From one rough and tough track to another.
The Monster Mile in Dover, DE is ready to pick up where the Lady in Black, Darlington, left off last Saturday night. Dover plays host to the 12th race of the 2010 season and the Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey’s Milk and Milkshakes.
Jimmie Johnson swept both races at Dover last season but has been on a downslide since his win at Bristol in March. Speculation ranges from the fact that the return of the spoiler has played havoc with the 48 team, to the team just wanting to experiment before the Chase starts.
Whatever the case may be, Dover is one of Johnson’s best racetracks; he has five wins and an average finish of 9.8. Last weekend in Darlington he was involved in a scary accident with AJ Allmendinger when Allmendinger lost his brakes.
Johnson has to be ready to get back to the front and back to victory lane.
Victory lane is a place that Denny Hamlin has seen on three occasions this season, tying him for the most with Johnson, including sweeping the weekend at Darlington. He’s by far the hottest driver in the Cup Series, but Dover is his arch nemesis.
Hamlin doesn’t like the one-mile track and the monster doesn’t appear to like him, his average finish is 25.1 with only two top ten finishes. It could be a long weekend for the FedEx team but they’ll have momentum on their side and the confidence since they lead at Dover last year before suffering a blown tire.
Tony Stewart doesn’t want to see anymore blown tires after one in Darlington set his Office Depot/Old Spice team in the wrong direction. Stewart, like Johnson, is also heading to one of his best racetracks and last year it was these two drivers that dueled for the win in this very race.
Johnson may have gotten the best of Stewart, but he does have two wins at the speedway. The biggest thing for Stewart though, is not having the monster to reach out and bite him since he sits a disappointing 18th in points.
And what about our Creatures?
They’ve been up and down this season but the last few weeks have seen them back in victory lane, some more than others. As the Chase gets closer some are pulling away in the win category, but this weekend at Dover could change all that.
For the first time this year, our Creatures have given a wide variety of choices of who they believe will be the one in victory lane after 400 miles and laps are the Miles the Monster.
Misan Akuya: Jamie McMurray
This is the first time I’ve picked a driver to win two weeks in a row. Why you ask? Before Saturday my best finish was seventh and McMurray took home second place and contended for the win all night long from the pole. That was also a new track record, making me the closest I have ever been to getting a win.
Plus McMurray's stats at Dover aren't too shabby with one top five, five top 10s and 139 laps led. He also only has five finishes outside the top 20 and he just about won here in 2006 when he led a race high 93 laps after starting in the back and getting lapped early, but was passed by then teammate Matt Kenseth with three laps to go.
And in the fall of 2008 should have won but was wrecked by Robby Gordon and don’t forget the last time the No. 1 won without Jamie was at Dover. Expect another strong weekend from McMurray and co.
James Broomhead: Martin Truex Jr.
A return to the leftfield picks this week. Truex Jr.'s only Cup win comes from Dover in 2007, but the track hasn't been anything near a happy hunting ground since. However, he’s is part of a MWR team that is quietly edging forward and starting to grab top 10s on a regular basis and if driver and team can align themselves then a win would be giant step forward.
But lightning (or A.J. Allmendinger) can't continue to strike Jimmie Johnson, can they?
Kelly Crandall: Kyle Busch
Since I’m not getting far with winning these things I’m going start-making picks for weird reasons: this week Busch drives the Snickers machine and I love me some Snickers. But, Busch is also fast when it comes to Dover. Actually, the last few weeks he’s been fast and we know that’s what he loves.
After winning at Richmond on his birthday weekend for the second year in a row, he went to Darlington and led laps before finishing seventh. Now he heads to Dover where he has a win and plenty of momentum.
Billy Fellin: Matt Kenseth
In the past five races at Dover, Kenseth hasn't finished worse than fifth. If that's not consistency, I don't know what is. I'll take the Crown Royal Fusion at Dover to bring Ford its first victory of the season.
Adam Heasley: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent.
Christopher Leone: Carl Edwards
Assuming that he won’t visit victory lane ever again is kind of a stretch, even if he hasn’t been a serious threat since that wild ride at Talladega last year. Edwards is exceptional at Dover, his average finish of 7.9 in 11 starts buoyed by seven top 10s and a win. Those other four races? No worse than 18th. He hasn’t failed to complete a lap in his last nine starts.
Kara Martin: Jeff Gordon
For the second week in a row I am going with Gordon. Despite not ending up in victory lane in Darlington, he finished strong and still ready to win. With so many near misses this season, Gordon is determined to knock that losing monkey off his back and Dover could very well be the place!
Dustin Parks: Jimmie Johnson
He swept Dover last year. I don't need any more reason than that, but I'm going give one anyway. He and Chad Knaus have been trying to get on track since the spoiler was re-introduced in Cup. But, if this team wants to get on track, now is the time to do so.
The next three weeks are Johnson-favored tracks. The No. 48 needs to get their act together, and considering this is the monster mile, Johnson needs to let his inner monster loose.
Patti Rodisch: Jimmie Johnson
He is going for three in a row at Dover this weekend and he could use a good finish. Everyone is talking about how Johnson needs a good, solid race on Sunday. Don't be too surprised if he ends up in victory lane to quiet all the critics. After rough couple weeks I expect this team to get back on track and win on Sunday.
Sal Sigala Jr.: Jimmie Johnson
Johnson has made 16 Sprint Cup Series starts at Dover International Speedway, where he has earned five wins, and he also has the most Dover wins of any active driver, which also includes going to victory lane in the last two races. Many are saying the spoiler has been his downfall, and this weekend he will prove that is not so.
Rob Tiongson: Tony Stewart
You get the feeling that Smoke's going to wake up one of these days and show people he hasn't forgotten how to drive a racecar. It's been a tough season and the SHR program seems a bit off, but not for lack of effort. With Old Spice bolting after this season, a victory at Dover will help in Tony Stewart's search for a co-sponsor next year as well as his efforts in yet another quest for a championship.
He's won at Dover twice and he loves those concrete high-banked tracks. Having placed second earlier this year in the March race at Bristol, I look for some of that success to translate into a win for the popular and outspoken star.
David Yeazell: Jeff Gordon
He’s going to win soon.
Kara Martin (1,616 ) Jeff Gordon finished fourth (2 )
Billy Fellin (1,516 ) Denny Hamlin won (3 )
Sal Sigala Jr. (1,500 ) Jeff Gordon finished fourth (0 )
Dustin Parks (1,462 ) Jeff Gordon finished fourth (1 )
Kelly Crandall (1,406 ) Jimmie Johnson finished 36th (0 )
Christopher Leone (1,360 ) Jimmie Johnson finished 36th (2 )
David Yeazell (1,353 ) Tony Stewart finished 23rd (0 )
Rob Tiongson (1,340 ) Jeff Gordon finished fourth (0 )
James Broomhead (1,337 ) Jeff Gordon finished fourth (1 )
Patti Rodisch (1,297 ) Mark Martin finished 16th (0 )
Misan Akuya (1,270 ) Jamie McMurray finished second (0 )
Adam Heasley (792 ) NO PICK SENT (0 )
There’s no rest for the weary this weekend, Miles the Monster can reach out and strike at any moment. Last season rookie Joey Logano took a wild ride and veterans like Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin suffered ill fates.
Don’t tempt the monster, doesn’t matter who you are, he will get you.
Summary of Picks
Jimmie Johnson – 3
Jeff Gordon – 2
Jamie McMurray – 1
Martin Truex Jr. – 1
Kyle Busch – 1
Matt Kenseth – 1
Tony Stewart – 1
Carl Edwards – 1