Photo: Justin R. Noe/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

The Monster Mile. Bristol on steroids.

No matter the nickname, Dover International Speedway lives up to the hype as being one of the most physically demanding racetracks on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit and plays host to Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400, which kicks off the second round of the playoffs.

One of the only two concrete tracks currently in use by NASCAR’s top division, drivers have likened a lap around the one-mile oval to riding a rollercoaster, as they drop off the straightaways into the turns before rocketing back uphill on corner exit.

Four-hundred laps of that and by the time the checkered flag flies, it’s as if you have just been through a boxing match with Mike Tyson.

By the Numbers

What: Gander Outdoors 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 30 of 36

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

When: Sunday, October 7

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, 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

May 2018 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford (Started second, 201 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 – 117.2
  2. Matt Kenseth – No. 6 Ford – 107.7
  3. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 105.5
  4. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 104.4
  5. Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 100.8
  6. Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 97.9
  7. Daniel Suarez – No. 19 Toyota – 96.9
  8. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 93.6
  9. Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 91.6
  10. Clint Bowyer – No. 14 Ford – 89.4

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Points Standings

  1. Kyle Busch (3055 points)
  2. Kevin Harvick (+42 over cut-off)
  3. Martin Truex Jr. (+30)
  4. Brad Keselowski (+17)
  5. Clint Bowyer (+7)
  6. Joey Logano (+6)
  7. Kurt Busch (+6)
  8. Ryan Blaney (+5)
  9. Chase Elliott (-5)
  10. Kyle Larson (-7)
  11. Aric Almirola (-12)
  12. Alex Bowman (-13)

From the Driver’s Seat

“I don’t think there is a track on the circuit that gives you the sensation of speed like Dover does,” said Matt DiBenedetto. “It might only be a one-mile racetrack, but the speeds and g-forces we pull there are nearly unmatched. It is a racetrack that you’re going to have to work hard at every lap and you’re really out of breath even after a few laps.”

Last Time at Dover

Back in May, it was an all-Ford kind of day, with the Blue Oval Brigade leading all but 26 laps on the day and the battle for the race win coming down to Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.

Harvick and Brad Keselowski swapped the lead back and forth over the first half of the race, but at lap 296, Bowyer joined in the fight and it turned into a duel between him and Harvick throughout the final 100 miles.

Bowyer may have asserted himself as one of the drivers to beat, but when rain showers set in around the track and brought out the red flag at lap 317, everything changed.

When the race resumed following the red flag, Bowyer jumped out to a sizable lead over Harvick, but that wouldn’t matter as Harvick chewed up the interval between the two in short order and made the final pass for the lead with 63 laps to go.

Though he gave it his all to try to keep up, Harvick was just too strong, streaking away to win by more than seven seconds, leaving Bowyer to have to settle for a second-place finish.

“I’m thinking, oh, my gosh, I’ve talked so much trash to him all weekend and he’s already told me that the karma train is going to run me over when it started raining,” said Harvick. “ But we had a fun weekend, just because when you come to Dover, I feel like when you come to Dover, I feel like Clint is going to be one of the people that you have to beat just because of the fact that he’s been so good for so many years here.

“To be able to race with Clint for a win is ‑‑ for me, like I told him, I said, if I’m not going to win this race today, you need to win this race, so get up there and go after it because at that point we didn’t know what was going to happen during the pit stop.  To be able to race with him is a lot of fun, and I’d much rather keep it within the house than racing with somebody else.

“It was fun with Clint, and had a really good battle there with Brad for about 50 laps at the end of the second stage.  We went back and forth and finally were able to get by him, but that was a lot of fun.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, October 5

  • MENCS Practice (11:00 am to 11:50 am – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS Qualifying (3:40 pm on NBC Sports App – tape-delayed to 5:30 pm on NBCSN)

Saturday, October 6

  • MENCS Practice (11:00 am to 11:50 am – CNBC)
  • MENCS Final Practice (1:30 pm to 2:20 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Sunday, October 7

  • MENCS Gander Outdoors 400 (2:00 pm – 400 laps, 400 miles – NBC Sports Network)

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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.