WHEN: June 3, 2012 | GREEN: Approximately 1:15 p.m. ET
WHERE: Dover International Speedway
TRACK DESCRIPTION: 1-mile concrete oval
BROADCAST: Fox | RACE LENGTH: 400 laps, 400 miles
Dover has the potential to be everyone's favorite track, no matter what style of racing they enjoy. With laps in the low 20-second bracket around this one-mile concrete course, cars are never free of traffic. Before the current era of politeness by the drivers, this led to lots of beating and banging; the bump-and-run was an acceptable method of passing and Dover held its own with any short track in the country. When casual contact becomes too severe, the narrow straight-aways get blocked quickly and "Big One" crashes are occasionally more massive than at Talladega. The concrete high-banked course can also be described as a rhythm track and when drivers mind their manners, it is prone to long green-flag segments.
Because of its bipolar nature, this track is equally kind to veterans and rookies. Dover is host to some of the longest streaks on the circuit and three drivers who are entered this week have seven top 10s in their last eight attempts there. Since the beginning of 2008, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth each have one result outside the top 15, but the third driver has been almost perfect. Carl Edwards' worst result in the past four years was an 11th and the only times he finished outside the top 15 at the track were in his first two attempts. Edwards might not have scored a top 10 in his first try at Dover, but running that well in inaugural races is not at all uncommon. In total, nine of this week's active drivers finished top 10 in their first attempt and five others scored top 10s in their second efforts. Keep reading for that complete list.
|10 best drivers at Dover|
Over the past six races at Dover, these drivers have the best average finish.
1. Jimmie Johnson
Last six races average finish at Dover: 5.00 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 9.25 in 20 attempts
To say that Johnson got off to a strong start at Dover would be a huge understatement. He swept Victory Lane there as a rookie and has rarely stumbled in the races that followed. But he hasn't been entirely mistake-proof. Johnson crashed out of two of his next four Dover races and he lost a lap to a speeding penalty in spring 2010, but those are the only times in 20 attempts that he's finished outside the top 15. Johnson's six wins are spread across his career. In addition to the rookie sweep in 2002, he also performed that feat in both races of 2009 and he has solo wins in 2005 and 2010. Last year, he almost added a seventh trophy, but settled into second behind Kurt Busch in the fall race.
2. Matt Kenseth
Last six races average finish at Dover: 5.67 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 12.15 in 26 attempts
Kenseth's single mistake in the last four years came in the fall 2010 race. Dover has one of the most difficult pit roads to enter and it has bitten the driver of the No. 17 on a few occasions. In the AAA 400 that year, he locked up his tires trying to decelerate to pit road speed, which caused him to miss the entrance. As he circled the track to make another attempt, a tire blew and destroyed its fender, but even with that damage, he stayed within a lap of the leader and finished 18th. He recovered to win last year's spring race, making that 2010 gaffe the only time in his most recent eight attempts that he failed to finish in the top five. Expand the parameters by two years and he has another victory in 2006 and two more top 10s to prove just how strong he's been on this tough track.
3. Carl Edwards
Last six races average finish at Dover: 6.83 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 7.33 in 15 attempts
Edwards has fewer top fives than Kenseth in the last four years at Dover, but he's been more consistent. He's also demonstrated that reliability longer with a worst result of 11th in his last 11 races. His most productive period on this track was a span of races at the end of 2006 through 2008 when he finished third or better in five consecutive starts, including a victory in fall 2007. By comparison, his last six races seem erratic with only two top fives as well as his only sub-10th-place finish in the past half-decade. He has finished on the lead lap in all of those events, however, and that means he has been in contention in every race since fall of his first full season.
4. Kurt Busch
Last six races average finish at Dover: 8.00 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 17.91 in 23 attempts
Dover is a driver's track and that could make a slight difference in Busch's performance this week. Raw horsepower needs to be tempered with a subtle right foot that feathers the throttle on the exit of the turns or else the car has no momentum in the next corner. With four top fives in his most recent six races and a victory last fall, there is no doubt that Busch knows how to drive at Dover, but he is far from a sure thing. This team has struggled in the pits and NASCAR events can often devolve into caution-filled affairs at the end of the day. In the best of circumstances, Busch has difficulty keeping his cool and that fiery personality will get tested on the tight confines of this concrete canyon.
5. Jeff Burton
Last six races average finish at Dover: 9.67 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 15.22 in 36 attempts
In the last three years, Burton has one of the most bizarre records. In 2009, he finished 16th in both the spring and fall races. In 2010, he swept the runner-up position and last year he posted back-to-back 11th-place results. That might not help his fans figure out where he will finish this Sunday, but the odds are good that he will back that effort up with an identical result in the fall. If not, he won't miss by much: in 2008, he finished eighth in the spring and slipped only one position to ninth in the second Dover race.
6. Mark Martin
Last six races average finish at Dover: 10.00 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 12.43 in 51 attempts
The past two weeks have been rough on Martin. He didn't run particularly well at Darlington and finished as one of the last drivers on the lead lap in 20th. He blew an engine last week at Charlotte, which was his second expired power plant in the last four races. The only strong run he's had recently was an eighth at Richmond, but even that was a little disappointing because he led the field to green after winning the pole. His downward slide compared to the start of the 2012 season provides a reference to his recent Dover attempts. Martin swept the top 10 in 2009, finished 15th and 12th in the two 2010 races, and was erratic last year. Fans can choose to either be excited about his second-place finish in the spring or worried about his 19th-place result in the fall.
7. Kyle Busch
Last six races average finish at Dover: 11.83 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 13.29 in 14 attempts
Busch carried on a Hendrick Motorsports tradition and was another of the drivers who got off to a great start at Dover. He didn't win like Johnson, but he came as close as possible with back-to-back runner-up results in his rookie season of 2005. He backed that up with a fifth-place finish the following spring, but then he was much more erratic for quite a while. He blew an engine in fall 2006 while racing for Hendrick and again in 2008 in a Joe Gibbs machine. He failed to finish on the lead lap in all but two of seven races from fall 2006 through fall 2009, but was strong when he completed the distance with one victory and another fifth-place result. His past four races returned him to the top of the order and Busch hasn't finished worse than sixth in the last two seasons. The highlight of that span is his victory in the 2010 Autism Speaks 400.
7. Kevin Harvick
Last six races average finish at Dover: 11.83 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 16.64 in 22 attempts
It seems as if Harvick traded strength for consistency at Dover. He finished third in the spring 2006 race, but his next four efforts all ended in results of 20th or worse. He narrowly missed adding another top-five in fall 2008 with a sixth in that year's Camping World RV 400 and he hasn't finished that well since. In the last six races he's earned four top 10s and recorded a worst result of only 17th with a best of seventh. Last year, he took consistency to another level by finishing 10th in both races, which was precisely one spot better than his teammate Burton.
9. Clint Bowyer
Last six races average finish at Dover: 13.67 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 14.25 in 12 attempts
Last year, Bowyer helped make Richard Childress Racing one of the most consistent teams at Dover. He was stronger than Harvick and Burton, but a little less perfect; his sixth-place finish in the FedEx 400 was followed by an eighth in the AAA 400. This year, Bowyer climbs into a new ride that was a little less powerful, but just as consistent. David Reutimann finished 15th and 13th in Dover's two races, so this will be one of those times fans get to see whether driver skill or team notes are more important to the success of a weekend. The answer will probably be a combination and Bowyer will finish within a position or two on either side of 10th.
10. Ryan Newman
Last six races average finish at Dover: 13.83 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 11.50 in 20 attempts
Newman finished fourth in his first Dover attempt to contribute to the long list of drivers experiencing immediate success there. He was eighth later that fall and in both of those races he watched as a fellow rookie Johnson swept Victory Lane. That apparently lit a fire under the former sprint car racer because he used his experience with throttle control to win both events in his sophomore season of 2003 and then added another in fall 2004. In spring 2007 he finished second after winning the pole. His fans had to believe he would never stumble on the concrete high banks. Unfortunately, that was his last top five and he's searched for another in vain during the last nine races. At least he hasn't been terrible in those events with six top 15s and three top 10s.
10. Jeff Gordon
Last six races average finish at Dover: 13.83 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 12.24 in 38 attempts
Once upon a time, Dover was great to Gordon. A big part of the success of Johnson and Busch in their rookie runs could be attributed to Gordon's setups since he already had four victories in the books prior to the 2002 season with his most recent triumph coming only one year earlier. As soon as they started winning, however, Gordon began to struggle. Since Johnson joined Hendrick Motorsports, Gordon has only five top fives in 20 starts. Like Harvick and Newman profiled above, he hasn't been terrible with a six-race average that places him in the top 10, but that pales in comparison to the three consecutive victories he posted in 1995 and 1996.
OTHERS OF NOTE
12. Greg Biffle
Last six races average finish at Dover: 14.50 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 12.26 in 19 attempts
Biffle has mostly struggled during the last three years at Dover with only one top five and two top 10s, but there is no reason for his fans to panic. The organization continued to run strong with dominant performances from teammates Kenseth and Edwards, so there is a great book of setup notes circulating through their garage. Equally important, Biffle has his own record of success on this track. He won the spring 2005 Dover race, which was part of a 12-race streak of results 13th or better. His most recent win came in 2008 and the current momentum that has made him the points leader also makes him one of this week's favorites.
13. Tony Stewart
Last six races average finish at Dover: 15.83 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 13.00 in 26 attempts
Stewart's fate at Dover closely resembles that of his teammate Newman. He started off strong with a fourth-place finish in his inaugural race and swept Victory Lane in his sophomore season. His fist 12 attempts were almost perfect with a single 11th-place result breaking up a streak of top 10s -- most of which were also top fives. His latest 12 attempts have been an almost 180-degree reversal, however, with only three top 10s and four lead-lap finishes. Those top 10s came in the last three years, but not in the last three races. Beginning with the fall 2010 AAA 400, he's finished in the 20s each time.
17. Denny Hamlin
Last six races average finish at Dover: 17.50 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 20.67 in 12 attempts
Hamlin's Dover efforts are bookended by promise. In his first three races there, he finished on the lead lap each time and posted a worst result of 11th. His most recent four efforts have also resulted in lead-lap finishes, although only two of them produced top 15s. The five races in the middle will give his fans the most concern. From fall 2007 through fall 2009, he failed to crack the top 20 a single time, never finished on the lead lap, and suffered either crash damage or transmission problems in four consecutive races. Hamlin is waiting to see if the Lady or the Tiger lurks in Delaware.
20. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last six races average finish at Dover: 20.17 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 18.04 in 24 attempts
Earnhardt fans are among the most passionate in the sport and they can find a silver lining around the darkest cloud. They will have to squint to find that ray of hope this week if they regard his recent Dover record, however. In the last eight races there, Junior has failed to crack the top 10 a single time and he's finished on the lead lap only twice with modest 12th-place efforts. There is a little good news, however. One of Earnhardt's 12th-place finishes came in this race last year and dating back to the 2011 season finale in Homestead, he has finished worse than 15th only one time. That makes him a decent bet to finish in the high single digits or low teens this week in the FedEx 400.
25. Martin Truex Jr.
Last six races average finish at Dover: 23.00 in 6 attempts
Career avg. finish at Dover: 17.17 in 12 attempts
So many drivers earned top 10s and even won in their first two seasons at Dover, that the specialness of that feat could be diminished. It shouldn't be. Truex was the Cinderella story of the spring 2007 race with an impressive win in front of his hometown crowd. That came on the heels of a sixth-place finish in his rookie season and he followed it with another pair of top 10s during his career. Getting off to a great start is not a guarantee of success, however. In Truex's last seven races at Dover, he has finished 20th or worse five times. His fans are hanging their hopes on his recent momentum as well as an eighth-place finish he earned in this race last year.
|All Drivers: Last six races at Dover|
|Driver||Avg. finish (attempts)||Driver||Avg. finish (attempts)|
|1. Jimmie Johnson||5.00 (6)||22. Joey Logano||21.00 (6)|
|2. Matt Kenseth||5.67 (6)||23. Casey Mears||22.50 (6)|
|3. Carl Edwards||6.83 (6)||24. Juan Montoya||22.83 (6)|
|4. Kurt Busch||8.00 (6)||25. Martin Truex Jr.||23.00 (6)|
|5. Jeff Burton||9.67 (6)||26. Brad Keselowski||23.40 (5)|
|6. Mark Martin||10.00 (6)||27. David Ragan||24.50 (6)|
|7. Kyle Busch||11.83 (6)||28. Regan Smith||25.83 (6)|
|7. Kevin Harvick||11.83 (6)||29. Bobby Labonte||26.83 (6)|
|9. Clint Bowyer||13.67 (6)||30. Reed Sorenson||27.00 (4)|
|10. Ryan Newman||13.83 (6)||31. David Gilliland||31.17 (6)|
|10. Jeff Gordon||13.83 (6)||32. Scott Speed||31.80 (5)|
|12. Greg Biffle||14.50 (6)||33. Landon Cassill||33.00 (3)|
|13. Tony Stewart||15.83 (6)||34. Travis Kvapil||34.00 (4)|
|14. Marcos Ambrose||17.00 (6)||34. David Stremme||34.00 (5)|
|14. Kasey Kahne||17.00 (6)||36. Dave Blaney||36.33 (6)|
|16. AJ Allmendinger||17.33 (6)||37. Mike Bliss||36.83 (6)|
|17. Denny Hamlin||17.50 (6)||38. JJ Yeley||38.25 (4)|
|18. David Reutimann||17.83 (6)||39. Joe Nemechek||39.33 (6)|
|19. Paul Menard||19.83 (6)||40. Michael McDowell||40.40 (5)|
|20. Dale Earnhardt Jr.||20.17 (6)||41. Josh Wise||41.00 (2)|
|21. Jamie McMurray||20.33 (6)||42. Mike Skinner||42.00 (3)|
|Caution to the wind|
Most caution flags: 16 (1993 Splitifre Spark Plug 500)
Fewest caution flags: 0 (1971 Mason-Dixon 500)
Average number of caution flags per race: 7.0
Final Caution, last five races:
October 2011: Lap 363 of 400 -- 1-car accident on front stretch (Greg Biffle).
May 2011: Lap 363 of 400 -- 1-car spin in turn 4 (Juan Pablo Montoya).
September 2010: Lap 291 of 400 -- Debris.
May 2010: Lap 287 of 400 -- 1-car accident in turn 4 (Brad Keselowski).
September 2009: Lap 370 of 400 -- 1-car accident on backstretch (Sam Hornish Jr.).
Most caution laps: 103 (1993 Splitifre Spark Plug 500)
Fewest caution laps: 0 (1971 Mason-Dixon 500)
Average number of caution laps per race: 45.4
|Leading the way|
Most leaders: 13 (2011 AAA 400, 2000 MBNA.com 400, 1997 Miller 500)
Fewest leaders: 3 (1982 Mason-Dixon 500, 1974 Mason-Dixon 500, 1971 Delaware 500, 1970 Mason-Dixon 300, 1969 Mason-Dixon 300)
Average number of leaders: 7.5
Most lead changes: 29 (1986 Budweiser 500, 1980 CRC Chemicals 500)
Fewest lead changes: 3 (1971 Delaware 500)
Average number of lead changes: 17.2
Last five winners at Dover (starting position):
October 2011: Kurt Busch (2nd)
May 2011: Matt Kenseth (24th)
September 2010: Jimmie Johnson (1st)
May 2010: Kyle Busch (4th)
September 2009: Jimmie Johnson (1st)
Worst starting position for race winner: 37th - Kyle Petty (June 1995)
A race at Dover has been won by the pole sitter 13 times and from the front row 27 times in 84 races.
|Active winners at Dover|
Jimmie Johnson (6)
Mark Martin (4)
Jeff Gordon (4)
Ryan Newman (3)
Tony Stewart (2)
Matt Kenseth (2)
Kyle Busch (2)
Greg Biffle (2)
Martin Truex Jr. (1)
Kurt Busch (1)
Jeff Burton (1)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1)
Carl Edwards (1)
Bobby Labonte (1)
Dover has been kind to drivers making their first or second starts on this track. Here is a list of active racers who scored a top 10 early in their careers.
Jimmie Johnson: won both races of 2002, first two starts
Kyle Busch: 2nd in both races of 2005, first two starts
Tony Stewart: 4th June 1999, 2nd September 1999, first two starts; swept Victory Lane as a sophomore in 2000
Ryan Newman: 4th June 2002, 8th September 2002, first two starts; swept Victory Lane as a sophomore in 2003
Mark Martin: 5th May 1982
Scott Riggs: 5th June 2004
Matt Kenseth: 6th September 1998 (in relief of Bill Elliott)
Kevin Harvick: 8th June 2001, 6th September 2001, first two starts
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 10th June 2000
Martin Truex Jr.: 6th September 2006 (he won in June 2007 in his sophomore season)
Jamie McMurray: 6th June 2003
Clint Bowyer: 8th September 2006
Denny Hamlin: 9th September 2006
Juan Pablo Montoya: 10th September 2007
|First-time winners at Dover|
Jody Ridley: 1981 Mason-Dixon 500
Martin Truex Jr.: 2007 Autism Speaks 400 by Visa
|Rough tracks: Dover vs. Darlington (since 2009)|
Dover isn't as tough on tires as Darlington traditionally has been, but the "Track Too Tough to Tame" isn't as rough as it once was. That makes these two courses similar enough to call comparatives for the time being.
|Martin Truex Jr||17.80||10||23.00||10.00|
|Dale Earnhardt Jr||19.70||10||20.17||19.00|
|Juan Pablo Montoya||20.90||10||22.83||18.00|
|Beaver's Best Bets for Dover|
Winner: Matt Kenseth. Three drivers will battle for the win, but Kenseth gets the nod as a favorite because he has won more recently than Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson.
Dark horse top 10: Aric Almirola. He's a long shot, but a lot of drivers earned top 10s in their first Dover race.
Don't bet on it: Tony Stewart. Things haven't been the same on this track since he started his own team and another 20-something result is in the cards -- just like his last three results at Dover.
|Beat Beaver -- Predicting the top 10|
Dover is prone to long top-10 streaks, but it is also kind to freshmen and sophomores. Look for a mix of grizzled visages and fresh faces this week.
1. Matt Kenseth
2. Carl Edwards
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kyle Busch
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Greg Biffle
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Marcos Ambrose
10. Aric Almirola
LAST WEEK'S PICKS
Long green flag runs kept several drivers from adjusting their cars at Charlotte, which created an interesting top 10. Only nine drivers finished on the lead lap and not all of them were predicted to finish that well.
For any driver correctly picked in the top 10, five points are awarded. For any driver picked in his exact finishing position, five bonus points are awarded. For correctly predicting the winner, a total of 20 points are awarded. So for a perfect top 10, a total of 110 points are available. One point is subtracted for each driver picked who finishes outside the top 10.
Total points for Dover = 37 (out of a possible perfect score of 110)
Season best: 37 points (Charlotte); Season worst: 30 points (Darlington); Season avg.: 33.5 points (2 races)
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