* Monstrous: Dover A Worthy Proving Ground For Car Of Tomorrow * At Ease: New Jersey's Martin Truex Jr. To Tackle "Hometown" Track * Dominant At Dover: Matt Kenseth Looks To Recapture '06 Momentum Dover Hosts Sixth COT Event DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
* Monstrous: Dover A Worthy Proving Ground For Car Of Tomorrow
* At Ease: New Jersey's Martin Truex Jr. To Tackle "Hometown" Track
* Dominant At Dover: Matt Kenseth Looks To Recapture '06 Momentum
Dover Hosts Sixth COT Event
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 29, 2007) -- This weekend's Autism Speaks 400 presented by Visa at Dover International Speedway marks the 13th of 36th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events this season, and yet another competitive milestone.
Sunday's event features the Car of Tomorrow -- NASCAR's next-generation race car. It's the sixth race this year for the new car, and it brings with it some unique challenges.
Weather negated a scheduled Dover test three weeks ago, but crew chiefs likely will mine Bristol Motor Speedway data (Bristol was the first track to host the new car, which will compete fulltime in 2008). And any transference isn't farfetched:
Dover's high-banked concrete surface mimics Bristol's similar half-mile, providing an intriguing challenge for teams' set-up abilities this weekend.
Storyline I: Truex On A Roll Heading To Dover
Although he's not a Delaware native, Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet), considers Dover International Speedway his home track.
It's a natural confluence: Truex grew up on the New Jersey shore approximately 90 minutes' north of Dover; undoubtedly he'd love a victory before his home crowd.
Progress appears to be at-hand. Truex gained two spots in the series standings following last Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, climbing to 16th. That fact represents a four-spot jump over the last four weeks, which also included a victory in the non-points Nextel Open event prior to the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.
Truex also knows how to win at Dover. A two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion, he did it twice there, in that series, once in 2004 and '05.
On The Line: Truex Talks Confidently About Future of DEI
Martin Truex Jr. was the guest on Tuesday's weekly NASCAR Teleconference. Now in his second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season, he heads to Dover 16th in series points, only 88 points out of 12th, the cutoff position for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
Following are highlights of Truex's conversation with media from across the country.
Q: What is the outlook going into Dover and what is the outlook for the sixth race of the season with the new car, meaning the Car of Tomorrow?
Truex: Really looking forward to Dover. That's the kind of race I've always got circled on my calendar as one I look forward to going to. Close to where I grew up. A lot of friends and family come to the race there. Got a good history of running well there, too. Really looking forward to it. Our season's been going pretty good. Been kind of up and down. Our car has been running real strong, the COT and the current car. We'll look forward to Dover this weekend.
Q: Everybody is talking about your role increasing. A lot of drivers say you need to step up and be a leader. Do you feel now you need to be the quarterback, step up a bit as a leader on the team with Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc.?
Truex: Yeah, I think in a certain way I will have to. I don't think I have to go out there and tell them all how to do their job, tell them if they're doing it right or wrong. We've got people to do that. As we get to running better, I think before the year is out we could maybe win a few races, make the Chase, do a lot of things that are good for the company, good for the people's morale around here. Dale Jr. leaves, but it's not over. People keep saying, It's over, what are they going to do? Dale Jr. is a great asset to the company, obviously, but we can go on, we can thrive, we can win races. To show them that will be a great step in that direction. Just performing on the racetrack is the biggest thing. I think we're gaining on that each week. For the complete transcript of this week's NASCAR Teleconference, go to www.NASCARMedia.com.
The Rest Of The Stories: Kenseth Shines At Dover, Martin Leads List Of Winning Candidates
Some additional storylines to consider, coming into the Autism Speaks 400 presented by Visa this weekend:
* Mark Martin (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet) knows the way to Dover's Victory Lane. He's won there four times and leads all active drivers with 19 top-five finishes in 41 career starts. Martin also leads all active drivers with four Bud Poles at Dover.
And despite running a part-time schedule for Ginn Racing this season, Martin heads to one of his favorite tracks 14th in the standings, only 31 points out of 12th, the Chase cutoff spot.
* Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Tools Ford) is the defending Dover race winner who dominated the Monster Mile last season. Kenseth was involved in two thrilling finishes in '06, edging Roush Racing teammate Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal Ford) in the spring event at Dover and finishing second to former teammate Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) in the fall. Kenseth also made his series debut at Dover in 1998, in relief of former series champion Bill Elliott (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford).
* Which leads back to Burton, who hasn't slowed down since last fall's Dover win. As the victor in the post-race "handshake heard 'round the series" -- Burton and Kenseth stopped on the frontstretch after the checkered flag, clasping hands out of their car windows -- Burton has re-assumed top-10 status in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings. Currently fifth, he's won once this season, at Texas Motor Speedway, and has six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes at Dover.
* Several drivers certain to be in the Dover lineup have excelled there, including Martin, Ricky Rudd (No. 88 Snickers Ford), standings leader Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and Elliott, who lead all active drivers with four wins each at Dover. Other candidates include reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), who has three wins there, and Kenseth. Rudd also is tied with Martin with four poles at Dover and leads all active drivers with 26 top-10 Dover finishes in 55 career starts. Rudd has completed more miles there -- 23,035 -- than any driver.
Emphasis On Winning: Taming Dover Tough To Do; Mears Joins List Of '07 Winners
Winning at Dover International Speedway isn't to be underestimated.
Notes gleaned from this Sunday's event not only will figure in the series' September return, the second race in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
But there's also this: Lap for lap, 400 miles at Dover is one of the sport's toughest tests. The track's high-banked concrete confines can wear on man and machine, and teams that triumph know what they've accomplished.
"I think Dover is so unique," said Jimmie Johnson, a three-time winner there. "There isn't another track on the circuit that is remotely close to what you have at Dover. So, when you find the right setup with the race car and the driver has the right rhythm for it...it really just applies to (only Dover) so you can fine tune and hone in on it."
If he tames Dover again, Johnson could expand his lead in another important category.
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon and Johnson currently are 1-2 in the series standings. But as far as their potential "seedings" go for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, those positions are reversed -- for now.
Starting this season, the 12 Chase qualifiers get 10 bonus points for each victory during the 26-race span leading up to the Chase, which consists of the last 10 races. Drivers qualifying for the Chase have their point totals "reset" to 5,000, whereupon bonus points are added, in effect creating "seedings" to start the Chase.
Thus far, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) and Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet) are four of the five other, single-event winners this season.
The fifth is Casey Mears (No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet), who won last week's Coca-Cola 600, his first series victory. Currently 29th in the standings, he'll also earn 10 bonus points per win should he become Chase-eligible.