Taming the Monster Mile at Dover from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
There’s a reason why it’s called the Monster Mile even though it’s not the monster it once was. It is fast, can get slippery and can be treacherous as the afternoon progresses. For 400 miles the drivers will push to stay at or as close the the front as they can because up front is the best place to be.

A quick look at the qualifying times and speeds shows that most of the field qualified around a half a second apart. To this fan that means it is going to be hard to pass and track position is going to be critical for anyone that wants to end up in Victory Lane whether it is gained in the pits or on the track. It also means the competition level and tension will be at a peak for most of the 400 laps. I expect there might be a little give and take for a while but the closer to end of the race they get the more this fan sees the importance of the drivers being able to keep their emotions in check. No matter, I expect to see some temper flares early in the race but in particular at and near the end.

If qualifying says anything about today’s race, it says the competition is going to be tight all afternoon and the top twenty in the lineup are separated by only around two tenths of a second. All of the major teams have a chance to have one of their cars take the checkered flag and trophy at the end of the day.

Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer of MWR are both in the top five along with Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth. Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Kurt and Kyle Bush and Denny Hamlin all start in the top ten. The next ten spots are full of teams this fan thinks all have a chance at winning today’s FedEx 400. With what I said earlier about less than two tenths of a second separation in qualifying times could mean an intense afternoon of racing and anyone of the top twenty or so having a chance at ending up in Victory Lane at the end of the day.

If history says anything about today’s race, it says qualifying and starting up front usually yields the best results at the end of the day. The key is to maintain that critical track position and that means there will be a lot of pressure on the pit crews to make no mistakes. I expect to hear the drivers make it known to them if they cost them any spots, especially if it happens more than once.

The exit of the turns are a bit treacherous and I won’t be surprised to see more than a few bouncing off the wall as they come off the turns. From this fan’s view, it isn’t how many times they have a brush with the wall; it is how hard that brush with it is. As the rubber builds up in the racing grooves the more slippery the track becomes and keeping up with changing track conditions will put a lot of pressure on the the crew chiefs to make all of the right decisions. Those brushes with the wall over the afternoon could make some of their decisions a bit more difficult.

At the end of the day, I expect the stress levels of the drivers to be at or near the breaking point and it could lead to a big difference as to which one takes the checkers. From this fan’s view, I really do expect to see the Toyotas making a strong showing whether it be from the Michael Waltrip Racing camp or Joe Gibbs Racing. I’m not expecting the RCR teams to make it easy for them and I will be looking for Kevin Harvick to be in the hunt during the final laps as well.

With the way things have gone for RPM, I don’t expect to see them in Victory Lane, but I do think they will make a good showing today along with the Penske Dodges. (Of course, it seems we can never rule out Brad Keselowski.) As for the Roush Fords, well that is a whole different matter and this could just be the day that Carl Edwards takes his first win of the year. (That’s not to say the other two don’t have a chance either. Like I said, the competition is very tight today.)

In my opinion, the Hendrick teams have the best shot for the win. I’m don’t know that it will happen, but this could also be the day Dale Jr ends his no-win string. We all know Jeff Gordon can win at any time, too, so I won’t count him out for being there at the end of the day either. As for Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne… well… you choose. One of them has as good a chance as the other, I’m just not sure which…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 2, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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