Gander Outdoors 400 Preview

While I haven’t watched the television broadcast of last week’s Bank of America ROVAL 400, it turned out out to be a pretty entertaining experience in person. I must say, I was skeptical how it would all play out after the Xfinity race failed to impress, but the longer stage and race length for the Cup series really helped to shake up the monotony. As you probably know, Jimmie Johnson had a chance to win the race, or at least advance his chances of winning a record 8th series title, but he wound up doing neither after wheel hopping into the final turn, taking out Martin Truex in the process. Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, and Erik Jones were also eliminated from further playoff contention. The remaining 12 playoff participants will carry on their quest for a title at Dover, as Talladega looms ominously in the second checkpoint.

DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY

Dover International Speedway is a 1.0 mile oval, affectionately nicknamed “The Monster Mile”. For all intents and purposes, Dover is pretty much a longer version of Bristol, and many drivers tend to have similar results at both tracks. Like Bristol, the racing surface is concrete, and there is comparable banking in the turns (24 degrees). Though it’s a shorter 1.0 mile track, the steeper banking allows drivers to enter the turns at an astounding 165-170 mph, and only dip down to about 140 mph in the center of the corner. Also like Bristol, it may take some time to rubber in multiple grooves, as the preferred line is typically around the bottom.

PIT STALL PICKS: THE DOWNFORCE, THE DRAFT, & THE DRAG

This section is less about prognostication, and more about highlighting drivers catching my eye at a given moment. We all play in different formats and have different strategies, but hopefully this adds some value to your results. Harvick, Truex, and Kyle Busch have been purposely omitted because they are obvious options each week. Good luck!

THE DOWNFORCE (start ’em)

Chase Elliott – Chase has 5 career starts at Dover, and an average finish of 5.0. This spring was the first time Chase finished worse than 5th at this track, and I believe it was an anomaly. The Chevy teams were really struggling with the new Camaro, but I think they have a much better handle on things recently, no pun intended.

Kyle Larson – Kyle’s numbers at Dover are being dragged down by a 25th place finish in 2016. Apart from that, Kyle has 4 top-tens and 3 top-fives over that span. He has been consistently in the hunt for his first victory of 2018, though his finishes may suggest otherwise. This could be the week Kyle puts it all together and secures new life in the playoff race.

Jimmie Johnson – He’s won 11 times here, finished 52% of his starts in the top-five, and 73% in the top-ten. I’d like his chances of winning a lot more if he were still in playoff contention, but this may very well be a statement week for the #48.

Brad Keselowski – Brad is the current momentum leader, but he fits into this place on his Dover numbers regardless. 4 of his last 5 starts have finished in the top-ten at this track, three of which were in the top-six. The next 3 tracks in this round setup really well for the #2 team, and it would shock me if they didn’t move on to the Round of 8.

Denny Hamlin – Ugh. I am so sick of putting Denny Hamlin on this list, it’s ridiculous. But, aside from who I’ve written about, and the Big 3, who else is there? Denny has finished 4 of the last 5 races inside the top-ten and deserves to be considered. To me, however, he’s like the poker player on bust right now, and heading back to the cashier for another reload on his credit card.

THE DRAFT (dark horse)

Daniel Suarez – Though it’s still early in his career, Dover has been one of Daniel Suarez’s best tracks. In only 3 career starts, Daniel has finished 6th, 8th, and 3rd earlier this season. That puts him at 100% in the top-ten here, and is only 1 of 2 tracks for him where that’s true (Watkins Glen).

THE DRAG (use caution)

Joey Logano – In the last 5 Dover races, Logano has finished 22nd, 6th, 25th, 15th, and 13th. While he’s running well recently, and has been more likely than not to finish in the top-ten at Dover (53%) in his career, I think there needs to be a very compelling reason to justify a usage here, especially if uses are limited. There are better places to back the #22 team.

AVERAGE FINISH POSITION @ DOVER (last 5 track events)

4.2, #78 Martin Truex Jr.
5.0, #9 Chase Elliott
5.7, #19 Daniel Suarez
7.5, #6 Matt Kenseth
8.8, #42 Kyle Larson

AVERAGE LOOP RATING @ DOVER (last 5 track events)

124.3, #78 Martin Truex Jr.
107.6 #6 Matt Kenseth
104.4, #48 Jimmie Johnson
104.4, #9 Chase Elliott
104.2, #18 Kyle Busch

2018 PTS MOMENTUM (last 5 overall races this season)

40.4, #2 Brad Keselowski
38.2, #41 Kurt Busch
36.4, #22 Joey Logano
35.2, #42 Kyle Larson
34.6, #9 Chase Elliott

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