May 14, 2010

It was quite the weekend for the surgically repaired Denny Hamlin at the "Lady in Black" last weekend, when he became just the third driver to sweep both races. Hamlin enters the esteemed company of Dale Earnhardt (1987) and Mark Martin (1993) with the accomplishment. Since his ACL surgery and the return of the rear spoiler, the Chesterfield, Va. native has looked unstoppable with three victories in the past six races. Chances are, however, that some of that positive momentum comes to an end this Sunday afternoon at the not so friendly Monster Mile -- one of his worst tracks, statistically speaking.

Dover International Speedway is a one-mile concrete track, one of only three on the NASCAR slate; the other two concrete circuits being at Bristol and Nashville. With 24 degrees of banking in the corners, The Monster Mile is an intimidating, sheet-metal crushing venue that can gobble up even the very best of drivers. One thing is sure: Sunday's race is unlikely to be a snoozer, especially if you're a Fantasy owner at a track where every corner can be an adventure. Let's start with the favorites....


Carl Edwards:

It hasn't been the greatest season so far for Cousin Carl. Yes, he's picked up five top 10s (with his best showing being a fifth at Richmond two weeks ago) but with only two laps led all year, it's becoming apparent that Edwards is a frontrunner, but not really in a position to make a real push for the title. The good news, however, is that Dover is one of Edwards' best tracks: one win, seven top 10s, a lowest finish of 18 and 297 laps led in 11 attempts. He might not win this weekend but expect Edwards to be a challenger all day.

By the Numbers: Edwards has led laps in six of the last seven races at the Monster Mile.

Jimmie Johnson:

The trouble with Double J is that people are far too quick to write him off after just a couple of mediocre starts. And with (gasp) no wins in the last six races, fans and pundits seem all too keen to jump on the "Jimmie's done" bandwagon. That would be a big mistake. As with many tracks on the slate, Johnson excels at Dover. He's won the last two races -- eviscerating the field in 2009, leading 271 of 400 laps -- and has 11 top 10s in 16 attempts. Don't be surprised, then, if Johnson makes it four wins in 12 on the season this Sunday afternoon.

By the Numbers: Johnson has led an impressive 1206 laps at Dover.

Matt Kenseth:

As with his fellow Roush racers, Kenseth has struggled to make the breakthrough from top 10s to race wins in 2010. But as with Edwards, Dover is a track Kenseth tends to enjoy. In the last four races at the Delaware track, Kenseth has finished fourth, second, fourth and third and he has a win and 14 top 10s in 22 total starts. It's been 45 races since Kenseth last went to Victory Lane. This weekend might just change that statistic.

By the Numbers: After starting out the season with five straight top-10 runs, Kenseth has just one top 10 in the last six races.


Jamie McMurray:

Given where McMurray was at the end of last season, 2010 has been a rousing success that started with a win in the biggest race of them all: the Daytona 500. He was second at Talladega and then again under the lights at Darlington last Saturday and appears to be a different driver to the one that wandered almost aimlessly through four largely barren years at Roush Fenway Racing. With confidence high, McMurray could well be a frontrunner this Sunday afternoon.

By the Numbers: McMurray has completed 5549 of 5604 laps he's run in 14 attempts at Dover -- a 99 percent clip.

Martin Truex Jr.:

Truex Jr.'s lone win (in 164 attempts) came at Dover in 2007 and he has three top tens in eight attempts at the one-mile bullring. After a so-so start to the season the driver of the #56 NAPA Camry has three top tens in the last six weeks so with confidence high, you can be sure the NJ native will be relishing a trip to what is practically a local track for him.

By the Numbers: Truex sits just 16 points out of 12th place. A really good run at Dover will vault him back into an all-important Chase spot.

Jeff Burton:

Arguably driving the car to beat until he ran over his air hose in a late race pit stop at Darlington, Burton is agitating for a win. The usually even keeled vet was especially fired up after last Saturday night: "We have to make a decision whether we want to be a championship team or do we just want to pretend to be one. I think we're a championship team. I believe the Cat Racing team will get it together and we'll be just fine." Strong words, indeed. Don't be surprised to see him back that up this weekend where he's not finished lower than 16th since 2004.

By the Numbers: Burton has 13 top tens and an average finish of 16.3 at Dover

Who'll win? Jimmie Johnson: I'm backing Johnson to right the ship (if indeed he needs to) and make it three straight at the Monster Mile.

Up Next: It's the All-Star Race and one mad dash for the big bucks.



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