Fantasy NASCAR race preview: AAA 400

by Eric McClung on September 28, 2011 @ 14:49:37 PDT

 


With high-banked concrete racing surface with wide corners and narrow straightaways, Dover International Speedway has earned its nickname, The Monster Mile. It is considered by drivers to be among the most difficult tracks to race on; finding a setup that will allow the car to handle well in multiple grooves, not just at the bottom, is a challenge. The wide turns allow drivers to stay in the throttle the entire time. The speeds are quite fast for a race track that is only one-mile long, which makes the physical demands on turning the car that much more difficult.

Owners facing prequalifying deadlines will get the benefit of two Friday practices session prior to qualifying on Saturday. Checking these results is a huge benefit in order to see what drivers have unloaded with an early edge and are most likely to score a prime starting position.

Location: Dover, Del.
Shape: Oval
Length: 1.0 mile
Laps: 400
Turns: 24 degrees
Front stretch: 9 degrees
Back stretch: 9 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

Brad Keselowski

Back in May, Keselowski qualified ninth and finished 13th with an average running position of 10th. Of course, with two wins, two runner-up performances and a total of seven top-fives over the last eight starts, you should be looking to start him no matter what. In nine career Nationwide starts at Dover, Keselowski has held an average running position of ninth or better in seven straight and picked up a win in the spring of 2009.

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

In 14 career starts at Dover, Edwards owns an impressive average finish of 7.6, easily a series best. In May, he led a career-high 117 laps and finished seventh. Although not challenging for wins, Edwards has been consistent in recent weeks with five consecutive top-10s, including three top-fives. Despite a single win thus far, Edwards leads all drivers this season in average finish, 10.6.

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Crown Royal Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

In addition to winning the May event at Dover, Kenseth has been among the best drivers at the site for several years. Since 2006, he's registered two victories and a total of eight top-fives in 11 starts. With a career average running position of eighth, Kenseth leads all drivers in that key loop data statistic. While he's among the top drivers on intermediate tracks, Kenseth is not to be passed over on the Monster Mile.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

A successful outing this week is key to getting back into the title hunt for Busch, now sixth in points after beginning with the lead. However, Busch has been something of a boom-or-bust performer at Dover. After winning in the spring of 2008, he would finish outside of the top 20 in three straight. The next three included another win and three straight finishes of sixth or better.

Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

The monster of the Monster Mile could very well be under the hood of the No. 48 machine. Since 2009, Johnson has led 1,192 of 2,000 laps, a ridiculous figure, with an average running position that has not dropped below third. The five-time defending champion is currently 10th in points, his lowest spot this late in the season, but is approaching a favorable part of the schedule based on his past titles. Maybe down, but certainly not close to being out.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

With 217 starts in the Cup series, Truex's lone victory came in the spring of 2007 at Dover. He hasn't been too shabby since moving to MWR in 2010 either. In three races at the Monster Mile, Truex qualified eighth or better each time, including a pole. He's also picked up a pair of top-12 finishes in that span, highlighted by an eighth-place result from May. If not for a loose wheel last fall, Truex would likely have gone three for three.

Marcos Ambrose | No. 9 Stanley Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

A third-place result in the May race marked a career-high at Dover for Ambrose. In addition, his average running position of sixth tied the Australian for the third-best performance of the race. Since winning at Watkins Glen International, Ambrose has only one top-10 finish in the last six races. The lone positive is that it came at Bristol Motor Speedway, another tough track where calculated aggression can really pay off.

Jeff Burton | No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Despite only one top-10 all season, Burton hasn't been terrible in recent weeks. In the last five races, he's collected four top-15s and may finally get another top-10 this week. In 2010, Burton finished second in both races at Dover and added an 11th-place result in May. If he shows something in the practice sessions, Burton could be a sneaky-good start.

Temper your expectations

Tony Stewart | No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Even though Stewart has won each of the first two postseason races, his erratic history at Dover is a cause for concern. Among all drivers, Stewart's career average running position of 21.7 has him sitting 26th among the field. In each of the last two at Dover, Smoke has finished outside of the top 20. Also, keep in mind Stewart's sudden charge to the top of the standings has come as a result of fuel mileage. His luck could run out as soon as this week.

Mark Martin | No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

After finishing second in the May race at Dover, Martin may get a lot of undue attention this week. His average running position in that race was just 12th and his 83.5 percent of laps in the top 15 ranked 11th among the field. After a pair of overachieving top-10s, Martin is coming off a 24th-place result at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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