NASCAR Cup Series at Dover International Speedway May 2018 starting lineup breakdown
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates have reason to believe: Johnson, riding a career-worst 33-race winless streak, has won 11 races on the one-mile concrete oval; Elliott has four career top-5s at the track, his best track in a Cup career that boasts 25 top-5s in 87 starts but no wins.
So who has destiny on his side?
Johnson: “I don’t know. That’s a good one. But I know who I want it to be. Chase is a great guy and [my daughter] Lydia’s favorite driver, but it’s time for dad to win.”
Elliott: “I heard he said it was him, so I’m going to say it’s me. How about that?”
For Elliott to get that first win, he could look at the race last fall at Dover, where he led 138 laps but Kyle Busch passed him coming to take the white flag.
Elliott hasn’t watched film to prepare for this race. He said where the team is at the moment is different than last fall and he didn’t want to see something and get confused on what he thought would help the car when it wouldn’t help it this year.
“I’ve seen enough replays on y’all’s big screen throughout the season and last year,” Elliott said. “We have a routine each week getting ready to race, and if I feel like I want or need to watch a previous race from the year before, then I will.
“I didn’t feel like I really wanted to do that this week. It wasn’t necessarily because of the finish last fall. I just didn’t really want to watch.”
Here is how the AAA 400 at Dover breaks down for Sunday:
1. Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet): This is his first pole at an oval that is less than two miles in length. He led 378 of a possible 806 laps (47 percent) at Dover last season. But maybe his biggest highlight this week was playing in the Pro-Am in Charlotte. He shot a 91, one off his handicap.
2. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford): Apparently attending the PGA event in Charlotte was good mojo for the race. Harvick was there, too, earlier in the week.
3. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota): This is one of Truex’s “home” tracks, but this one is memorable because it was the place of his first NASCAR Cup Series win (June 2007). Has finished top-5 at Dover in each of the past three races.
4. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota): He won here last October. Five times at Dover, he has led more than 100 laps.
5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford): He has made the final round of qualifying for four consecutive weeks. That consistency should be the standard for Matt Kenseth when he comes back next week in the Trevor Bayne car.
6. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet): Elliott is 4-for-4 in top-5s at Dover (average finish: 3.25), but he said his team isn’t as strong compared to the competition as it was last fall.
7. Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota): Suarez had finishes of sixth and eighth in his rookie season at Dover. So to see him starting seventh is no surprise.
8. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford): He won at Dover in September 2012 but has just one top-5 in his past six Dover starts.
9. Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford): He has just one top-10 in his past 12 Dover starts.
10. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota): Has to be holding his breath coming down pit road hoping he doesn’t get a speeding penalty.
11. Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota): JGR has four cars in the top 11. Not too bad at all.
12. Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford): SHR has four cars in the top 13. Not too bad at all. Bowyer has two top-5 finishes in 24 career starts at Dover.
13. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford): Won a truck race at Dover in May 2010.
14. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske No. 12 Ford): He won the Xfinity race at Dover last September, but he has three consecutive finishes outside the top 20 at Dover in the Cup car.
15. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet): Bowman, at 12th in the standings, is still the best of the four Hendrick drivers.
16. Chris Buescher (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 37 Chevrolet): He won an Xfinity race at Dover in May 2015 but still seeks his first top-15 finish in a Cup car. The good news? He’s the best of any of the RCR/affiliate cars.
17. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet): In his three Xfinity/truck starts at Dover, he led 142 laps.
18. Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford): Not the way Logano wanted to build off the win last week at Talladega.
19. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet): His 11 wins at Dover are the most by any active driver at any track.
20. Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford): Three top-10s, zero top-5s in 21 career Cup starts at Dover.
21. Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet): He has three career wins at Dover, but the last one came in September 2004.
22. Trevor Bayne (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford): Bayne reluctantly hands over the wheel to Kenseth next week at Kansas. Roush Fenway has not yet announced a schedule, but Bayne is expected to run races in which Advocare is the sponsor.
23. Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet): Got the fabrication shop at Ganassi together to thank them for keeping him safe in his flip at Talladega.
24. Matt DiBenedetto (Go Fas Racing No. 32 Ford): His past four finishes have been 16th, 21st, 16th and 19th. He has earned 76 points in those four races after earning 54 points in the first six.
25. Kasey Kahne (Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Chevrolet): This team can’t buy a break. They were tied in qualifying for 24th and owner points meant he didn’t advance to the second round.
26. Darrell Wallace Jr. (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford): Team announced a six-race sponsorship with World Wide Technology earlier this week, which also should give the team engineering help.
27. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet): He has just one top-10 in nine career Cup starts at Dover.
28. AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet): His leading 143 laps at Dover probably seems long ago. It was — in September 2010.
29. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford): The one-mile tracks haven’t treated McDowell well in qualifying. He started 31st at Phoenix.
30. Ty Dillon (Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet): Five days after a much-needed 15th-place finish at Talladega, the struggles continue for Dillon.
31. Ross Chastain (Premium Motorsports No. 15 Chevrolet): Chastain has his watermelon sponsorship this weekend, which doubles with a Delaware Office of Highway Safety initiative to “Protect Your Melon.”
32. David Ragan (Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford): Although the team doesn’t expect to make the final round each week, this result is still disappointing.
34. Reed Sorenson (Premium Motorsports No. 55 Chevrolet): He hasn’t finished a race in his past four starts.
35. Gray Gaulding (BK Racing No. 23 Toyota): Appeared to battle an ill-handling car in qualifying.
36. Derrike Cope (StarCom Racing No. 99 Chevrolet): This is Cope’s first Cup start of 2018. He helps run the StarCom team.
37. Cody Ware (Rick Ware Racing No. 51 Chevrolet): This is Ware’s first Cup start of the season.
38. Corey LaJoie (TriStar Motorsports No. 72 Chevrolet): Team did not make a qualifying lap after blowing an engine in practice.