Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism (12:30 p.m. ET, FS1) at Dover International Speedway marks the halfway point in the 26-race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season.
Here are six things to look for this weekend from the Monster Mile:
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Looking to repeat
Martin Truex Jr. took over the Cup points lead with his third-place finish in last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He also won here last fall, his second victory at the closest thing the Mayetta. N.J. native has to a hometown track. He should be fast again this weekend.
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The forecast at Dover has been improving throughout the week, and Friday and Saturday should be all clear. But according to Weather.com, there’s a 40 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms on Sunday, raising the possibility of a race that might not go the full distance. If rain does show up, it could alter strategy dramatically, as it did last summer at Pocono when rookie Chris Buescher scored a huge upset victory in a rain-shortened race.
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Matt Kenseth (2003), Kevin Harvick (2014), and Kyle Busch (2015) are all past series champions who are winless so far this year. But collectively, they have six victories at Dover. Do not be surprised if one of them winds up in Victory Lane on Sunday. Kenseth is the defending race winner here.
At this time last year, Joe Gibbs Racing already had won seven times. This year? Zero so far in 2017. Sooner or later, JGR is going to win, and Dover sets up as an excellent track for them. And even though they got beaten on fuel mileage by Austin Dillon last week in Charlotte, the JGR cars looked better as a group than they had all season.
So far in 12 Cup races, nine different drivers have won races, including two-time winners Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. Still, there are lots of talented drivers and teams looking to make it to Victory Lane. It’s not necessarily likely, but it’s possible that this winds up being the first season in all 16 playoff drivers won races in the regular season.
Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has crushed the field at the Monster Mile, where he has won 10 times. To put that in context, the two guys closest to Johnson in victories here are NASCAR Hall of Fame members Richard Petty and Bobby Allison, who have won seven each. But Johnson got shut out at Dover last year and will be looking to break back into the win column here.