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|Martin Truex Jr.
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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When Martin Truex Jr. wins at Dover, he dominates, and this will be one of those weekends. Only once in the last seven races at the Monster Mile has the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion finished lower than fourth.
Martin Truex Jr. +400
|Drydene 311 NASCAR Cup Series race Information
|Drydene 311 NASCAR Cup Series race
|Dover International Speedway
|Saturday, August 22, 4 p.m. EST
|How to Watch
Let’s play two! Saturday’s Drydene 311 at Dover International Speedway is the first race in a weekend NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader that will go a long way toward determining the Playoff field in NASCAR’s premier division.
Starting position is a critical factor in Dover races. The second spot on the grid has produced 19 winners in 100 races at Dover, including six of the last 17. That would seem to favor Denny Hamlin, who will take the green flag from the outside of the front row. Interestingly, though, no driver has won from the pole at Dover since Jimmie Johnson did so in the fall race of 2010.
Saturday’s Drydene 311—sporting the same name as of Sunday’s race—will be contested at 311 laps (311 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 70 and 185 laps. There are nine former Dover winners in the field for Saturday’s event, led by Jimmie Johnson with a track-record 11 victories. Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson won last year’s Cup races at the Monster Mile. Larson no longer competes in NASCAR’s top series.
Dover International Speedway is Jimmie Johnson’s favorite race track—understandably so. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has won a record 11 races there. No other driver entered in Saturday’s Drydene 311 has collected more than three victories at the Monster Mile.
Johnson’s last win at Dover came on June 4, 2017. That was also his last victory in the series. Since then, the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has endured a 117-race absence from Victory Lane.
After finishing fourth last Sunday at the Daytona Road Course, Johnson is 15th in the series standings, 25 points behind teammate William Byron for the final Playoff spot on points. Should Johnson add to his Dover win total this weekend, however, he would secure a playoff berth as a race winner.
The big question is: in his final season of full-time Cup racing, can Johnson rekindle his Dover magic?
Martin Truex Jr. was born in New Jersey, not Delaware. But Dover International Speedway is the closest NASCAR Cup Series track to Truex’s Mayetta, N.J., home, and the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has adopted the Monster Mile as his home track.
Back in 2007, Truex got his first Cup win at Dover in a rain-delayed race when he beat runner-up Ryan Newman to the finish line by a whopping 7.355 seconds after leading 216 of 400 laps. That set a pattern. In his two subsequent victories at the one-mile concrete track, Truex won by margins of 7.527 seconds (October 2016) and 9.501 seconds (May 2019).
So far this season, Truex has one victory (Martinsville) and has been overshadowed by teammate Denny Hamlin, who has won five times. That will change this weekend when Truex emerges from Hamlin’s shadow to post his fourth Dover win.
For argument’s sake, let’s say Jimmie Johnson doesn’t win either Dover race this weekend. You would still expect him to gain points on 22-year-old teammate William Byron, who has the best finish of eighth in four starts at the Monster Mile. Right?
Well, maybe. When Johnson last won at Dover in 2017, Chad Knaus as his crew chief and Knaus was integral to setting up the No. 48 Chevrolet for all of Johnson’s 11 victories. Johnson and Knaus split after the 2018 season, and Knaus now calls the shots from Byron’s pit box.
In last year’s spring race, his first at Dover with Knaus, Byron qualified second and led five laps before finishing eighth. Accordingly, it’s not safe to assume that Johnson will gain points on his young teammate simply because of his history at the track.
“I’m very optimistic about how we’re going to run,” Johnson says… “(But) I’ve kind of helped my competition in some respect, especially inside the walls of Hendrick Motorsports. Chad Knaus is on the box for the 24 car, as we all know, and William is a great student. He’s really increased his game at Dover, so I don’t think it’s going to be easy to get points on him or especially a lot of points on him.”
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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