Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dover AAA 400 Preview: Greg Biffle Looks Poised To Win

by Micah Roberts

NASCAR points leader Mark Martin kicked off the Chase to the Championship last week with a win at New Hampshire, the 40th win of his career, giving him a little breathing room as the Series rolls into Dover, Delaware this weekend.

This will be the second time the Series has visited Dover this season, In the first episode, Jimmie Johnson led the most laps in winning his fourth career race at Dover, but he had to battle Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle down the stretch making the winning pass with only three laps to go.

The one-mile concrete oval is a fast high banked track that doesn’t really resemble any track on the circuit. Some of the crew chiefs will bring their Bristol chassis’ from a few weeks ago because the set-up requirements are similar since Bristol changed it’s layout a few years ago.

For Martin, Dover has been a place he’s had lots of success at. In his 47 career starts, he has 29 top-10 finishes that include four wins - the last coming in 2004. Martin has become the NASCAR Nation overwhelming choice to win it all just because of the 50 year old is just an all-around good guy.

How can you not root for a driver that has stood the test of time with excellence throughout his career, but has never won a title. He’s finished second in points on four separate occasions with the last coming in 2002. His support comes from his regular long time fans, but down the stretch he’s finding fans from all over, in particular, the Junior Nation.

The massive allegiance of supporters who followed Dale Earnhardt and the current army of Dale Earnhardt Jr fans have all jumped on board the Mark Martin wagon. That good ole’ boy down home quality Martin exemplifies has endeared both old school and new school NASCAR fans to his side.

Martin’s success story has even crossed over into other realms because of his age. He’s finding new fans from all over who are inspired about his ability despite not knowing much about the sport. I’ll bet that Pfizer wishes they still had their logo on his hood for this type of marketing dream sweepstakes.

Drivers who will contend for the win this week begin with Greg Biffle who now in ninth place, 92 points behind Martin. Biffle won this race last season and has finished in the top-3 in his last four starts. Overall, Biffle has two wins on the track.

"I will be disappointed if we are not in contention for the win this weekend at Dover, Biffle said. We led several laps there in the spring and won this race last year. Our pit crew is at the top of their game week in and week out. I was at the shop this week going over our notes from Dover with Greg (Erwin) so we would be ready to hit the ground running as soon as we unload. Dover is a great racetrack, the racing is good and as a driver, it’s a fun place to race. We need a good finish there to keep Mark Martin in our sights. If we can keep gaining a little every week, we’ll be right there in contention for the title at Homestead."

Biffle and Erwin will be bringing the chassis that they ran at both Pocono races.

Carl Edwards is still winless this year, a major shock since he won nine races last season. He has the best average finish at Dover at 7.6 and did just that in the earlier race this season with a 7th place finish. Edwards is 11th in points, 113 points behind.

Tony Stewart started his career out doing very well at Dover, capturing two wins and nine top-5’s and then he went into four year slump with no top-5’s. In his first outing with at Dover with his new team, he finished second and would have won had the race been 397 laps. Look for Stewart to be top contender to win this week. He’s now sixth in points after leading for much of the season.

Kyle Busch isn’t in the Chase, but should be a good candidate to do well based on his record at the Dover and his recent success at Bristol. Busch’s last win of the season was at Bristol, similar in ways to Dover, and his last Dover win was last year. No pressure on Busch now, it’s all about wins and finishing the season strong, something that evaded him down the stretch last year.

Kurt Busch has not had the best of success at Dover over his career. He’s only had three top-5’s in his career, but he did have one those top-5’s this year. Even though his crew chief Pat Tryson is in lame duck status, and only allowed into Penske headquarters for Tuesday meetings, Tryson still wants that Championship attached to his resume before he leaves.

Jimmie Johnson won at Dover earlier in the year, but is bringing the chassis he drove at Michigan that led 133 laps before running out of fuel late in the race. The chassis he won with at Dover will serve as a back-up. He is favored, not just because of his wins on the track, but more so because of how dominant he’s been in Chase races winning a NASCAR record 14 times.

This week was supposed to be the debut of betting NASCAR at the track of Dover, Delaware, something that not even Las Vegas has. Sports betting was approved in Delaware a month ago, but a crusade led by the NFL stopped straight betting and wagers taken on other sports. The only thing that can be bet in Delaware now is parlays on NFL games which has drawn far less action over the first two weeks than expected.

If action on the NASCAR race had been allowed on site, the figures would have blown away what they are currently writing on NFL parlays. Imagine three days of racing on a track holds 100,000. Figure that at least half of them would wager an average of maybe $50 with the house expected hold of about 40%. It would have a been spectacular for the fans and also the state of Delaware who is now going to have a tough time matching their lofty budgeted goals.

TOP 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #16 Greg Biffle (11/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (9/1)
3) #14 Tony Stewart (7/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
5) #5 Mark Martin (8/1)

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