Thursday, September 27, 2012

5 Questions Before the AAA 400 at Dover

Miles the Monster monument in the Fan Zone
Photo by Beth Bence Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs  
Miles the Monster hosts Chase race number three this weekend. Who’s going? I am hoping to meet some Skirts and Scuffs readers at the tweetup. Until then, here are five questions for you to ponder.

Will someone other than "Five-Time" visit Victory Lane?

Jimmie Johnson’s record at Dover is astounding. He is tied with Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for the most wins, with seven each, and Johnson leads all active drivers. "Five-Time" has won a third of his career Cup starts at the track (7 of 21) and has 10 top fives, 15 top 10s and 3 poles.

The other Chase drivers combined have 12 wins at the Monster Mile, and four of those belong to Jeff Gordon. Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth each have two and the two “Juniors” (Earnhardt and Truex) each have one. The other five Chasers have yet to beat the concrete oval.

If history is a good predictor, it will probably take a mechanical issue, a pit road blunder or a wreck to keep J.J. from taking the checkers.

Which non-Chasers will distinguish themselves with good finishes at Dover?

Last weekend at New Hampshire, several drivers outside the Chase finished in the top 10: Joey Logano – 8th, Brian Vickers-9th and Ryan Newman. – 10th. A handful of outsiders have good stats on the concrete track and are a threat to win, or at least finish well.

Carl Edwards boasts an average finish of 8.5 at Dover, along with a win and seven top 5s. Ryan Newman has rocketed to four poles, three wins and six top 5s and has an average finish of 11.7. Kyle Busch has two wins and seven top 5s and his brother, Kurt, won last year’s fall race. Perhaps some of these non-Chase contenders will win or finish up front in the third race of the Chase.

Photo by Beth Bence Reinke for Skirts and Scuff
Are any fun or unusual paint schemes
on tap for Dover this weekend?

The last time NASCAR visited Delaware, Jimmie Johnson’s Madagascar 3 car was a success with fans and on the track. Johnson and his crew members made folks smile as they sported multicolored clown wigs like the one Alex the Lion wore in the movie. Can anyone top a Victory Lane celebration where Miles the Monster wore the wig?

Will Denny Hamlin bring home a “W” at his least favorite track?

Hamlin has made no secret of the fact he doesn’t like racing on the one-mile concrete track. In fact, he has joked that it should be overhauled like the surface at Bristol. During a press conference on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Hamlin was asked why he thinks Dover is such a challenge for him.

“I think a lot of it is because it’s concrete,” Hamlin said. “I think the concrete surface itself just throws me a loop and I don’t have a good feel in my ass for concrete.”

In 13 career Sprint Cup starts, the JGR driver has won neither the pole nor the race at Dover and has only two top-5 finishes. The only other tracks where Hamlin remains winless in as many Cup starts are Charlotte, Daytona and Talladega.

In 2010, the year he was runner-up in the championship standings, Hamlin finished ninth and left the fall Dover race with the points lead. Can he overcome his aversion to Dover, capitalize on his current momentum and take home his first Miles the Monster trophy?

Will any of the top-12 drivers succumb to the concrete oval?

In this year’s June Dover race, one of the current Chase contenders was taken out by a crash. Only nine laps after the green flag, a multicar crash on the backstretch brought out a 20-minute red flag and sent Tony Stewart to the garage. After repairs, he rejoined the race 65 laps down in 38th spot, but worked his way up to a 25th place finish. The race also resulted in blown engines on the cars of David Reutimann, Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton.

Dover has a lot of nuances drivers have to master at once: tight pit stalls, steep banking, the unique way the concrete rubbers in and the elevation changes from the straightaway into the corners. Perhaps all the Chasers can escape a run-in with Miles this weekend, in the form of a crash or equipment failure, but probably not.

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Beth Bence Reinke is a columnist, support editor & media rep for Skirts and Scuffs. She writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth is also the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow her on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at bbreinke@skirtsandScuffs.com

2 comments :

That is an awesome mural. Right of the bat from the concrete slab. They even hired some wall removal in perth guys to build up some mini figures of slabs for this indie fest.

I find the pit stop of the races just as thrilling. These pit team crews operate in a high pressure environment and often the margin of victory and defeat. They use tools like tool hire lewes as a preferred automotive works.

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