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Dover International Speedway Update - AAA 400

Jeff Cogliandro  
Point Spread Weekly

The Monster Mile in Dover, Del., will be the scene for the NASCAR AAA 400 (2 p.m. ET Sunday). Dover is a concrete racing surface that is high-banked, narrow and very fast. The stiff surface and impressive 24-degree banking provide some of the most treacherous racing on the circuit.
 
Generally in order to have a solid chance to win, a driver had to start in the top 5 at Dover. Drivers who start in the top-5 positions have won over 57% of the races at Dover. While this is a large percentage, examining the numbers a little more closely displays a recent trend that goes against what we have learned about Dover in the past. 
 
Just 23% of the winners at Dover have started outside the top 10. However, four of the last six winners at Dover have started 10th or worse. With the rule changes that have been made by NASCAR, progressing to the front from further back in the field is no longer such a rarity. Stage racing appears to be another of the rule changes that has really helped generate winners, from starting positions that were not formally optimal. 
 
Below is a look at many of the contenders for Sunday’s race at Dover.
 
Kyle Larson (3-1): Starting from the pole and backed by several strong performances at Dover, Larson is a field favorite to win. There is no doubt that Larson has all the skill needed to command his car to victory lane however, he has proved to be inconsistent. As good as he is, there is really no way to endorse a driver at such low odds when so many others have a legitimate shot to win. Additionally, Larson was not too happy with his car during final practice, and that is not what you want to hear from a driver at such short odds. 
 
Kevin Harvick (3-1): Harvick has not had a lot of recent success at Dover, as he has only one top 10 in the last four races there. However, this weekend during practice, he has had a very fast car on long runs. Prior to the weekend, I would have tossed him out as a possible selection at such low odds, but he appears to be very good going into the race. At this point, Harvick is more deserving of being the race favorite at miniscule odds of 3-1 when compared to Larson. 
 
Kyle Busch (7-2): Another of the main contenders this week, and every week, Busch looks to make it four wins in the last five races. He has a prime starting spot and is likely going to be one of the main threats to win. Busch has one win and two top-5 finishes in the last four races at Dover. He was one of the best cars when combining the performances of the practice sessions held on Saturday. 
 
Jimmie Johnson (5-1): As with many tracks, Johnson is most successful active driver at Dover. Johnson has a total of 11 wins, with four wins in the last nine races at Dover. We have covered his struggles over the last year, but he appears to be bouncing back to form. However, starting deep in the 19th spot, the odds are far too low to consider him as possible wager. 
 
Martin Truex, Jr. (11-2): Starting the race from the third position, Truex looks to be solid. His qualifying effort may have put a brighter light on his situation when compared to the following practice sessions. Truex did not have the blazing speed of many of his competitors over the long runs on Saturday. However, Truex and his team are excellent at keeping up with the changes of the track, and it would not be surprising to see him in contention for the win. All things considered, Truex could easily be a top-5 car as the race comes to a close. His odds are placed accurately based on where he fits the into field of race winning potential. 
 
Chase Elliott (8-1): Starting from the sixth position, Elliott hopes to get his first cup win. He has been very consistent at Dover and, barring incident or error, he will be a force Sunday. Elliott was strong in both sessions of practice and appears to be poised to win. Based on the numbers, Elliott should be on the short list of possible winners. However, getting his first win has become a rather lengthy endeavor, and one that many figured would have ended by now. At 8-1, there is very marginal value at best, but Elliott looks to be a top 3-5 car. 
 
Brad Keselowski (9-1): Down from 15-1, Keselowski looked fast on Saturday, especially during the first practice. Starting in the eighth position, Keselowski is expected to be in contention for the win. While he has looked good this weekend there is not enough space in his price to separate him from several of the other contenders.  
 
Denny Hamlin (15-1): Hamlin was strong in the second practice session on Saturday, but then fell off during final practice. In his last four starts at Dover, he has not recorded a win or a top-5 finish. Additionally, Hamlin’s average finish approaches 15th during that same span of races. 
 
Joey Logano (15-1): Last week’s winner will have to really turn it around in order to be a contender. He starts 18th, which is very deep for Dover, and his practice sessions were not remarkable. As the race approaches, he is on the cusp of being a 10th-place car. Although he is coming off a win, these odds are too low for a driver who has only led three lifetime laps at Dover. 
 
Clint Bowyer (15-1): Bowyer has become stronger as the weekend has progressed. Armed with a decent starting spot of 12th, Bowyer looks to be a bigger threat than he did going into the weekend. He was the fastest driver over a 10-lap average in final practice, and appears to be getting stronger as the weekend moves forward. 
 
Ryan Blaney (17-1): Blaney did not appear to be a main contender going into the weekend. However, in final practice, he was able to make some of the changes needed to get his car up the speed charts. He was one of the best cars over a 10-lap average, and could be well-placed for a good showing. Both Blaney, and Bowyer are well-placed at their current odds. 
 
Aric Almirola (30-1): Dover has not been a great track for Almirola, but he has been really fast as the weekend has progressed. He was third-fastest over a 20-lap average in final practice, and was very happy with his car. Odds of 30-1 are a little inflated considering how well he has run during the races this year. Almirola would still be at value just beyond Blaney and Bowyer in the neighborhood of 22-1. Again, here is a driver with little prior Dover success, now in a much better situation, and he is responding with fast lap times.
 
Daniel Suarez (80-1): Starting seventh and recording two top-10 finishes in his only starts at Dover, Suarez is a live longshot. He was in the top 4 for fastest 20-lap runs in final practice, and has shown the ability to adapt quickly to Dover. His odds do not reflect accurately, as he is also yet to win. Suarez’s odds should not be 10 times the value of Chase Elliott who is also going for his first win. 
 
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (100-1): Starting fifth and showing good speed on Saturday, Stenhouse is another of the longshots that is placed well. If the race were to become off sequence, or break down then a driver who is well positioned could steal a win. Both Stenhouse and Suarez are starting from prime positions and either could be in contention late. These are longshot fliers that are based on the being in the right place at the right time. 
 
Below are the matchups that made the cut for this weekend’s race. As always, shop around, and compare prices prior to wagering.
 
 
Jimmie Johnson (-110):
Martin Truex Jr. (-110): Johnson is starting deep and will likely move forward considerably, but expecting him to surpass Truex’s performance will be a tall order. While Truex has not looked outstanding this weekend, his team will have an easier task of holding steady if the race starts off with a long green run.
 
Jimmie Johnson (-125):
Chase Elliott (plus 105): Dover has been Elliott’s best track, and he has the recent numbers to suggest that he is a main contender. An average finish of just over third, Elliott has been superior to Johnson in all practice sessions this weekend. 
 
Joey Logano (-110):
Brad Keselowski (-110): This is play that is based on a combination of factors. Logano has really struggled at Dover throughout his career. Logano is overvalued, which is likely due to winning a restrictor-plate race last week. That win for Logano in no way translates to Dover as they are not comparable. Keselowski on the other hand, has looked progressively better as practice unfolded.
 
Top #25 Power Ranking Dover International Speedway - AAA 400
 
  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Kevin Harvick
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Kyle Larson
  5. Martin Truex Jr.
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. Ryan Blaney
  8. Clint Bowyer
  9. Jimmie Johnson
  10. Daniel Suarez
  11. Aric Almirola
  12. Jamie McMurray
  13. Denny Hamlin
  14. Erik Jones
  15. Kurt Busch
  16. Paul Menard
  17. Ryan Newman
  18. William Byron
  19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  20. Alex Bowman
  21. Kasey Kahne
  22. Darrell Wallace Jr.
  23. Trevor Bayne
  24. Chris Buescher
  25. AJ Allmendinger
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