The NASCAR Sprint Cup (NSC) Series set a record last week, as the Coca-Cola 600 set a new record for the fastest elapsed time for a “600″ run (3:51:14). That time broke the previously held record for the shortest race set back in 1995 (3:56:55). This record isn’t exactly one that many like to see, especially when you consider only a few caution flags, as well as many Green-Flag runs were the normal activity. But regardless of why it was such a short race (which I’m sure relieved fans, expecting to see a long, drawn out race of 600 miles), Kasey Kahne put win number 201 in the books for Hendrick Motor Sports. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, and Brad Keselowski would round out the top five. Dale Earnhardt Jr finished sixth, followed by Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth. Greg Biffle held on to the number 1 position in NSC points, followed by Kenseth in second, Hamlin in third, with Earnhardt Jr. rounding out the top four (Hamlin and Earnhardt Jr. swapped spots this week).
Kasey Kahne wins the Coca-Cola 600
The FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway (13th race of the season) will begin on Sunday. The festivities get underway at 10:30am EDT with NASCAR Raceday on Speed. That will be followed by the NASCAR Pre-Race show at 12:30 on FOX, with the actual race coverage slated to begin at 1:00pm EDT. Coors Light Pole Award winner Mark “The Kid” Martin will lead the field when the Green Flag waves at approximately 1:15pm EDT. Following the invocation by Pastor Dan Schafer (from the Calvary Assembly of God in Heightstown, N.J.), will be our National Anthem performed by Kris Allen (RCA Recording artist). There will then be a scheduled pre-race fly-by from four U.S. Air Force F-16s. The F-16s are from the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing (Lackland AFB, Texas). Delaware Governor Jack Markell will give the Command to Start Engines.
The skies opened up and cleaned off Dover’s racing surface Friday evening during the Camping World Truck Series race. During the evening festivities, Todd Bodine won a rain-shortened Lucas Oil 200 and ended a long-standing drought. However, lots of new rubber was laid into the 1-mile concrete racing surface on Saturday during the 5-Hour Energy 200. Joey Logano put in a late-race pass and staved off Ryan Truex to earn a trip to Victory Lane (this should ensure plenty of grip on the track). But as always, there will still be an adequate amount of concern on Sunday for getting sideways and wrecking on the track aptly named the “Monster Mile”.
In many of the past few races of the NSC season the lack of wrecks and Caution Flags has really stirred up NASCAR fans. As great as it is to see 43 cars run fast in circles, the avid fan hungers for a little more. Most never truly want to see anyone hurt by a wreck, but the presence of someone getting turned into the wall, or a pile-up in the turns, always gets spirits up (particularly if it’s a driver a fan doesn’t like). I suspect those fans will get their fill Sunday, where the concrete Monster has been known to chew up cars and spits them out. I missed last week on my Caution Flag count, over-shooting my estimation to the actual number by double. On Sunday, expect at least ten Caution Flags at Dover, and not just for debris. My take is we’ll be close to that number since this weekend has already seen some good cars headed to the garage early (after encounters with the wall).
Best Bets: Don’t want to start sounding like a broken record, but my BB’s stay put this week…
Jimmie Johnson (#48 Lowe’s Madagascar Chevy)- Look for the light blue-colored #48 this week, as it won’t be hard to spot on the track. Jimmie’s car is adorned with characters from the upcoming Madagascar 3 film (due to hit theaters soon). Will those animals help “Five Time” combat the Monster Mile? I believe so. Jimmie’s been no worse than sixteenth his last four Dover races (including a win and a runner-up finish), and has finished ninth or better in his last four races run on concrete (he’s also #1 in points on concrete, and third in driver points the last four Dover races). With six wins, nine top-fives, and fourteen top ten finished, I can’t take him off the top of the pick list. And with his fourth-fastest time during Happy Hour, accompanied by his starting position on the outside of the front row, he’ll likely stay in front most of the day.
Matt Kenseth (#17 Best Buy Ford)- Kenseth has been surprisingly good at Dover, despite only coming up with two wins here. He’s posted twelve top-five, as well as seventeen top-ten finishes. Kenseth hasn’t finished worse than eighteenth in his last four races at Dover (including a win, a third, and a fifth-place finish). He’s also managed to finish sixth place or better during his last four concrete tracks (including that win, P2, P4, and P6). He’s rolling off fifth Sunday, but was twenty-fifth in final practice. Don’t be surprised if crew chief Jimmy Fennig pulls a rabbit out of that hat for a little Monster Mile Magic.
Probables: A pair of Toyotas you’ll likely to see run up front at Dover…
Kyle Busch (#18 M&Ms Toyota)- Despite his third place finish in the Coca-Cola 600, Rowdy has been having a rough time the last few weeks. On shorter tracks, however, he does pretty well (especially on concrete). He’s been no worse than sixth the last four Dover outings, including a win here two years ago. To his credit, Busch also has fourth and sixth-place finishes. He also is currently the #1 driver earning points in the last four Dover races; including a respectable eighth in points the last four concrete track races. He’ll start eighth, and was only twenty-sixth fastest in Happy Hour practice.
Martin Truex, Jr (#56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota)- Back in 2007, Truex Jr scored his first NSC victory at Dover. The victory occurred during a rain-delayed Monday race. While only one win, a single top-five, and four top-ten finishes at Dover, Martin has scored eighth and twelfth-place finishes his last two spring races here. He’s also finished no worse than eighth in three of the last four concrete track races; posting second and third-place finishes. Truex thinks of this track as his “home track” since he’s from nearby New Jersey. Consequently, so does his brother Ryan (who made a late-race mistake and placed second in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race). His Michael Waltrip Racing machine will roll off eighteenth, and he was twelfth-fastest in final practice.
Dark Horses: Winless performances at Dover for my DH picks this week, but they have a lot of potential.
Kasey Kahne (#5 HendrickCars.com Chevy)- Heart throb Kasey Kahne capped off his string of six straight top-ten finishes with his win last week. He posted his first victory since beginning his run at Hendrick Motorsports. Historically, Kahne hasn’t done much at Dover; posting only a top-five and four top-ten finishes. However he is building momentum, evident by his win last week, not to mention his three top-five and six top-ten finishes lately. Kasey only starts in fifteenth on Sunday ( was sixteenth in final practice). But keep in mind, there weren’t too many drivers this week that had consistently performing race cars. A bit of a long-shot, but he’s peaking right now.
Brad Keselowski (#2 Miller Lite Dodge)- Brad has been putting up nothing but goose-eggs at Dover durng his NSC career. He has no finished any better than than thirteenth in his last four races at the Monster Mile. Having said that, he has performed extremely well during his last two contests on concrete racing surfaces. As a result, Keselowski ended up in Victory Lane for both of the last two races at Bristol (this spring and last fall). He did great with the high-banked turns of Bristol’s half-mile oval, but what will he do with the 24-degree banked turns on the 1-mile concrete track? “Kes” will roll off sixteenth when the green flag waves, and was seventeenth-fastest in final practice.
Other fast performers you could see up front this week, include Dale Earnhardt Jr and his #88 Amp Energy/Diet Mt Dew Chevy. Also, keep an eye on Kurt Busch and his #51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevy. Junior only qualified seventeenth, but had the third-fastest ride in Happy Hour Practice (as did teammate Jeff Gordon’s second-fastest run). Kurt has scored top-twenty finishes in his last four Dover races, with top-eighteen outings in his last four concrete track outings.
Final Thoughts: No Rumor Mill this week. While there were some drivers making noise, nothing really broke the threshold. However, I’m sure there will be plenty to talk about next week with the return to the Tricky Triangle of Pocono Raceway. I won’t say this week’s race will be a wreck fest, however I am thinking some drivers are ready for some action (other than making a lot of left-hand turns of course).
This will be FOX’s last NASCAR Sprint Cup broadcast for the 2012 season, with TNT carrying the next six races. ESPN and ABC finish out the rest of the year’s schedule. My hat off to Larry McReynolds, Mike Joy, and of course Darrel Waltrip (along with the entire FOX crew of professionals) for another season well done!
Your local Motor Racing Network affiliate will have all the action for race fans unable to catch the broadcast on FOX, with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch 90) likewise carrying the MRN broadcast with their additional selection of drivers’ radio channels. As usual, I’ll be making my race updates, analysis, and occasional rants on Twitter (@speedglutton).
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