THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads for the Monster Mile at Dover

Jerry Markland/Getty Images

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).

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Charlotte Motor Speedway for their memorial day classic, the Coca Cola 600. This is one of NASCAR's crown-jewel events as it's the longest race on the schedule. The race is known for how challenging it is on the car and drivers endurance and even though there have been a few dominating performances as of late this race usually comes down to attrition so surviving this race is the most important factor of getting a good result.

In last week's All-Star race there were plenty of headlines to talk about. When the dust settled, Kyle Larson captured the victory and the million dollars after going nearly four-wide to make the pass for the lead in the closing stages of the race. While Larson and his crew celebrated, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman were involved in one of NASCAR's more memorable dust ups in recent memory. On the cool-down lap, Ryan Newman ran into the side of Clint Bowyer's Ford mustang causing him to spin head-on into the wall. After this Newman was then greeted by a series of hay-makers from Clint as he was still strapped in the car. After he was done, Bowyer retreated back to his wrecked race car before Newman could exit. This altercation definitely got people talking, even Bowyer's boss Tony Stewart weighed in. Earlier this week, Stewart told his employee that "If he was going to get into a fight at least take your helmet off. No matter how you look at it, this fight brought a lot of people to the sport and in my opinion, this is what makes NASCAR so great. I am sure that both guys will hash it out and get back to racing this week."

Overall what really got overshadowed last weekend was how great the racing was. There were two photo-finishes in the open and lots of battles for position and there were also some great runs by drivers trying to get their season turned around; Darrell Wallace Jr was the prime example. While he may have not won the All-Star race, the second year driver stole the show. He was able to scratch and claw his way into the race by edging out Daniel Suarez at the end of Segment two of "The All-Star Open" and then he went on to have a great run by finishing fifth. The other example was Larson who would wind up winning the main event. He also had to transfer to the All-Star race by virtue of the All-Star open. It has been no secret that it has been a tough year for both drivers so maybe with their success this can really boost their confidence for the rest of the season.

The driver I have winning here this week is William Byron. Throughout the history of this race, we have seen many drivers claim their first win here in the Coca Cola 600. This is the race where Hall of Fame drivers like Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte were able to really kind of establish themselves as elite drivers. This week, I think we see kind of a new era begin. Overall, I have been critical of Byron in the past but there has been no denying this young man can drive a race car. He proved that on Friday by capturing the pole for Sunday's race. This track hasn't been kind to the young driver as he finished thirty-ninth here last season, but it's important to note that 2018 was his rookie year. He now enters his race with arguably the greatest crew-chief of all time and a rookie season under his belt. Look for Byron to take the #24 car back to victory lane come Sunday.

(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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