Dustin Off the Next Race: Autism Speaks 400 from Dover

Dustin ParksAnalyst IMay 14, 2010

DOVER, DE - MAY 31:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, poses in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2009 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

Try to take a bite out of this track, and it will bite back. This weekend, it's the "Monster Mile" at Dover, DE.

One mile in length, 24 degrees of banking, and a narrow racing lane will make this race a tough one for every driver in the field. We saw last year that the groove can cause major wrecks, and even some tumbles.

Could this happen yet again? Who knows, but let's dust off the Autism Speaks 400 and see who I favor going into Sunday's action.


Jimmie Johnson

The four-time champ has been on a down slide of sorts recently, finishing only once inside the top 10 in the last three weeks. The other two races, he didn't make it to the finish.

But, when it comes to Dover, Johnson has been outright untouchable in recent years. He swept the races last year, and has a total of five wins at the track. His average finish this season is 10th, which is better than any driver on the circuit right now.

I picked him this week, because this begins a stretch of tracks that favor Johnson, and no better time to get on track. The No. 48 qualified fifth for Sunday, giving him a quick run to the front.

Kyle Busch

For the No. 18 team, it's either feast or famine at Dover. Whenever Busch is not out front and fighting for a win, he's struggling or not finishing.

Busch only has one win at this track, coming in 2008, plus five top-five and five top-10 finishes. However, he also has three finishes below 30th, including two DNFs.

He starts fourth on Sunday, meaning he's got a good view of the lead pack when the green flag flies. The M&M's team will be tough when the green flag flies.

Ryan Newman

Here's a guy who deserves to be here. Newman is extremely good at Dover. With three wins, six top-fives and 10 top-10 finishes, there's no doubt he's capable of winning here.

He has already completed the feat that Johnson is gunning for, winning three straight races from 2003-2004. During one of those races, he literally muscled his way to the win, as his power steering went out early in the race. On that day, the monster grabbed him, but he refused to go down.

This season, it has been Newman getting all the good stats of Stewart-Haas Racing, as his teammate and owner, Tony Stewart, has experienced a little bad luck.

If this organization wants back in victory lane, Newman will be the guy to do it.


Carl Edwards

Here's a guy who really wants an opportunity to get his team back to victory lane. Dover is a good chance.

Edwards has a win at this track coming in 2007, but averages a finish of eighth at the "Monster Mile." He's been running very well at times this year, just hasn't been able to put the finishes together to show it.

He could surprise everyone, and put the duck in victory lane. And, as an added bonus, finally get to do a back flip in the Sprint Cup Series, something he hasn't done since 2008.

Jeff Gordon

The only, and I mean ONLY, reason I'm putting the No. 24 in this category is because of the unpredictability of this track. Gordon has four wins at Dover, plus 14 top-fives and 21 top-10s.

But last year in this race, he came in looking like the heavy favorite. Then, in just one corner, that all changed. A hard crash in qualifying sent him to the rear of the field, and he never recovered. Then, in the fall, he ran up front all day and came home sixth.

Which race are we going to get from him this week? And an even better question: Will he finally close the deal?

All those will have to be answered after 400 miles of action, but look out for Gordon to run hard all afternoon.

FOX has the coverage on Sunday starting at Noon ET.


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