2021 NASCAR Cup Series preview: Dover

Instead of his two opportunities a year to frighten NASCAR’s best drivers, Miles will only get one chance in 2021 as the Cup Series lands at the Monster Mile of Dover International Speedway Sunday afternoon. 

The race marks the 13th round of the season and the beginning of the summer grind for NASCAR that will consist of this one-mile long track, followed by the debut at Circuit of the Americas and the Coca-Cola 600.  

With 10 race winners through the season already, the playoff field has tightened dramatically, but the man whose playoff fate is solidified is Martin Truex Jr. as he made a statement with an old-school outclassing of the field last Sunday at Darlington Raceway. It marked his third win of the season and 30th in his Cup career. 

His three victories this year have all come on tracks running the low-downforce, 750 horsepower aero package (Phoenix, Martinsville, Darlington) and with Dover fitting into that category, Truex Jr. will definitely be in the running for his fourth win Sunday. After winning the Spring 2019 race, he has strung together three-straight, second-place finishes. Dating back to every race since the Spring of 2016, Truex has scored a top 10 in nine of 10 races at Dover. He should have a good run as he rolls off from the pole. 

His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin joins him on the front row. While he has collected the points to create a distant gap from the playoff cutline and lead the field in points, Hamlin still hasn’t collected that coveted win he’s been seeking all season long. Dover hasn’t been the best of tracks for him as he’s only collected six top-five finishes in 30 starts, but he did win the first of a doubleheader weekend in 2020. Where did he start that race? Second. 

After making a valiant effort at catching Truex in the closing laps at Darlington, Kyle Larson is riding a lot of momentum after some poor results at Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway. 

Larson hasn’t raced at Dover since the Fall of 2019, which was a race he won with Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 42. With a championship-caliber team in Hendrick Motorsports that is determined to put him in the title hunt, Larson will be a threat for win No. 2 in 2021 as he starts in fourth. His 7.4 average finish at the Monster Mile is the best among active drivers and that was before moving teams. Definitely be on the lookout for the 28-year old Sunday. 

While Larson is catching heat, his teammate and defending champion Chase Elliott has seen better days than his first half of the 2021 season. He is a good 114 points above the cutline, but good fortunes need to start coming for the No. 9 team sooner rather than later. Elliott will roll off eighth on Sunday, but has DNF’d in two of his last three races at Dover. 

Spire Motorsports driver Justin Haley will miss the weekend due to COVID-19 protocols, so JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry fills in the No. 77 car for Haley Sunday. In the Xfinity Series race Saturday, Berry finished second and collected the final $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus. He will drop to the rear at the start due to the driver change. 

Stages for the Drydene 400 will end on lap 120, lap 240 and the finish on lap 400. There will be a competition caution on lap 35. Fox Sports 1 will carry TV coverage beginning at 2:00 p.m. EST while the Motor Racing Network provides your auditory necessities.

Starting lineup:

Pit stall assignments:

Goodyear tire notes: https://www.jayski.com/2021/05/11/goodyear-fast-facts-dover-5/

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