Dover’s Fastest after Practice
Denny Hamlin ran the most laps in both practice sessions Saturday and looks to capitalize at a track that is notorious for long runs. In the Happy Hour session, Hamlin ran the fastest single lap and had good average times despite running several more laps than anyone.
Hamlin and his team were also very confident coming into Dover this weekend because of how well they did at Bristol this year.
"I look at Dover as a faster version of Bristol,” Hamlin said, “That’s about the best comparison you can make – and we are taking our Bristol car there this weekend for that reason. Dover is a really unique place - from the surface to the banking to the pit road. It’s a unique challenge for the teams to go there but it’s a place where we’ve run pretty well in the past even though our results don’t show that.”
Jimmie Johnson ran the 2nd most laps in Happy Hour with the 2nd fastest single lap. He had the fastest average practice speeds among drivers that ran at least 30 laps; Johnson ran 64 laps. He is a 3 time winner at Dover and is brought the same chassis that he finished 4th with last year in the fall. Johnson also ran this chassis to a 2nd place finish at Darlington a few weeks ago. He looks to be the driver to beat this week.
Kyle Busch was fastest in the 1st practice session and 3rd quickest in Happy Hour. Kyle is running his winning chassis from Bristol this week at Dover. The combination of great practices, the Bristol car, his tenacity, and all around success at Dover including winning this race last season make him one of the easy favorites to win.
Martin Truex Jr had some struggles in Saturday’s first practice session. He was very ordinary and spent a lot of time in the garage where his crew worked feverishly to get read for Happy Hour. When the final practice session came, Truex and his team found success and reeled off the 4th fastest lap of the session. This is the site and race of Truex’s only win 2 seasons ago. Look for a good run from a team that really needs it.
Casey Mears continues his upward climb in the speed charts for the 2nd consecutive week with the 5th fastest lap in Happy Hour. Mears had good average times as well after running 46 laps in one of Kevin Harvick’s former chassis’ that was rebuilt and outfitted with a new body for Mears. So far so good for Mears in practice, let’s hope it translates for 400 laps on race day. His best finish at Dover was a 6th two seasons ago.
Greg Biffle was 8th fastest in Happy Hour with good average times which looks to translate into another great Dover run. Last season Biffle was dominant in both Dover races Finishing 3rd in this race while leading the most laps and then winning in the fall.
Mark Martin was 7th fastest in Happy Hour and had very good average times after running 54 laps. He brought his winning Darlington chassis to Dover this week and looks to get his 3rd win of the season and 5th overall at Dover. His last win at Dover came in this race in 2004 with his 3 other wins coming in 3 consecutive fall races ending in 1999.
Best of the Rest
Kasey Kahne, David Reutimann, and Jamie McMurray were all blazing fast in the first practice session Saturday, but only McMurray was able to duplicate similar runs in Happy Hour where he ran the 9th quickest lap. Kahne only ran 27 laps in Happy Hour which was the least amount among the top 30 serious contenders, but did have the 12th fastest lap. Reutimann’s times fell significantly from the two sessions. He went from being 3rd overall early to 21st in 54 laps during Happy Hour.
Drivers to be Weary of
Jeff Gordon slapped the wall hard Friday and had to go to a back up car. During the Saturday practices, Gordon was very mediocre with a 19th in the early session and 17th in Happy Hour. It’s progression, but it doesn’t appear that the back-up is race ready. After a few pit stops, things could change, but as of now, they aren’t typical Gordon.
Dale Earnhardt Jr has so much on his mind right now and coupled with a bad car, things don’t look to get much better. Even with the crew chief change, there isn’t much that be done to the chassis already scheduled to be at Dover and prepared by former chief Tony Eury Jr. There were a lot of Hendrick brass around the 88 Garage during all practice sessions and they all did their best to get the car right. The first practice session Saturday saw a decent lap 14th fastest run in 28 laps, but Happy Hour was a mess, at least until about 10 minutes remained. The only ran 29 laps in Happy Hour and Junior spent a lot of time in the garage. He was only 26th fastest, but it was a vast improvement from where they were which was running with John Andretti and Mike Skinner. At the very end, Junior radioed in that he was finally “Happy” with the car.
Carl Edwards just isn’t the same and it’s no more evident than in practice, a place he used to flex his muscles and horsepower before eventually dominating. It’s a mystery that he could muster only a 20th fastest lap in a car that had such success last season. He brought the same chassis that he ran at Bristol this season and last season. Last season, Edwards won the fall Bristol race start to finish. This season, Edwards started 38th and finished 15th at Bristol. It doesn’t look promising for the driver that has the best average finish in Dover history.
They Should be Good just Because
Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, and Ryan Newman didn’t dazzle anyone in practice, but they rarely do and yet continue to show up with quality finishes week after week. In Happy Hour, they finished 13th, 14th, and 15th in a row. Kenseth looks to have turned the corner that Edwards is still stuck behind, and Stewart and Newman, well, they just can do whatever they want.
Top Rated after All Practices
1) #48 Jimmie Johnson
2) #18 Kyle Busch
3) #11 Denny Hamlin
4) #16 Greg Biffle
5) #5 Mark Martin