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Dover Viewers Guide

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Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes is a host and reporter for NASCAR on FOX. A broadcast veteran, he has covered racing for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter.

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By all accounts, Dover is going to be "wicked fast" to use the racer's expression, and on this week's NASCAR on FOX conference call, Darrell Waltrip made a good point. We always talk about the "Big One" at Daytona and Talladega, but we had the "Big One" at Lowe's Motor Speedway. And we could see the "Big One" again this weekend. There isn't a lot of separation at Dover. It's a very fast one-mile track with high banks (24 degrees in the turns), and it's even steep on the straightaways (9 degrees). Larry McReynolds makes the point that the straightaways are banked more than some tracks are banked in the corners. We have the recipe for another body man's nightmare, and the car owners are concerned because some of the best drivers in the world, like Kurt Busch, spun out by themselves last Sunday. Along with those single-car spins, we're also seeing a lot more cars piled up.

Who to Watch

  • Ricky Rudd had a really strong run in the Coca-Cola 600 until his engine went sour. While Rudd and crew chief Michael "Fatback" McSwain and Ricky Rudd had bad luck in the beginning of the year, they have magic together. Rudd has four wins and four poles at Dover, and he's led over 1,000 laps. He could be a darkhorse this week.
  • Tony Stewart: In 12 Dover starts, Stewart has 11 top-10 finishes. And what's even more impressive? He's got nine top fives. Like Rudd, he's also led over 1,000 laps.
  • Ryan Newman has won half of his Dover starts — three of six. That's pretty incredible.
  • Jeff Gordon has four wins, and he's led over 2,000 laps which doesn't seem possible but it is. Only Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty have led more laps at the Monster Mile.
  • Rusty Wallace has three Dover wins, but the 2 team has had some bad luck. They're better than their record shows.
  • Mark Martin has four wins, four poles and 17 top fives in 37 starts.
  • Dale Jarrett: I also honestly think that he could be a factor. The 88 team's run last Sunday night was a huge confidence boost for Jarrett. During the Nextel Open weekend at Charlotte, interim crew chief Billy Wilburn told me, "We just need to get Dale near the front. And if Dale Jarrett is near the front at the end of the race, he will do the rest." When Wilburn took the job, he felt like the ingredients were there. He was quick to say, "I'm not pointing a finger at Mike Ford, but my job is to come in here and be a cheerleader and pat these guys on the back because they're better than they've shown." Jarrett has one win, but he also has 12 top fives at Dover. And he's as determined as I've ever seen him. I think D.J. and Rudd — the veterans — could be surprises this weekend.

  • Friday on SPEED
    12:30 p.m. ET: NASCAR Live on SPEED
    7 p.m. ET: Trackside on SPEED
    Saturday on FX/SPEED
    Noon ET: NASCAR Live on SPEED
    1 p.m. ET: Busch Racing on FX
    4 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup Happy Hour on FX
    7 p.m. ET: SPEED News on SPEED
    7:30 p.m. ET: Craftsman Truck race on SPEED
    Sunday on FX/SPEED
    11 a.m. ET: NASCAR This Morning on SPEED
    12:30 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup Racing on FX
    7 p.m. ET: SPEED News NASCAR Edition on SPEED
    8 p.m. ET: NASCAR Victory Lane on SPEED

    What to Watch

  • Mechanical grip: One of the things you hear about at Dover is mechanical grip, or how well the car turns. With the speed that the cars carry into the corners, they stay hooked up to the racetrack. One area where teams can get themselves in trouble is camber on the car, or how much that right front tire is leaned in. That's called negative camber, and you obviously want the contact patch of the tire to make as much contact with the track as possible. But the drivers carry so many G's into the corners that you can't overload that right front tire. If you make it work too hard, you risk blowing out the tire.
  • Getting into the pits: Dover has one of the toughest pit roads on the Cup circuit. At the entrance to pit road, it's incredible to watch the drivers slow down their cars. They jam on the brakes at the last possible second, and the front end of the car just sucks down to the track. During last year's fall race, Matt Kenseth admitted that he made a terrible mistake when he crashed into the end of pit road, but it's amazing that it doesn't happen more often because the drivers make it look easy. It's like driving off a cliff into a flat piece of ground.
  • The pits: I haven't measured Dover's pit boxes, but it seems like they are literally on top of each other. Not all pit boxes are the same from track to track, but it's just like organized chaos in really close quarters.
  • Victory Lane gets in the way: It's tough for the crews to run gas and bring tires to the pits because Victory Lane juts out onto the walkway behind pit road. Between pit stops, a lot of crews will sit up on that grass embankment and watch the race.
  • Pit Perspective

    In Tuesday's Roanoke Times, Dustin Long reported that there have been 30 more cautions for accidents or spins in 12 points races this year compared to last year. And on Tuesday's NASCAR on FOX conference call, we tried to figure out why there were 22 cautions at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
    Tony Stewart on SPEED Channel's Trackside, Friday, 7 p.m. ET
    Jimmie Johnson told me the Hendrick organization learned a lot of little things from the previous weekend's All-Star races that helped all of their drivers. He also told me the "levigated" track surface at Lowe's Motor Speedway required very specific entry and exit points in the corners.
  • For more, go to RyansRacecar.com
  • There isn't just one reason. Certainly the track surface was faster, but there's more to it. At the second race of the season at California Speedway, Tony Stewart said over the radio, "Wow, these babies are tougher to drive now." NASCAR wanted the cars to be harder to drive. They wanted them to be less aero-dependent. NASCAR also added a gear rule which Darrell Waltrip pointed out plays a factor because when one car spins now, it doesn't spin by itself. It collects other cars because they're all so close. To use an NFL expression, they don't have separation. They're tightly bunched. Another issue goes back to Kyle Petty's comments about bump-drafting at Daytona and Talladega. Ten years ago, there wasn't any such thing, and he went on to say that some of the younger drivers don't respect some of the old rules or the so-called gentleman's agreement. So you've got a lot of aggressive young drivers in really good equipment, but if you looked up at the scoreboard at Charlotte, veteran drivers are still running extremely well. Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace had good runs going. It's a combination of all of these things: the new aero package with the smaller spoiler, softer tires, competitiveness, a new breed of driver, the old way of doing things on the track being questioned or changed.
    Speed Mail Steve

    Finish Line

    Weird things have happened late in races at Dover, like Kasey Kahne's unfortunate crash after slipping in oil while leading last year. You've got to have some luck to win at Dover because you can have perfect pit stops, a great race car and a great day out of the driver, but if you can't avoid somebody else's mishap, it's all for naught. A couple of years ago, Tony Stewart was leading the race, but his right rear tire was over the line on a pit stop and it cost him. You can be as buttoned up as any team in the ballpark, but if you have some bad luck or somebody else has bad luck in front of you, then your shot at victory goes out the window.


    NASCAR on FOX and SPEED Channel host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years, and he gives kids a close look at a real stock car and its driver with Ryan's Racecar, a 30-minute video/DVD. For more information, go to RyansRacecar.com

    Tagged: Kurt Busch, Kyle Petty

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