Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Friday, May 29, 2009

Autism Speaks 400 Preview

After a hectic and busy week -- one in which Mother Nature, "Billy Bad Butt" and Dale Earnhardt Jr. stole the headlines -- the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Dover, Del. this weekend in an attempt to tame the Monster Mile.

All three national touring series will be at Dover International Speedway this weekend, with the Camping World Truck Series running on Friday -- and points leader Ron Hornaday looking for his second win of the season -- and the Nationwide Series running on Saturday, with Kyle Busch looking to return to Victory Lane and widen his points lead over Carl Edwards.

A natural storyline heading into this weekend's race (aside from it being the final race FOX will cover this season -- no more Digger!) will be how the No. 88 team adjusts to its new crew chief. In reality, though, that story was talked to death on Thursday -- and the semi-permanent change to Lance McGrew on the pit box won't take hold until next weekend at Pocono, so let's table that one for the time being.

Focusing on the race itself, Busch is the defending race winner. He took this event last year in leading 156 laps to pick up his fourth of what would be eight wins on the season. Busch wasn't the dominant car, though; Greg Biffle, who would later win the fall race at Dover last season, led all drivers in pacing 168 circuits.

In short, when looking for a driver to win this weekend's race, it's a safe bet to either pick Busch (as much as that might turn your stomach) or one of the drivers out of Roush-Fenway Racing. Roush drivers have won five of the last 10 races at Dover -- and last year, four Roush drivers finished in the Top 10 in the spring race.

Roush drivers finished 1-2-3 in the fall race; Biffle won, while Matt Kenseth took second and Carld Edwards -- who has one career win at Dover -- finished third.

Dover is as good a place as any for Roush to get back its groove; since Kenseth won the first two races of the season, no Roush driver has seen Victory Lane. Not Biffle, not preseason title favorite Edwards, not David Ragan or Jamie McMurray. For whatever reason, Roush has lagged behind the likes of Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing -- and even Stewart-Haas Racing -- this season.

Edwards did finish fourth in Charlotte on Monday, and he has to be a favorite any time the Sprint Cup Series visits a concrete surface -- between his success at Dover and Bristol, on top of Nationwide Series success at Nashville, Edwards has earned the nickname "Concrete Carl."

But don't be shocked if either Biffle or Kenseth steal the checkered flag, either. Even though both drivers are currently in the top 12 in points, neither can truly be considered a title threat. A win at Dover would be a good way to kick off the summer swing and get Roush back on track.

But don't discount Busch -- even if you really want to. Since sweeping the weekend races at Richmond earlier this month, Busch has yet to see Victory Lane again. He easily could've won the Nationwide Series race at Darlington, if not for a flat tire with two laps left that forced him onto pit road, and were it not for Mother Nature, Busch almost certainly would've swept the weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

In short, the racing gods might think the driver of the No. 18 Toyota is due.

If I really had to settle on one guy, though, I'll pick Edwards to get his first win of the season. The No. 99 has been off much of the year, but the team is starting to catch up a little. His Top-5 at Charlotte last week might've been weather-aided, but that's the sort of momentum that team can use to get itself back into true championship contention.

Something tells me we're gonna see a backflip Sunday evening.

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