The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to normalcy again this weekend with a non superspeedway event. See, after a week off to observe the Easter Holiday two weeks ago, the series returned last weekend for their annual spring stop to the Talladega Superspeedway.
Now, it’s to the concrete jungle, or also known as the Dover International Speedway. Here are the top five storylines for Sunday’s Gander RV 400 (2 p.m. ET/FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Will Penske/JGR Shine Again? Why Keselowski And Truex Are Their Best Bets If So
What a start to the 2019 season that its been for Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing. They’ve won nine of the first 10 races and the only one they didn’t win was on a superspeedway last week. Can’t blame them for that.
If you go back to the final two races of the 2018 season too, they’ve won 11 of the last 12 Cup Series races. Can they win again on Sunday?
This though, may be the week that they don’t.
Penske hasn’t won a spring race at Dover since 2003 and hasn’t even won the Fall race there since 2011 and 2012. In fact, over the last 24 years, they’ve won only five times, four of which coming in the Fall. Also, they’re not always at their best at Dover either. Joey Logano has just two top five finishes since 2014 on the Monster Mile and none overall in the spring race. Ryan Blaney has two total top 10 finishes in his career at Dover but none are better than eighth. Brad Keselowski does have five top 10 finishes in his last six Dover starts, but he hasn’t finished better than fourth since coming home runner-up in both races in 2014.
JGR has also struggled a bit too. They have one spring race victory since 2011 and just one Fall race victory since 2001. Denny Hamlin has two top five finishes since the Fall of 2010 at Dover with Kyle Busch despite having three top two finishes in his last four Fall race starts, finishing 42nd, 36th, 30th, 16th and 35th respectively in his last five spring starts. Erik Jones has one top 10 finish in four tries himself. Martin Truex Jr. is the anomaly with four top four finishes in his last five Dover starts to go along with a top 11 finish in every start with the exception of one since he joined Furniture Row Racing.
Really, it may be down to Keselowski (Penske) and Truex (Gibbs) to keep this hot streak going.
Stewart-Haas Racing Could Get On Track This Weekend And Close Gap To Penske/JGR This Month
These next two races could bring SHR back to JGR and Penske’s level. This weekend at Dover is a great track for them. SHR has three wins at Dover since 2013 including a 1-2 finish in this very race a year ago.
Kevin Harvick has two wins at Dover and has led 91 or more laps in six of his last nine Dover starts including leading 200 or more laps in both races a year ago. He has seven top 10 finishes in his last nine starts on the season in his No. 4 Ford as well.
Clint Bowyer has four top seven finishes in his last five starts on the year in his No. 14 Ford and was runner-up to Harvick in this race last May. He also was sixth in the 2017 fall race to have two top six finishes in his last three Dover starts.
Aric Almirola finished fifth in both races in 2015 and was 11th and 13th last year.
Dover is also the best track for Daniel Suarez who finished in the top eight in three of his four Dover tries including a third place run in this race last year with JGR and was sixth in 2017.
Then there’s next weekend in Kansas where Harvick has eight top 10 finishes in his last 11 starts. He led 75 or more laps in both races on that 1.5-mile track last year including a win in the spring race. He has four top three finishes in his last six Kansas starts.
Almirola, was ninth in the spring race with RPM in 2017 and had two top 10 finishes in both races last year. Suarez and Bowyer have been up and down at Kansas too, but have the chances to compete next weekend.
Penske has struggled there too with Keselowski scoring just one top five since 2012 and Logano with three finishes of 21st or worse in his last six Kansas starts.
Hendrick Motorsports A Sleeper?
With JGR and Penske struggling at Dover in the past, maybe it opens up the door for a team like Hendrick Motorsports. They’ve won exactly half of the last 20 races at Dover.
Chase Elliott won the fall race last year and has five top five finishes in six tries at the Monster Mile. He’s also coming off of a win last weekend in Talladega too.
Jimmie Johnson has eight top 10 finishes in his last 11 starts with being ninth in this race last May.
While William Byron and Alex Bowman have struggled a bit, they have the equipment to shine. Bowman finished runner-up to Elliott in Talladega last Sunday.
Will Chip Ganassi Racing Rebound?
Kyle Larson is off to one of the most frustrating starts of his career in 2019. He’s yet to earn a top five finish this season and in fact, only has two top 10’s overall, the last coming seven races ago. Can he get on track this weekend in Dover?
Larson, has led a ton of laps before at Dover but has never won either though. He has seven top 10 finishes in his No. 42 Chevrolet in his last nine Dover starts. In his Cup career, he’s finished worse than 12th just once. Maybe this will be his weekend.
Kurt Busch only has three top five finishes at Dover since 2012, but two of which came in fifth place runs in both races a year ago with SHR. His last top five before that was a fifth place run in the 2016 spring race.
This could be a feast or famine weekend for them.
Last Short Track For A While
While some may think that Dover isn’t a “short track” it races like one. The 1-mile Delaware oval is the last track smaller than 1.5-miles in length between now and mid July. With four out of the next eight races being on 1.5-mile tracks, two more on 2.5-milers, a 2-mile wide sweeping oval and a road course, the playoff bubble is surely going to change a lot over the next two months.