The NASCAR schedule shifts to the northeast this week with a trip to Dover, Delaware for the AAA Drive for Autism 400. I heard a little chatter on the radio yesterday about how some people thought the race in Kansas was rather “boring”. Without a lot of close racing, maybe it was, but it sure beats the crash-fest we saw the week before at Talladega. Now let’s move on to Dover
Lets dig into some drivers I expect to be good this week at the Monster Mile. The first guy that jumps off the page is Jimmie Johnson. With 7 wins in his last 21 starts here, he literally has a 1/3 chance to win the race. I expect Jimmie to show well here after a disappointing finish in Kansas. Even after finding trouble in the October race last season, Jimmie has won three of the last five races here and has only finished outside the Top-10 twice in his last ten starts.
Johnson’s average starting position is 11.9, which puts him 9th among active drivers this week in average qualifying position; so there is a chance at some nice place differential points. Over the last five years he’s only been running outside the Top-5 one time at the halfway point of the race. Jimmie will be up front all day giving him a good chance to lead laps, which he’s averaged 114 laps led, and 50 fastest laps in his last 21 starts here in Dover. Jimmie looks like a cash game must, and a hard fade in GPP’s.
The next guy that sticks out to me is Kyle Larson. Although his track history is relatively short, he has the highest average finish of any driver at Dover. He has career finishes of 3rd, 6th, 9th and 11th. He’s finished better than his qualifying position just two times in his four races, so there will likely be little room for error for place differential. Kyle has run in the Top 15, over 87% of the time in those four races, but he’s yet to lead a lap. The #42 should be near the front most of the day; but unless he’s leading laps or wins the race, you might only be looking at getting solid points from his finish position. He’s a solid and very safe play, especially if his salary is palpable, but he might leave you wanting more at the end of the race.
Clint Bowyer has been slow all season and sits just 26th in the standings through last weekend, but Dover has been one of his best tracks. He’s only finished outside the Top-10 one time in the last five years, which was the fall race last year. He’s had 10+ fast laps here in each of the last four races. I know he’s burned some of us this year taking a shot in GPP’s, but as long as he doesn’t qualify in the Top 15, he’s a guy who could be a nice GPP bet at a low cost.
I expect Matt Kenseth to run well here at the Monster Mile as well. He has four straight finishes in the top seven, and has led 20+ laps in three of his last five starts. His average running position over the last four races is under 6.0. He along with Jimmie Johnson each have 12 Top-5 finishes in the last 21 races at this track. Even though he won the poll in the fall race last year, Matt is not a particularly strong qualifier, with an average starting position of 11.2, which puts him 8th among expected drivers, just in front of Jimmie Johnson.
Front Runners – Outside of the guys I mentioned above; Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick should be up front most of the day
GPP Plays – Kasey Kahne sits 5th among active drivers in fast laps at Dover with an average of 21.2 per race. He doesn’t always stay clean at the track, with an average finish position of just 17.0, but he does have a 4th place and a 6th place finish last year.
Aric Almirola is another interesting GPP play; he turned in consecutive 5th place finishes here last year after only posting one Top-10 finish in the previous three years. He was near the front of the pack most of the race here last October with 88% of his laps in the Top-15. His average starting position here is 19th, assuming he doesn’t turn in a blistering qualifying time; he’s a solid bet to give you a nice return at the lower end of the salary scale.
Those are our opening thoughts for this week’s race at Dover. Check back later in the week as we prepare for another NASCAR Race Weekend!