NASCAR Dover 2013: FedEx 400 viewer's guide

Patrick Smith

Storylines, drivers to watch for, the actual start time and other information you need to know for today's Dover NASCAR race.

Dover International Speedway is a one-mile, high-banked oval that offers teams a unique challenge due to its concrete surface and inclination for being hard on both man and machine. Fittingly, the track is nicknamed the "Monster Mile," and as you watch drivers try to tame the monster here are the storylines and drivers to be mindful of.

Storylines

Joe Gibbs Racing is again the team to beat

If the question is which team has dominated this NASCAR season, the answer is Joe Gibbs Racing with five wins through 12 races and they have led nearly half of all laps completed. From all indications it appears that dominance has carried over to Dover.

While the one-mile oval has been a track where Denny Hamlin has struggled, those issues appear to be in the past. Last fall he started on the pole with an eighth-place finish, and on Friday he again set fast time. Sharing Row 2 are his teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, each of whom has two victories on the "Monster Mile" and were among the quickest in practice.

The only potential hurdle is engine reliability, a continued weakness for the JGR outfit and an issue which again surfaced last week at Charlotte when Busch excited with a blown motor. And it was also the culprit for dropping out of this race a year ago.

With win Johnson can rewrite Dover record book

A victory Sunday would be Jimmie Johnson's eighth at Dover and would break the tie with Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for most all-time wins. And it appeared Johnson was on the path to doing just that when he paced Friday's lone practice session.

However, a bobble on his qualifying lap cost the five-time NASCAR champion dearly and as a result he will lineup 24th on the grid. And on a track like Dover where being in the middle of the pack often leads to trouble, Johnson has a tall task just to get into the top 10, let alone contend for the win.

Truex looking to recapture Dover magic

Six years ago in this race Martin Truex Jr. led 206 of 400 laps and scored his breakthrough maiden Sprint Cup victory. But 215 races and several near-misses later, he is still in search of win No. 2.

But having qualified second and showing consistent speed in practice Truex's winless streak could come to an end Sunday. In addition he seems to be peaking. After a slow start to his season -- he was ranked 25th in points through five races -- he enters Dover with four top 10s in his last six races and has risen to ninth in the standings.

If Truex does win it would set a record for the longest span between a driver's first and second Cup victories.

Worth Noting
  • Since the inception of the Chase in 2004, every winner of the Dover spring race has gone on to qualify for the Chase.
  • Last week at Charlotte was the first time Brad Keselowski failed to finish a Cup race since March of 2012 (Phoenix) -- a span of 46 consecutive races without a DNF.
Favorites

1. Matt Kenseth

No driver has won more races (three) or led more laps (893) this year than Kenseth. And with a favorable starting position (third) and the fastest car in final practice he has an excellent shot of increasing both totals Sunday.

2. Kyle Busch

Though he doesn't have the gaudy stats due to a propensity for bad luck and mechanical failures, Busch is almost always stellar at Dover. Case in point, he was sidelined in this race last year because of an engine failure and in the fall, he led 302 laps before a late pit stop for fuel ended any chance of winning. He should again be formidable Sunday, but whether he can win is another question.

3. Jimmie Johnson

Starting 24th is worrisome, but seven career Dover wins and an average finish of 8.6 is too much to ignore. And the thinking is patience combined with a fast Chevy and sound pit strategy should move Johnson up the running order and into contention by race end.

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