The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads back to Dover International Speedway this week for Sunday’s Citizen Soldier 400.The track is known as the Monster Mile for its tough high banked concrete mile, and provides challenges known nowhere else.
The race is a milestone of sorts as it is the last race in the Round of 16 in NASCAR’s Chase, and after the checkered flag falls, four drivers will be eliminated from the 16 driver Chase field. The race will be desperation for some, especially those in the bottom four. For others a win isn’t as important as a good finish. The clinch scenarios for all 16 drivers can be found here.
Here are my favorites for Sunday’s 29th race of the year for your betting or fantasy racing leagues. Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2016 races (23 total) among active drivers at Dover International Speedway. The Driver Rating is a number based on a formula developed by NASCAR which combines “loop data” elements such as average running position, average speed under green, number of fastest laps, and other stats. There is a maximum of 150 points that a driver can earn for each race. The odds are current as of Wednesday.
Jimmie Johnson (8-1) No one has more wins here than the six time champion. Johnson leads all drivers here with 10 career wins. He has the highest driver rating in the field 118.1 and while has struggled the last two outings, he remains the driver to beat given his past success here.
Matt Kenseth (7-1) has three wins here the last coming at Dover the last time the series visited here in May. He has the second highest driver rating and after nearly staging a New Hampshire season sweep last week, Kenseth could be lining up to complete a season sweep this week.
Kyle Larson (7-1) has never won in the Cup series, but this could be his week. Larson led 85 laps here in May and had to settle for a second place finish. He has the fourth highest driver rating in the field, 99.3 and could be the leader of the pack Sunday.
“The earlier race at Dover was sort of a turnaround for our team this season, with the runner up finish” Larson said. “And our Target Chevy has gotten faster since then. We’re excited to go back there for the cutoff race and will be working to run up front, run good and stay out of trouble as we look to advance to the next round of the Chase.”
Kyle Busch (7-1) The other Kyle has two wins here, the last one six years ago. He maintains the third highest driver rating in the field, 104.5, and was second in this race last year , but crashed in May and was scored 30th.
Kevin Harvick (5-1) is the odds makers favorite this week. He did score his first career Dover win in this race last season. However, that was in desperation mode. With the ninth highest driver rating in the field, 92.3, and a 15th place finish a lap down in May, along with a victory last week that assured him a spot in the next round, Harvick could win, but my odds are against it.
OTHERS: Jeff Gordon (7-1) returns this week in a substitute role. He has the eighth highest driver rating in the field, 96.0, and five wins at Dover. Chase Elliott (10-1) is this week’s longshot. He has the seventh highest driver rating in the field, 96.7, and an impressive third place finish here in May; he could be the surprise Sunday.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Citizen Soldier 400 will be run on Sunday October 2. Live coverage will be on the NBC Sports Network starting at 1:30 p.m. ET with the green flag coming just after 2:00 p.m. ET.