Fantasy NASCAR race preview: FedEx 400

by Eric McClung on May 30, 2012 @ 11:29:49 PDT

 


Featuring a 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 a 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, so the speeds are quite fast for a race track that is only one-mile long, making the physical demands of turning the car that much more difficult.

Practice sessions: Friday, April 1 at 11:00 am ET, 2:45 pm ET
Qualifying: Saturday, April 2 at 12:00 pm ET
Race: Sunday, April 3 at 12:30 pm ET
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

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Best Buy Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Since loop data was introduced in 2005, Kenseth has collected two wins, nine top-fives and 11 top-10s in 14 starts at Dover. In that span his average running position of 7.9 ranks second among all drivers and is even more impressive given his starting position of 16.1. This season Kenseth has finished 11th or better in seven straight starts. With seven top-fives in the last eight Dover events, consider Kenseth one of the safest bets in the field.

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx/Autism Speaks Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

After five finishes outside of the top 20 at Dover, including two DNFs due to crashes, Hamlin broke through with a fourth- and ninth-place finish in 2010. However, he finished 16th and 18th at the site a year ago but should revert back to the former driver based on his recent performance. Hamlin has finished inside the top five in four of the last five races, highlighted by a win at Kansas Speedway and runner-up performances in each of the last two.

Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's/Madagascar 3 Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

With six career wins at Dover, Johnson leads all active drivers in trips to victory lane on the Monster Mile. He's also been excellent during qualifying, capturing multiple poles. Leading a ton of laps hasn't been an issue, either. With an average running position of at least third, Johnson has led more than 150 laps in all six races since 2009 while pacing the field for more than half the race on four occasions. If not for a pit road penalty last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Johnson would likely own five finishes of sixth or better in the last half dozen races.

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

Over the last two years, Truex has scored the pole position at Dover twice, the only track he's won on in the Cup series. In those four races, Truex scored two finishes of 12th or better. He would have probably added one more if not for a broken axle late in the spring race of 2010. Truex is currently in the midst of a career year with nine top-12 finishes in a dozen contests.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

In the last four Dover races, Busch has one win and has finished no worse than sixth with an average running position of at least fifth on three occasions. After a rocky start to 2012, Rowdy has caught fire, finishing fourth or better in four straight races highlighted by a win at Richmond International Raceway. When Busch is this hot, he's worth starting on just about any track but his success at Dover makes the decision even easier to make.

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

Matt Kenseth

Over the last 11 starts at Dover, Edwards has one win, six podium finishes and has finished no worse than 11th. Last year, he finished seventh and third, respectively, while leading more than 115 laps in each race. Even though he only led multiple laps in one race this season, Edwards has finished 11th or better in seven of his last eight starts this season.

Clint Bowyer | No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Last year, as one of seven drivers to record top-10 finishes in each Dover race, Bowyer rallied from starting positions outside of the top 20 to finish sixth and eighth. He's been solid in recent weeks with four straight finishes of 13th or better. However, Bowyer is still seeking his first top-five at Dover. If he looks good in practice, consider him a solid middle-tier selection.

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

In last year's spring race at Dover, Ambrose finished a career-best third with an average running position of sixth. He would return in the fall to back it up with a ninth-place result. Ambrose recently landed his first top-10 of the season at Darlington Raceway and scored the outside pole last week at Charlotte. The Australian had a good run going until a broken wheel hub took him out of contention shortly past the halfway point. While not the safest pick, Ambrose is a legitimate sleeper.

Temper your expectations

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

Over the last three races at Dover, Stewart has qualified 25th or worse while finishing no better than 21st. Last year's series champion has been hot and cold this season. He's finished outside of the top 20 in three of the last half dozen races but has also scored a pair of top-fives. Smoke swept Dover back in 2000 but has only registered four top-10s in the last 14 races there.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

From 2008-10, Newman strung together six top-15 finishes at Dover but struggled at the site last year. After two poor qualifying efforts, he finished outside of the top 20 and two laps down in each race. Since winning at Martinsville Speedway back in April, Newman has gone without a top-10 in six straight races.

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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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