|The Dover Downs King|
With Carl Edwards winning last week’s Coca-Cola 600, there are now nine drivers with wins which should be good enough to get them into the Chase when the lineup is set after race No. 26 at Richmond. That means there are seven Chase positions available with 14 races to go until the playoff field is set.
This is the second season of the current Chase format and you can see that the drivers are applying several different strategies. For the drivers with wins already they’re comfortable and trying to go all out for another win. Their crews are trying radical strategies to make the car faster to get wins and if they fail, so what, they’re making the Chase anyway. When Jimmie Johnson spun out and crashed into the inside wall Sunday night to finish 40th, he just shrugged his shoulders and said it was no big deal. Everyone who has a win right now has that luxury to be relaxed for the next 14 weeks because they’re in.
However, it’s those winless drivers that are stressing a little more right now. They know it’s hard enough to beat the likes of Kevin Harvick and Johnson on a weekly basis, so while they want to win, they also have to try and get as many points as possible to for the chance that a few drivers will still gain entry into the Chase. Martin Truex Jr. has the second most points in the series, but is in 10th position for the Chase because of no wins. He should get in regardless of not winning, but then you have others that have been up and down like Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne that are still winless. Jamie McMurray is having a great year so far in 11th-place, but isn't comfortable. Ryan Newman, Aric Alimirola and Paul Menard sit 14th-16th in points, but are no where near being comfortable. The top four drivers outside looking in are separated by 24 points -- Clint Bowyer, Danica Patrick, Greg Biffle and A.J. Allmendinger.
Within the next 14 races, there are a couple of races that could serve as wild cards for smaller teams like last season when Allmendinger won on the road course at Watkins Glen and Almirola won at Daytona. Neither of those drivers would have made the Chase without those wins. However, this week’s race at Dover doesn’t fit that criteria because it is usually won by an elite team, and in most cases, the most elite of all, Jimmie Johnson.
In 29 career Dover starts, Johnson has won a track-record nine times on the high-banked 1-mile concrete paperclip. The track was built in 1969 and got to witness all the greats like Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Dale Earnhardt, but it’s Johnson who stands alone as the best all-time. He’s won three of the past six Dover races, including this race last season. It’s because of that dominance that he should be considered the favorite this week and supplant Harvick who has held that that status at every non-plate track.
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