Stock Car Challenge Preview: The Monster Mile
After the unusual results of last week's race at Lowe's, you should see many of the usual top contenders reign supreme at the Monster Mile. The Nextel Cup Series will return to the Car of Tomorrow for the sixth time this season, and that means you can look for more Hendrick Motorsports brilliance. The Hendrick team has won the past five races and nine of 12 overall. The team leads all owners with 10 victories at Dover International Speedway, and Hendrick cars have won all the COT races so far.
It should be noted, though, that Hendrick has won only one race at Dover in the past four years, so there is some hope that another driver could break the team's stranglehold on the top spot this week. All the Hendrick drivers are fine choices in the Stock Car Challenge right now, but it could be another team and unexpected manufacturer that ends up in Victory Lane this week.
VICTORY LANE SPECIAL
Matt Kenseth (Value: 22.9): If anyone can stop the Hendrick run, it will be Kenseth, who dominated both races at Dover last season. Kenseth (Ford) has the only win by a non-Chevrolet driver so far this year, and he would have swept both races at the site in 2006 if he hadn't run out of fuel late in the September race. Kenseth has adjusted to the COT better than any Ford driver so far, with an average finish of 8.6 in such races, fourth-best of any driver. In the two races at Dover in 2006, Kenseth led for 298 laps, and he had a total of 100 fastest laps run. Kenseth had an average running position of third at Dover last season, and he has four top-five finishes and nine top-10s at the site. Considering that results from Bristol -- a comparable concrete track -- often are taken into account at Dover, it should be noted Kenseth has won two of the past four races at that site.
Jimmie Johnson (23.8): It will be quite challenging to fit Kenseth and Johnson on your roster at the same time, but if you are willing to frontload your roster with two superstars or want to continue to anchor your roster with a Hendrick driver, Johnson is your man. He is the only Hendrick driver to win at Dover in the past four years, one of his three career wins at the site. Johnson has seven top-10 finishes in 10 career races at Dover, and he finished sixth in the first race at the site last season. Johnson has 112 of the fastest laps run at the site, fourth-best of any driver, and he has finished in the top five in four of the past five races in 2007. Johnson also has six top-10 finishes at Bristol, and he already has won two COT races.
Jeff Burton (21.1): Burton loomed large at Dover last season, winning the second race at the site, ending his personal string of 175 races without a Nextel Cup victory. Burton finished fourth in the first 2006 race at Dover, and he has six top-10 finishes and 10 top-10 showings at the site. Burton has finished in the top 15 in the past four Dover races and in nine of the past 10 overall. Burton should start to get back on track to his earlier success after finishing 24th at Lowe's. He has finished in the top 10 in his past two races at Bristol.
Kyle Busch (20.2): An engine problem caused Busch to finish 40th in the second Dover race last year, but he has fared very well at the track overall. Busch finished second in both 2005 races at the site, and he finished fifth in the first Dover race last season. Busch has 86 of the fastest laps run at Dover, fifth-best among drivers in just four career races at the site. He has an average running position of 11th, and he has spent 1,238 laps in the top 15, sixth-best among drivers. It should be noted strongly that Busch won the first race at Bristol this season. He finished second in the second race at that site in 2006, and he has finished in the top 10 in four of five COT races.
Ryan Newman (18.5): Newman took the pole last week at Lowe's, and likely deserved a better finish than 39th because of an engine failure. Newman saw a string of three consecutive top-10 finishes come to an end, but he should rebound this week. Newman should qualify well again, as he has started in the top five in nine consecutive Dover races. Newman has finished in the top 10 seven times in 10 career races at Dover. He also has five top-five finishes at the site and took the pole in the final race of 2005 and the first race of 2006. Newman also has finished in the top 10 in the past two COT races.
Martin Truex Jr. (18.0): Truex, who grew up in Mayetta, N.J., considers Dover his "home track," and he finished sixth in the second race at the site last season. He continues to improve on the Nextel Cup circuit, as his 16th-place finish at Lowe's moved him up to 16th in the standings, his highest spot since April of last season. Truex said he has this race "circled on his calendar." Truex has two career Busch Series wins to his credit at Dover, and he has finished in the top 20 in five of the past six Nextel Cup races.
Reed Sorenson (16.2): Sorenson was a pleasant fifth-place surprise at Lowe's, and he is a good bet to keep the positive momentum going this week. Sorenson finished 11th at Dover this past September and has an average running position of 13th there the past two years. Sorenson has finished in the top 10 in all four of his career Busch Series races at Dover. Sorenson finished 19th in the first Nextel Cup race at the site last year after starting in 39th place.
Tony Stewart (22.6) has two wins and nine top-five finishes at Dover, but he finished 25th and 33rd at the site last season. Jeff Gordon (24.0) has four wins and 17 top-10 finishes at Dover, so he is another good alternative to Kenseth or Johnson if you so desire. Mark Martin (19.1) has four wins and an average running position of seventh at Dover, with 130 fastest laps run. Jeremy Mayfield (14.5) took the pole in both 2004 races and finished in the top 10. The last win for Kyle Petty (15.1) came at Dover in 1995. Bobby Labonte (17.4) finished in the top 15 in both Dover races last year. Greg Biffle (19.1) has the top ranks in average running position (6.9) and fastest laps run (175) at Dover, but he has averaged only a 17th-place finish in COT races in 2007.
Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.
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