by Jason Ferris - 06/02/2005
Last Week's Recap - Coca-Cola 600
Jimmie Johnson dodged wreck after wreck to take the checkered flag at what I am calling the Coca-Cola Derby. The race at Charlotte was less of a NASCAR race and more of a demolition derby. Humpy Wheeler, the president of Lowe's Motor Speedway, spent $250,000 to make the track "better". Maybe it was for the casual fan that watches for the wrecks, but for true NASCAR fans it really takes away from the action.
Johnson won the race by passing Bobby Labonte just as the two passed the finish line. What the finish doesn't tell you is that Labonte and his car didn't belong there. Some would even say Johnson didn't belong there. Johnson did have a "top-5" car, but surely not the best. The two best cars belonged to his teammates, Brian Vickers and Jeff Gordon. His patience however did help him win the race. Johnson, Vickers and Gordon, all members of the Hendricks racing team, led most of the race. Actually, for most of the last 100 laps, Gordon and Johnson were trying to find a way to catch Vickers, who had a three-second lead.
With 28 laps remaining, the Hendricks crew pitted, along with half the field. Unfortunately, (for Hendricks) while they were in the pits a yellow flag came out, pushing them back 17 spots. With less than 20 laps remaining, Vickers lost his patience and caused a six-car pileup, taking Gordon with him. Johnson avoided that crash, along with another one several laps later caused by Dale Earnhardt Jr. This race may have elevated Johnson's status from "Young Gun" to crafty veteran.
This Week's Preview - Dover Racing Selections on FX
Dover should allow for an interesting week of racing. Those who win here, win here a lot. Ryan Newman has the recent bragging rights, as he has been the dominating force as of late. Jimmie Johnson can't be left out, he is two years removed from the winner's circle here, but he will be shooting for it again. Also, there is last year's winner, Mark Martin, who has shown that he will not go quietly into the night.
The drivers are one thing, but I'm interested in the cars they are going to bring to compete. Few, if any of the cars from last week will be ready. That said, many race favorites have lost two cars in the last two weeks. What are those drivers going to do? This week it's all about the teams and if they can they get a good car ready. All answers will be evident quickly on this one-mile oval known as the "Monster Mile".
An interesting thing to watch for this week is the animosity that drivers are going to hold over from last week. The funny thing is we aren't talking about who Tony Stewart pissed off, or what is going to happen between Roush and Hendricks. This week, it's how are the teammates going to react after being knocked out of the second biggest race of the year, by each other? It should be interesting to see how the wily veteran Gordon will deal with Vickers, and how Michael Waltrip reacts to Junior. All-in-all, this adds up to an interesting race.
Winner's Circle - Dover Racing Selections
Ride to Victory
Jimmie Johnson (6/1) Johnson's win last weekend definitely made him THE driver to beat this year. He no longer makes the mistakes that the young drivers do. At Lowe's, Johnson showed the patience that a driver must have to become great. Also, Johnson did win at this track twice in 2002. He is the favorite this week, but when isn't he going to be? Make Johnson part of your Dover racing selections.
Jeff Gordon (7/1) This track is no different for Gordon than any other, he finishes well. He has two wins in this race and he finished in the top five half the time. Gordon could have won last week, and I'm sure he will be gunning for the checkered this week. Make Gordan part of your Dover racing selections.
Ryan Newman (7/1) Newman has been in the hunt almost every week. Dover should be no different. Newman has won here three times in the last two years, so he definitely knows the track and knows how to stay in contention. Newman may taste Dover victory again this week. Make Newman part of your Dover racing selections.
Mark Martin (12/1) Martin is the defending champion of this race. This is Martin's last year in NASCAR, and he is going out with a bang. He won the All-Star Challenge two weeks ago and was in contention last week. Martin is leaving everything on the track, and this week should be no different.
Tony Stewart (10/1) Stewart has struggled to get a victory this year, but Dover could change all that. His average finish in Dover is 4.25, which is the best since 1975. That coupled with his two wins is a mixture for victory in my book.
Brian Vickers (75/1) I know, he is a long shot but he could surprise everyone this weekend. Two weeks ago Vickers was given a "Go or go home notice" from his owner, and he has responded. Vickers had the best car the last two weeks, but his impatience got the best of him. He should have won the Coca-Cola 600, had it not been for some ill-timed yellow flags. Let us not forget that he is a Hendricks Motorsports team member. I would wait to see how he qualifies, but he's worth a long look and a little bet.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (15/1) The troubles don't seem to end for Junior. He has yet to win this year and hasn't really challenged in a race. His owner, Teresa Earnhardt, fired his crew chief two weeks ago and things don't seem to be clicking. Also, he like Vikers lost his patients last week and ran into the back of his own teammate. He has been the direct cause of multiple accidents in the last three weeks. I don't see Junior finishing, let alone winning this race.
Kasey Kahne (15/1) Kahne got a big win at the Chevy American Revolution 400, but he has consistently had poor finishes. He has an average finish this year of 19. That combined with his failure to finish the races at Dover, which he has yet to do, does not look good for Kahne.
Greg Biffle (10/1) The line on Biffle is a bit low to me. Yes, he is in second place in the points standings. Yes, he has won three times this year. Yes, he has challenged for the lead in almost every race this year. The problem is that his record this year may cause you to look beyond his particularly bad record in Dover. In five races, he only has one finish in the top ten. More importantly he has finishes of 26, 30 and 33, the last two being last years races. I wouldn't bet Biffle at 10/1 or even 25/1.
Kurt Busch (12/1) Busch's stats at Dover look eerily similar to Biffle's. For this reason, Busch cannot be counted on this week.