This week the Sprint Cup Series visits Dover International Speedway for the FedEx 400. This will be the first of two races this season at this 1.0-mile racetrack, with the other happening in October. Seven current drivers have at least two wins at Dover, so for the second week in a row we might see a first time winner (or so we hope). 400 laps are set to be run on Sunday afternoon, with the green flag set to drop around 1:45 p.m. eastern time. Two practices will be held on Friday morning/afternoon and qualifying is set to start around noon on Saturday–which will be the final time the cars are on the track before raceday.
During The Last Race At Dover…Jimmie Johnson started from the pole and led 191 laps before winning his sixth (and ultimately final) win of the 2010 season. Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, andCarl Edwards rounded out the top five. In the spring race, Johnsonand Kyle Busch led over 95% of the laps, and the latter went on to take the checkered flag by the end of the race. JJ wound up 15th that day because of a late pit road speeding penalty, while Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, and David Reutimann all scored top fives that day, along with Busch. The only drivers to finish in the top ten in both Dover races last season were: Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, and Denny Hamlin.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The FedEx 400:
1. Carl Edwards - Cousin Carl won here in 2007, and believe it or not, this is statistically his third-best track. He has made thirteen starts at “The Monster Mile” and has the best average finish of anyone in the series with 7.7. Edwards has posted at least a top-ten finish in nine of the last eleven races here and his worst effort in his career here has been 18th–which was his first start here. With the way his season is going, I fully expect the #99 Ford to challenge for the win on Sunday.
2. Jimmie Johnson - “Five Time” would be ranked number one this week, but I still don’t think that he’s running as well as normal. I know he’s second in points, but we’re not seeing the consistently strong #48 Chevy week in and week out, even though he still somehow manages to get the good finishes. His average driver rating over the past four races here has been 142.9–which is absolutely incredible–and he has recorded three wins in those four races. Jimmie’s average finish at Dover is 9.7 and he has six total wins here.
3. Ryan Newman - Believe it or not, this is statistically Newman’s best track on the circuit. He has 18 starts at Dover and has visited victory lane three times, although the most recent was in 2004. After his string of three sub-par races, “The Rocketman” notched another top five for the season last week in Darlington, and I full expect him to continue running strong this weekend. His average career finish at Dover is 10.3.
4. Kyle Busch - Let’s hope “Rowdy” and Kevin Harvick can stay away from each other this week–especially if you have Kyle on your fantasy roster. He’s a bit hit-or-miss here, with six top five finishes (and four outside of the top twenty) in his twelve starts at “The Monster Mile”, but I think he will “hit” this weekend. Busch has two wins at this track, so it’s not like he doesn’t know how to get around this place.
5. Matt Kenseth - Kenseth has hit rough patch recently, with a best finish of 21st since his win at Texas, but I think he will “reverse the curse” this weekend in Dover. He finished 18th here last fall (he cut a tire while running near the top ten), but before that he had a streak of five straight top five finishes at “The Monster Mile”. Kenseth won here in 2006 and has averaged a finish of around 13th in his 24 starts here.
6. Denny Hamlin - Hamlin is finally getting his season turned around, getting two of his three top 10s in his past two starts. At Dover, Denny hasn’t been great, but he recorded top 10s in both races last season and I like the little momentum that he is building lately. Like his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch, Hamlin is a bit hit-or-miss here, with half of his starts ending in finishes outside of the top twenty. Proceed with caution if you pick the #11 Toyota this weekend.
7. Tony Stewart - “Smoke” is on a streak of two top 10s this season, and I think he will easily make it three after this weekend. He’s not as good as his teammate (Ryan Newman) is at Dover, but Tony isn’t terrible. He has three top 10s in his past four starts here and owns a career average finish of 11.8, which includes two wins. It’s never a good idea to go against Steward when he gets a little momentum.
8. Greg Biffle - In the last four races of this season, “The Biff” has three top 10s and a worst finish of just 15th. In the last four races at Dover, Biffle has two top 10s and a worst finish of 19th. He’s won here twice (in 2005 and 2008) and has posted a top ten finish in eight of his last ten starts at “The Monster Mile”. Look for Biffle to make it nine of his last eleven after this weekend.
9. Mark Martin - I think this may prove to be too high of a ranking for Mark Martin, but I just have a hunch about him this week. He’s finished outside of the top 20 just once this season, and I don’t think he will make that twice on Sunday. Martin finished 12th and 15th at Dover last season, but in 2009 he recorded top 10s in both races (including a 2nd-place effort in the fall race). Make sure you check out what I have to say in my Predictions article before locking him into your roster this weekend.
10. Jeff Burton - Each week I have said that Burton won’t get his first top ten of the season…but I think this is the week! He finished 2nd in both Dover races during the 2010 season and hasn’t finished worse than 16th since 2004. Burton won here in 2006, and while I don’t think he will get his second win at this track this weekend, I do believe that a top ten is likely.
11. Kurt Busch - Kurt Busch has just one top ten in his past six races this season, but he could grab another this season. I have him ranked lower than some others will, though, simply because of how bad he has been running recently. It’s like a weekly comedy routine reading all of his comments during the race on Twitter. The elder Busch brother has three top 5s in his past four starts at Dover, but he’s never won here. Will he finally turn things around this weekend?
12. Kevin Harvick - It’s hard to believe that “Happy” isn’t the first Richard Childress Racing car ranked this week, but he’s not that stellar at Dover. He finished 7th here last spring, but that has been just one of his two top 10s here in the last nine races. Harvick hasn’t finished worst than 17th in his last five starts at Dover, though, and I don’t think streak will end this weekend.
13. Martin Truex, Jr. - Truex actually didn’t have a huge problem last week! He got his second top ten of the season in Darlington, but do you think he can make it two in a row? It’s possible–he at Dover in 2007–but I don’t think he will. Truex has just one top 20 in his past four starts at this track, and that was a 12th last season. His career average finish here is 16.8.
14. Clint Bowyer - Bowyer has finished 8th at “The Monster Mile” three times in his career, but he’s more likely to finish around 14th. His past five races here have ended with finishes of: 25th, 17th, 15th, and 11th. With Clint’s five-race top ten streak coming to an end last week (although it shouldn’t have), he should come out to prove that he can rebound, though, so this ranking may prove to be too low. Only time will tell.
15. Jeff Gordon - If you think Gordon is running up to potential this season, you are wrong. I know he won at Phoenix, but he’s usually not getting the finishes he deserves at his good tracks. This is why I have Jeff ranked so low this week. He finished 11th in both Dover races last season, and while he has finished outside of the top twelve just once in his past ten starts here, I think Gordon will have a hard time cracking the top ten this week. A top fifteen will be more likely for the #24 Chevrolet.
Underdogs Entering The FedEx 400:
Paul Menard - Now that Menard has fallen back down to earth, he’s back as an underdog. Like most tracks, he has been consistently average at Dover–with 71% of his finishes between 19th and 22nd–but he finished 7th here last fall after starting 9th. I don’t think he will grab another top ten, but a top fifteen is within reach.
David Reutimann - Reutty won the pole here in 2009 and recorded his first top five at this track in last season’s spring race. I don’t think he will get his first top ten of the season this weekend unless he gambles at the end, though.
David Ragan - Ragan was a little disappointing for me last week, but I still like how he is running this season. His best finish at Dover has been only 14th, but he’s been consistent here (his last four finishes have been 24th, 26th, 24th, 24th). It seems like the weeks you don’t expect the #6 to be strong are the ones that he is, so this may be the week.
A.J. Allmendinger - I seriously think The ‘Dinger could crack the top ten in points after this weekend. He has the seventh-best average driver rating at Dover over the past four races and has finishes of 29th, 7th, 14th, and 10th here since joining Richard Petty Motorsports. If he has a strong car like he has many times this season, expect Allmendinger to challenge for a top fifteen (and possibly a top ten).
Those To Avoid Entering The FedEx 400:
Brian Vickers - Vickers has just been top-ten good this season, or absolutely terrible, and this isn’t the week to take a chance with him on your fantasy roster. He has one top ten at Dover in twelve career starts, and that came back in 2005.
Marcos Ambrose - I typically like Marcos on tracks that are one-mile or less, but this week is the exception. His average finish at Dover is right around 24th and his best came in 2009 when he finished 14th. There are much better options this week than Ambrose.
Juan Montoya - Montoya has hit a cold spell this season, with a best finish of 23rd in the past three races, and although he finished 4th at Dover in 2009, that is his only top five at this track (and just his second top ten). If he qualifies in the top five, he could score a good run, but he’s a little too risky for me this weekend. I would avoid the #42.
Brad Keselowski - I’m not going to lie, last week’s top five finish by BK was a complete fluke. The only reason he got that 3rd-place was because he stayed out during the final pit stop. At Dover, he has made two starts, with 18th and 22nd-place runs to show for it. His driver ratings during those races, though, suggest to me that he lucked into those as well.
I will be back to posting my weekly Practice Breakdown and Post-Qualifying Predictions over on ifantasyrace.com, so be sure to check those out. The Sprint Cup All-Star weekend happens after Dover, so that will be an off-week for my Preview article. After that, though, it will return when the boys head to Charlotte for some Sunday night racing on May 29th.