Friday, September 25, 2009

NASCAR: Dover Preview

DOVER, DE - MAY 31:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
NASCAR has three races in two days on this weekend's schedule.  Two races and all the attention are at the Monster Mile, Dover International Speedway.  It's Week Two of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the AAA 400, Sunday at 1 p.m. (ABC).

They call it the Monster Mile for a reason.  DIS is exactly one mile long with high banking (24° in the turns and 9° on the 1076-feet straightaways), which leads to higher speeds.  The cars get good grip on the concrete surface, which leads drivers to push the issue, but the surface is bumpy, which can lead to trouble, especially with the new double-file restarts.  The confines are tight -- a single-car spin can quickly turn into a multi-car accident that can cause problems with twelve drivers racing for a championship.

In Friday qualifying, Jimmie Johnson captured the pole with a lap of 22.878 seconds (157.356 mph). It was his second pole of the season.  Juan Montoya will be beside Johnson on the front row after a lap of 156.699 mph. Chase drivers took six of the first seven starting spots. Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle start on Row Two. Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon start in sixth and seventh respectively. Carl Edwards has the best average finish among active drivers at Dover, but he has his work cut out for him Sunday. He qualified 30th, worst among the Chasers.  (Race lineup)

Mark Martin comes into Dover with a 35-point lead over Johnson and Denny Hamlin.  Nine drivers are separated by less than 100 points.  Jeff Gordon is in tenth, 102 points back.  Kasey Kahne trails the Chase field, he's 161 points behind Martin after just one Chase race.

Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, and Jimmie Johnson each have four wins at Dover, most among active drivers.  Johnson picked up his fourth win in May.

The Nationwide Series is also at Dover.  The Dover 200 is Saturday at 3 p.m. (ESPN2).  Kyle Busch leads Carl Edwards in the series by 201 points.  In between Dover races, the Camping World Truck Series races on the other side of the country in Las Vegas.  The Las Vegas 350 is Saturday night at 9 p.m. (Speed).  Ron Hornaday holds a 217 point lead over Matt Crafton in the series.


I think we will see Danica Patrick in NASCAR soon, but it will be a long haul before she races here full time.  She just signed a new three-year contract with Andretti Green Racing to continue in IRL.  Expect Patrick to accumulate some experience in the Nationwide and Truck Series in the meantime.

NASCAR has eased up a little on their testing ban.  Starting next season, teams can test at tracks that host regional touring events, but not at tracks that host national series events.

Fans will decide the start time for next February's Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  The choices are 3 p.m. ET (noon PT) or 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m PT).  Vote at the track's web site, its Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook pages, or by email.

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