NASCAR Weekend Preview — Dover

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This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series head to Dover International Speedway to try to tame the Monster Mile.  It’s one of the few remaining triple headers that are on the NASCAR schedule, and with the Monster infamously chewing up and spitting out racecars on a weekly basis, the action should not disappoint.

Coming off last weekend’s win in the Coca-Cola 600, Carl Edwards qualified eighth in his No. 19 car, but his teammate, Denny Hamlin, won the pole, with a lap of 22.483 seconds (160.121 MPH), his third at Dover, 21st in his career and first this season.

“Obviously our car’s shown speed all day long, which is something that we haven’t had lately, so we’re kind of building and getting a little bit better and starting to figure out our setups and whatnot.  So we’re getting better and obviously this kind of shows it.” said Hamlin, after his pole-winning run.

Martin Truex Jr., who has been knocking on the door for wins all season, qualified second after being knocked off the pole with seconds remaining in the final round of knockout style quals.

Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano rounded out the top five starting positions for the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks on Sunday.  Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch rounded out the top ten with Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and David Ragan  finishing up the top fifteen.

“I think, in a sense, we maybe didn’t make the changes we need to or thought we needed to change, because the car had so much speed in that first practice session, but it’s a totally different race track,” Johnson said.

Johnson will be going for a NASCAR record 10th win at Dover International Speedway.  That marks one of the many storylines, as always, heading into this weekend.

We haven’t heard much out of Tony Stewart this season, and when we have heard something, it’s been bad.  Smoke has constantly been running in the 20’s and falling far behind week after week.  But the summer months are coming, and that’s when Smoke starts to heat up (pun intended).  But some are saying that this will be different, and that we have seen the end of an era, the Tony Stewart era.  He hasn’t been the same since the Kevin Ward Jr. incident.  But these next few races could be telling.  Will Smoke heat up?  Or will he cool down and never regain his championship form?

What about Stewart’s teammate and driver Danica Patrick?  This is a contract year for her, and GoDaddy, her main sponsor for as long as everybody can remember, already has said that they aren’t jumping on board next season.  Will she be able to notch her first career victory this weekend?  Smoke and Danica start 26th and 33rd, respectively.

As for another veteran, Jeff Gordon, his season hasn’t gone as planned either.  His farewell tour is more like a demolition derby filled with bad luck.  But Gordon has tamed the monster before, most recently in 2013.  Will he be able to do it again?

What about Greg Biffle, who is “dying a slow death” heading the RFR organization, but came home second last weekend and qualified inside the top ten for Sunday?

And who could forget about the hometown boy who got his first career win at the Monster Mile in 2007?  That’s right, Martin Truex Jr.  As aforementioned, Truex Jr. will roll off second and has been blazing fast all season, currently second in the points standings.

“We’ve got a great team, we’ve got everything we need to do it and we’ve got a lot of confidence, so we’ve just got to keep getting in that position and try to close the deal.” said Truex Jr. a few weeks ago after another run, leading laps up front, at Kansas.

So why not him?  The underdog team who hasn’t been in victory lane since Darlington in 2012 with a driver who is overdue for a win, has battled adversity on and off the track and is returning to his hometown track where he has won before?

That’s why I’m picking him to win the FedEx 400.  It’s a perfect storm.

The Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series races will also be taking place on Saturday and Friday afternoon/evening respectively.

Erik Jones, who has dominated and led the most laps in the last two NCWTS races, will be racing again in the No. 4 car for KBM, and is a favorite heading into the weekend.  Darrell Wallace Jr. will also be a favorite in the NXS, as Dover is one of his favorite tracks

Be sure to follow me on twitter (@DaveyCenter and @harvicknut_4) for updates from the track.  I obtained a hot pass for the weekend (LUCKY ME!) and have been getting some really awesome access.  Enjoy the races, everybody.