*Kahne Riding Wave Of Momentum To Dover
*Kyle Busch Widens Points Lead
*The Monster Mile — A True Endurance Test
*NASCAR Sprint Cup Teams Testing At Pocono
*Kahne Carries Momentum Into Dover Race Weekend
Momentum is one of those intangibles that plays a pivotal role in the ebb and flow of sports. One stellar performance or one set of circumstances can suddenly turn the tide in favor of the athlete and his outlook on the rest of the season. If any driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is carrying momentum into this weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway, it’s Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge.
Fresh off back-to-back wins at Lowe’s Motor Speedway — first the non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 17, when he was voted into the competition by the fans, and then the Coca-Cola 600 last Sunday evening — Kahne and his race team have suddenly reasserted themselves as a force to reckon with. Now 12th in the point standings, could it be that this team has returned to the form that saw Kahne win a series-high six races in 2006? Only time will tell, but performances from the past two weekends appear to have provided this team with a wave of momentum.
“You know, it really feels good to win on this weekend,” Kahne said last Sunday, after claiming his eighth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, and his first points win since October, 2006. “Confidence is huge. I feel like I gave better input this week … I’ve stepped up and given Kenny (Francis) more to work with as a crew chief and I’ve given our engineers more to work with. And, I wasn’t doing that at the start of the year. I think that’s a big part of the confidence, and it shows on the racetrack.”
Kyle Busch Still Points Leader; Battle Tightens Between 9-12
Kyle Busch (No. 18 Combos Toyota) continues to be on top of the leader board in the championship point standings and has even widened his lead over second place Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet). Busch had a 79-point lead over Burton last week and after his third-place showing at the Coca-Cola 600, has increased that lead to 94 points. The top five in the standings remain unchanged from a week ago, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota) and Clint Bowyer (No. 07 DirecTV Chevrolet) holding down spots 3-4-5. Busch has the season’s top Driver Rating (113.1), followed by Earnhardt Jr. (110.2) and Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford, 102.0). Busch and Edwards are tied with a series-best three victories apiece on the season the season. Busch, Burton, Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota) and Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford) have been in the top 12 for all 12 weeks of the season.
Only 39 points separate positions 9-12. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) is ninth this week, seven points ahead of Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), 10 points ahead of Biffle and 39 points ahead of Kahne.
David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Ford) was 12th last week and has dropped to 13th in the standings, 56 points behind Kahne. Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford), who has made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup all four years, heads into this week’s action at Dover ranked 16th in the standings, 190 points out of 12th.
Matt Kenseth Looks To Dover Magic For Resurgence
The forgotten man in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season is a past champion and a member of every Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup since its inception in 2004. That impressive streak may end, unless Matt Kenseth’s season dramatically turns around.
Kenseth, currently 190 points behind 12th-place Kasey Kahne, can start a resurgent march back into the top 12 with a strong finish at Dover — a track at which he has had past success. Kenseth, the 2003 series champion and one of two drivers to make all four Chases (Jimmie Johnson is the other), has a win (spring, 2006) and five top-five finishes at The Monster Mile. Over the past three years (six races), Kenseth owns some of the top statistics in the series. He has a Driver Rating of 111.9 (second-best), an Average Running Position of 7.2 (second), a series-high 222 Fastest Laps Run and has run 91% of the Laps in the Top 15 (second). In each of those stats where Kenseth ranks second, Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle ranks first.
Biffle, coming off a second-place finish at the Coca-Cola 600, is attempting to maintain his top 12 standing position after finishing outside the Chase cutoff each of the past two seasons. Another strong finish at Dover should help him do just that. He won here in the spring of 2005 and has finished inside the top 10 in five of the last six Dover races. Over that span, Biffle owns series-high stats in Driver Rating (113.7), Average Running Position (7.0) and Laps in the Top 15 (93.6%). Additionally, he ranks second in Fastest Laps Run with 190.
Also watch for a strong run from Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge), who sits 85 points out of 12th place. The reigning Daytona 500 champion swept Dover in 2003 and added another win there in the fall of 2004. Newman hasn’t seen that type of success since, but did score a runner-up finish in last year’s spring race.
Over the past six races, Newman has a Driver Rating of 101.0 (sixth), an Average Running Position of 8.1 (third) and has run 85.2% of the Laps in the Top 15.
“Monster Mile” Poses Another Endurance Test For Drivers
Dover’s high-banked one-mile concrete racing surface that has been likened to 400 laps of racing in a concrete cereal bowl has earned it the moniker of “The Monster Mile.” This Sunday’s race is considered to be one of the most challenging on the series circuit and fresh off the heels of last week’s 600-miler at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, poses yet another endurance test for the 43 drivers and their race teams.
Dover is celebrating its 40th anniversary season in 2008. Earlier this month, plans for Phase II of the track’s “Monster Makeover” Capital Improvement project were unveiled, including the dedication ceremony for the new 46-foot Monster Monument at Victory Plaza. Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon was on hand for the festivities.
“It’s an amazing monument and it really symbolizes what this track is all about to the drivers and the fans,” said Gordon, who has won four times at Dover. “The Monster Mile brings out the monster in all of us. It’s a grueling, fast race track that is very, very tough.
Bobby Allison, a seven-time Dover winner, will be the first driver honored with a marquee plaque on the Monster Monument in a special ceremony scheduled for Saturday, May 31 at Victory Plaza.
Dover Region Features Variety Of NSCS Race Team Members
The region surrounding Dover International Speedway features a wide variety of key race team members in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Ty Norris, Vice President and General Manager of Michael Waltrip Racing, is a native of Smyrna, Del.
Roy McCauley, crew chief of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge, hails from nearby Davidsonville, Md. Rick Viers, crew chief of the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota, is from Darlington, Md.
Bill and Cindy Lewis (Kinkwood and Secretary, Md.) drive the No. 2 transporter for Kurt Busch’s Miller Lite Dodge. Kevin White (Pittsville, Md.) is a mechanic on the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge team that just won last week’s Coca-Cola 600.
Two members of the No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota are from the Dover region, including John Fuller (Fallston, Md.), who works as the catch can man, and Chris Meyers (Olney, Md.), who works as a mechanic. Daniel Blizzard (Mt. Airy, Md.) is the front-tire changer for the No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet driven by Jeff Burton.
Martin Truex Jr., is the lone NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver from the Dover region. Truex grew up in Mayetta, N.J., which is located approximately 2 1/2 hours from The Monster Mile. Truex earned his first and so far only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Dover a year ago.
Kahne’s Victory Marks Dodge’s Second Win Of Season
Kasey Kahne’s dramatic victory at last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 was his first points win of the season and the second time on the year and first time since the Daytona 500 that a Dodge car visited Victory Lane
Dodge’s triumph at Lowe’s now means that all four manufacturers have multiple victories this season.
Toyota maintains its lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship race, outpointing Chevrolet 73-71. Ford is a close third with 67 points, while Dodge closed the gap a bit and is fourth with 53 points.
Toyota leads the way with four wins on the year. Kyle Busch tops the charts with three victories, while Denny Hamlin has one. Chevrolet’s three wins are spread among three drivers — Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer — with one win apiece. Ford’s three victories have all come from Carl Edwards.
Dodge’s two wins have certainly been significant — as Ryan Newman won the season-opening Daytona 500 — and Kahne captured the series’ longest race — a 600-miler.
It’s all a reflection of this year’s mix of winners and close competition.
Chevrolet drivers have won 28 times at Dover, including last June’s victory by Martin Truex Jr. Ford drivers have visited Victory Lane 23 times at The Monster Mile. Dodge has captured five wins there, including three victories by Newman.
NASCAR’s 60th Anniversary: Dover Has Its Share Of “Monster” Memories
This season marks NASCAR’s 60th anniversary and in Dover’s 76-race history, many “Monster” memories have been made.
Three active champions look back at Dover and remember their first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge), the 2000 series champion, finished 34th at Dover in his first start in 1991. Matt Kenseth, the 2003 champion, started only one race in 1998 — at Dover. The result was a foreshadow of an incredibly consistent future. Kenseth, starting 16th in the No. 94 Ford, finished sixth that day. Finally, Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), the 2004 champion, finished 18th at Dover in his first career race in 2000. He then drove the No. 97 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.
But it just might be the list of winners that paints the perfect Dover picture. From the very first race in 1969 through the two races in 1980, every Dover race winner is a member of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers List. The list of Dover winners since then isn’t too shabby either. Since 1980, 27 of the Dover race winners have won a list includes such legendary names like Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip. But also current stars like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. And, it includes young stars like Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. who have won NASCAR Nationwide Series titles.
Who will add their name to the list of legendary Dover winners? Well, if the trend continues, it could be a new name. Truex earned his first career victory last year at Dover and there have been nine different winners in the last nine races at Dover.
The Top 35: The No. 22 And No. 55 Toyotas Trade Spots
The No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota, driven by Dave Blaney and owned by Bill Davis and the No. 55 NAPA Toyota, driven and owned by Michael Waltrip, exchanged positions this past week in the battle to stay in the top 35 in owners points. The No. 22 Toyota, 35th a week ago, inched up two spots to 33rd, thanks to its 17th- place finish at the Coca-Cola 600. Following its 27th place showing at Lowe’s, the No. 55 Toyota dropped two positions and is now 35th, the cutoff spot entering this week’s race at Dover.
Each week, the top 35 teams are guaranteed starting spots, with those outside the top 35 required to qualify on time
The No. 00 Waltrip Racing Toyota, driven by Michael McDowell and owned by Rob Kauffman, finished 32nd at Lowe’s, and fell from 30th to 32nd. The No. 44 UPS Toyota, driven by David Reutimann and owned by Michael Waltrip, inched up a spot from 30th to 29th after posting a solid 10th-place finish at Lowe’s.
Competition has really heated up between spots 30 and 36 in this week’s owners’ points standings. Only 50 points separate 30th place (No. 7 Jim Beam Dodge driven and owned by Robby Gordon) and 36th place (the No. 77 Penske Truck Rental Dodge driven by Sam Hornish Jr. and owned by Roger Penske).
One Final Look
Autism Awareness: This Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Dover is far from your ordinary race. The “Best Buy 400 benefiting Student Clubs for Autism Speaks” benefits a worthy cause in raising autism awareness. Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge), fresh off of a solid 8th-place finish at the Coca-Cola 600, will sport an Autism Speaks themed car this weekend.
Triple Header: Kyle Busch, who has already posted nine victories across the three national series this season, will pull triple duty this weekend at Dover. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader will compete in all three of the national series events — Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Busch has three wins at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level, four NASCAR Nationwide Series wins, and two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victories on the season.
NASCAR Foundation Track Walk: Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the NASCAR Foundation Walk on Saturday, May 31 at Dover. Several NASCAR drivers and personalities will be involved with this charitable event and proceeds will benefit participating driver charities and the Autism Society of Delaware. Fans can sign up for the walk at the track near the entrance to the FanZone on race weekend.
This And That: Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco Havoline Dodge) will be competing in his 50th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race this Sunday at Dover … Montoya’s teammate, Dario Franchitti (No. 40 Wii Fit Dodge) is entered in this week’s race at Dover. Franchitti has been sidelined the past four weekends while recovering from a fractured ankle he suffered during the NASCAR Nationwide race April 26 at Talladega Superspeedway. The No. 40 Dodge is currently 38th in owners’ points and must qualify on time at Dover.
Up Next: The Pocono 500 At Pocono Raceway
Next on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is the Pocono 500, Sunday, June 8 at Pocono Raceway. Teams are hopeful that the two-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test at the 2.5-mile triangular layout will pay dividends for this event.
Jeff Gordon is the defending race champion, while Ryan Newman was last year’s pole winner. Gordon is a four-time winner at Pocono, most among active drivers.
Rick Hendrick claims the most victories (11) among team owners, while Roger Penske is second with eight.
The Race: Best Buy 400 Benefiting Student Clubs for Autism Speaks
The Place: Dover International Speedway
The Date: Sunday, June 1
The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
The Track: 1-mile oval
The Distance: 400 miles/400 laps
TV: FOX, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS Satellite Radio
2007 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
2007 Polesitter: Ryan Newman
Friday — Practice, 11:30 a.m. — 1 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:10 p.m.
Saturday — 12-12:45 p.m.; Final Practice, 1:20 p.m.-2:20 p.m.