Weekend Preview: Dover International Speedway

Chase Elliott may not be leading the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings as the series heads to Dover International Speedway for Sunday’s Drydene 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) but with a victory last week at the Charlotte ROVAL and the most recent win at a Dover Playoff race, he’s got to be feeling confident and optimistic as the series rolls into the nation’s first state.

At the very least, the 23-year old second-generation NASCAR star has his timing down.

Elliott heads into this next three-race round of the Playoffs ranked sixth in the championship standings – and defending winner of two of the next three races – at Dover this week and at Kansas Speedway in two weeks. He won at the other venue, Talladega, Ala., just this May.

In fact, the driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet earned top-five finishes at all three tracks in this season’s first stop at each. He was fifth at Dover, won Talladega and finished fourth at Kansas. He led the most laps (235) and earned the most points (156) of anyone on the grid during that time. And only his teammate Alex Bowman – who finished runner-up in all three races – has a better average finish at the tracks this season.

This week’s Dover mile, in particular, has been a shining star on Elliott’s resume. He has four podium finishes in seven starts – including the win last year, a pair of runner-up finishes and a third place.

As is typical of the ever-humble Elliott, he credits much of his own success at Dover to having the track’s all-time winningest driver Jimmie Johnson as a Hendrick Motorsports teammate. Johnson scored his 11th Dover win two years ago – his last Cup victory.

“We’ve had fast cars there,” Elliott allowed. “To be honest, I think probably the biggest reason we’ve had some good runs at the race track is because of Jimmie’s success over the years. I think he’s been so good and he’s put a really good baseline for us to go there and have a decent place to start for the weekend. I think a lot of [Elliott’s success] is because of that.”

Hendrick Motorsport’s 20 Dover wins is most all-time. However, the biggest contributor to that number, Johnson, is the lone member of the four-car Hendrick team that is not Playoff eligible this year. But that has only motivated the veteran more.

No non-playoff driver has won at Dover during the Playoff portion of the schedule but Johnson may be the first. He is not only eager to make his historic victory tally an even dozen, the seven-time Cup champion would just like to get back in the win column.

Among the Playoff drivers, championship leader Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. each have three Dover wins and Busch leads the field with four runner-up finishes. Elliott, a three-time race winner in 2019, boasts the top Driver Rating (108.3) among the 12 Playoff drivers at Dover. Busch, a four-time winner, is next at 104.6. Kyle Larson, who is looking for his first victory since 2017, has a 100.6 rating and is the only other Playoff driver with a Dover rating above 100.

Busch has the most top-five finishes (12) among the 12 Playoff drivers at Dover. He and Kevin Harvick have the most top 10s (18) as well.

Truex – a two-time winner in the opening three Playoff races – has the most impressive win tally of late. He’s won two of the last six Dover races, including this May. And his six wins in 2019 is a series best.


Expect this week’s Use Your Melon Driver Sober 200 (Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Dover International Speedway to be a highly pivotal moment in the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs as it’s the final race in the Round of 12 to settle which eight drivers move onward to settle the season championship.

Points leader Christopher Bell is the only fulltime Xfinity Series driver to earn a Playoff win so far (at Richmond, Va. two weeks ago), and that gives him an automatic ticket to the next round of the Playoffs. The bad news for his competition is that Bell has also won the last two races at Dover, Del. He beat fellow championship contenders Justin Allgaier in May and Cole Custer in this race last October.

Going into Saturday’s opening round cutoff race, Bell, Custer, Austin Cindric, Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson and Michael Annett are ranked among the Top-8 in the standings. Annett holds an 11-point edge over ninth place John Hunter Nemechek and 10th place Brandon Jones. Only the Top-8 ranked drivers following Saturday’s race remain championship eligible in the next three-race Playoff round at tracks in Kansas, Texas and ISM Raceway in Phoenix.

Both drivers closest to the cutoff line – Nemechek and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones – have solid records at Dover. Nemechek has a pair of top-10 finishes in three starts and is coming off a career best eighth place in May. Jones, 22, has seven starts – starting on pole in May, 2018 and earning three top-10s. His best work is a sixth place last year.

Annett has only a pair of top-10 finishes in 15 Dover starts. His best is a third-place run in 2012. The JR Motorsports veteran was 10th at the track in May.

Among current drivers, only the two-time defending winner Bell and Allgaier (2018) have hoisted trophies at Dover. The veteran Allgaier has the most experience at the one-mile, high-banked concrete venue, nicknamed “The Monster Mile” for its tough reputation. He has that victory last year, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 17 starts. The JR Motorsports driver is looking for his first win, however, since last season when he won five races. He is one of two drivers ranked among the Playoff Top-8 – also rookie Noah Gragson – without a victory this season.

Bell, Custer and regular season champ Tyler Reddick – who announced this week he will join Bell in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series fulltime in 2020 – have accounted for 18 wins through the first 28 races.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Drydene 400
The Place: Dover International Speedway
The Date: Sunday, October 6
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 120),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 240), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 400)
2018 Race Winner: Chase Elliott
What to Watch For: Richard Petty won the first Dover race on July 6, 1969. … Jimmie Johnson is the all-time winningest driver at Dover with 11 victories and his 3,105 laps led is an all-time best too. … NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin holds the record for top fives (24) and top 10s (33) at Dover. He also holds the record for runner-up finishes (eight). Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman (three) have the most runner-up finishes among active drivers. … Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers with 17 top fives and 24 top 10s in 35 starts. … Nine drivers in the field have won previously at Dover. Johnson (11), Ryan Newman (3), Kyle Busch (3), Kevin Harvick (2), Martin Truex Jr. (2) have multiple wins. …Since 2000, there have been five back-to-back race winners – Johnson (2002 sweep, 2009 sweep, 2013-14) and Newman (2003 sweep). … Defending race winner Chase Elliott is the youngest driver (22 years, 10 months) to win at Dover. Harry Gant was the oldest winner in May, 1992 at the age of 52 years, four months and 21 days. …Kurt Busch has the most starts (37) among active drivers. NASCAR Hall of Famer Ricky Rudd holds the record at 56 starts. …Johnson boasts the top Driver Rating (113.3). …. David Pearson holds the record for most pole positions (six). Ryan Newman (four) has the most among active drivers. … The outside pole position has produced the most Dover race winners (18). Three times in just the last five races, the second-place qualifier has won. ….The deepest a Dover race winner has started on the grid is 37th (Kyle Petty, Spring, 1995). Martin Truex Jr. holds that distinction among current drivers, winning his first ever Cup race at Dover from the 26th position in Spring, 2007. …Truex and Jody Ridley (May, 1981) are the only drivers to score their first career Cup win at Dover. …. Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin have the most starts (27) without a Dover Cup trophy. … Among drivers with at least 10 starts, Kyle Larson boasts the best average finishing position (8.0) and starting position (8.3). … No active driver scored his first pole at Dover. ….The last manufacturer to win back-to-back races is Toyota, which did so in 2016 with Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. …. Chevrolet has won 41 of the 99 Dover Cup races. … Jimmie Johnson not only has the most wins but also prevailed in the closest race in Dover history, edging Kyle Busch by .080-seconds in September, 2005. …. Johnson has won three of the four overtime races at Dover (Fall, 2005; Spring 2015 and 2017) His Hendrick Motorsports team has won four of the five (Chase Elliott, Fall, 2018). …. Hendrick Motorsports has 20 wins at Dover – the third most victories at a single venue. Junior Johnson’s team had 21 wins at Bristol, Tenn. and Hendrick currently has 24 wins at Martinsville, Va.

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200
The Place: Dover International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, October 5
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2018 Race Winner: Christopher Bell
What to Watch For: Christopher Bell is not only the defending race winner but has won the last two Xfinity Series races at Dover. …. There are two former winners in Saturday’s field – Allgaier (2018) and Christopher Bell (2018 and 2019). … Christopher Bell is looking to join three drivers to have swept races at Dover since 2010. Kyle Busch swept the 2010 and 2014 seasons, Carl Edwards swept 2011 and Joey Logano won four straight, sweeping the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Ten times a driver has won back-to-back Xfinity races at the track. …. Manufacturers have had even more luck in consecutive races. Since 2000, Chevrolet has won back-to-back races six times, Toyota six times and Ford three times. …Joey Logano and Harry Gant are tied for most pole positions in race history with five each. … Among the rookies, Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe sits in sixth place in the Playoff standings and Noah Gragson is seventh. GMS Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek is ranked ninth – 11 points behind Michael Annett in the eighth place cutoff to move on to the next round. Justin Haley is 12th. … Current points leader and defending Dover race winner Christopher Bell has clinched a spot in the next round of the Playoffs with his win at Richmond, Va. Cole Custer, who trails Bell by 10-points in the standings is the only other driver already assured of a second round berth – clinching a Round of 8 Playoff position on points. … Regular season champion Tyler Reddick is currently ranked third in the points standings. He was third in the Dover race in the series’ first visit in May. … Joe Ruttman won the first Xfinity race at Dover in May, 1982. … The late Dick Trickle is the oldest Xfinity Series pole winner in track history. He won the pole for the June, 1999 race at the age of 57 years, seven months and nine days. … Harry Gant is the oldest Xfinity race winner at Dover. He won in Sept., 1991 at the age of 51 years, 1 month.). …. The front row has proven to be the winningest starting position. Nineteen times in 70 races, the winner has started first or second. …The last polesitter to win was Kyle Larson in Spring/2017.

— NASCAR Wire Service —