News & Media


Driver Reports: Previewing the Dover race

May 29, 2014, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com

Can Edwards rebound at Dover, slow Johnson's momentum?

Editor's note: The following drivers are ranked according to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. Driver Reports includes the top 16 in the points standings and drivers currently in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field.

1. Jeff Gordon (No. 24)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet 

Standing: Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with 432 points.
Past five races: 7th at Charlotte, 1st at Kansas, 39th at Talladega, 2nd at Richmond, 7th at Darlington.
Season stats: 1 win, 5 top-fives, 9 top-10s.
Track history: At Dover, Gordon's average finish is 12.7 and his average running position is 12.5 over the past nine years. In 42 career starts at Dover, he has four wins, 17 top-fives, 24 top-10s and four poles.
Quick hit: Gordon really seems to have figured Dover out the past three races -- or perhaps he's refigured it out. After all, Gordon has won four times here, but the most recent victory was 2001. His finishes of second, third and fourth since the 2012 fall race suggest a return to Victory Lane is not only possible, it's probable.

2. Matt Kenseth (No. 20)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Standing: Kenseth is second in the standings with 421 points.
Past five races: 3rd at Charlotte, 10th at Kansas, 37th at Talladega, 5th at Richmond, 4th at Darlington.
Season stats: 4 top-fives, 9 top-10s, 1 pole.
Track history: At Dover, Kenseth's average finish is 12.1 and his average running position is 9.1 over the past nine years. In 30 career starts at Dover, he has two wins, 13 top-fives, 19 top-10s and one pole.
Quick hit: A Toyota has only won twice at Dover in the Sprint Cup Series -- it was Kyle Busch in both cases. It might be Kenseth's turn to add his name to that list, and at the same time join 2013 rival Jimmie Johnson in notching his first win of the season. Kenseth's average running position is three places better than his average finish, so he'll have to stay out of trouble as the race winds down.

3. Kyle Busch (No. 18)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Standing: Busch is third in the standings with 408 points.
Past five races: 9th at Charlotte, 15th at Kansas, 12th at Talladega, 3rd at Richmond, 6th at Darlington.
Season stats: 1 win, 3 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 1 pole.
Track history: At Dover, Busch's average finish is 12.8 and his average running position is 10.9 over the past nine years. In 18 career starts at Dover, he has two wins, nine top-fives and 12 top-10s.
Quick hit: An engine failure in 2012 is the only Busch blip over the past four years. During that eight-race span, Busch has one win, four top-fives and seven top-10s. Given the reliability of JGR's engines this year, expect Busch to be among the favorites to win.

4. Carl Edwards (No. 99)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Standing: Edwards is fourth in the standings with 408 points.
Past five races: 4th at Charlotte, 6th at Kansas, 30th at Talladega, 9th at Richmond, 13th at Darlington.
Season stats: 1 win, 3 top-fives, 7 top-10s.
Track history: At Dover, Edwards' average finish is 9.6 and his average running position is 10.4 over the past nine years. In 19 career starts at Dover, he has one win, eight top-fives and 12 top-10s.
Quick hit: Edwards' struggles at Dover last year appear to be more of an aberration than a case of possible systemic problems. Yes, his average finish in last year's two events was 24.5, but the rest of Edwards' career presents a clear picture of how to navigate this 1-mile concrete oval. Edwards might not be the clear-cut favorite, but he's in the conversation -- and seems due for a bit of luck.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Standing: Earnhardt Jr. is fifth in the standings with 394 points.
Past five races: 19th at Charlotte, 5th at Kansas, 26th at Talladega, 7th at Richmond, 2nd at Darlington.
Season stats: 1 win, 6 top-fives, 7 top-10s.
Track history: At Dover, Earnhardt Jr.'s average finish is 17.6 and his average running position is 17.9 over the past nine years. In 28 career starts at Dover, he has one win, six top-fives, 10 top-10s and one pole.
Quick hit: Earnhardt Jr. has long said he loves the type of racing a track like Dover produces, but only recently has he had good finishes to go along with his good feelings. After an eight-race stretch of finishing outside the top 10 from 2008-2011, Junior has two top-fives, three top-10s and an 11th-place finish over the past two years here. Expect him to contend for a win like he did last fall when the No. 88 finished second.

6. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Standing: Johnson is sixth in the standings with 388 points.
Past five races: 1st at Charlotte, 9th at Kansas, 23rd at Talladega, 32nd at Richmond, 3rd at Darlington.
Season stats: 1 win, 4 top-fives, 7 top-10s, 1 pole.
Track history: At Dover, Johnson's average finish is 6.6 and his average running position is 6.8 over the past nine years. In 24 career starts at Dover, he has eight wins, 12 top-fives, 17 top-10s and three poles.
Quick hit: Jimmie Johnson's worst Dover finish since 2004 came in this event last year, but 'Six-Time's' 17th-place run was the product of being black-flagged for jumping a late restart -- he was running second at the time. With any perceived pressures off his back after winning last week at Charlotte, there's absolutely no reason for anyone other than Johnson to be considered the favorite on Sunday.

7. Joey Logano (No. 22)

Team Penske, Ford 

Standing: Logano is seventh in the standings with 378 points.
Past five races: 12th at Charlotte, 4th at Kansas, 32nd at Talladega, 1st at Richmond, 35th at Darlington.
Season stats: 2 wins, 6 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 1 pole.
Track history: At Dover, Logano's average finish is 15.4 and his average running position is 17.8 over the past nine years. In 10 career starts at Dover, he has two top-fives and six top-10s.
Quick hit: Team Penske's two cars were the only Fords in the top 12 last year in this race. Don't expect that to be the case again, but at the same time, Logano is among the best bets to put a Ford in Victory Lane at Dover for the first time since 2011. He's finished the past four races at the Monster Mile in the top 10.

8. Brian Vickers (No. 55)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Standing: Vickers is eighth in the standings with 365 points.
Past five races: 6th at Charlotte, 14th at Kansas, 4th at Talladega, 12th at Richmond, 26th at Darlington.
Season stats: 2 top-fives, 5 top-10s.
Track history: At Dover, Vickers' average finish is 17.3 and his average running position is 19.2 over the past nine years. In 15 career starts at Dover, he has one top-five and two top-10s.
Quick hit: This year, Vickers has performed well on tracks in which he has a spotty history. What's in store for the No. 55 team at a track where he's had recent success? That's one of the more under-the-radar story lines for a guy who ran well here last year and also won in 2013 at a track of a similar distance.

9. Brad Keselowski (No. 2)

Team Penske, Ford 

Standing: Keselowski is ninth in the standings with 361 points.
Past five races: 10th at Charlotte, 13th at Kansas, 38th at Talladega, 4th at Richmond, 17th at Darlington.
Season stats: 1 win, 4 top-fives, 5 top-10s, 1 pole.
Track history: At Dover, Keselowski's average finish is 16.0 and his average running position is 14.7 over the past nine years. In eight career starts at Dover, he has one win, two top-fives and three top-10s.
Quick hit: Keselowski has two top-fives in the past three Dover races -- including one win -- but also has three career finishes of 20th or worse in eight starts at the track. Given his success this season, particularly in the new qualifying format, expect the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion to continue his recent hot streak rather than revert to his old habits.

10. Ryan Newman (No. 31)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Standing: Newman is 10th in the standings with 361 points.
Past five races: 15th at Charlotte, 11th at Kansas, 18th at Talladega, 8th at Richmond, 10th at Darlington.
Season stats: 4 top-10s.
Track history: At Dover, Newman's average finish is 15.1 and his average running position is 12.3 over the past nine years. In 24 career starts at Dover, he has three wins, six top-fives, 12 top-10s and four poles.
Quick hit: Newman ran well at Dover during the prime of his career, but his more recent history is spotty. Four finishes outside the top 20 in the past six races here carries more weight than his loop data numbers, which rank in the top 10 of active drivers.

11. Greg Biffle (No. 16)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford

Standing: Biffle is 11th in the standings with 351 points.
Past five races: 21st at Charlotte, 16th at Kansas, 2nd at Talladega, 15th at Richmond, 5th at Darlington.
Season stats: 2 top-fives, 4 top-10s.
Track history: At Dover, Biffle's average finish is 9.8 and his average running position is 10.7 over the past nine years. In 23 career starts at Dover, he has two wins, six top-fives, 11 top-10s and one pole.
Quick hit: This is not the type of race track where Biffle consistently runs well, but his numbers are reason to shove that thought off to the side. He's one of just three drivers with an average finish better than 10.0 in the past nine years, and his average running position is fourth over that same time frame. Yeah, he's struggled this year, but the veteran is a sleeper play in Fantasy Live this week.

12. Kevin Harvick (No. 4)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet 

Standing: Harvick is 12th in the standings with 345 points.
Past five races: 2nd at Charlotte, 2nd at Kansas, 7th at Talladega, 11th at Richmond, 1st at Darlington.
Season stats: 2 wins, 4 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 2 poles.
Track history: At Dover, Harvick's average finish is 14.6 and his average running position is 15.9 over the past nine years. In 26 career starts at Dover, he has three top-fives and 12 top-10s.
Quick hit: Harvick seems to have figured Dover out, with five of his 12 career top-10s here coming in the past six races. Given that the No. 4 team has outperformed expectations at tracks where Harvick previously had been average, you can again look for his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet to run up front as it has over the past month.

13. Kyle Larson (No. 42)

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Chevrolet  

Standing: Larson is 13th in the standings with 344 points.
Past five races: 18th at Charlotte, 12th at Kansas, 9th at Talladega, 16th at Richmond, 8th at Darlington.
Season stats: 2 top-fives, 5 top-10s.
Track history: Larson does not have a Sprint Cup Series start at Dover. In two career Nationwide Series starts at Dover, he has one top-five and two top-10s.
Quick hit: Larson's 18th-place finish at Charlotte was his worst showing since a 27th-place result at Martinsville in March. His run at Dover should show if the rookie is able to overcome any mental obstacle that comes with a rough outing -- and so far, Larson's cleared all hurdles this year.

14. Denny Hamlin (No. 11)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Standing: Hamlin is 14th in the standings with 340 points.
Past five races: 22nd at Charlotte, 18th at Kansas, 1st at Talladega, 22nd at Richmond, 19th at Darlington.
Season stats: 1 win, 2 top-fives, 3 top-10s, 1 pole.
Track history: At Dover, Hamlin's average finish is 20.5 and his average running position is 16.3 over the past nine years. In 16 career starts at Dover, he has two top-fives, five top-10s and two poles.
Quick hit: Despite starting on the Coors Light Pole twice over the past three races, Dover hasn't been hospitable to Hamlin, and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has looked downright pedestrian in four of the past five races. Improving on his best Dover finish from 2013 (20th) would be a start.

15. Austin Dillon (No. 3)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet  

Standing: Dillon is 15th in the standings with 334 points.
Past five races: 16th at Charlotte, 19th at Kansas, 15th at Talladega, 27th at Richmond, 11th at Darlington.
Season stats: 1 top-10, 1 pole.
Track history: In one career start at Dover, Dillon finished 27th and had an average running position of 33.1.
Quick hit: Dillon continues to churn out consistent finishes and keep himself in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the Chase Grid currently stands. Eventually, he may have to win, but for now the solid stuff is enough.

16. Paul Menard (No. 27)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Standing: Menard is 16th in the standings with 328 points.
Past five races: 8th at Charlotte, 17th at Kansas, 6th at Talladega, 24th at Richmond, 41st at Darlington.
Season stats: 1 top-five, 6 top-10s.
Track history: At Dover, Menard's average finish is 20.0 and his average running position is 20.9 over the past nine years. In 13 career starts at Dover, he has one top-10.
Quick hit: One-third of the way through the season -- and nearly halfway until the Chase Grid is set -- and Menard is on the brink of wedging his way into the postseason conversation. The No. 27 car has looked like a top-10 machine in two of the past three weeks, but those events were on superspeedways. The veteran still has to show he can consistently compete for top-10s on short tracks.

28. Kurt Busch (No. 41)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet

Standing: Busch is 28th in the standings with 215 points.
Past five races: 40th at Charlotte, 29th at Kansas, 33rd at Talladega, 23rd at Richmond, 31st at Darlington.
Season stats: 1 win, 2 top-fives, 2 top-10s.
Track history: At Dover, Busch's average finish is 16.9 and his average running position is 13.2 over the past nine years. In 27 career starts at Dover, he has one win, six top-fives and eight top-10s.
Quick hit: Even after a four-point day at Charlotte, Busch shows no danger of falling out of the top 30 in points. So the Martinsville win has saved his season so far, but the No. 41 team simply has to start producing. A 20th-place finish would be a huge relief at this point -- and would also serve as Busch's third-best showing of the year.