The Chase for the Sprint Cup leaderboard after two of 10 races has changed as if shaken by external forces, but the causes are hot finishes by Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski. Stewart has vaulted from ninth to first with his two wins and Keselowski has followed his lead by moving from 11th to third with his top-five finishes.
It’s typical of the Chase playoff system for several drivers to drop fast to the bottom of the 12 possible spots in the first few races. That has happened to Denny Hamlin, now 66 points behind Stewart, and perhaps for Ryan Newman too at 31 points behind his boss.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) presents the AAA 400 this Sunday on the one-mile track with 24 degree banking at Dover International Speedway, the third race in the playoff Chase, race 29 of 36 this season.
Stewart has often commented about just taking each race as it comes and his recent performance is an example of that. Stewart also describes racing on each racetrack in great detail prior to race day and offered his view of Dover for fans.
The other Chase leaders Kevin Harvick, Brad Kelesowski, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon had comments also.
1. Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)
“Because it is concrete, the track has a lot more bumps than an asphalt track would,” Stewart said. “There are seams in Dover’s surface and places where they’ve cut the concrete for expansion. Those sections shift and change, and every year when you go there, the bumps are a little bit different than they were the year before. Dover is a track that’s constantly changing. But it’s one of those places where you really can’t change your driving style. You still have to do the same things you always do. It’s just a matter of finding the package that’s right for that racetrack.
“But other than that, you go through the same set of scenarios and challenges you would on any asphalt track – either the car is going to be tight or it’s going to be loose. Dover is a track that is kind of a two-phase deal. It’s easy to get your car too tight in the center (of the corner) trying to get it to drive up off the corner nice, and it seems like if you get it to rotate through the corner, then it’s way loose off. Those are the two things that you really battle there. It’s the sacrifice of where do you want to be a little bit off to accomplish having a balanced car.”
2. Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Chevrolet)
“It's a fast race track,” Harvick said. “You've got to keep up with the race track as the groove moves around and the rubber builds up on the track. The biggest challenge is being able to get the car up off of the corner under power, wide open throughout the whole run.
“I think as you go to every race track there is always concern on whether you're going to run good or bad and you never really know until you get there and see what the tire is and see exactly what the weekend brings with weather and all the different things that come with putting a weekend together. You just have to make the best out of whatever the weekend gives you."
3. Brad Keselowski (No 2 Dodge)
“A lap around Dover is pretty spectacular,” Keselowski said. “That roller coaster feeling you get climbing and falling off the corners is amazing. I feel pretty confident going back there and I’d like to think that Dover is one of my better tracks. There are tracks that are temperamental due to the weather, but at Dover it’s the track rubber that can have you scratching your head.”
4. Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
“It’s a fun race track,” Edwards said. “It’s got a high sensation of speed, but those concrete tracks really boil down to how good your car is and how precise you can get that setup. There is less firing from the hip and more marching through the setup and changes. I really like that style and that race track is just a lot of fun.”
5. Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet)
“This is a real fast track, so being in ‘clean’ air makes your life that much easier during the race on Sunday,” Gordon said. “The rubber on the track will be a challenge, as usual. But this track is wide and the groove will usually widen out – so much so you can probably even run near the wall. But if there’s significant rubber-buildup, it can be challenging on the restarts and when trying to pass another car.”
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com.
Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from official release materials provided by NASCAR and team representatives.
Photo credit: Dwight Drum at Racetake.com.