The “Monster Mile” at Dover International Speedway isn’t kind to everyone. Bettors should take that into account when handicapping Sunday afternoon’s Autism Speaks 400 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The same drivers tend to succeed year-in, year-out on the 1-mile track. Over the past four races at Dover, the top seven drivers in overall points are Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, and Carl Edwards.
If we extend our look over the last eight races at Dover, only Stewart isn’t in the top 10 in terms of points accumulated there.
Dover is considered a superspeedway, even if it is one of the shorter tracks with that designation. In the six races on configurations one mile or longer this season (not including the restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega), Johnson leads with 917 points, while Cup standings frontrunner Kevin Harvick is close behind with 913.
Johnson has dominated at Dover recently, but bettors should tread carefully with him. JJ swept both races there last year, and has five career wins at Dover over his career, but he’s finished 31st or worse in two of the last three stops in the Series. In the other race at Richmond, Johnson was 10th.
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon should be considered, although he hasn’t won at Dover since 2001 – his fifth win at the track.
Fifth at last year’s fall race at Dover, Gordon could have easily won three of the past five races, especially at Richmond (second) and Darlington (fourth). Gordon has led 100 or more laps in his last three outings, and leads the Series in driver rating.
Martin fashions Dover as his favorite track, and it’s easy to see why. He has four victories, 22 top 5s, and 30 top 10s in 47 career starts at Dover, and has an average finish of 6.9 in his last 12 races there.
Looking past Team Hendrick, Kyle Busch figures to attract action from bettors. Busch has finished in the top five in five of his last seven races at Dover, and including his win at Richmond, has a top 10 showing in five straight races.
Kenseth is a sharp play this week because of his solid numbers at Dover. The No. 17 Crown Royal would have had eight consecutive top 10 finishes there if not for a blown engine in the fall of 2007. Kenseth has crossed the line no worse than fourth in his last four Dover races, and has been outside the top five only twice since 2006.
Denny Hamlin is the hottest driver in the Series with wins in three of the last six races this season, but he’s struggled at Dover recently. Hamlin’s best finish in his last five starts there is 22nd and his average showing during the span is 35.4.
Newman has an average finish of 10.3 in 16 outings at Dover, and he presents good value on Sunday after coming in the top 10 in both races last year. The winner of three of four at Dover from 2003-2004, Newman finished second in the ’07 spring race.
Harvick was sixth last week at Darlington, and has a trip to Victory Lane, two top 5s, and four top 10s in his last four races, but Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton is a sharper wager at Dover.
Burton has led in four of the last five races, leading the most laps in two of them, and was the most dominant car at Talladega before wrecking. Fourth at Richmond and eighth last week at Darlington, Burton has a win and five top 10s in his last eight starts at Dover.
Biffle started the season with seven top 10s in the first eight races, but has been outside the top 15 in the last three starts. Expect Biffle to bounce back this week: He’s got a good history at Dover, and has the best average finish of any driver in the field over the last five seasons.
Other drivers to cap this week include Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr., and Jamie McMurray, the runner-up in two of the last three races.
Heluva Good! 200
Hamlin won the Nationwide Series event last week, and he’s one of the favorites for Saturday afternoon’s Heluva Good! 200 at Dover. Joining Hamlin among a stacked field are Kyle Busch, Harvick, Edwards, Biffle, Newman, McMurray, Kasey Kahne, and Clint Bowyer.