The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete at Dover International Speedway this week. There was one practice Friday and then qualifying took place Friday afternoon. The teams had two practices Saturday morning to dial in their cars for the race Sunday.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the practices at Dover…
The weather was cloudy and 70 degrees in final practice. The forecast for Sunday is not looking good. There is a 40% chance of rain and temps in the low 60’s. The amount of rubber on the track affects the cars more than the track temperatures so if the rubber is washed off it will be a completely different track from what they practiced on.
MENCS teams received 4 sets of tires for the three practice sessions. They also received another set of tires for qualifying and to start the race on. This will be the same tire used on the concrete surface at Bristol. I expect the drivers who race well at Bristol to be the ones upfront Sunday.
Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch had to serve 15-minute penalties in final practice for failing inspection twice.
Chase Elliott: This could be the week Elliott gets his first MENCS win. He was leading this race with 1 lap to go last October. Elliott has never finished outside the top 5 at Dover. His average finishing position is 3.25 in his 4 races at the track. Elliott made some long runs and told his team, “Nice job guys… It has a lot of speed just like it always does. It’s pretty close to last year.” Elliott dominated this race last October.
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson leads the series with 11 and 3,105 laps led at Dover. No one else in the series is even close. The No. 48 car finished 1st and 3rd in the two races at the Monster Mile last year and Johnson qualifier outside the top 10 for both races. The No. 48 team brought the same car that finished 3rd at Bristol. After a series of long runs Johnson said, “I can run the middle and up but I need to rotate a little better to run the bottom.” Johnson loves to run the seem of the aprin at this track to pass a lot of cars. If they get that dialed down the No. 48 car will be very dangerous this week.
Alex Bowman: Bowman has 4 races at Dover in the MENCS on his resume but none of them came in a Hendrick Motorsports car. His best finish is 20th in 2015. Bowman was having problems with a tight racecar. He said, “It slides up the track when I try to rotate through the corner.” He was also complaining about the car bouncing too much.
William Byron: Byron will be making his first start in the MENCS at Dover. He does have two races in the Xfinity Series at the track on his resume. Byron finished 3rd and 6th in those races and led 62 laps. Byron said he spent a lot of time with Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott this week in the simulator. He liked his car. He said, “Just a little edgy on the front but overall it is not bad.”
Kyle Larson: Larson was the best driver at Dover last year. He led 241 laps in the spring and 137 laps in the fall. Larson has finished 2nd in his last two spring races at the Monster Mile. The No. 42 team brought the same car that led 200 laps at Bristol. They worked on long run speed and then tried to dial down the short run speed in the car by adjusting the tire pressures in each run. The team thought their car was very close.
Jamie McMurray: McMurray finished both races at Dover in the top 10 last year but he is a hard driver to trust in 2018. McMurray only has one finish inside the top 15 this season. That is not very good. McMurray was fighting a tight racecar. They could not get the car to run the bottom of the track.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick has been hit or miss at Dover in his career. He usually runs up front and leads most of the laps or finishes outside the top 15. This team is running hot in 2018 so I expect the No. 4 car to be good Sunday. The No. 4 team worked on their long run speed. That is typical for this team. Harvick really liked the balance of the car. Rodney Childers told Harvick, “Your 20th lap has the same lap time as your 10th lap. We are not losing any falloff.” That means they are goooood!
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer is having a career year with 6 finishes in the top 10 and 1 win. He has also led 260 laps this season. Bowyer finished 6th in his last race at Dover so the team has a lot to work with this week. Bowyer had a slight tire rub after their first run. They changed the tire pressures and sent Bowyer back out. The problem was fixed. Bowyer felt a little loose on exit but overall they liked their car. After his final run Bowyer said, “This is the best car we have had all season.”
Kurt Busch: Busch is another Stewart-Haas Racing driver who is having a great season. He has not been to Victory Lane yet and I doubt it will happen at Dover. Busch has struggled at the Monster Mile while driving for SHR. His average finishing position is 20.1. Busch was fighting a tight racecar. He said, “I can run the top but it is tight on the bottom.” He watched Harvick dive into the corner and then Busch went out to try and run Harvick’s line. The No. 41 car picked up some speed when Busch changed his line.
Aric Almirola: Almirola has the talent to run well at Dover but never had the car. His average finishing position is 17th but he had back-to-back top 5 finishes in 2015. The No. 10 team brought their Bristol car to the track this week. It qualified 19th and finished 6th. Almirola liked his car. He said, “It is a little bouncy on the entry but it settles down after about 5-6 laps.” Almirola had the fastest single-lap speed and they really liked their car on the long runs.
Brad Keselowski: The Blue Deuce has run well at Dover but not well enough to be considered a dominator. Keselowski has finished 3 of his last 4 races at the track in the top 10. Do not sleep on Keselowski this week. The No. 2 team really likes their car. Paul Wolfe told Keselowski, “No one is better than us on the long runs.” Keselowski said, “The balance it really good. It takes off and lands about where it needs to be.”
Joey Logano: Logano will have some momentum this week after his win at Talladage. Logano has been pretty good at Dover if you do not count the 2017 season. The No. 22 team went into a major slump after their encumbered win, so I will look at his results in the previous races and those are pretty good. Logano did not work on any qualifying runs in Friday’s practice. It showed. He qualified 18th. Logano was the first car out on Saturday and went to the top of the speed chart. Logano said, “Race trim is pretty good.”
Ryan Blaney: Dover ranks as one of the worst tracks for Blaney. He has 4 starts at the track and only 1 finish inside the top 20. He has also never lad a lap at the Monster Mile. The No. 12 team was not too happy with the car. They spent most of the morning practice working on the car and Blaney spent most of the time watching other cars on the track to see where they were running. They put Keselowski’s setup in the car for final practice and the car picked up a lot of speed. Blaney had one of the fastest cars on the long run speed.
Paul Menard: Menard has not been very good at Dover and neither has the Wood Brothers. Menard has a 23.4 average finishing position in his last 5 races at the track. Menard was fastest in Friday’s practice but he was in qualifying trim for the entire practice. In race trim on Saturday he was decent. Menard was fighting a tight racecar and ran most of his laps inside the 15th position on the speed chart.
Kyle Busch: Busch will have a lot of momentum entering Dover after winning 3 of the last 4 races. Busch has the second-most wins (3) and the second-most laps led (1,188) at the Monster Mile. Adam Stevens told Busch, “Your long run speed looks really competitive. I am going to try a few things to speed you up at the start of the run.” Busch made some more long runs and said, “It starts out tight but gets better and better with each lap.” Busch made some practice runs down pit road and hen parked his car with 10 minutes left in practice. That usually means they are happy with the car.
Erik Jones: Jones has two starts in the MENCS at Dover and he ran well in both. Jones finished 15th in his first race and 12th last October. His average running position was inside the top 10. Jones always runs well at Bristol and that should translate into positive results at Dover. His car is a lot like the No. 18 car (Kyle Busch). The car has great long run speed but it takes about 5 laps to get up to speed. The trend in 2018 is to have a lot of long runs, so this should help Jones Sunday.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has run well at Dover if you take away the October race when an axle broke in his car. Hamlin has finished the previous 3 races at the Monster Mile inside the top 10. Hamlin made some long runs and said, “It is rattling like crazy. We need a little more stability.” Hamlin worked a lot on his pit road speed. He had 2 penalties at Dover last year. His car is decent, but he needs to avoid mistakes on Sunday.
Daniel Suarez: Dover was the best track for Suarez last year. He finished 6th in his first race and 8th in the fall race. After a slow start to the 2018 season, the No. 19 team is starting to get over their sophomore slump. The No. 19 team had a penalty in the morning practice so they were not able to make too many long runs. They did work on their long run speed in final practice and Suarez was happy with the car. He said, “The balance is good…the entry is good… the exit is a little loose.” Suarez had a good car on the long runs.
Martin Truex Jr.: This is the home track for Truex and he has been the best driver in the last 4 races at the Monster Mile. Truex has a series-high 127.2 driver ranking, the second-best average finishing position (4.2) and led the second-most laps (387). Truex really liked his car. He said, “Wow it dives into the corner really well and the back has a lot of grip on the exit.” The team was working on their long run speed.
Ryan Newman: Dover ranks as the 3rd-best track for Newman. His average finishing position in the last 4 races is 12.5. That includes a 4th-place finish in this race last year. Newman said, “I feels pretty good but it feels like it lacks some speed. We need to get it more on edge to get more speed.” The car was too tight.
Austin Dillon: Dover is the 13th-best track for Dillon. He usually does not finish inside the top 10 but he has a history of running inside the top 15. Dillon is not the best pick this week but you could do a lot worse as well. Dillon went out for some short runs and told his team, “Too tight…too tight…man it is way too tight!!!” They brought the No. 3 car in for some major adjustments.
Ty Dillon: Dillon is not having a very good 2018 season. He only has 2 finishes inside the top 20 (Texas and Talladega). His average finishing position in his 3 races at Dover is 22.6. Dillon did not look very good in practice. I did not get any info on the car but most of his lap times were around 30th fastest.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne is a great sleeper pick this week. Dover is his best track. Kahne has a 9.5 average finishing position in his last 6 races at the track. Leavine Family Racing does not have the cars that Hendrick Motorsports does, but Kahne has the talent to get to the top 10 this week. Kahne knows what he needs from his car at this track. He told his team, “Entry and exit is really close. It’s just a little snug in the corner but it gets better after the tires come up to pressure.”
AJ Allmendinger: There is not a lot to say about Allmendinger’s results at Dover. He usually finishes between 18th and 25th. That is about where I expect him to run this week. Allmendinger was not happy with his car. He said, “We missed something here man… no turn in the car on entry… it turned a little bit on the landing… but we are not even close getting into the throttle. It is junk.”
Chris Buescher: Buescher has 4 races in the MENCS at Dover and his average finishing position is 23.5. His best race was in 2016 when he finished 18th. Buescher is going to be a really risky pick in games that award position differential points. Buescher qualified 16th and most of his laps in final practice were outside the top 25.
Darrell Wallace Jr.: Bubba has never competed in a MENCS race at Dover. He does have 6 races in the Xfinity Series at Dover on his resume. His average starting position is 8.2 and his average finishing position is 10.2. Wallace made a lot of long runs in final practice. He said the car was pretty good they were just lacking speed. Wallace ran must of his laps between 23rd and 28th on the speed chart.
Trevor Bayne: This will be the last race for Bayne in the No. 6 car before Matt Kenseth takes over for a while next week at Kansas. Bayne needs to have a good run at Dover. He finished 21st and 24th in the two races last year. I expect about the same Sunday. Bayne did not look very good in practice. He spent a lot of time talking to his teammate (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) but it did not seem to help. The car was bouncing a lot and would not rotate through the corners.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse is one of the best drivers at Bristol but for some reason that has not translated into success at Dover. Stenhouse has 20.9 average finishing positions in his 11 races at the track. The No. 17 team was happy with their car. Stenhouse was trying to work in a top groove and his lap times were 20th fastest. He would have been faster at the bottom of the track. He said, “The back tires slide a bit on the exit but it is really good everywhere else.”
David Ragan: Ragan has really run a lot better since Front Row Motorsports signed an alliance with Roush Fenway Racing. The team now gets their cars and engines from Roush and the two teams share notes. Ragan finished 12th at Bristol and 6th at Talladega in the new RFR cars. Ragan did not qualify well be he thought the car was decent in race trim. He said, “It just needs to turn a little better on landing. Not bad.” Ragan should be a good candidate to score place differential points this week. Ragan will be in a lot of my DFS lineups this week.
Michael McDowell: McDowell is not running as well this year as he has in the past. He only has two finishes inside the top 15 (Daytona and Texas). He has not been very good at Dover in his career. His average finishing position at the track is 35.1. McDowell was not happy with his car. He said, “I cannot get out of the corner. I hit the throttle and it shoots up the track.” After his last run McDowell said, “It is too loose. I almost crashed twice. I just cannot drive it.”
Matt Dibenedetto: Dibendetto is one of the best sleeper picks at Bristol and you would think that would make him a good pick for Dover. That is not the case. Dibendetto has a 32.1 average finishing position at the Monster Mile. Dibenedetto made a lot of short runs. He said, “It starts a 6 or 7 tight and at the end of the run it is a 3 or 4 tight.” We need to start a little better. I am not sure what kind of pressures we are running.”
Cars that looked good in practice: Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson
Good Sleeper Picks: Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, William Byron, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne and David Ragan
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