with his threatening red eyes, has been known to create havoc with the Sprint Cup competitors who dare to enter his domain.
That may, or may not, be good news for the 12 drivers in the Chase line up. The teams located in the top half of the Chase standings will be jockeying for position to strengthen their chances of taking the coveted Sprint Cup home in November. The teams in the bottom half of the standings will also be jockeying for positions in order to rekindle their Chase hopes.
Who will Miles the Monster smile on? Who will feel his wrath? We'll have to wait until Sunday evening to find out. It should be interesting.
THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN
To get a clear picture of which driver is capable of taming the Monster Mile, we again turn to the professionals from the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE), who has generated a very interesting set of numbers.
Jimmie Johnson is sitting on top of the WSE's list this week at 7 to 1 odds. We all watched what happened to the Lowes #48 team last weekend in New Hampshire. The team simply couldn't overcome the car's handling problems. There was even a moment of in car radio discord between the dynamic duo of Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. The team left New Hampshire tenth in the standings and 29 points out of first.
So how does this free fall translate into the number one seed on the WSE's list? That simple. Johnson has amazing numbers at Dover that includes a series high six wins, eight top five finishes, 13 top tens along with an average finish ratio, (AFR), of 9.6. That's the type of strong numbers that places you on top of any one's list.
Also ranked 7 to 1 is Kyle Busch who is currently sixth in the Chase rankings and 26 points from the top. Busch is a two time winner at Dover with seven top fives and a 13.8 AFR. Many NASCAR observers will tell you that this team seems to be in some sort of free fall. The truth of the matter is: in the first two Chase events Busch has fallen from first to sixth. However, if the car is right Busch could turn out to be a major player in the Dover race. This driver is always a rock solid wager consideration.
At 8 to 1 odds you will find "Concrete" Carl Edwards. When it comes to race tracks with a concrete surface, Edwards just seems to excel at them. He's currently a rock steady fourth in the Chase standings and only 14 points away from the top. He's a previous race winner at Dover with six top five finishes and has an excellent 7.6 AFR.
At 9 to 1 you will find the tandem of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. Despite a rough start to the Chase at Chicago, Gordon rebounded at New Hampshire and is now fifth in the standings and 23 points away. He's a four time Dover winner, with a 12.2 AFR, so he understands how to get the job done at this race track. His drive for a fifth Sprint Cup title is definitely on track and he's also a solid wager consideration for next Sunday.
The same goes for the red hot Tony Stewart. Two consecutive Chase wins has him on top of the standings. Stewart is a two time Dover winner with a healthy 12.5 AFR. Whether or not it's realistic that he will win three Chase events in a row remains to be seen. However he will be the one man the competition will be gunning for at Dover.
At 10 to 1 is Matt Kenseth who has two wins, including the spring race last May, along with 11 top fives and a 12.4 AFR at Dover. This track is special to Kenseth because it was the scene of his first ever Sprint Cup start. If the car's handling package is right, he could do that quiet Kenseth thing for much of the race and then turn into a major player at the end.
The once Chase contender everyone is keeping a sharp eye on is Kevin Harvick who's currently second in the standing and only seven points behind Tony Stewart. However his driver stats at Dover are not very strong. Harvick is still looking for that first Dover win in 21 starts. He only has two top five finishes there and a hefty 17.0 AFR. However if all of the needed racing elements are in place for Harvick, he could turn into a long shot winner and surprise everyone.
The WSE has Roger Penske Racing listed at 15 to 1 this week. A rather unhappy Kurt Busch finds himself ninth in the standings and 28 points away from first. He's has a fond memory connected to Dover, it was the scene of his first ever Sprint Cup start. However, he still seeking his first win there and has an 18.7 AFR. It might be another long afternoon for Kurt Busch at Dover.
Meanwhile Penske team mate Brad Keselowski is also winless at Dover, has no top fives, no top tens and a 17.7 AFR. Despite those numbers, he's still an outstanding long shot bet to win on Sunday. Keselowski is like a really great poker player, you just can't read him. He wasn't expected to make the Chase line up but drove his way into championship contention anyway. Next, no one expected him to make a solid run for the title but there he is: third in the standings only 11 points from the top.
At 18 to 1 you will find Greg Biffle who is a two time Dover winner with a healthy 11.4 AFR. It's hardly a secret that Biffle has had a very disappointing season and probably can't wait for 2012. But he looked strong last weekend at New Hampshire and he could be playing the role of spoiler at Dover. This is a rather interesting long shot wager.
At 20 to 1 is another disappointed driver: Denny Hamlin. A pre season Chase favorite, Hamlin finds himself languishing in 12th in the Chase rankings and a whopping 66 points out of first. Well aware that his championship hopes are virtually gone, Hamlin recently said his focus was now all about winning races. Don't look for him to start that trend at Dover. He's winless there with a 20.9 AFR and he's never actually led a lap on the Monster Mile. Hamlin may indeed light a fire under his post season effort in the near future but don't expect it to start this Sunday.
The WSE has drivers Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin ranked at 25 to 1 for the Dover race. Bowyer is still seeking a win, as well as a top five finish, at Dover and has a 14.8 AFR. Despite that he still has the potential of being a spoiler next Sunday.
Mark Martin has excellent driver stats at Dover that includes four wins, a series high 23 top fives and 31 top tens along with a healthy 12.3 AFR. That's the good news. The bad news is: those outstanding numbers were compiled quite some time ago.
At 30 to 1 you will find the trio of Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman. Earnhardt is currently eighth in the Chase rankings, 26 points away. He's a former Dover winner with a 17.8 AFR there. However he has not scored a top ten finish at Dover in his last seven starts. It might turn out to be another long Sunday for the Junior Nation.
Kasey Kahne would love to get Red Bull Racing a win this season before he moves on to Hendrick Motorsports next year. Sadly, it may not happen at Dover where Kahne has no wins or top fives and a hefty AFR of 23.8.
Ryan Newman is 11th in the Chase standings and 34 points away. If all of the racing components falls into place this Sunday he could turn out to be a long shot surprise. He's a three time Dover winner with six top fives and a very healthy AFR of 10.9.
Concluding the WSE list this week, at 35 to 1, are drivers Jeff Burton, A J Allmendinger and Martin Truex Jr who scored his first Cup win at Dover. Joey Logano concludes the list at 40 to 1. Any driver not on the WSE list are automatically rated at 10 to 1 odds.
Now for the disclaimer: NASCAR wants us to remind you that these numbers should be viewed for informational and entertainment purposes. They neither encourage nor condone the placing of wagers on their events. But if you're going to spread a few Benjamins around anyway then take a good look at the top five names on the WSE list. They're all rock solid wagers.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The A A A 400 is 400 laps/400 miles around the Dover International Speedway's one mile concrete oval.
The race has 44 entries vying for the 43 starting positions. Nine of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning they 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.
The Dover International Speedway was opened in 1969. The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held in July of 1969 and was won by Richard Petty. Since that time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has ran 83 races at Dover that has sent 32 different drivers to victory lane.
Bobby Allison and Richard Petty leads the all time Dover win list with seven trips each to victory lane. Jimmie Johnson leads the modern era drivers with six wins. Hendrick Motorsports leads the team win category with 12. Chevrolet leads the manufacturer's category with 31 wins.
The track qualifying record, 161.522 MPH, was set by Jeremy Mayfield back in June of 2004. There has been 35 different pole winners at Dover led by Hall of Fame member David Pearson who has six. Over the years 13 Dover events have been won from the pole position. 50 races have been won from the top five starting berths but only 18 races have been won from outside of the top ten.
The Dover International Speedway's one mile surface was converted from asphalt to concrete in 1995. The turns have 24 degrees of banking while the straightaways, each measuring 1,076 feet, are banked nine degrees. The speedway currently has seating for 135,000 fans. The speedway's pit road has 43 stalls measuring 15 feet wide by 32 feet long. The pit road speed is 35 MPH. The pit window is 72 to 76 laps based on the team's individual fuel mileage stats.
Weather could possibly hamper Friday practice sessions. The Dover forecast calls for cloudy skies and a 20 percent chance of showers and a daytime high of 75 degrees. Saturday's forecast calls for light clouds and 61 degrees while Sunday race day weather will be partly sunny conditions and 60 degrees. In the event of rain, the speedway has four jet dryers that can dry the track is about 90 minutes.
Sunday's A A A 400 will be broadcast live by ESPN at 2 pm eastern time. The race re airs will be on Monday morning, 1230 am et, on ESPN 2 and on Wednesday, October 5th, on SPEED at 12 pm et.