What To Watch For: Autism Speaks 400

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
What To Watch For: Autism Speaks 400
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

It's not considered a short track, nor an intermediate, but Dover International Speedway is a monster of it's own.

Commonly known as the "Monster Mile," the track in Dover, Del., has been a track that drivers either love or hate to race on.

Here are a few things to Watch For this coming weekend.

 

Kurt Busch returns to site of first Cup Series start

Busch currently sits third in the point standings behind Tony Stewart and leader Jeff Gordon.

After a dismal season in 2008, Busch fans were left wondering if this was the same guy who hoisted the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship in 2004 with Roush Fenway Racing.

In 2009, Busch has been on a tear, collecting a win at Atlanta earlier this season and setting himself up for a strong run at the championship.

This weekend, Busch returns to where his Sprint Cup Series career began—Dover International Speedway.

"It's always a tough track that you look forward to going to because if you don't, it makes the weekend that much longer," Busch said in a teleconference Tuesday afternoon. "For me, I made my first what was then Winston Cup start at Dover, so it's always had that special place in my heart."

Busch added that he gets pumped up for the one-mile oval because of that fact.

"The Monster Mile, it can jump up and bite you very quickly, and you always have to be on your toes when you go there to make your adjustments on the racetrack."

 

Could we see a lucky 13?

Last weekend, we saw David Reutimann win his first Sprint Cup race, and in turn give Michael Waltrip Racing its first win as a team.

This weekend at Dover, if statistics prove true, the safe pick for selecting a winner could be someone who has never done so in the spring race.

In the past 12 editions of the Autism Speaks 400 presented by Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips and Cheese, 12 different drivers have visited Victory Lane.

The only driver to win twice since 1996 is Jeff Gordon, who most recently won in the spring of 2001.

Kyle Busch won this race last year, and all bets are off for who may take home the checkered flag this Sunday.

General Motors and Ford are tied with five wins apiece during the last 12 spring races, while Dodge and Toyota have also recorded a victory.

 

Pit problems no more

Though Dover International Speedway's pit road was once revered as a driver and crew chief's most dreaded tracks, recent improvements should change that.

This past winter, the track installed a SAFER barrier with a new concrete wall that wraps from Turn Four to the frontstretch near Turn One.

Other changes include:

  • Extending pit wall 432 feet.
  • Eliminating the grass strip on the frontstretch—creating four additional feet of room to the width of passing on pit road.
  • Reconfigure to 43 pit stalls and longer in size. (Now 32 feet long, was 28.)

"Turn Four has always been an action-packed area to sit and now spectators in this area will also get a great view of teams working on pit road," said Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover International Speedway.

Kurt Busch also spoke about the changes: "When I saw the photos of what the guys at Dover have done, I said, 'Yea, way to go guys.' Great thinking and hard work went into the project."

Although Busch said he's been fortunate over the years to not fall victim to Dover's tight pit road, he has had his share of run-ins with other cars and the wall that separated pit lane from the track.

"After all the years of racing there in such tight quarters on pit road, it's hard to visualize what it will be like," Busch added. "It will make safer conditions for sure (and) I think it will also make for better competition, too."

 

Think your driver is out? Dover marks halfway to Chase

Fear not Kevin Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans—12 races remain before the cut-off.

Sure, the aforementioned drivers are probably out of the conversation when it comes to Chase contenders, but in NASCAR, it's not over until it's over.

The hardest part for any driver outside of the top 12 is trying to jump those already in the Chase.

History will not be on their sides either, as the past five years at least 10 drivers among the current top 12 have went on to make the Chase.

Even more bad news? Only one driver has managed to make the Chase after being outside following the spring race at Dover.

In 2004 and 2005, two drivers fought their way back in.

Currently, the Chase is comprised of the four powerhouse teams in the sport: Hendrick Motorsports (three teams), Joe Gibbs Racing (two teams), Richard Childress Racing (one team), and Roush Fenway Racing (three teams).

Stewart-Haas Racing has both of its teams inside the top 12 and Penske Racing is represented with the No. 2 Dodge.

Within 80 points of the top 12 are Reutimann, Montoya, Kasey Kahne, and Brian Vickers.

 

Will changes be made at Hendrick Motorsports?

It's been three days since Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought home a season-worst 40th-place finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

The poor finish is just one of many that the No. 88 crew has endured during the season, which has Earnhardt aimed to miss the 2009 Chase.

Rumors swirled immediately following the Coca-Cola 600 that owner Rick Hendrick was going to drop the hammer and replace Crew Chief Tony Eury Jr. before the series visited the "Monster Mile."

As of today, no changes have been made, but Hendrick has been quoted as saying, "We're talking about things. We're going to make decisions as the days go by, but we haven't made any decisions as it stands now." (ESPN)

After watching three of his four teams sky-rocket in the points and collect wins, Hendrick has got to be thinking of doing something with the No. 88 team.

The performance has simply not been there, and Hendrick knows something is amiss.

The question remains: Will Eury Jr. be atop the pit box this Sunday? And if so...for how long?

Dover International Speedway Tidbits from NASCAR Media

 

History
• The official opening of Dover International Speedway, then called Dover Downs International Speedway, was in 1969.
• The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on July 6, 1969.
• The first two races at Dover were 300 miles. The race length was changed to 500 miles in 1971.
• The first NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover was May 15, 1982.
• The track surface was changed to concrete in 1995.
• The race length was changed to 400 miles beginning with the second race in 1997.
• The first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race was held in September 2000.
• The track name was changed to Dover International Speedway in 2002.

 

Notebook
• There have been 78 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Dover International Speedway since the track opened in 1969.
• There was one race in 1969 and 1970. There have been two a year since 1971.
• There have been 33 different pole winners, led by David Pearson (six).
• David Pearson won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole in July 1969.
• Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman lead all active drivers, each with four poles.
• 32 different drivers have posted victories led by Bobby Allison and Richard Petty, each with seven.
• Richard Petty won the first NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.
• Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin lead all active drivers, each with four victories.
• Hendrick Motorsports has 10 wins, more than any other team.
• 47 races at Dover have been won from a top-five starting position, while only 17 races have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.
• The furthest back in the field a race winner started was 37th by Kyle Petty in 1995.
• There has been one green-white-checkered finish at Dover: September 2005 (404 laps).

 

Hot Facts
• Carl Edwards has an average finish of 7.7 in nine races at Dover, the best average finish of any driver in history with more than two starts at the track. David Pearson (8.0 in 16 races) ranks second among the drivers with more than two starts there.
• Ryan Newman won at Dover in June 2003—the first victory for Dodge there since 1975. Newman repeated as the race winner in the fall race, the first time Dodge posted consecutive victories at Dover. Newman then won again in the fall of 2004, giving Dodge three of their five Dover victories in the four-race span.

 

NASCAR in Delaware
• There have been 78 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Delaware, all at Dover International Speedway.
• Eight drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all time) have their home state recorded as Delaware, though none have posted victories.

 

Dover International Speedway Data

Race #: 13 of 36 (5-31-09)

Track Size: 1 mile

Banking/Corners: 24 degrees

Banking/Straights: 9 degrees

Frontstretch: 1,076 feet

Backstretch: 1,076 feet

 

Driver Rating at Dover 

Greg Biffle                     116.6

Matt Kenseth                 114.5

Carl Edwards                 105.7

Jimmie Johnson             102.9

Kyle Busch                   102.3

Mark Martin                   100.6

Ryan Newman               98.4

Martin Truex Jr.              95.3

Jeff Gordon                    91.4

Kurt Busch                    91.0

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2008 races (8 total) at Dover.

 

 

Qualifying/Race Data

2008 pole winner: Greg Biffle (155.214 MPH, 23.193 seconds)

2008 race winner: Kyle Busch (121.171 MPH, 6-1-08)

Track qualifying record: Jeremy Mayfield (161.522 MPH, 22.288 secs.,

6-4-04)

Track race record: Mark Martin (132.719 MPH, 9-21-97)

 

Fast Facts

The Race: Autism Speaks 400 presented by Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips & Cheese

The Date: Sunday, May 31

The Track: Dover International Speedway (1-mile concrete oval)

The Time: 2 PM ET

The Distance: 400 laps/400 miles

TV: FOX. 1:30 PM ET

Radio: MRN and Sirius Satellite (Local WDSD-FM 94.7)

2008 Polesitter: Greg Biffle

2008 Winner: Kyle Busch

Schedule: Friday—Practice, 11:30 AM-1 PM | Qualifying—3:10 PM

                  Saturday–11:30 AM-12:15 PM | 12:50-1:50 PM

Load More Stories

Follow B/R on Facebook

Team StreamTM

Out of Bounds