June 5, 2012
By Jim Fitzgerald
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series lands in Dover, Delaware for the FedEx 400- Benefitting Autism Speaks event, one of the hot topics during Friday morning press availabilities was the Dover track, and the uniqueness of it.
Dubbed “The Monster Mile”, the track has a history of taking a bite of a race car and spitting it out into smaller pieces. At one mile in length, it is the only high-banked mile-long track on the Sprint Cup circuit. The track is also in the minority because it is only one of a few stops that boasts a concrete surface. With a reputation for retiring racecars before their time, you might think that Dover would be a place to which the drivers dread coming. You might think that.
Ryan Truex, like older brother Martin, considers Dover his home track. Truex is facing a tough track at a tough time, as he is only ten days removed from an emergency appendectomy in his bid to win this weekend’s Nationwide Series race.
However, Truex, a multi-time champion on the NASCAR K&N East series, healed fast and received clearance from both his doctor and NASCAR to compete this weekend. Truex joked that his brother was considered as a replacement, but the younger Truex was not going to allow that to happen.
Truex said he has no pain, no stitches, no relief driver, and loves this track. Martin backed up his brother’s love for the track. Martin did claim that if you’re a little off in the beginning of the corner, you’re way off through the rest of it. However, he followed that up with the fact that he’s always been able to come here and run well, and he’s not sure what it is, but he loves it here.
Jeff Gordon has been racing here long enough to remember when it was asphalt, not concrete. Gordon has had success here over the years, but like most drivers does find the track challenging.
“There is just no comparing this place,” Gordon explained. “It is just unlike any other track you will ever go to. I ran some very high banked fast race tracks in the midgets and sprint cars prior to coming into NASCAR. Even those tracks don’t really prepare you for how you drop into the banking here. It is a very unique place. I know it is one that I enjoyed right away because I like a big, fast, challenging race track like this. We have always had pretty good success here. It certainly was a track that I liked right away.”
Matt Kenseth was asked about his thoughts of going from Dover to Pocono. Kenseth said he really did not concentrate too much on the difference of one track to the next, but he has had success here, he runs well here, and the confidence of driver and team are high.
“It is one of those tracks you can’t let your guard down,” Kenseth said. “You really have to focus and concentrate and pay attention to be able to get fast laps around here all the time. It is one of the more challenging tracks I feel like and that is what makes it so fun.”
Kenseth’s Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Carl Edwards, talked about how when he first came here, he didn’t respect The Monster Mile, and promptly dumped two trucks into the wall in one weekend. After learning his lesson, Edwards has become one of the more successful drivers at the track. Edwards has found some love with The Monster now, and feels like this weekend at Dover would be a good time and place to get a win.
Jimmie Johnson, a multiple time winner at Dover, said that because of the speeds, you can bring some aspects of chassis set up from a mile and a half track here. Reflecting on how well he ran at Charlotte, Johnson said, “We have seen trends from a successful Charlotte, means a successful Dover. We are coming here with that thought in mind and hopeful our car is real fast, and I love this track, so those two things together really help.”
It is easy to see the trend forming. The drivers who have figured Dover out are the ones who seems to like it, while those who struggle with it, well, struggle with it. Perhaps the “love” for Dover is in the eye of the beholder...or in this case, the winner.
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