NASCAR Cup Series: Dover Preview

Story posted May 1, 2022 in Sports, CommRadio by Kasey Kreider

NASCAR’s Cup Series in 2022 has reached the 10-race mark, and those 10 races have provided fans with a little bit of everything. Hard racing, surprise winners and countless dramatic moments have highlighted a season filled with excitement to this point.

If the theme continues, what happens in Sunday’s DuraMAX Drydene 400 at the Dover Motor Speedway is anybody’s guess.

Dover Motor Speedway is nicknamed the “Monster Mile” for a reason. Its high banking and concrete surface create a track that can be difficult for drivers to handle. Straightaways banked at nine degrees usually means that a single-car spin can turn into a multi-car incident on what is referred to as a “self-cleaning racetrack.”

The Next-Gen car has provided some unpredictable racing to this point, with short tracks actually proving to be among the more lackluster races in terms of drama this season.

So there will be a lot of questions as to what kind of racing the new car provides on the one-mile speedway. Richmond and Martinsville both saw very mild and tame races by their standards, and Dover is a race that in recent years has lacked some of the action that at one point made it a fan favorite.

In fact, this will be the second straight year that Dover only holds one race on the Cup Series calendar, after decades of hosting two races in a season.

In last year’s 400-miler, history was made when Alex Bowman led a Hendrick Motorsports 1-2-3-4 across the finish line. It was only the fourth time in NASCAR history – and second in the modern era – that a team had swept the top four finishing positions in a race.

Hendrick Motorsports has shown outright dominance in Dover in the past, going back to the years of seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who won a record 11 times at the speedway, including his final career win in 2017.

In years since, Bowman and Chase Elliott have each found their way to victory lane at the track, while Kyle Larson has a win while driving for Chip Ganassi in 2019.

All variables aside, signs would point to the powerful Hendrick foursome of Bowman, Larson, Elliott and William Byron being the favorites to find victory lane again on Sunday.

However, a new car could easily bring some new players into the fold. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick split the doubleheader held at Dover in 2020 and both could really use a return trip to the winner’s circle this weekend.

Despite winning at Richmond, the rest of 2022 has been an abysmal season for Hamlin, and his bad luck continued when he ran out of fuel in the closing laps last weekend at Talladega.

Through 10 races, Hamlin finds himself in very unfamiliar territory, sitting 24th in the point standings, even with the win.

Harvick – who Hamlin ironically beat for that Richmond win – is trying to finally snap a 53-race winless streak, dating all the way back to Bristol in the 2020 playoffs.

But Harvick has three wins at the Monster Mile, with all of them coming since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

Harvick has had to watch his young teammate Chase Briscoe steal the spotlight for the SHR squad so far in 2022, but Sunday could finally spell opportunity for one of the sport’s veteran drivers to finally grab another checkered flag.

Kasey Kreider is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email kmk6865@psu.edu.