Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Dover News and Notes

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: AAA 400 Drive for Autism
The Place: Dover International Speedway
The Date: Sunday, June 4
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: 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)

Dillon Wins First Race, Brings No. 3 Back To Victory Lane

Austin Dillon stretched his fuel to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway – the first victory of his career. His triumph also marked the first time the No. 3 Chevrolet reached Victory Lane since Dale Earnhardt won at Talladega on Oct. 15, 2000.

Dillon, 27, joins Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as the second first-time winner of the season. His victory gives him five playoff points.

Dillon will try to build off his win in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1).

The win was also the first in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Justin Alexander, who took over crew chief duties for the No. 3 the week before the Coca-Cola 600.

A testament to NASCAR’s development system, Dillon won the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship and 2013 NASCAR XFINITY Series title. He’s the 28th driver to win a race in all three of NASCAR’s national series.

Notable NASCAR stars who also captured their first victory in the Coca-Cola 600 include: NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson, four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, 2000 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title-winner Bobby Labonte and 2003 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth.

Monster Masher: Johnson Looks To Add To Dover Track Wins Record

Any time the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Dover, any driver who wishes to go to Victory Lane must go through Jimmie Johnson.

The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports driver boasts a track-record 10 wins in addition to 15 top fives, 21 top 10s and a 9.5 average finish. Johnson also claims the series-best driver rating (118.3) and average running position (7.8) at the Monster Mile.

If Johnson wins this weekend, he will join NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip as the only three MENCS drivers to win 11 or more races at a single track – Petty has done it four times (Martinsville 15, North Wilkesboro 15, Richmond 13 and Rockingham 11). Waltrip has done it twice (Bristol 12, Martinsville 11).

Johnson currently sits eighth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings, 132 markers below leader Martin Truex Jr. He, Truex and Brad Keselowski pace the series with two wins each this season.

Truex Takes Points Lead, Can Earn Second Consecutive Monster Mile Win

Martin Truex Jr. couldn’t reel in Austin Dillon for his third win of the season at Charlotte Motor Speedway last weekend, but he did take the points lead after finishing third and winning the Stage 2. And that’s a big deal – remember, the regular season champion earns 15 additional playoff points (as opposed to second place, who earns 10).

The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing driver holds a five-point advantage over second-place Kyle Larson. He also leads the series with six stage wins (Ryan Blaney is next best with three) and 16 playoff points (Brad Keselowski is next best with 12).

Truex, is dominating the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Loop Data Statistics. He leads in average running position (7.3), driver rating (113.3), fastest laps run (403) and laps led (769).

A native of Mayetta, New Jersey, Truex won at his home track of Dover last fall. In Sunday’s AAA Drive for Autism 400, he’ll attempt to notch his second consecutive win at the one-mile track. In 22 starts at Dover, Truex claims two wins, two top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 14.2.

On the season, Truex has two wins, four top fives and eight top 10s.

Sense Of Urgency For Winless Drivers?

There have already been nine different race winners through the first 12 races of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. A win essentially gets a driver into the playoffs and there are only eight automatic berths left.

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.

If the season ended today the following drivers would make the playoffs: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon.

Kenseth Readies To Defend Dover Spring Victory

Matt Kenseth won last year’s Dover spring race – one of the more exciting contests of the 2016 season. On old tires, Kenseth outlasted a charging Kyle Larson, leading the final 47 laps on his way to victory.

In 36 career starts at Dover, Kenseth has three wins, 17 top fives, 24 top 10s and a 12.8 average finish. He ranks second to Jimmie Johnson in Dover average running position (8.4) and driver rating (108.6).

Kenseth enters Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism coming off a fourth-place finish at Charlotte.

Kyle Busch Closing In On 13,000 Laps Led Milestone

Kyle Busch has to lead a mere 59 laps to become the 11th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to lead 13,000 or more laps.

It wouldn’t be a bad bet to say Busch will achieve the feat this weekend at Dover International Speedway. He led 102 laps on his way to a runner-up showing at Dover last fall and has paced the field for 1,139 go-arounds there in his career.

Busch is winless on the season, but he’s starting to heat up. He’s finished second (Charlotte), fifth (Kansas) and third (Talladega) in his last three races, and has led at least 48 laps in each contest.

Larson Hopes To Seize Back Points Lead At Dover

Kyle Larson lost the points lead after wrecking at Charlotte, and now sits second in the standings, trailing Martin Truex Jr. by five markers.

He’ll get the chance to seize it back at one of his better tracks – Dover International Speedway. In six career starts at the Monster Mile, the 24-year-old Larson owns two top fives, four top 10s and a 9.3 average finish.

In last year’s spring race, Larson led 85 laps, but failed to clear Matt Kenseth at the end of the contest and finished runner-up.

Larson headlines a group of five drivers under the age of 30 who would make the playoffs if the season ended today: Larson, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon.