Dover Weekend Preview: New standings leader Truex goes for second straight Dover win

Martin Truex JR. celebrates his win at Dover on Oct. ,2016. (Getty Images)

Martin Truex Jr. was unable to close out the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway last weekend, despite having the dominant car. He led a race-high 233 laps, but finished third when he could not reel in race-winner Austin Dillon and runner-up Kyle Busch in the final stage.

Still, Truex’s performance contained a silver lining. He vaulted himself to the top of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings where he now leads runner-up Kyle Larson by five points. He also added his series-best 16th playoff point via his Stage 2 win.

Truex will attempt to add to his points advantage in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1) – his home track. The No. 78 Toyota driver grew up in Mayetta, New Jersey, an ocean town 130 miles northeast of the oval known as the Monster Mile. He won the latest race held at Dover last October.

“Finishing third in Charlotte was bittersweet,” said Truex. “I felt we had a good shot at winning that race. But it’s nice to be the points leader, a tribute to everyone at Furniture Row Racing for their commitment to be the best. We want to keep that ranking, and right now all focus is on this week at one of my favorite tracks. I feel very comfortable on the Dover track and we have run well there since I joined Furniture Row Racing.”

In 22 career starts at Dover, Truex claims two wins and 11 top-10 finishes. He’s dominated the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series statistical categories this year, leading the circuit in not only points but wins (2, tied), stage wins (6), average running position (7.3), fastest laps run (403) and laps led (769).

“All year the guys have been bringing fast cars to the track,” Truex said. “I don’t see why that should change this weekend with our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota. It’s been a lot of fun coming to the racetrack week in and week out knowing that you’re going to have a shot of being in contention for a win. … Just can’t say enough about Cole (Pearn, crew chief), his engineering staff, the guys on the road and back at the shop in Denver. They keep on delivering competitive race cars.”

Custer goes for another strong finish as Dash 4 Cash returns at Dover

Cole Custer has been racing in NASCAR’s national series for the last four seasons, but at 19 years old, he’s the youngest regular on the NASCAR XFINITY Series circuit.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 18: Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, sits in his truck during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

The two-time national series winner has held his own among the veterans on the XFINITY circuit. He sits 11th in the series standings, on the strength of three top-10 finishes, and would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

Custer hopes to build off his seventh-place Charlotte finish from last weekend in Saturday’s One Main Financial 200 at Dover International Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1) – the final race of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash.

“I’m looking forward to Dover, Custer said. “It’s one of the coolest tracks we go to. Dover is a concrete track and we had a great run at Bristol (which is also concrete). I think we’ll unload another great car and, with the momentum we’re bringing from Charlotte, I think we’ll have a good shot.”

The Californian finished fifth at Dover in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last year, but has never made a start there in an XFINITY car.

Custer will also get the chance to earn a $100,000 bonus by winning the Dash 4 Cash. Each of the top-two full-time XFINITY Series drivers from the first two stages compete for the Dash 4 Cash prize in the final stage. The highest finisher among the qualifiers earns the $100,000.

“We’ll race as hard as we can to get in those Dash 4 Cash spots, but we don’t want to put ourselves in a bad position to jeopardize a solid points-paying finish,” Custer said.

K&N West champ Gilliland Ready for Camping World debut

On Friday, Todd Gilliland takes the next step up the NASCAR development ladder.

Todd Gilliland

The 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion will make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in the Bar Harbor 200 presented by Sea Watch International at Dover International Speedway (5:30 p.m. ET on FS1), driving the No. 46 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra.

A member of the NASCAR Next program that spotlights the sport’s top prospects, Gilliland, 17, boasts 12 wins in 32 starts across both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West.

He is the son of former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver David Gilliland and the grandson of ex-Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Butch Gilliland.

“I am very excited to get behind the wheel and start my first NASCAR Camping World Series truck race at Dover,” Gilliland said. “Anytime you can go to the racetrack with Kyle Busch Motorsports, you know you’re going to have a competitive truck. It gives me a lot of confidence going into the race and I can’t wait to get the weekend started.”

Race Weekend Guide

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Race: AAA 400 Drive for Autism

Place: Dover International Speedway

Date and Time: Sunday, June 4 at 1 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 120), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 240), Final Stage (Ends on lap 400)

What To Watch For: Austin Dillon tries to follow up his first career win with another visit to Victory Lane at Dover. … Jimmie Johnson attempts to add to his record 10 Dover wins. … Nine different drivers have won in the first 12 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. Drivers who won multiple races last season, who have yet to visit Victory Lane in 2017 include: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. … Matt Kenseth tries to defend his 2016 Dover spring victory.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Race: One Main Financial 200

Place: Dover International Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, June 3 at 1 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 60), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)

What To Watch For: The NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash returns for the final time this season at Dover. A Dash 4 Cash win by Daniel Hemric would earn him a playoff berth along with the $100,000 bonus. … Elliott Sadler attempts to increase his six-point standings lead over second-place Justin Allgaier. … The average age of the winning NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers this season is 25 years old.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Race: Bar Harbor 200 presented by Sea Watch International

Place: Dover International Speedway

Date And Time: Friday, June 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)

What To Watch For: Matt Crafton hopes to defend his 2016 Dover win. … Johnny Sauter tries to extend his 15-point lead over second-place Christopher Bell. … Christopher Bell returns to NASCAR Camping World Truck Series action after finishing fourth in his XFINITY Series debut at Charlotte.

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