September 25, 2009

Round two of the Chase marks the second consecutive one-mile track for the Sprint Cup Series to tackle. However, despite being the same distance, there are very few similarities between the Magic Mile of Loudon and this weekend's stop, the Monster Mile of Dover. A track already known for its treacherous high banks, its narrow pit road and its walls made of boiler-plate steel, Dover will be all the more intense this weekend.

For Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the Chase frontrunners, Sunday marks the next challenge in maintaining momentum for a run towards a Sprint Cup title. On the other end of the spectrum, for drivers such as Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon who had less than flashy runs to start their Chases, there are no more mulligans, and room for nothing more than a top five run this weekend.

Just as last week saw the Chase field dominate the front of the field all race long, fantasy owners ought to look no further than the top 12 to fill their rosters. Four hundred miles at Dover always comes with its share of spins and wrecks (thanks in no small part to its "self-cleaning" banked turns), but just as the spring race here came down to an epic battle between Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart, those accustomed to running up front will be there this Sunday, as the Cup circuit turns its attention to a track best described as "Bristol on steroids."

Carl Edwards -- They don't call the man "Concrete Carl" for nothing. Edwards, who has made a name for himself on all circuits concrete, be they on the Cup or Nationwide Series slate, has got to be thankful to be returning to Dover after a highly disappointing 17th place finish at NHMS has put him behind the 8-ball in the Chase standings. Still winless in 2009 and teetering dangerously close to falling out of this year's title hunt, look for Roush Fenway Racing to throw everything they've got to get their flagship driver up front and back into the picture.

By the Numbers: As Mike Neff said in the Frontstretch column this week, Edwards makes concrete tracks his own personal playground. He has never finished outside the top 20 at Dover ... ever. Furthermore, Cousin Carl comes into this weekend with six consecutive top-10 finishes on the Monster Mile, including a win (and he led significant laps in every one of those six races).

Jimmie Johnson -- Johnson's fourth place finish last week was exactly what the No. 48 team needed to start their drive for four straight titles. Just like each of the last three seasons, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have proven able to flip the switch come Chase time, turning on the momentum at just the right time. And Dover has been a monster that the Lowe's crew has had no problems taming.

By the Numbers: Johnson has two poles and four wins to his credit at Dover ... not to mention the fact that he's scored 10 consecutive top 15 finishes at the track. Plus, Johnson's average finish at Dover in the Chase? 8.6

Mark Martin -- Momentum, thy name is Martin. After allowing the collective eyes of NASCAR Nation to breathe a sigh of relief when he qualified for the Chase, Martin served notice last Sunday that he had gone from sentimental favorite to title contender, scoring a dominating win at a track he considered one of his worst. Now, heading to Dover, the "worst track" problem goes out the window. Martin has a long proven track record on Dover's high banks, and both former drivers Kyle Busch and Casey Mears have scored top 10s in the No. 5 car at the track in recent years.

By the Numbers: Martin has four career wins at Dover, and has scored eight top 10s at the track since 2004. Riding a streak of four consecutive top five finishes into the weekend doesn't hurt either.

Greg Biffle -- Though Biffle didn't steal a win at Loudon to shake up the Chase like he did in 2008, the driver of the No. 16 did grab a ninth place finish out of what was a sub-par performance for his team. Biffle and his team haven't been contending for wins, but have managed to score four consecutive top 15 finishes that both got them in the Chase and kept them relevant in the title hunt despite being lost for much of the weekend in Loudon. Dover, however, is a track they've not been lost at in a long time.

By the Numbers: Biffle hasn't finished outside the top 10 at Dover since 2004, and has two wins and four consecutive top 3 finishes to his credit at the track.

Ryan Newman -- While Tony Stewart has stolen the headlines all season leading the charge of Stewart-Haas Racing, in recent weeks the No. 39 team has been carrying the banner to the tune of four top 10 finishes in a row. Dover is a tough track, and that bodes very well for the Rocketman, who dominated en route to winning this race in June 2003 despite having no power-steering for over half of the race.

By the Numbers: Newman has four poles and three wins at Dover, and the move to SHR Chevrolets was good news for him; his eighth place finish in June was his first top 10 at the track since 2007.

Martin Truex Jr. - Dover is among the tracks Truex considers home. Having cut his teeth in what is now the Camping World East Series, Truex saw Dover long before hitting the big-time in NASCAR. The track is also the site of his only career Sprint Cup win, and have no doubt that the No. 1 team will be all systems go this weekend; Truex has been far from understated that he wants to get his EGR team one more victory before moving to Michael Waltrip Racing next year.

By the Numbers: Truex has a win and three top 10s on his Dover resume, along with an average finish of 12.7. Not the flashiest numbers out there, but the way that his teammate Juan Pablo Montoya is running, it's got to rub off on the No. 1 team sooner or later.

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