Friday, May 13, 2016

Will the new aero package allow for closer racing at Dover? Jimmie Johnson hopes so.

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

By Carol D'Agostino

Friday the 13th turned out to be an unlucky day for NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers looking to test this year’s aero package at Dover International Speedway. Four minutes into the first practice a gear failure on the
No. 10 car of Danica Patrick resulted in oil on the track, and hard crashes for her boss Tony Stewart as well as Jamie McMurray.

Practice resumed after a lengthy cleanup, but then came the rain, cancelling qualifying. The line up for Sunday’s  AAA 400 Drive for Autism is determined by the shortened first practice speeds, putting Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the front row.

Despite not having a lot of time on the track today, Jimmie Johnson said he hopes the new rules package featuring the smaller spoiler will provide more opportunities to pass on this challenging one-mile concrete track.

“Once we get into race trim here and get into a rhythm, we will get a better understanding of the aero balance, the tire combination that goes with that, and ideally hopefully the smaller spoilers will allow the cars to get closer to one another. The fastest way around this track is really chasing the bottom. If we can run closer to one another and get closer to the car in front of you, hopefully it can set up some more passing,” Johnson said.

Johnson was last year’s race winner. He's the fifth driver to visit Victory Lane at least 10 times at a single track. On Sunday, if Johnson takes the checkered flag he will join an elite group, including Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip, as the only drivers to win 11 or more races at single track.

Regardless of whether the racing will be closer or not, Johnson will no doubt be a factor.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have success at the Cup level and to have this incredible success here at Dover. The experience around the track is so intense and so fun. I guess it’s the only track that we compete on that really reminds me of my motocross or off-road roots with the transitions into the corners and off the corners,” said Johnson.

Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Drive for Autism begins at 1 p.m. and will be televised on FS1.

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs