A look at NASCAR’s playoff standings heading to Dover

Next up on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is Dover International Speedway and Sunday’s Drydene 400 (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) the 13th race of the season.

Aptly named the Monster Mile, Dover International Speedway is a 1-mile concrete paved oval located in Dover Delaware. Dover International Speedway, originally known as Dover Downs International Speedway, has hosted 102 NASCAR Cup Series races dating back to the inaugural event on July 6, 1969. The first Dover race was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty driving a Petty Enterprises Ford (115.772 mph, 02:35:28). Petty actually won the first two Cup events at the track (1969, 1970).

In total, the 102 NASCAR Cup Series races at Dover have produced 42 different pole winners and 38 different race winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the series in poles at Dover with six (1969, 1973 sweep, 1974, 1975, 1981). Ryan Newman (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007) and Denny Hamlin (2012, 2013, 2015, 2019) lead all active series drivers in poles at Dover with four poles each. Recently retired driver, Jimmie Johnson holds the series record for the most wins at Dover with 11 victories (2002 sweep, 2005 Playoffs, 2009 sweep, 2010 Playoffs, Spring of 2012, 2013 Playoffs, Spring of 2014, Spring of 2015, and Spring of 2017).

Of the 38 different NASCAR Cup Series winners at Dover International Speedway, nine are active this weekend. Four drivers are tied for the most wins among active drivers at Dover – Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and Ryan Newman – each have three wins.

Race Winners Wins Seasons
Kevin Harvick 3 2020, 2018, 2015
Martin Truex Jr 3 2019. 2016, 2007
Kyle Busch 3 2017, 2010, 2008
Ryan Newman 3 2004, 2003 sweep
Denny Hamlin 1 2020
Kyle Larson 1 2019
Chase Elliott 1 2018
Brad Keselowski 1 2012
Kurt Busch 1 2011

This weekend’s Drydene 400 race will be 400 laps (400 miles) and will be broken up into three stages. The first two stages will be 120 laps each and the final stage will be 160 laps. Since the inception of Stage racing in the Cup Series in 2017, six different drivers have won at least one stage at Dover, led by Kevin Harvick with six stage wins; followed by Martin Truex Jr. with four, Denny Hamlin with three and Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Kyle Larson each have one. Hamlin and Harvick swept both stages en route to their wins last season at Dover.

Sunday’s Drydene 400 will set the starting lineup by Metric Qualifying and as a result Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. (pole) and Denny Hamlin (second) will start on the front row. Hamlin should feel quite fortuitous starting in the second position this weekend, as it is the most proficient starting position in the field producing (20) the most wins of any starting position – winning percentage 19.61%. And it’s the same starting position he won from last season.

Standings leader Denny Hamlin winless through first dozen races of the year

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin has become the first driver standings leader in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Era (2004-2021) to compete in the first 12 races of a season and not win a race.

Hamlin, the defending winner of this weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway, is hoping to end his winless streak that has reached 17 events (dating back to Talladega on Oct. 4, 2020) and etch his name on the 2021 wins list.

Driver Points Standings Leader Following 12th Race of Playoff Era Seasons (2004-2021)

Season Points Leader After 12th Race Wins Pts Lead Over 2nd
2021 Denny Hamlin 0 75
2020 Kevin Harvick 2 8
2019 Joey Logano 1 9
2018 Kyle Busch 3 12
2017 Martin Truex Jr. 2 5
2016 Kevin Harvick 1 21
2015 Kevin Harvick 2 41
2014 Jeff Gordon 1 11
2013 Jimmie Johnson 2 32
2012 Greg Biffle 1 10
2011 Carl Edwards 1 36
2010 Kevin Harvick 1 69
2009 Jeff Gordon 1 44
2008 Kyle Busch 3 94
2007 Jeff Gordon 3 132
2006 Jimmie Johnson 3 109
2005 Jimmie Johnson 2 71
2004 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3 5

Though Hamlin has yet to win this season, he has been very consistent putting up nine top-five finishes in 12 starts. He currently holds a 75-point lead in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. in second.

Last season, Denny Hamlin put on a dominating performance at Dover leading a race-high 115 laps, winning both stages and grabbing his first career Monster Mile win. Hamlin has made 30 series starts at Dover collecting four poles, one win, six top fives and 13 top 10s.

If Hamlin happens to remain winless for the rest of the regular season, he will become the first NASCAR Cup Series driver standings points leader to make the postseason without a win.

Playoff Bubble: Points so tight a tiebreaker is needed along Playoff cutline

Twelve races into the NASCAR Cup Series regular season and the points around Playoff cutline are mighty close. So close, the NASCAR Cup Series needed a tiebreaker to decide who’s in and who’s out following Darlington.

When the checkered flag flew at Darlington Raceway last Sunday, Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick and Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto ended up tied in points (268 points each) along the Playoff cutline in 16th and 17th, respectively. Reddick currently holds the tiebreaker of best finish with a runner-up back at Homestead-Miami Speedway compared to DiBenedetto’s best finish this season of fourth at Kansas Speedway.

Now the series turns its attention to Dover International Speedway, the halfway point of the regular season, and teams need to start considering a win might be their only option to make the postseason. With 13 races to go and several big names left without a win, time and Playoff spot availability are conspiring against the competitors still looking to seal their position in the Playoffs.

2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. added to his 2021 season wins total last weekend at Darlington Raceway getting his third victory of the year. Heading to Dover this weekend, 10 drivers have locked themselves into the Playoffs on wins, leaving one spot secured for the driver standings points leader (currently Denny Hamlin) and five additional spots up for grabs by virtue of a win or points position.

2021 Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 12 – Drivers Not Locked In
Rank Driver Points Wins Stages Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
11 Denny Hamlin 529 0 5 5 261
12 Kevin Harvick 385 0 0 0 117
13 Chase Elliott 382 0 1 1 114
14 Austin Dillon 316 0 0 0 48
15 Chris Buescher 287 0 1 1 19
16 Tyler Reddick 268 0 0 0 0
17 Matt DiBenedetto 268 0 1 1 0
18 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 249 0 0 0 -19
19 Ryan Newman 246 0 0 0 -22
20 Kurt Busch 240 0 0 0 -28
21 Bubba Wallace 223 0 1 1 -45
22 Ross Chastain 218 0 0 0 -50
23 Daniel Suarez 214 0 0 0 -54
24 * Ryan Preece 209 0 0 0 -59
25 Chase Briscoe # 198 0 0 0 -70
26 Cole Custer 192 0 0 0 -76
27 Erik Jones 188 0 0 0 -80
28 Aric Almirola 168 0 0 0 -100
29 Anthony Alfredo # 125 0 0 0 -143
30 Corey LaJoie 116 0 0 0 -152

Interestingly, the top three winners from last season in the NASCAR Cup Series, combining to win 21 of the 36 races (58.3%), Kevin Harvick (nine wins), Denny Hamlin (seven wins) and Chase Elliott (five wins) are all still looking for their first trip to Victory Lane this season. All three have won at Dover International Speedway; including last season when both Denny Hamlin (Race 1) and Kevin Harvick (Race 2) each won. Elliott grabbed his lone victory at the Monster Mile back in 2018.

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