Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

Following a wild Talladega weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series hits the road back toward the mid-Atlantic as they set their sights on Dover International Speedway and Sunday’s running of the AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

Dover began its life as an asphalt track back in 1969, but in 1995, the track was converted to concrete, making it one of only two on the circuit.

As one of the two concrete tracks on the NASCAR schedule, the one-mile high banked oval that is Dover has always drawn similarities to Bristol and is often referred to as “Bristol on steroids”. The track is one that can reach out and bite an unsuspecting driver at any time, turning a Sunday drive into a demolition derby in an instant. Over the years, the Monster Mile has claimed numerous victims, from Joey Logano barrel rolling down the banking in 2009 to Matt Kenseth piling into the tire barrier in 2004 to a wild multi-car crash the blocked the track in 2011.

Will the Monster stay tame this go around or is he ready to chew up and spit out some more cars?

By the Numbers

What: AAA 400 Drive for Autism, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 11 of 36

Where: Dover International Speedway – Dover, Delaware (First race: 1969)

When: Sunday, May 6

TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, 2:00 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size: 1.0-mile concrete oval

Banking: 24 degrees in turns, nine degrees on straightaways

Race Length: 400 laps, 400 miles

Stage Lengths: First two stages: 120 laps each; Final Stage: 160 laps

June 2017 Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet (Started 14th, seven laps led)

October 2017 Race Winner: Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota (Started second, 30 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford (21.892 seconds, 164.444 mph – 06/01/2014)

Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Dover:

  1. Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 118.0
  2. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 107.6
  3. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 105.8
  4. Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 102.6
  5. Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 97.2
  6. Daniel Suarez – No. 19 Toyota – 92.7
  7. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 91.6
  8. Erik Jones – No. 20 Toyota – 90.4
  9. Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 89.8
  10. Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford – 89.1

From the Driver’s Seat

“Dover is really a tricky place,” said 11-time winner, Jimmie Johnson. “There are usually quite a few caution flags so you have to find a balance between a “green” track for the first ten or 15 laps to a longer run where there is a lot of rubber laid down on the track on a longer green flag run. Finding your balance is probably the most challenging thing at Dover. Corner entry is everything. Concrete tracks are poured in squares just like on an interstate so there are a bunch of expansion joints around the track and it really shakes and rattles the car. It’s bumpy – and there are bumps in turns one and three. So, if your car isn’t bottoming out and your splitter isn’t hitting, you are usually ok and it’s just part of the ride at Dover.”

Last Time at Dover

Since breaking through for his first win of the season at Pocono in late July last year, Kyle Busch was on fire, winning four of the next nine races, including two in a row in the playoffs between New Hampshire and Dover.

However, his Dover win was not as easy as some of his others. Over the closing laps, he had to run down Chase Elliott from more than four seconds back and then pass him with just two circuits remaining to take over the lead and the win. Of course, it did not hurt that Elliott was held up by lapped traffic, allowing Busch to close the gap and make his way past him for the victory.

“It’s no doubt the moment that you live for,” said Busch. “It’s the moment that all these guys live for and what we with do with this M&M’s Caramel team and this Toyota Camry was not the best there early on, but we made a lot of gains on it and got it where it was really good there at the end and I was making the most out of it there and being able to run the top and get some speed going with some momentum around the top side.

“I can’t say enough about Chase (Elliott). I mean, he’s an awesome competitor and great kid, great friend. I raced with him in late models and coming off of (Turn) 2 there, you know, he could have pulled up and checked up my momentum. I did kind of check up because I wasn’t quite sure, but then he gave me enough room and I put it back down and just kept my momentum up there, got along side of him and get ready for the entry to (Turn) 3.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, May 4

  • MENCS Practice (10:35 am to 11:25 am – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS Qualifying (3:20 pm – FOX Sports 1)

Saturday, May 5

  • MENCS Practice (9:30 am to 10:20 am – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS Final Practice (Noon to 12:50 pm – FOX Sports 1)

Sunday, May 6

  • MENCS AAA 400 Drive for Autism (2:00 pm – 400 laps, 400 miles – FOX Sports 1)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.