Sprint Cup Series
FedEx 400 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, Del.
With the regular season in the Sprint Cup Series now reaching the halfway point, Matt Kenseth is hoping to score his first win of the year, which would virtually assure him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, is currently second in the Sprint Cup standings, 11 points behind leader Jeff Gordon. He has recorded seven top-10 finishes in the last eight races, including a season-best third-place run last weekend's 600-mile event at Charlotte.
Jimmie Johnson claimed his first victory of the season at Charlotte. Johnson, the six-time and defending series champion, became the 10th different winner this year.
Under the new Chase format, race winners are almost guaranteed of making the playoffs in NASCAR's premier series. The field has expanded to 16 drivers/teams, starting this year. The top-15 drivers with the most wins during the 26-race regular season will become eligible for the playoffs, provided they have finished in the top-30 in points. The 16th and final position will go to the driver who is the highest in points without a victory.
Kenseth had a series-season-high seven wins in 2013. He finished second in the Chase.
"I know you more than likely need a win to get into the Chase, but you do the best you can every week to try to win, no matter what the point standings are or no matter how that works out," Kenseth said. "I don't think there's any more or less urgency than anything else. It's not like you can just say, 'Man, we really need a win,' and you just go and get one. It doesn't really work like that.
"So you're trying to win every week and just go out and keep doing the best you can to try to put your best races together every week, and hopefully you'll get one sooner or later."
This weekend, the series is at Dover International Speedway for race 13 in the regular season. Kenseth has won here twice (spring races in 2006 and'11). He also made his series debut at this one-mile, concrete-surfaced track in September 1998.
"I really like the track," Kenseth said. "It's one of those tracks that's really fast. You can attack it. It's one of the tracks that's pretty hard to get around fast by yourself, and then you throw all of them cars out there and it makes it a lot harder. It's always been one of my favorites."
Other drivers who were in the Chase last year but have yet to win a race this season include: Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne.
Tony Stewart won last year's spring race at Dover. Stewart, a three-time series champion, missed the final 15 races of the '13 season, including the fall event at Dover, after suffering a broken right leg during an accident in an Aug. 5 sprint car race in Oskaloosa, Iowa. On Monday, he drove a sprint car for the first time, in a private test, since his accident.
One year ago at Dover, Stewart snapped a 30-race winless streak after passing Juan Pablo Montoya for the lead with just three laps remaining. During a late- race caution for an accident involving Denny Hamlin, Montoya beat Jimmie Johnson out of the pits to take the lead. When the race resumed with 19 laps to go, Johnson quickly pulled ahead of Montoya for the top spot, but NASCAR ruled that Johnson jumped the restart and therefore penalized him with a pass through on pit road.
Stewart was never a factor until late in the race. He led just the final three laps.
"We just didn't have the car to win the race, but we had great pit strategy at the end," Stewart recalled of his victory at Dover last year. "We had a car that was solid, but we just never could get the track position to get in clean air. We changed only two tires on that last stop to get up front. The car felt a lot better up there, and it didn't seem like the guys who took four tires had a huge advantage taking off. When we noticed we were catching the leaders, we kind of got going on the bottom and made up even more time. It was just a big win for us and really gave us some momentum for the next few races."
Last September, Johnson won at Dover for a record eighth time. He had been in a tie with Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for most victories at this track. Johnson comes to Dover with a lot of momentum after snapping his 13-race winless streak this past Sunday.
"Just looking to expand on a great performance last weekend," Johnson said. "We are coming to my favorite racetrack, and by the stats, probably our best track as well."
Forty-three teams are on the entry list for Sunday's FedEx 400.
Buckle Up 200 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, Del.
Joey Logano has conquered "The Monster Mile" more so than any other driver in Nationwide Series competition, including Kyle Busch.
Logano has won the last four Nationwide races at Dover International Speedway, sweeping both events here during the 2012 and '13 seasons. He now holds the record for most victories in the series at this one-mile, concrete-surfaced track.
Six years ago, Logano made his Nationwide debut at Dover when he was 18 years old. He started ninth and finished sixth.
If Logano takes the checkered flag for Saturday's 200-mile event here, he would join Jack Ingram, Dale Earnhardt and Busch as those drivers who have won five Nationwide races in a row at the same track. Ingram accomplished the feat at South Boston (Va.) Speedway, Earnhardt did it at Daytona, and Busch did so at Texas.
"[Dover] has been a great racetrack for me," Logano said. "It is one of my favorite racetracks because of the success here. To be in that group of guys that have won five races at a row at a racetrack, with Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Busch and Jack Ingram, it would be an honor to be there."
This will be Logano's third Nationwide race of the season, driving the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske. He finished fourth at California after leading a race- high 96 laps there and then placed fifth at Darlington.
Logano has also scored three poles, six top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 10 starts at this track.
"Dover is just one of those tracks that I've taken a liking to over the years," he said. "I've really figured out what it takes to get a car around there. I can then relate that back to my team and my crew chief, and we can get the car dialed in just like I need it."
Forty teams are on the entry list for the Buckle Up 200. Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson and Logano are those Sprint Cup Series regulars scheduled to compete in this race.
Camping World Truck Series
Lucas Oil 200 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, Del.
The Camping World Truck Series will run its fifth race of the season on Friday at Dover International Speedway.
Matt Crafton, the defending series champion, is currently atop the point standings. Crafton won at Martinsville on March 30 and then has finished second to Kyle Busch in the last two races -- Kansas (May 9) and Charlotte (May 16). He holds an 11-point advantage over Timothy Peters.
Busch has won in each of his last four truck starts. He scored the victory in the 2013 season-finale at Homestead and then took the checkered flag for the 2014 season-opener at Daytona. Busch did not compete at Martinsville. He has been dominant in the last two races, leading 104 of 167 laps at Kansas and 130 of 134 laps at Charlotte.
Crafton finished three seconds behind Busch at Kansas. The Charlotte race ended under caution due to a multi-truck accident on the frontstretch during the final lap.
"I'm getting tired of it," Crafton said of finishing second to Busch. "You're getting beat by one of the best in the business, but it still doesn't make it any sweeter because I want to win these races."
On Thursday, rain washed out all but 10 minutes of practice, forcing NASCAR officials to set the starting lineup by the rule book. Therefore, Busch will start on the pole for the 200-mile race since his No. 51 team is first in the truck owner point standings. Crafton will start second. There were two practice sessions scheduled for Thursday.
Busch is the only driver with multiple truck victories at Dover, a one-mile, concrete-surfaced track. He won here in 2005, '11 and '13. Busch did not compete in the 2012 race.
He has won two Sprint Cup Series races and three Nationwide Series events at Dover as well.
"I've been very successful in all three series at Dover, so this spring race is one that I look at as a possible triple-win weekend," Busch said. "The concrete surface is very slick, and some drivers don't like the concrete feel one bit while other drivers like it. For me, I enjoy going to Dover and Bristol. They are fun places to race because they are challenging and other drivers don't necessarily get it. The racetracks are slick and having the right mindset going into those races can give you an advantage over the guys that aren't looking forward to racing there."
Busch is 13 wins away from tying Ron Hornaday Jr.'s record for most career victories in the Truck Series (51-38). The 29-year-old driver is on pace to break that record in just a few years, as he is averaging a win in every three starts he makes.
After he competes at Dover, Busch will skip the next two truck races (Texas and St. Louis) before making his next start on June 26 at Kentucky. Busch is scheduled to drive his No. 51 Toyota in 10 truck races this season. Erik Jones is expected to be behind the wheel of it in the remaining 12 events.
VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit - Raceway at Belle Isle Park - Detroit, Mich.
The IndyCar Series will hold its first doubleheader of the season this weekend at Detroit's Bell Isle Park.
Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay arrived in Detroit on Thursday after his media tour to New York City and then Fort Worth, Texas, where the series will race on June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway. Hunter-Reay will be a guest on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on June 2.
After beating Helio Castroneves to the finish line by only 0.060 seconds, Hunter-Reay collected $2.49 million for his victory in the Indy 500. He also took over the lead in the championship point standings. Hunter-Reay holds a 40-point advantage over Will Power. Castroneves trails by 54.
"It's been surreal, but there's a real sense of getting back to work this week and turning the page because there's a lot at stake this week," Hunter-Reay said. "With two races, there are as many points up for grabs in Detroit as there was at Indy."
The first 70-race on the 2.36-mile, 13-turn Belle Isle Park street circuit is scheduled for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET, and the second event is slated for Sunday at the same time. Each race is on a sliding scale from 50-10 points. There are bonus points of one for the pole winner for each race as well as one point for leading a lap and two for leading the most in each event.
Hunter-Reay posted the quickest lap in Friday morning's practice session at Belle Isle Park. His best lap was clocked in 1 minute, 18.8595 mph. Justin Wilson was second on the charts, followed Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan.
The first doubleheader in series history took place in Detroit one year ago. Mike Conway won race 1, driving an entry for Dale Coyne Racing. He started on the pole and finished third in race 2. Conway is driving the No. 20 car for Ed Carpenter Racing in all road/street course races this season, while Carpenter is behind the wheel for the oval events.
"The Detroit races really brought me back into the IndyCar Series last year," Conway said. "It was exciting to return in grand style and win at a big event like Belle Isle. I'm looking forward to return to Detroit and defending my title."
In April, Conway claimed his third career IndyCar win by taking the checkered flag in Long Beach, California.
Pagenaud scored his maiden IndyCar victory in the second race in Detroit last year. He survived a crash-filled event that featured six cautions in the first half, including a big pileup involving 10 drivers.
Earlier this month, Pagenaud won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He is in his third season with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.
"Detroit was huge for us last year," Pagenaud said. "It was definitely a lift and what started it all. It was like a swirl. For us as a team, that's when everybody started to believe we could win every race. That's when everybody raised their game. It was more focus on us, and I believe everybody at this time thought they were winners."
Pagenaud is presently fourth in the standings. He is 63 points behind Hunter- Reay.
Twenty-two teams are on the entry list for the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit.