Sunday’s Dryden 400 Race Preview and Prediction

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now turns its focus to the Round of 12. Sunday’s Dryden 400 (2:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be the opening race of the second round as it’s the second trip of the year to the Dover International Speedway too.

How To Watch

Coverage – 2:30 p.m. ET

TV – NBCSN

Radio – PRN

Distance – 400 Laps/400 Miles

Stage Lengths – 120/120/160

Defending Race Winner – Chase Elliott

Playoffs – RD 2, Race 1

100th Cup Race

This week’s Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway marks the 100th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the one-mile concrete track.

Current driver and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with 11 victories. NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Richard Petty are next on the list with seven wins. Another NASCAR Hall of Famer, David Pearson, holds the top-mark for pole positions with six. Ryan Newman’s four pole position is most among current drivers.

Petty won the first Cup race at the historic track on July 6, 1960, the Mason Dixon 300. His No. 43 Petty Enterprises 1969 Ford led 150 of the 300 laps and beat runner-up Sunny Hutchins in a 1967 Ford by six laps.

Three times in the 100-race history, a driver has managed to win three consecutive races – all of them NASCAR Hall of Famers: Pearson (1972-73), Rusty Wallace (1993-94) and Jeff Gordon (1995-95). Interestingly, the last time a driver won back-to-back races was 2013-14 (Jimmie Johnson).

Mark Martin, a four-time race winner, holds the record for most runner-up finishes (eight) all-time; Ricky Rudd holds the mark for most starts at the track with 56.

Hendrick Motorsports holds the record for most wins (20) for an organization.

Chevrolet leads all manufacturers with 40 wins in the first 99 races.

Only two drivers have earned their first career Cup victories at Dover – Jody Ridley in May, 1981, and Martin Truex Jr. in 2007.

Joe Gibbs Racing Could Either Thrive Or Flop at Dover

Kyle Busch needs to get back to relevant again. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver hasn’t won a race since June 2 at the Pocono Raceway. Furthermore, he only has four top five finishes in his last 12 starts overall.

Luckily for him, Dover is up next. That’s also unlucky for him too.

Busch has had some great success in the fall Dover race. He finished runner-up in 2015 and 2016 and even won in 2017. He brought his No. 18 Toyota home eighth in last year’s race.

Where this could go wrong those is, his last six spring race finishes on the Monster Mile were – 42nd, 36th, 30th, 16th, 35th and 10th respectively. Combine that with sliding backwards on the season and you could get trouble on Sunday afternoon.

That point advantage is really only good for one mulligan. So far, he may need it. Busch, hasn’t been in the top 10 in any session including qualifying 18th for Sunday’s race.

Same for Denny Hamlin. He’s had just two top five finishes since the Fall of 2010 at Dover. Also, Hamlin had a stretch of six consecutive top five finishes late in the summer, he’s had three finishes of 15th or worse in his last five since. He did earn the pole though and has shown some good long run speed.

Martin Truex Jr. dominated the spring race, has five top four finishes in his last five Dover starts but the one he didn’t get a top four was last year’s playoff race where he came home 15th. He qualified third.

Erik Jones isn’t playoff eligible anymore but did finish fourth in this race last year and sixth in the spring race. His problem is, the last four races on the season has seen him finish 36th or worse. He starts eighth.

Logano And Blaney May Struggle

Sunday marks the opening race of the Round of 12 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. It’s also a very important race because of what’s looming next week – Talladega.

The problem is, both Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney may not get off to very good starts. Logano, sits fourth in the standings but is only +24. He can afford a mini mulligan but wit Talladega coming up next Sunday, he can’t rest on his morals.

Plus, Logano hasn’t won a race since June 10 and has scored just one top five finish over his last 12 on the season. Six of his last nine results have landed his No. 22 Ford outside of the top 10 at that.

At Dover, Logano has only two top 10 finishes since 2014. He was seventh back in May. This may not be a good weekend for him. He was just 23rd quick in final practice and 17th and eighth on the 10 lap.

Same for Blaney.

He’s only had two top five finishes in his last nine starts on the year in his No. 12 Ford. He’s -2 in the standings right now. That could fall even further after Sunday’s race. Blaney’s best finish in seven Dover starts is eighth. Four of his last six starts at Dover is 15th or worse.

Hendrick Motorsports Could Shine Again

This has been a pretty good playoffs for HMS thus far. They finished 4-6-7-11 in Vegas and 1-2-6-9 last weekend in Charlotte. Now, it’s to a very good track for them at Dover, a place they finished 2-5-8-14 in May.

Chase Elliott won last Sunday on the ROVAL and is the defending race winner for the fall race at Dover. He also has six top five finishes in seven Dover starts including leading 145 laps in a fifth place run this past May. He was 13th and fifth respectively in practice on Friday.

Alex Bowman finished runner-up last Sunday on the ROVAL and was runner-up at Dover back in the spring. He was fourth and third on the 10 lap average charts on Friday.

William Byron hasn’t had the most success at Dover but does have three top seven finishes in his last four tries on the season. He was eighth in May and fifth on the 10 lap average chart in final practice.

Finally, Jimmie Johnson is rolling too. The seven-time champion finished 11th, 10th and ninth respectively in the first round. That would have put him in a good position to still be alive in the playoffs right now. Then, it’s to arguably his best track – Dover.

Johnson, has won 11 times on the Monster Mile including the very spot of his last victory in June 2017. Furthermore, he has eight top 10 finishes in his last 12 starts on the concrete Delaware oval.

He’s won four times there since 2013 and was second in both practices on the 10 lap average chart.

Chevy Drivers Could Stake Claim In 2nd Round While Top 4 In Standings May Struggle

I have a feeling the Round of 12 could be a wild one in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It all gets started this weekend at the Dover International Speedway. Currently, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske drivers hold the top four spots in the points standings and five of the top seven. Throw Kevin Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing car in there and you get six of the top seven.

They’ve combined to win 23 of the 29 races this season and eight of the last 10. But, this could also be the round where the Chevrolet drivers that are still eligible for the playoffs shine.

Chevy has four of the 12 remaining drivers that are still compete for this year’s championship. Three of which are on the same team at Hendrick Motorsports. The fourth is Kyle Larson with Chip Ganassi Racing.

While numbers and overall season stats aren’t on their side, I can make a solid case to where all four make it to the Round of 8.

Here’s why.

The top four in the standings have struggled on the three tracks this round. So has another Penske driver in Ryan Blaney.

The Chevy drivers have thrived.

The only driver not of JGR/SHR/Penske to have won in the last 10 races was Chase Elliott. He just won last Sunday in Charlotte and also won the playoff races last year at Dover and Kansas. Those are the first and third races of this round. The middle race at Talladega, Elliott was victorious at back in April. This could be a very good round for him. He has six top five finishes in seven Dover starts and three top four finishes in his last four Kansas starts.

Alex Bowman finished second last weekend in Charlotte and runner-up at literally all three of these playoffs tracks this round earlier this season. The momentum is starting to sway towards his side.

William Byron may be the only one of them that struggles while Kyle Larson could end his winless drought at any given time.

Larson, has seven top eight finishes in his last nine starts on the year to go along with a third place run at Dover back in May. He also has four top 10 finishes in his last five Dover starts. At Kansas, Larson was fourth and eighth respectively in the last two spring races and third in the playoff race last year.

Combine all of that with Kyle Busch not having won a race since June 2 and having scored just four top five finishes in his last 12 starts on the season too. Dover has been good to him in the fall (3 top 2’s in his last 4 starts) but the Monster Mile is capable of biting him too with four finishes of 30th or worse in his last six spring races there. His best result in the spring is 10th. Then, it’s to Talladega, a place that’s a crapshoot. From there, it’s to Kansas, a place Busch finished 30th at back in May. With three finishes of 19th or worse in his last four, this could be a worrisome round for the JGR driver.

Same for his championship eligible teammates.

Martin Truex Jr. won at Dover back in the spring and does have five top four finishes in his last six starts there, but he also was 15th in last year’s playoff race. Again, Talladega is next, a place Truex has always struggled. Finally, it’s to Kansas where Truex came home 19th back in the spring. He, like Busch, needs to get a great start this weekend at Dover.

Denny Hamlin has just two top five finishes since the Fall of 2010 at Dover. He’s a good superspeedway racer but you can’t bank of a good finish at Talladega though. Anything can happen there. Then, it’s to Kansas where Hamlin was 16th back in May and 14th in last year’s playoff race. Hamlin, had a stretch of six consecutive top five finishes late in the summer, he’s had three finishes of 15th or worse in his last five since.

All three of them could struggle this round and have to bank of playoff points to get them by.

What about Joey Logano?

He hasn’t won since June 10. He has just two top five finishes at Dover since 2014. He was seventh on the Monster Mile back in May. Talladega could be a good place for him if he’s lucky. Then, it’s to Kansas to close the round where he finished 15th back in May and has three finishes of 15th or worse in his last five starts there.

The top four may not be the top four in three weeks. That opens the door for Elliott, Bowman, Byron and Larson.

Stats Show We Could Have Under The Radar Champion

Right now, you would think that this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship could come down to Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick or Joey Logano. They hold three of the top four spots in the standings heading into the Round of 12 and honestly should make the most noise too.

But, what if I told you that the champion will likely come from the group of either Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman or William Byron?

Here’s why.

Since this format was adopted in 2014, the champion each year didn’t even make it out the second round the year prior. Take Kevin Harvick’s title in 2014 out of it since the format started that year but Kyle Busch, the 2015 champion, only got the second round in 2014. Same for Martin Truex Jr.. He won the 2017 championship but was bounced in the second round the year prior.

That’s the furthest the champion made the previous year.

Jimmie Johnson won the 2016 title but was eliminated in the opening round in 2015. Joey Logano won last year’s title but he wasn’t even a part of the playoffs in 2017.

So, if that trend continues, it’s good news for Hamlin, Blaney, Keselowski, Larson, Bowman and Byron.

Hamlin, would make the most sense with him being third in the standings and having at one point a stretch of six consecutive top five finishes. He has plenty of playoff points to help him move onto the Round of 8 and if he can get there, he’s strong at all three tracks.

Keselowski, makes sense too. He’s won a championship before and is flying under the radar. The Team Penske driver has five top five finishes in his last six starts on the season including eight top 10’s over his last 10 starts overall.

Larson also makes sense. He has seven top eight finishes in his last nine tries.

All three are more than capable of making a run. So could Blaney.

The Hendrick duo would be surprising but both are heating up. Bowman, finished runner-up in all three of the Round of 12 tracks back in the spring. He’s coming off of a runner-up last weekend. He has two top six finishes in his last three tries on the season.

Byron, has three top seven finishes in his last four tries on the year as well.

Meanwhile, the top drivers mentioned have struggled. Busch, hasn’t won since June 2. Out of his last 12 starts overall, he’s had just four top five finishes. Logano, hasn’t won since June 10. He has just one top five in those same 12 starts. What’s going for him is, the defending Cup champion has at least made it to the Round of 8 every year with three of the four making it back to the Championship 4 the following season. Will Logano be the exception?

Plus there’s this, we have five straight years of a different champion from a different team. SHR won in 2014. JGR won in 2015. HMS won in 2016. FRR won in 2017 and Penske won last year.

That leaves Ganassi and Larson as next ones up.

You can pencil Larson and Logano into the Championship 4 right now. Who joins them are up in the air.

2019 Producing Close Racing

NASCAR announced that the 2020 rules package won’t be a whole lot different than the one for the current season. While some fans aren’t happy that changes aren’t really being made, NASCAR has produced some stats that say otherwise.

In earning the pole position at the Charlotte ROVAL last week, 21-year old Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron now has five pole positions on the season and ties Stewart-Haas Racing veteran Kevin Harvick for most on the season. Interestingly, Joe Gibbs Racing has the most wins (15) in the field, but only Denny Hamlin has scored a single pole position start (Bristol-2).

There have been 11 winners representing six teams. JGR has 15 wins among its four drivers – more than double the total of any other team. Martin Truex Jr., who won the opening two races of the Playoff’s first round leads all drivers with six wins. His teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have four each and Erik Jones has one. The other drivers with multiple wins include Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott with three victories each and Joey Logano has two trophies.

Loop data reveals that the average Margin of Victory through the season’s opening 29 races has been 1.700-seconds. Fifteen of the races have been decided by a margin of victory of less than a second – 51.7 percent. The average number of lead changes per race is 17.28, which is the most through 29 races since 2015 (17.66).

Green Flag Passes for the Lead are up 38.3 percent over last season and the statistic is higher in 19 of the 29 races to date, including two of the three Playoff races (at Las Vegas and the Charlotte ROVAL).

Green Flag Passes in general are up 24.5 percent from than last year and that includes six of the last seven races.

Bowyer Not Playing Catch up Anymore

No one is happier than Clint Bowyer for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff standings to get reset. See, at the start of each round, the standings are dictated by playoff points. Everyone starts at the same amount of base points then the amount of playoff points accumulated up and to that point of the season are thrown on top.

For Bowyer, he went from being in a hole for most of the first round to just six points out to start the Round of 12. Despite being down, he doesn’t think that he’ll start there long.

Hell, yes,” Bowyer said if he’s excited for a point reset. “I’m excited to reset and not be playing catch-up. I won’t put ourselves in a hole again.”

First up, is Dover. It’s a place Bowyer said has been good to him and SHR as a whole in the past. The Kansas native has three top 10 finishes in his last four starts on the Monster Mile and feels like another solid run like that on Sunday will put him on the good side of the playoff standings.

“Dover is a good track for me,” Bowyer continued. “Dover is a good track for our organization. I feel like we can get reset and go for that next Round of 8.”

Bowyer, heads to Dover on the heels of five top 10 finishes in his last six races overall. He kept saying all year that despite some lean times that they have a single digit car. He’s proved that in the most important time.

“We did what we had to do,” Bowyer said of his fourth place finish last weekend in Charlotte. “We knew what we had to do all weekend long. We knew we had to dig ourselves out of a hole we put ourselves in at Vegas.”

Bowyer, is a solid sleeper pick to make the Round of 8.

Johnson, Suarez, Jones Could Steal A Win

12 drivers may be fighting to advance to the Round of 8 via a victory in Sunday’s Cup race at Dover, but there are some drivers looking to steal a win despite not being playoff eligible themselves.

You can make a solid case that Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones are sleepers.

Johnson has finished 11th, 10th and ninth respectively in the first round. That would have put him in a good position to still be alive in the playoffs right now. Then, it’s to arguably his best track – Dover.

Johnson, has won 11 times on the Monster Mile including the very spot of his last victory in June 2017. Furthermore, he has eight top 10 finishes in his last 12 starts on the concrete Delaware oval.

He’s won four times there since 2013.

Suarez, has three top eight finishes in five Dover tries including leading 21 laps back in May.

Jones, was fourth in this race last year and sixth in May. He’s had fast race cars, just bad luck has forced him to be eliminated from the playoffs.

All three are willing to play the spoiler role this weekend.

Prediction

  1. 19 Truex Jr. – Its been a decade since a driver has swept both Dover races in the same season. I think that drought ends on Sunday. Truex, won the spring race on the Monster Mile back in May and also won two of the three races in the first round too. I think he picks up a victory in the opening race of the second round now as well. He was sixth quickest in final practice on the 10 lap average and second on the single lap runs. He has five top four finishes in his last six Dover starts.

  2.  4 Harvick – His average finish in the opening round was fourth. He was fourth back in May. He has nine top eight finishes in his last nine starts on the season and four top 10’s in his last five starts at the Monster Mile. Harvick, was third quickest in final practice and first and fourth on the 10 lap averages.

  3. 88 Bowman – He was second last week and second in May. Bowman, was fourth and third on the 10 lap averages.

  4.  9 Elliott – He won last weekend and won this race last season too. His problem this weekend is he doesn’t have a very fast car yet. He does have six top fives in seven Dover starts.

  5. 42 Larson – He was fastest in final practice in both single lap and 10 lap averages. Larson, has seven top eight finishes in his last nine starts on the season to go along with four top 10’s in his last five Dover starts.

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