NASCAR Pre-race Media: 5 burning questions for Sunday’s Drydene 400 (2 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN)

Will Sunday’s Race Be A Truex Jr./Larson Show Again?

Martin Truex Jr. held off a furious charge in the end of last Sunday’s Goodyear 400 to beat Kyle Larson for the race win in Darlington. Now, will we see a repeat this weekend in Dover? Odds are, yes.

Truex, will start on the pole and has three straight runner-up finishes at Dover. He won the race prior. Larson, won the last time out at Dover and was third the race before that. On top of that, all three of Truex’s wins in 2021 are with this 750 package. He’s had eight top four results in his last nine Dover tries in general.

If you’re looking for a winner for Sunday’s race, start here.

Can Hamlin Turn Top 5’s Into A Win?

Denny Hamlin earned another top five finish last Sunday in Darlington. It was his ninth in 12 races this season. Unfortunately, he’s also not won either of those nine races too as his winless streak dates back 17 races. He won seven of the first 31 races last year but is 0-for-17 since.

Can he turn these top fives into a win this weekend?

He won one of the two Dover races last year and was fifth in the 2019 playoff race for two top fives in his last three Dover tries. The thing is, he only has five playoff points all season and badly needs to gain more. He leads the overall points by 75, but he’d like to get a win to get five additional playoff points too.

These top fives are great, but he wants to win.

Can Kyle Busch Get 18,000th Lap Led?

Kyle Busch entered last weekend with 17,990 laps led for his Cup Series career. He left with leading nine laps and is one lap led shy of 18,000. What’s frustrating is, he cut down a tire coming to lead his 18,000th lap last Sunday. Now, can he lead at least one lap this weekend at Dover to eclipse that milestone?

Busch, has led 1,213 of those 17,999 laps at Dover during his career. But, he’s only led 25 laps at Dover since 2018. He also has led only 43 laps this year and just 516 last year. So, the odds of his leading just one lap aren’t as high this weekend as you’d think.

Still, Busch is starting to heat up again this season with four top 10’s in his last five tries including a third place effort last weekend.

Will We See A Dominating Day Sunday?

Speaking of laps led, will we see someone lead a ton this weekend? Those odds are high actually. I mean, just look at how this season has gone first. We’ve had dominating performances in almost every race. It started in Daytona with Denny Hamlin leading 98 of 200 laps in the ‘500. Chase Elliott led 46 of 70 laps a week later on the DIS road course. William Byron led 102 of 267 laps in Homestead. Kyle Larson led 103 of 267 in Las Vegas. Joey Logano led 143 of 312 in Phoenix. Larson, led 269 of 325 in Atlanta, followed by Truex leading 126 of 253 in Bristol, Hamlin 276 of 500 in Martinsville, Hamlin 207 of 400 in Richmond, Hamlin 43 of 191 in Talladega, Larson 132 of 267 in Kansas and Truex Jr. 248 of 293 last Sunday in Darlington.

Those are high percentages. That’s 49%, 66%, 38%, 39%, 46%, 83%, 50%, 55%, 52%, 23%, 49% and 85% of races run this year being led by a single driver. What’s odd is, only three times has that said driver actually won the race itself.

I mean in Martinsville, Ryan Blaney also led 153 laps that race to go along with Hamlin’s 276 and neither won. In Richmond, Truex led 107 laps and he nor Hamlin won either. Only Byron (Homestead), Larson (Vegas) and Truex Jr. (Darlington) led the most laps and the race too.

Dover is a track that lends to dominating performances as well, which leads me to believe that this weekend could be another place where someone leads over half the race.

Last year, Hamlin led 115 of 311 laps in Race 1 while Harvick led 223 in 311 in Race 2. Both won those respective days. In 2019, Larson led 154 of 400 laps in his playoff win. That spring, Truex led 132 of 400 laps in his win. Chase Elliott also led 145 laps that day too and finished fifth.

In 2018, Harvick led 201 of 400 laps and won the spring race. He also led 286 of the 404 laps in the playoff race but finished sixth.

In the 2017 playoff race, Elliott led 138 laps and Larson 137. Neither won but both finished in the top five. In the spring of that year, Larson led 201 laps and Truex 102. They finished second and third respectively.

If you go back to 2016 even, we’ve had nine straight races at Dover to where someone led at least 100 laps. In nine of the last 10 races on the season, someone has done the same.

So, expect someone to keep it going this Sunday.

Also, just look at who’s dominating on the season as well as at Dover in the past. Hamlin has led the most laps in four races. He dominated Dover last year. Larson has led 103 of 267 laps (39%) in Vegas, 269 of 325 (83%) in Atlanta and 132 of 267 (49%) in Kansas. He’s led at least 100 laps in three of his last six Dover starts.

Truex, led 126 of 253 laps (50%) in Bristol, 107 of 400 laps (27%) in Richmond and now 248 of 293 (85%) in Darlington. All are this racing package. He’s led at least 100 laps at Dover three times since 2016.

Truex and Hamlin share the front row on Sunday while Larson starts one row behind in fourth.

Will This Be Another Rough Week For Penske?

Team Penske has been quiet again. Yes, Brad Keselowski won Talladega, but they weren’t really factors the last couple of weeks in Kansas nor Darlington. I also don’t expect much out of them this weekend in Dover.

Keselowski, hasn’t had a top five in his last eight Dover starts. Blaney, has never had a top five in 10 Dover tries while Logano has one top five in his last 12 Monster Mile appearances in Cup.

So, will their struggles continue?

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