Fantasy NASCAR race preview: AAA 400
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 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 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 more difficult.
Practice sessions: Friday, Sept. 28 at 11:00 am EDT, 2:40 pm EDT
Drivers to keep an eye on
Dover is one of two tracks where Johnson is an absolute must start during the Chase; the other is Phoenix International Raceway a week prior to the season finale at Homestead. After qualifying on the outside pole back in June, Johnson led 289 of 400 laps with an average running position of first to win his seven career race at Dover. He's now run third or better in seven straight Dover races, leading average of 234 laps per race. As if the resume wasn't enough, Johnson has finished as the runner-up in both Chase races thus far.
After scoring a career-best finish of fourth at Dover in this event a year ago, Kahne added another top-10 result during the June race. Kahne has started the Chase with a pair of top-fives and now owns a dozen finishes inside the top 15 over the last 13 races. Even though his overall history at Dover is sketchy, Kahne has been very good at the site lately and running with a lot of consistency.
Over the last eight Dover races Bowyer has recorded an average running position of 13th or better on six occasions. In June he finished a career-best fifth after qualifying fourth. Going back 10 races this season, Bowyer has only finished outside of the top 15 once. After Bowyer capped the regular season with his second victory of the season, he began the Chase with a top-10 and added a top-five last week.
From 2008-11 Earnhardt's best results over eight races at Dover was a pair of 12th-place finishes. In June he finished fourth with a career-best average running position of sixth. Earnhardt has one top-five over the last six races this season but did not finish outside of the top 15.
After finishing 10th in each Dover race last year, Harvick put together a runner-up performance in June after matching a career-best average running position of sixth. Even though Harvick won a total of seven races the last two seasons he's currently in danger of going winless in 2012. He's been solid as of late, however, with only one finish worse than 16th over the last 18 races.
Since 2006 Kenseth has posted 10 top-fives in 13 Dover races with a pair of wins. After starting 14th or worse nine times in that span, Kenseth is clearly able of finding a way to the front regardless of where he qualifies. Unfortunately, Kenseth has started the Chase with disappointing finishes of 18th and 14th. Even though they came on tracks that have not exactly been friendly venues for Kenseth in the past one has to wonder if his lame duck status at RFR is hurting his team. For now, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and expect another strong performance on the Monster Mile.
Gordon quickly turned around his disastrous start to the Chase with a third-place result last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after capturing the pole. Back in June he led 60 laps at Dover but finished 13th after the team's race strategy backfired due to a late caution, likely costing him a top-five finish. Gordon is seeking his first top-10 at Dover since 2009, which could make him an undervalued option this week.
In the last three Dover races Ambrose has finished third, ninth and 10th which gives him an average finish of 7.3, tied for fourth among all drivers. Since recording four straight top-10s with three top-fives, Ambrose has only notched a single top-15 in the last four races. There's obviously a lot of risk by starting him but Ambrose has some sleeper value on this track.
Temper your expectations
Since finishing fourth and ninth at Dover in 2010, Hamlin has fallen outside of the top 15 in the last three races at the site. Yes, Hamlin has run extremely well in each of the last five races this season, winning three of them, his uneven history at Dover could prove difficult to overcome. During last year's championship run Hamlin's current crew chief Darian Grubb and his driver Tony Stewart had their worst result of the Chase at Dover, finishing 25th.
Prior to finishing 26th in the June race at Dover, Edwards had tallied 11 straight finishes of 11th or better at the site with one win and half a dozen podium finishes. Edwards has only scored two top-five finishes all season and has dropped outside of the top 15 in five straight races. Dover has been a staple on the schedule for Edwards but right now the No. 99 should be avoided.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also 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. Follow @EricMcClung
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