The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competes at Dover International Speedway this week for the Apache Warrior 400. The race can be seen Sunday at 2pm ET on NBC Sports Network. This will be the third and final race in the Round of 16 Playoffs for NASCAR’s top series. The “Monster Mile” is one of the best tracks for racing so I expect an exciting race this week.
The wreck last week at New Hampshire sucked for my Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing and picks Fox Fantasy Auto Racing picks. I had Kurt Busch in my Yahoo lineup and Kevin Harvick on my Fox team. Both drivers were taken out and ruined my day. My Yahoo team scored 220 points and dropped my picks to the top 97% (7,972 points). My Fox picks only scored 165 points and dropped me out of the top 20 in the overall standings for the first time this season (My picks are ranked 41st overall with 4,994 points).
Fantasy Live continued to be my best game. My drivers were able to lead every lap and score 438 points. My picks are beating 99.7% of the entries and are 677th in the overall standings. I had a great day in DraftKings with my cash lineup (Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Daniel Suarez, Danica Patrick and Aric Almirola). I cashed all 10 lineups I played last week, so New Hampshire was not too bad.
Now onto to Dover…
The MENCS last competed at Dover in June. The race was dominated by Kyle Larson (241 laps led) and Martin Truex Jr. (102 laps led), but Jimmie Johnson was able to take the Checkered Flag and win his 11th race at the Monster Mile. (Kyle Busch won the pole and had the fastest cat in all practices but he left the pits with 3 tires and ruined his day.)
Here is the Dover Race Rewind.
This week I used the driver rating and average finishing positions at Dover, results from June race at the Monster Mile, average running position in the last four races and results on high-banked tracks to determine which drivers will run well this week. Here are the results from my model:
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Kyle Larson
- Matt Kenseth
- Kyle Busch
- Chase Elliott
- Jimmie Johnson
- Kevin Havick
- Denny Hamlin
- Daniel Suarez
- Brad Keselowski
- Erik Jones
- Kasey Kahne
- Joey Logano
- Jamie McMurray
- Kurt Busch
Dover is a rhythm racetrack. Once a driver figures out when to get into the gas and when to brake, they usually figure out how to tame the Monster Mile. The drivers in the top 15 in the model should be the best picks for the race Sunday.
Pick to Win
Kyle Larson is my pick to win Sunday. He dominated the last race at Dover and he could easily do it again this week. Larson qualified 5th and led 241 laps on his way to a 2nd-place finish. Larson has an average finishing position of 5.5 at the track (not counting the race last year where he was running up front and had a mechanical issue). I am sure Larson would love to make a statement to Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch this week just to say… “Don’t forget about me.” He has two wins and four finishes in the top five in his last six races. Larson is the best pick in the field this week.
Martin Truex Jr. will either be my pick to win or in the Contenders column in every race. The No. 78 team has no weakness. Truex is from New Jersey and he considers Dover his home track. He won this race last year and finished 3rd in June. Truex has also started the last two races at Dover on the front row and led 289 laps. The No. 78 car will qualify up front, lead a lot of laps and finish in the top three this week, but I do not need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.
Kyle Busch could easily be entering the race this weekend as the defending race winner at Dover. He dominated all of the practices and won the pole for the last race at Dover. Busch was leading the race when he came into the pits. He left before the left rear tire changer could get the tire on the car. He went a lap down and drove his way back inside the top 10. Busch finished 2nd in the last two fall races at the track. He will have a lot of momentum after winning last week at New Hampshire.
Jimmie Johnson should be the driver to beat at Dover. He has 11 wins, 3,100 laps led and 3 poles at the Monster Mile. Johnson won the last race at the track and it would surprise no one if he did it again. After going into hibernation for the summer, Johnson is starting to wake up and that could be trouble for the field. Johnson finished 8th at Richmond, 8th at Chicago and 14th at New Hampshire (His average running position at Loudon was 6th best). Keep an eye on the No. 48 car in practice. If they have any speed, Johnson must be in all lineups this week.
Matt Kenseth does not lead a lot of laps at Dover but he is pretty good at finishing up front. Kenseth won at Dover last year and he is running out of tracks where he could win again. Kenseth has an average finishing position of 6.25 in his last four races at the Monster Mile. The No. 20 car is one of the safest picks in the field this week.
Kevin Harvick would be the best pick in the race if NASCAR ran 300 laps instead of 400 at Dover. Harvick has led 786 laps in his last six races at the Monster Mile. He only has one win to show for it. In 2015 Harvick led 355 of the 400 laps. That is domination!! His car is not that fast now but it should be good enough to keep him in the top five Sunday.
Chase Elliott is at his best at Dover. Statically the Monster Mile is his 2nd-best track (Behind Chicago). Elliott has run three races in the MENCS at Dover and he has never finished outside the top five. His average finishing position is 3.6 at the track. Although the No. 24 team was penalized after Chicago, Elliott is still +26 over the cut line in the playoffs. Elliott needs a top-10 finish to advance to the Round of 12. As long as he has an average race (for him that is 3.6), he will advance to Charlotte to continue to compete for the championship.
Daniel Suarez is still looking for his first win in the MENCS. I doubt he will get it because the competition is just too tough. He should have a good chance to finish in the top five for the 2nd time this season (His first top 5 was at Watkins Glen). Suarez has done a great job at improving when the series competes at a track for the second time. Suarez qualified 3rd and finished 6th in his first race at the Monster Mile. He should easily finish in the top 10 Sunday.
Erik Jones is another rookie who should run well this week. He was running in the top five in overtime of the June race when Ty Dillon got loose and took out Jones. His average running position in the race was 7.8. Jones won the Xfinity Series race at Dover last fall and he should be good enough to finish in the top 10 Sunday.
Kurt Busch had a fast car in the first race at Dover. He ran all of the practices in the top 10 and qualified 6th. He was running 4th in the race when he got loose and took out Brad Keselowski. The No. 41 team was running well the last month but bad luck found the team last week. Busch is in a “must win” situation this week so he is a high risk, high reward driver. I will put my money on the Las Vegas native to cash in at the Monster Mile.
Kasey Kahne by the numbers should run well this week. Dover has historically been the best track for Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne has the 5th best average finishing position in the last five races at the Monster Mile. He was running in the top 10 in June when he was caught up in Ty Dillon and Erik Jones’ wreck. Kahne is also in a “must win” situation. I like his new crew chief (Darian Grubb) a lot more than I like Kahne, so this pick is mostly because I believe his team will give Kahne a car fast enough to run in the top 10 Sunday. Now, can he get the job done?
I will have my picks updated on my website (Fantasy Racing Tips) after final practice Saturday.
If you need any further advice with your team or want to see my updated picks after Happy Hour practice, look for me on Twitter (@MrFantasyNASCAR).