THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads for the Monster Mile at Dover

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This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the self proclaimed Monster Mile at the Dover motor speedway in Dover, Delaware. This track is a one mile oval with extreme 24 degree banking which makes the race track tough to negotiate seeing how close the drivers are to the wall. Because of its relatively narrow configuration, there isn't a lot of room to go around which has made for close quarters racing. Another major variable about this race track is entering pit road. It seems like every time the sport goes here, a contending driver gets a speeding penalty that hurts their chances of victory. This should play a major role in deciding who wins come Sunday.

The big storyline coming into this week was NASCAR's decision to revert back to single-car qualifying. Starting this week, on tracks that are one mile and longer, the field will run one timed lap and on short tracks like Bristol they will run two timed laps. It is important to note that even though it's going away on the ovals, group qualifying will remain on the road courses. Back in 2014, NASCAR had the idea to have the cars run their time trials in one big group in a span of three rounds. At first it turned out to work OK but when NASCAR introduced this high downforce package that emphasizes the draft, it never really allowed the best car to qualify on pole which was kind of unfair. While yes, it was entertaining and allowed for drives you don't usually see up front, it kind of took away from what it is supposed to be about. The way that I see it, NASCAR has been doing single car runs for many years and it has worked perfectly in deciding who starts where. While I am not to keen on when they made the change, I think that this was was the right decision to make, especially for the owners and the money they put into setting up the car for this session. Now they don't have to worry about the added variable of possibly getting into a crash with another car or losing time getting stuck by a slower car.

The last time NASCAR came to Dover, Chase Elliott went on to capture his second career victory after fending off Denny Hamlin in the closing laps. This week, I expect to see much of the same. After winning last week in at Talladega, NASCAR's prodigal son appears to be in a great position to back it up with another victory. From the beginning, Elliott has always had the knack for this track and while other young drivers struggled here, he has absolutely flourished. Only once has he finished outside of the top 10 here and even then, he still recorded a respectable 12th-place finish and even in that race he was running as high as fifth. Look for the Napa Auto Parts Chevy Camaro to be around the front this week.

One driver to look out for this week is Ryan Newman. It has been refreshing site to see the rocket man running well this year as he currently sits in a playoff spot in thirteenth. He is riding high off three consecutive top ten finishes and this week he is going to a track where he has won at three times in his career. Among his peers, Ryan Newman is one of the elder statesmen on the grid but it is no secret that he can still drive a race car. I am not sure if he will win this week but I think that he will easily be able to continue his string of top tens this weekend.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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This week, NASCAR heads for Sin City in Las Vegas for the South Point 400. This is the opening round of NASCAR's version of the playoffs. Sixteen drivers will come to Vegas with a chance to move on and continue their path to a championship. Located just outside Downtown, This track is a mile and a half oval that includes twenty degrees in banking, usually with the Las Vegas heat, the track's surface becomes much more slick. This caused many tire issues last season that took out many contenders including Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott. With temps as high as 100 degrees on Sunday, this should be a factor to watch for.

Last week, Kevin Harvick put a beat-down on the field to go on and win his second Brickyard 400 and his third win of the season. Harvick led a race high 118 laps and was never really challenged until the closing stages after a battle with Joey Logano on a restart in the final few laps. The race was marred by many spectacular crashes including Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones as Brad hit a tire barrier at over 170 miles per hour causing the car to come to a dead-stop instantly. Luckily, no one involved was injured. Overall, many of the contenders were caught up in accidents including teammates Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch. When the smoke cleared, there were also some drivers who had great results including Darrell Wallace Jr who came home third. This was Bubba's best finish since last year's Daytona 500. While many will attribute attrition to why he ran so well it is important to note that he ran around the top 10 for much of the race.

For much of the season, NASCAR's greatest driver Jimmie Johnson has been in the spotlight but for all the wrong reasons and unfortunately this continued at Indy after he was eliminated from playoff contention when he was swept up in a multi car wreck on lap 108. This ends a 14 year streak of Johnson making NASCAR's postseason. While 2019 has been a dreadful year for him, Johnson has been adamant that he crew-chief Cliff Daniels are not done and will be much better come next season. If I could compare this to any other major sport, I would say it is close to what happened with LeBron James missing the playoffs this season with the Lakers. For both athletes, while things may be hard now I think they will be better next season as they both make moves to improve their teams. It will be interesting to watch seven time champion try and play spoiler to help his teammates Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron compete for a championship.

The NASCAR world was met with some good news this week as well as it was announced that fan favorite Matt DiBenedetto will drive for the Wood Brothers in 2020 in the #21 Menards Ford Mustang, the ride will include resources from Penske racing. The move was met with much surprise as it was announced Tuesday on the Wood Brothers Twitter page. The team's current driver, Paul Menard announced his retirement at the end of the 2019 season. While he won't be racing, Menard and his sponsor of the same name will remain with the team as Paul was gracious enough to suggest they hire DiBenedetto after he had many great results this season driving for Bob Leavine. Even though he will not return to full-time racing in NASCAR, he will continue to race on a part time basis more than likely for Penske racing's Xfinity team. In the grand scheme of things, many people have criticized Paul for his avenue into the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, the one thing people can't say is he and his family haven't done a lot for the sport. While many sponsors have left, Menard and his bright yellow paint scheme have always been around to keep a lot of these competitive teams going, I have to thank Paul for everything he has done for this sport and while his career wasn't perfect he wasn't such a bad race car driver either, he will always be remembered for his victory in the 2011 Brickyard 400 (ironically enough) and qualifying for the chase back in 2014. He will be missed come Sundays on the track

The driver that I have winning this week is Martin Truex Jr. This season, Truex has been fast at times but surprisingly he has kind of flown under the radar when compared to his teammates. While he still has four wins, he's been in a bit of a slump over the past two weeks. At both Indy and Bristol, he has finished 15th and 27th. The results have kind of taken the radar off the 2017 champion but I think this race is where he gets back into the swing of things. Over the last couple races here, Truex has the second highest average finish has led 23 percent of the laps completed. Come Sunday when the green flag drops, Truex and his Camry should be hard to beat.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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