The Sun is shining down on the Dover International Speedway. With fans taking selfies by Miles the Monster, everyone is gearing up for the FedEx 400.
Entering Sunday’s event at Dover, there have been 34 different drivers to cross the finish line ahead of the rest of the field in the 88 Sprint Cup Series races that have been run at the one-mile speedway. In Sunday’s race, 12 of those drivers will be fighting for the checkered flag once again.
Jimmie Johnson enters Dover as the all-time wins leader at the Monster Mile, and he scored his first victory of the season during the Coca-Cola 600. If Johnson were to win on Sunday, it would be his ninth victory at the track in what will be his 25th start. Johnson will be starting fourth for the FedEx 400, but was arguably the best car during Happy Hour as teams were discussing how to beat the No. 48 team.
Kyle Busch has won both races at Dover to start the weekend, but can he keep up his dominance? Well, albeit he did not post a stunning lap time during either of Saturday’s practice sessions, Busch was moderately quick during his run of 10 consecutive laps during the morning session. A win on Sunday would mark Busch’s 30th career win in NASCAR’s top-tier division.
Brad Keselowski will start on the pole for the FedEx 400 as Team Penske continues their dominance with the new qualifying format. Keselowski is roughly around where he was at this point last year, but has a win which is evidently the difference maker for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. He won at Dover back in 2012, and was inside of the top-two throughout the Saturday practice sessions.
Entering Dover, there have been 10 different winners in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in just 12 races this year. With only six spots remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, drivers such as Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle are still winless as they attempt to get adjusted to the new aero package which NASCAR has thrown at the teams.
Joey Logano lost his first Nationwide Series race at Dover on Saturday as he attempted to win his fifth straight race at the speedway. However, Logano just could not hold off Busch who was extremely quick throughout the entire 200-mile race.
A.J. Allmendinger will start 11th in the No. 47 Toyota for JTG Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger led a large portion of the 2010 version of the fall race at Dover, but has just one top-10 since then. Allmendinger has three top-10s this season as the team has taken advantage of their alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
Speaking of RCR, they have yet to score a victory this season. After scoring a top-10 at Daytona to start the year off, Austin Dillon has yet to crack the top-10 at any race since, and his teammate have been running well, but once again – the numbers show they are not contending for wins. Ryan Newman has led just 10 laps this year, but has four top-10s as he has been consistent enough to hold a spot inside of the top-10 in points. However, Paul Menard has arguably been the strongest car in the RCR camp. Menard was close to a victory at Las Vegas, which happens to be the only top-five RCR has recorded this season.
The clouds might have been above the track, but no cloud could ruin a pole run for “Bad Brad.”
Brad Keselowski has won the pole for the FedEx 400 at the Dover International Speedway. Keselowski’s time of 21.892 set the track record at Dover as he was the first car to go on track in the final round of qualifying.
The pole award marks the fifth time that Keselowski will lead the field to the green flag in what will be his 174th career start in NASCAR’s premier division. With the new qualifying format, Keselowski’s average starting position was 6.8 with seven front row starts in 12 races, and the 11th front row start for Team Penske between Joey Logano and he.
"I don't know if it is any different from last year. At this time last year, we were very similar in the standings and in laps led. We just didn't have the finishes other than the one win, but we are qualifying better," Keselowski said.
"I think the cars are built a lot differently than they were last year, and I think Ford has done a great job catching up with the front nose piece that kind of put us behind when the Gen Six car came out. I don't think we were far off before, we just needed those little pieces that were kind of outside of our control."
Kevin Harvick, along with Logano, went out a second time, but was not able to improve on old tires. Harvick will start eighth on Sunday at Dover, and it is the seventh straight weekend where he will start 11th or better.
Kyle Busch set the initial track record of the day in the first round with a time of 21.898 seconds at 164.399 mph, but was not able to duplicate his lap in the second round, coming just short of Keselowski’s time to start on the outside pole.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. barely missed the cut as A.J. Allmendinger knocked him out of the top-12 with a minute remaining in round one. Earnhardt Jr. went back on track along with Marcos Ambrose and Kurt Busch, but none of them were able to advance to the second and final round of qualifying.
After qualifying was completed, Busch said he came up just a little short of the pole as he got loose in between turns three and four.
Brett Moffitt, making his Sprint Cup Series debut for Identity Ventures Racing, will start 18th on Sunday at Dover. Moffitt, 21, has just one prior start in the Nationwide Series and two in the Camping World Truck Series. However, he is a two-time winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at Dover, and is replacing Joe Nemechek in the No. 66 Toyota this weekend.
Here are some notables from qualifying:
- Carl Edwards will start 29th after being sixth in first practice.
- Tony Stewart will start 20th in the No. 14 car. Stewart is the reigning winner of this event and has not won a race since.
- Kyle Larson was the highest qualifying rookie in fifth.
- Kurt Busch will start 24th after being 20th in first practice.
Jimmie Johnson is the all-time wins leader at Dover International Raceway with eight trophies. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet is coming off of a victory at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and is looking to lock up his ninth career victory at the Monster Mile.
Johnson, 38, has all but owned Dover since he swept both races at the Delaware track in his rookie year. He has led at least one lap at Dover in all but five of the 24 times he has taken the green flag at the high-banked oval. He has recorded all but of Hendrick Motortsports' 14 wins at Dover.
But what is so vexing about Johnson’s success at Dover?
With Chad Knaus at the helm, Johnson has been able to tame the “monster” no matter what body NASCAR has thrown onto the cars. Whether it was the Generation Four vehicle or the Generation Six – Johnson’s dominance has been a never ending train ride which has helped propel him to the top of the Sprint Cup Series. Even though NASCAR has changed up the aero package from last season, Johnson believes he is going to be a contender once again, and he proved that by putting up a solid lap time during first practice on Friday morning.
“There’s a sensation that I look for, especially at this track. We all have a certain sensation that we look for. It’s just you need to find the speed that fits the track, and it has worked well for me, for Chad and the team. It has just been a really strong track for us,” Johnson said.
“ I just pay attention to what I am looking for, what we are able to work through and whatever challenges are thrown at us. There are different tire combinations and different generations of the car, and this is still the Gen Six car, but there is a different rules package for it. Regardless of change, there are just some tracks that you know what you are looking for.”
A hard charging Kevin Harvick was not enough for the second straight weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. After coming so close to a victory during the Sprint All-Star Race, Harvick could not catch the reigning champion.
Jimmie Johnson ended his 13-race winless streak on Sunday evening. Johnson dominated the Coca-Cola 600, leading 165 of the 400 laps. The victory marks the fourth time Johnson has won the Coca-Cola 600, and his seventh points paying victory at Charlotte. After 447 career starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Johnson has secured his 67th victory, which is approximately 15 percent of the races he has started.
Johnson was in position to lose the race after fuel strategy was falling into Carl Edwards’ hands, but after a late race caution – Johnson was able to capitalize after taking four tires, maneuvering his way through traffic, and shooting by Matt Kenseth with nine laps to go.
After 100 laps, Harvick had a five-second lead over Johnson as only 12 cars were still on the lead lap. The race went green for the first 107 laps while Harvick lapped all but the top-10.
David Gilliland slammed the wall on Lap 164, forcing him to become the first driver to go to the garage.
Clint Bowyer had a vibration preceding the half-way mark. Bowyer pitted for two tires, but continued to report a vibration, and was forced to bring his No. 15 Toyota back into the pits to change left-side tires after competing for the win.
Jeff Gordon had the lead on the final restart, but slipped back to the seventh position after taking two tires as his No. 24 team assumed the race would go green for the remaining 20 laps. But after having back spasms for the majority of the weekend, Gordon's fight for the win was another small victory for Hendrick Motorsports.
Harvick led at the half-way mark with Johnson and Brad Keselowski trailing him by over two seconds. At the time, there were just 16 cars on the lead lap.
While running several laps down, Kurt Busch blew an engine on Lap 274, forcing an end to his attempt at becoming the first driver since Tony Stewart in 2001 to run all 1,100 miles in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Busch finished sixth during his first race in the Verizon IndyCar Series after starting the day in what was originally Marco Andretti’s backup car. Overally, Busch ran a total of 906.5 miles between the two events.
“This symbolizes how tough it has been this year on the Haas Automation team,” Busch said after his engine blew. “I can’t let what happen with the car here dampen what I did today. The motor just went. I trained hard and gave it my all.”
At Lap 220, Danica Patrick began reporting she was down a cylinder. Patrick was running in the top-15 for the majority of the first half of the race, but began to slide back as the track began to cool down. Evidently, Patrick’s car blew up proceeding Busch’s engine woes, making the Stewart-Haas Racing duo finish 39th and 40th, respectively.
13 cars finished on the lead lap in a race where green flag runs spread out the field, forcing a mixture of strategies. Six different drivers led during green flag conditions for 13 or more laps, and four of them led for 34 or more markers with a total of 34 lead changes.
It’s NASCAR’s longest race. Recently, each one of these events comes down to fuel mileage. This year should be no different.
The Coca-Cola 600, formerly known as the World 600, enables teams to bring their family members to the track, and they get to spend more time with their families because of it. As part of the Memorial Day ceremonies, NASCAR teams and drivers unite on this special weekend with a sign of patriotism seldom seen in any other sport. And in the midst of NASCAR’s homeland,
During a test at Charlotte over the off-season, Kevin Harvick was seemingly the best car at the 1.5-mile speedway. Harvick was strong during the Sprint All-Star Race on long runs, and that is going to be important going into the homestretch of an event which he has won twice in the past. The move to Stewart-Haas Racing has started to pay dividends for the 38-year-old driver. However, the rest of SHR did not perform well during the Sprint Showdown and the All-Star Race, and this might be a weekend where things can turn around for the organization. SHR has done well on fuel mileage races this year, taking risks late in events in order to gain as many as 15 spots late in races such as Tony Stewart at Las Vegas.
After winning the Sprint All-Star Race, Jamie McMurray has plenty of momentum going into the Coca-Cola 600, which he finished second in during the 2010 edition of the event. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has done well as of late with Kyle Larson joining the organization this year, and if the All-Star Race was an indication of how the team will run at the All-Star Race, both drivers should contend for top-10 finishes.
Track position was a key during both races last weekend. Drivers which took two tires to get towards the front of the pack were able to stay up there for the most part. During the All-Star Race, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon had two of the strongest cars, yet they did not have the track position to compete for the lead. Gordon ended up getting involved in a wreck, and Johnson finished sixth because he did not have a short-run car.
Johnson has not won a points paying event at Charlotte since October of 2009, but he has been strong on the intermediate tracks this season. Even though he has yet to score a victory after winning the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, Johnson is going to be a contender during the Coca-Cola 600. If Johnson can have a clean race, he might show the dominance which he had at Charlotte before the repave nearly a decade ago. Johnson’s teammate, Kasey Kahne, is also going to be a contender this weekend, especially after having a dominant car during the Sprint All-Star Race, leading 20 laps before smacking the wall multiple times.
Kurt Busch will be exhausted after the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday evening. Busch will be racing a backup car in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport, all while racing his Sprint Cup Series vehicle for SHR. Busch will have Parker Kligerman as his backup driver in case the Indianapolis 500 is delayed, but even if Busch can’t start the race, he will be able to qualify the No. 41 Chevrolet, making him still eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup as long as he is inside of the top-30 in points after Richmond in September.
However, even though the usual suspects will contend for the win this weekend, the Coca-Cola 600 provides an extra 100 miles that no other event does. Patience is going to be extremely key during this event. Drivers have a notorious history for over-driving their cars during the early stages of the race. With this race going from the sun beaming down on the track to seeing the night sky glowing above the track, drivers will have to communicate with their crew chiefs the best possible strategy to keeping up with the temperature sensitive track, all the while attempting to stay on the lead lap as green flag runs are at a premium during the Coca-Cola 600.
Here are some notables for the Coca-Cola 600:
-A.J. Allmendinger had an extremely strong car during the Sprint Showdown and All-Star Race. Allmendinger moved inside of the top-10 before being involved in an incident. The alliance JTG Daugherty Racing has with Richard Childress Racing is paying off, and it will show this weekend as Allmendinger attempts to get his fourth top-10 of the year.
-Trevor Bayne returns to the seat of the No. 21 Ford. Bayne made his Sprint Cup Series debut at Texas back in 2010, which is a track with somewhat similar characteristics to Charlotte. He finished 16th in the Coca-Cola 600 in 2013, but is looking for more after recording two top-20 finishes at Las Vegas and Texas this season.
-Blake Koch will make his first of multiple starts for Go Fas Racing this weekend in the No. 32 car. Koch raced at Phoenix earlier this year for Front Row Motorsports, but also missed the race at Las Vegas. Even though Koch won’t be a contender in this event, getting 600 miles on the Sprint Cup Series circuit will be one of the best opportunities he has ever had.
-Brian Scott will return to the seat of the No. 33 Chevrolet for Circle Sport Racing in conjunction with Richard Childress Racing. Scott made his Cup Series debut at Charlotte last October, and will be attempting to make his sixth career start in NASCAR’s top-tier division.
-Michael McDowell returns in the No. 95 Ford this weekend. The team has started to move into the right direction after finishing 30th at Texas after a rough start to the year.