Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2012 Dover FedEx 400 Preview

By Micah Roberts

Kyle Busch's success at Bristol transfers well to Dover (Getty)
A third of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Sup season is in the books as we head to Dover, Delaware for the 13th race of the season. The saddest part about seeing the month of May go away is knowing that Fox coverage of the races will soon be going away for the rest of the season. Following Sunday’s coverage at Dover, NASCAR fans will have to painfully endure six weeks of NASCAR racing on TNT before moving to ABC/ESPN coverage that closes out the season beginning with the Brickyard July 29.

There are plenty of race fans who disagree with my feelings about who does the best job covering the sport. Some say Darrell Waltrip is too silly and that Fox’s actual production of each race isn’t as good as the others. However, the insights Mike Joy, Waltrip and Larry McReynolds bring to each race are unmatched by any commentating crew in the history of NASCAR.

To get us prepared for Dover, we have to consider the surface and distance of the track to help with dissecting every angle that has gone on this year and how it’s relative to this weeks race. Dover has 24 degrees of banking on a 1-mile concrete oval. There is nothing like it on the circuit. We can use a little bit of Texas and Charlotte races this year because of similar banking, but the distance doesn’t allow for the same type of speeds.

We can use the Bristol race as probably the best barometer because of similar banking and concrete, but Bristol is a half-mile and doesn’t produce the speeds we’ll see at Dover.

Then we have to look at the drivers themselves; who are the best concrete drivers?

Carl Edwards currently leads all drivers with a 7.3 average finish at Dover and also has a couple of Bristol wins, but he’s a hard sell right now just because his team isn’t performing at the same rate they did last season.

Kyle Busch has been known as ‘King of the Concrete’ for his excellence on the surface in all series. He’s got two wins at Dover and has a 13.3 average finish in 14 starts. He’s also performing at a high level right now with five top-5 finishes in the 12 races, including third-place Sunday at Charlotte.

Jimmie Johnson has six Dover wins, including three of the past six. He’s had a 9.3 average finish over his career at Dover which places him right behind Edwards with consistency. Even though Johnson finished with a disappointing 11th-place finish at Charlotte, he’s still part of one of the most dialed in teams in NASCAR right now. The momentum of the No. 48 team makes them the favorite this week.

Matt Kenseth won this race last season giving him two for his career at Dover. He also has been one of the more consistent drivers there over the last six years. In his last 12 Dover starts, Kenseth has nine top-5 finishes. Consistency and good current form make him a contender on the same level as Johnson and Busch.

Brad Keselowski hasn’t done much over his career at Dover with a best of 13th last year, but he did win at Bristol’s concrete track which makes him a viable candidate to win this week. He’s coming off a great fifth-place run at Charlotte last week.

Martin Truex Jr’s only career win came at Dover in 2007 and his strong third-place run at Bristol suggest he’s got what it takes to take the checkers here again. He will break through with a win this season and what better place than a track that is only 129 miles from his home town of Mayetta, NJ.

“I always look forward to Dover no matter what the situation," Truex Jr said earlier this week. "Aside from on the track stuff, it’s just fun to go up there. I’ve got a lot of friends and family that come to that race and that makes it extra special for me no matter what.

“I feel like Dover is probably the next track where we have a real shot to get back to victory lane. We did the tire test there a few months ago and had a really fast car there too. I always look forward to Dover but definitely more this year with the race cars we have and the team that we’ve got right now. I know we will be fast. It will be all about setting the car up for the long runs. We’ve got a great game plan going in. I think we can win the thing.”

Enjoy the race, make some money and farewell to Fox until next year. Boogity-boogity-boogity!

Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #18 Kyle Busch (8/1)
2) #17 Matt Kenseth (10/1)
3) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
4) #2 Brad Keselowski (15/1)
5) #56 Martin Truex Jr. (30/1)

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