Dustin Off the Next Race: AAA 400 at Dover
The time has come to go back onto the concrete as NASCAR makes the second trip to Dover, Delaware for this weekend's AAA 400.
After such a great weekend up in New Hampshire, the attention turns to the "Monster Mile." This is one of the trickiest and more aggressive short tracks on the circuit.
With its high banks and quick straightaways, it reminds me of Bristol. However, unlike Bristol, there is no progressive banking. The 24-degree turns are the same the entire way around. It still provides multiple grooves, but unlike Bristol, the drivers have to really search for a line to work best for them.
In this week's installment of "Dustin Off," we will look at the Chase drivers, how they may fare at Dover this weekend, and some of the guys outside the top 12 that can steal the spotlight.
Let's be honest, the No. 5 team has been rejuvenated with the addition of Mark Martin. This entire group is the leader of the pack this season in the Hendrick organization. Now, heading into this weekend, Martin has the target clearly on his Kellogg's/CarQuest team.
Dover is a track where Martin excels. He has four wins and 21 top-five finishes in 46 starts. His last win at Dover came in 2004, but this is a different Martin heading into this race.
After last weekend's victory, Martin's lead has grown to 35 points. That may not seem like much, but I think keeping that points lead will be important for him, his crew chief Alan Gustafson, and Rick Hendrick. Martin is my pick once again this weekend.
So what if he's got a broken foot? It doesn't matter. Edwards has dismissed the injury as a non-issue, and it has not been a factor in his performance.
This is a track where the Roush drivers have excelled at every year. Edwards won this race back in 2007 and is always a factor when NASCAR races on concrete.
This is a great chance for him to make up some ground in the Chase and also get his first win of the year. Look for the Aflac Fusion to be running up near the front.
How can you not include the defending champion in this category? Johnson won at Dover earlier this year and is tied for most wins at this track with four. He really enjoys this track and can easily rebound to get some momentum on his side in the points race.
After last weekend, Johnson has moved up to second in the points, just behind teammate Martin. However, Johnson is still looking for the momentum that he had last year in the Chase.
I'd look for Johnson to be up front for a majority of the afternoon.
It's rare that I put the four-time champion in this category, but in all honesty, it's the correct category. Gordon has not won a race since Texas and has fallen to 10th in the Chase.
However, he is a four-time winner at Dover, with his last win being in 2001. Gordon had an awesome car when they were here the first time. It was pit strategy and caution flags that put them down in the finishing order.
He could easily make some noise when the checkered flag falls.
He may not be in the Chase, but that doesn't mean he won't take some of the spotlight away. Busch won at Dover last year, and he has won two out of the three previous races on a concrete track this year.
If anyone can take the attention away from the Chase contenders, it is Rowdy. Watch out for the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota.
Dover is a track that completely suits Greg Biffle. He is coming into the race as the defending race winner and up three positions in the standings.
Last year, Biffle entered Dover having won only one race, which was the previous week at New Hampshire. This year, it is a similar situation. Biffle has yet to win a race this year, but his best finish this season came at Dover, when he finished third.
There's no better track for Biffle to put the No. 16 3M Fusion into the winner's circle for the first time.
The second race of the Chase will go green Sunday afternoon. Coverage of the AAA 400 will be on ABC starting at 1 p.m.
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