On Friday, I wrote how Hendrick Motorsports was thriving this weekend at the Dover International Speedway. They went 2-3-5-13 in the first practice on single lap speed and 5-11-14-15 in final practice. On 10 lap averages though, they were 2-4-12 and 2-3-5-17 respectively.
They have good short run speed as well as good long run. Plus, if you look at what they did this past May (2-5-8-12) and you get the likely favorite.
They backed that up in qualifying on Saturday too. All four HMS cars will start in the top 12 with Chase Elliott and William Byron sharing Row 3. Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman will each roll off in Row 6 themselves.
HMS went 1-2 last weekend at Charlotte as well. They’ll be led by Elliott who was fifth in final practice and finished there in the race this past spring. He led 145 laps that day. Elliott, won the race last weekend and is the defending race winner in this very playoff race on the high banked concrete oval. Also, Elliott has a top five finish in all but one Cup Series start at Dover to go along with six top 10’s over his last eight starts on the season.
Bowman finished second last weekend and was runner-up in the spring race too. He was fourth and third respectively on the long run speed chart in his No. 88 Chevrolet.
Byron was second in the first practice and fifth in final practice on 10 lap averages. He has three top seven finishes in his No. 24 Chevrolet in his last four starts on the season.
The last driver is Johnson. He’s an 11 time winner at Dover and was second in both sessions on 10 lap averages. He was also third and 11th respectively on single lap speeds. Johnson’s worst finish in the playoffs despite not even being playoff eligible is 11th.
This may be the organization to beat.
Joe Gibbs Racing was right there with them on Saturday. They struggled a bit in race pace on Friday but in qualifying, three of their four will start in the top eight. Combined, JGR/HMS has seven of the top 12 starters for Sunday’s opening race of the Round of 12.
Denny Hamlin will come from the pole while also making his 500th career Cup start. He was only seventh and ninth respectively on single lap speed on Friday but sixth and ninth on 10 lap averages.
Martin Truex Jr. will start third in his No. 19 Toyota. Truex Jr. was 12th and second on single lap runs on Friday and sixth on the 10 lap. He won the spring race and two of the three races in the first round. He also has five top four finishes in his last six Dover tries.
Erik Jones will roll off seventh in his No. 20 Toyota. He wasn’t very strong on Friday but does have two straight top six finishes at the Monster Mile.
Kyle Busch though, well he’s struggled all weekend. He was only 15th and 17th in practice on Friday including being 13th quickest on the 10 lap average. He qualified his No. 18 Toyota in 18th. He’s been good at Dover in the fall race (3 top 2’s in his last 4 starts) but has struggled in the spring race (5 finishes of 16th or worse in his last 6 tries).
In terms of Penske, they have one spring race win at Dover since 1995 and just two since 2005 in the fall. All the wins were with Dodge.
Ryan Blaney has never finished better than eighth (twice) in seven Dover starts. He was third and 10th respectively on 10 lap averages and only fourth and 13th on single lap runs. He’ll start 10th. Joey Logano was quickest in the opening session but 23rd in final practice. He was 17th and eighth on the 10 lap averages and has just two top fives at the Monster Mile since 2014. He’ll roll off 14th. Brad Keselowski was 19th and fourth on single lap runs but 14th and 18th on 10 lap averages. He starts 16th.