Carl Edwards calls Dover a favorite although a challenging race track (Getty Images)
DOVER, Del. – As track nicknames go, the “Monster Mile” is near the top of the list.
Dover International Speedway has made a reputation of being one of the most grueling tracks in NASCAR since big league stock car racing first came to the one-mile speedway in 1969.
The track has undergone a number of changes in its four-plus decade history, most notably the change of its racing surface from asphalt to concrete.
However Carl Edwards, who has carved out a successful concrete racing career throughout his tenure in NASCAR, remembers what it was like the first time he tackled Dover.
“I just didn't respect this place and what it could do to you so quickly,” Edwards said when asked about how to approach Dover and what advice he'd give to those he sought his counsel. “My only word of caution to those guys is don't get too big of a head at this place because is will get you. Just now in practice I got loose in turns one and two and I thought, ‘Man, I am going to hit the fence.' It happens so quick. It is a very tough place.
“My first trip here I thought I had it in control and I did not. Driving in the corners, there are a lot of things going on. The car is sliding sideways and moving. You kind of launch and it feels like you are jumping into the corner and when it lands it depends how the crew chief has it set up but you don't want it to land and do the death wiggle. It is scary. You gotta get the car set up right for long runs because I can only do that for so many laps when the car is loose. It is really, really difficult."
Even drivers who have experienced great success at Dover like six-time winner Jimmie Johnson respect the place. Johnson not only finds Dover demanding but also very technical to navigate.
"The track here I know the transitions in and off the corner there really is a right way to go about it,” he explained. “It takes time to kind of figure that out. I think my background with off road truck racing it helped me adapt quicker. Turn one although the track looks very similar the radius in turns one and two is a little tighter. It's really one fluid motion. Whereas in three and four there is almost a small straight-a-way between turn three and turn four. You have to drive through two corners down there basically and there is a way to get that right.
“I just enjoy the way a driver makes a difference here. It's something that has fit my style. I seem to be good at adapting to uncomfortable situations due to my dirt background. At this track you are never really comfortable around it.”
But there's still a fun factor for some racing at Dover despite all its challenges.
That is what makes it so much fun,” said A.J. Allmendinger. “I remember the first time I came here was in trucks in 2007 before Cup practice. We were standing on pit road and my crew chief told me not to look at any of the trucks coming off turn four and I said, “Why? I need to learn.' … [Ron] Hornaday came off turn four the first time, and it looked like the tires weren't even touching the ground and he was sideways and I was like, ‘I am not doing that. I am leaving.' It is an insane race track, but it is all those characteristics that make it so much fun.”
Dover International Speedway
Track Size: 1.5 miles
Banking Turns: 24 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 5 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees
Frontstretch: 1,980 feet
Backstretch: 1,500 feet
Track Size: 1 mile
Race Length: 400 miles
Banking/Turns: 24 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 9 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 9 degrees
Frontstretch: 1,076 feet
Backstretch: 1,076 feet
FedEx 400 Race Facts
There have been 84 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Dover International Speedway since the track opened in 1969.
There was one race in 1969 and 1970. There has been two-a-year since 1971.
Richard Petty won the track's first NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
There have been 35 different pole winners, led by David Pearson (six).
David Pearson won the first pole in July 1969.
Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman lead all active drivers, each with four poles.
33 different drivers have posted victories led by Bobby Allison and Richard Petty, each with seven.
Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers, with six victories.
Hendrick Motorsports has a series-high 13 wins.
51 races at Dover have been won from a top-five starting position; 18 races have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.
13 drivers have won from the pole. The last to do so was Jimmie Johnson, in the 2010 September race.
The furthest back in the field a race winner started was 37th, by Kyle Petty in 1995.
Several active drivers had their first start at Dover: David Ragan (finished 42nd in 2006), Kurt Busch (18th in 2000), Matt Kenseth (sixth in 1998) and Bobby Labonte (34th in 1991)
In addition, Matt Kenseth (2002) and Michael Waltrip (1991) earned their first pole at Dover. Martin Truex Jr. won his first race there (2007).
Youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dover International Speedway winner: Kyle Busch (06/01/2008 – 23 years, 0 months, 30 days).
Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dover International Speedway winner: Harry Gant (05/31/1992 – 52 years, 4 months, 21 days).
Who's Hot at Dover
Jimmie Johnson – A six-time Dover winner, Johnson has been on a hot streak that although was derailed last week by a pit road miscue at Charlotte should get right back on track at the “Monster Mile.” Johnson has won three of the last six races at the track.
Carl Edwards – “Concrete Carl” is still winless since March of 2011 but has impeccable credentials at Dover including the top average finish for active drivers at 7.3. Edwards finished 7th and 3rd in the two Dover outings of last season.
Matt Kenseth – Defending race winner, that victory was Kenseth's second in 26 starts at the track. He's finished in the top five in seven of his last eight starts.
Juan Pablo Montoya – Has a 22.9 average finish at Dover despite considering the track one of his favorites. Started out his career running better at Dover than in recent outings including last season when he notched finishes of 32nd and 22nd.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Junior will be tested at Dover, which has been a challenge of late for the Hendrick Motorsports driver. Since 2007, he has an average finish of 20.5 including a 24th last fall.
Paul Menard – Has one top 10 in nine career Dover starts. An average finish of 20.0 with a pair of efforts last year of 24th and 16th.
The official opening of Dover International Speedway, then called Dover Downs International Speedway, was in 1969.
The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on July 6, 1969.
The first two races at Dover were 300 miles. The race length was changed to 500 miles in 1971.
The track surface was changed to concrete in 1995.
The race length was changed to 400 miles beginning with the second race in 1997.
The track name was changed to Dover International Speedway in 2002.
There have been 84 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Delaware, all at Dover International Speedway.
Eight drivers in NASCAR's three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Delaware, though none have posted victories.