When the 43-car field gets the AAA 400 started Sunday afternoon, tensions will be high and there will be plenty on the line.
Specifically, the ability to extend the Chase for the Sprint Cup for four drivers, as the Chase field will narrow from 16 to 12 at the conclusion of the race at Dover International Speedway. As it stands, the four drivers on the outside looking in are Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola.
However, as Jeff Gluck of USA Today notes, things are far from settled heading into this weekend:
Here's a look at everything you need to know to make sure you don't miss out on the action.
Where: Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware
When: Sunday, Sept. 28, at 2 p.m. ET
Live Steam: WatchESPN
Radio: Motor Racing Network
|AAA 400 Starting Lineup|
|24||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||160.421|
|25||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||160.399|
|26||78||Martin Truex Jr.||160.142|
Drivers to Watch
It's already been mentioned that this is a huge race for Hamlin. But it's worth mentioning that the importance hasn't been lost on him. The 33-year-old told Gluck of USA Today that this race is "the most important of my career."
Sitting at No. 13 in the points standings, Hamlin knows that he's just within striking distance of avoiding elimination and believes a top-five finish will stave off elimination, per Gluck:
I can't scoreboard watch because I'm not going to be able to control what the other guys do. Even though my fate is not in my hands if I don't win, I can't be concerned about what they do and let that affect me at all. I believe if I run top five, I'll put myself in. If I don't, I won't.
Unfortunately for Hamlin, this isn't a track that bodes well for a top-five finish for him. According to DriverAverages.com, he has just one top-five finish at the track since February 2012 and ranks 15th among current drivers with an average finish of 17th in the last five races.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver may understand the stakes going in to the race, but that doesn't mean he'll magically turn things around.
Prediction: Finishes outside of top 15
One driver who isn't in danger of being eliminated Sunday is Jimmie Johnson. He currently sits at No. 4 in the standings and is 17 points behind leader Brad Keselowski heading into Dover.
However, just because the points reset after every three races and he doesn't need a win to advance, it doesn't mean he isn't in line for one. As NASCAR Stats points out, Johnson is among the best all time at Dover:
According to DriverAverages.com, Johnson's dominance at Dover isn't just historical. It extends to recent races too. Out of five starts since February 2012, he's won three times and hasn't finished lower than 17th.
Prediction: Finishes in top three
If there's one driver who could ruin someone's day at Dover, it's Clint Bowyer. That's because the 35-year-old is not in the Chase, but he will still be a dangerous driver Sunday. If there's anyone who can match the recent dominance of Johnson at Dover, it's Bowyer.
The Michael Waltrip Racing driver has five top-10 finishes in his last five starts at Dover. He even took to Twitter to let fans know just how much he loves the Monster Mile:
With all the pressure that's sure to be on many drivers Sunday, Bowyer's ability to relax and focus on this race could be the thing that allows him to get the win.
Prediction: Finishes in top three