Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 29 -- Dover, It's Monster Mash Time for the Chase

The 2011 Sprint Cup Chase, the underlying truth drivers know all to well… things can go from good to bad in a matter of seconds, but once things are bad, the road to good might be out of reach. After two races, only Denny Hamlin looks out of the picture, though nothing short of exceptional racing will find other teams deep in the standings from being in fighting shape in Homestead, FL after the 10th Chase race. Dover is a track that with its unforgiving high banks can destroy a race car with the slightest slip and at Dover, track position is everything. With this in mind, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick will have their bands full holding their top two starts with Stewart starting 28th and Harvick in 22nd on the grid. Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon, 5th in points, starts just above the rolling trash heap in 34th position.

Chase drivers starting position by standings:
1-      Tony Stewart, #14, Chevrolet (26th)
2-      Kevin Harvick, #29, Chevrolet (22nd)
3-      Brad Keselowski, #2, Dodge (15th)
4-      Carl Edwards, #99, Ford (4th)
5-      Jeff Gordon, #24, Chevrolet (34th)
6-      Kyle Busch, #18, Toyota (5th)
7-      Matt Kenseth, #17, Ford (18th)
8-      Dale Earnhardt Jr., #88, Chevrolet (21st)
9-      Kurt Busch, #22, Dodge (2nd)
10-  Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevrolet (6th)
11-  Ryan Newman, #39, Chevrolet (20th)
12-  Denny Hamlin, #11, Toyota (11th)

If Jimmie Johnson wants to intimidate the field into believing he’s in hot pursuit of his 6th consecutive championship, Dover could be just the place to prove it. Given an excellent starting position and a win in last year’s September race at the track, this would be a great launching pad for Johnson’s surge forward. Since 2006, the beginning of his championship tenure, Johnson won both 2009 races. Starting 18th might not be an ideal position for starting at Dover, but Matt Kenseth won the spring race, his first since a spring win in 2006.  Kyle Busch who won last year’s spring race, looks poised for success in 5th starting position. He also tamed the monster in spring, 2008. If consistency is the best measure, Carl Edwards has the highest average finish at Dover at 7.7. With a 4th starting position and the proven ability to stay out of trouble could find the #99 Ford atop the leaders. Edwards also won the 2007 fall race.

The driver needing the most help at Dover, Denny Hamlin, is also the driver based on past history least likely to take advantage of the track having only two career top fives, four top tens, and an average 20.9. Kurt Busch with five top fives but only seven top tens averages an 18.7 finish, not good for him. Kevin Harvick with no wins and two top fives with an average of 17 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. who has tamed the monster once with seven top tens has been bitten badly too with his 17.7 average.

While Jimmie Johnson is the big winner of the field showing six wins, eight top fives, and thirteen top fives, his 9.6 avearage finish is behind Carl Edwards who shows an average of 7.6 with only one win, six top fives, and ten top tens.

Weather should not be a factor for the race with partly cloudy conditions and temperatures just touching 60o, conditions are favorable for good racing.


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