Race Preview Update: Dover II

Kenseth and Bowyer talk during practice Friday. Both should run up front today in the race. (Photo Jim McIsaac/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The Sprint Cup teams got in all three practices and qualifying at Dover under warm, sunny skies, and that’s good for predictability because it gives us lots of data to review. Today’s forecast on Weather.com calls for cooler weather during the race today, however, and that reduces the value of all that warm-weather data somewhat because the cars will behave a little differently on a cool track than a warm track.

Two more factors boost predictability. First, according to the Goodyear tire notes on Jayski.com, the teams are running the same tires they did in the May race, and that helps because it allows the teams to lean heavily on their notes from the May race. Finally, we already had solid historical data to review prior to yesterday’s preliminaries, which I discussed in my mid-week preview.

Overall, I rate predictability a little above average today. Fantasy players can therefore be a bit aggressive with start saving (though it’s questionable if you should still be saving starts this late in the season), and bettors can consider taking slightly tighter lines than normal.

Handicapping Dover II
I ran the numbers from the three practices and qualifying to produce new rankings, and then I merged those rankings with my mid-week rankings (heavily weighting the results toward the new rankings). I tweaked those results per the 10-lap averages from both practices, and then I did one last fine-tuning after reading the opinions of other online experts and considering starting positions.

I came up with this top five:

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Martin Truex Jr.
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Matt Kenseth
  5. Clint Bowyer

Johnson was my #1 pick earlier this week, and he solidified his hold on that spot with strong runs in the preliminaries. He looked good on short runs, starts on the pole and holds the best pit stall, and looked great in the historical data. He did look a little iffy on the long runs, so he’s not a total slam dunk for the win today, but he’s still the favorite.

I liked Truex and Kyle Busch a lot in my preview, and they did not disappoint Friday and Saturday. Bowyer also looked sharp, his penalty related troubles notwithstanding.

One big surprise: Matt Kenseth. I rated Kenseth #12 in my preview, but he vaulted up my charts with outstanding runs in practice Saturday. The funny thing is, he was pretty awful on Friday. For Saturday, apparently the team threw out their setup and put teammate Carl Edward’s set up in. Whatever they did worked because he put up very fast one-lap times and 10-lap averages Saturday.

If you’re betting today, make sure you shop around to get the best possible line on your driver(s). Picking up an extra point or two for one race may not seem like much, but it’s crucial if you want to make money in the long run.

My Yahoo! Fantasy Picks
Group A
I’ve got Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin available, and I’ll go with Kyle, although I think it’s pretty close.

I’d run Johnson if I had him, and I think Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carl Edward look good, too (in that order).

Group B
I’ll run Truex and Kenseth over David Reutimann and Ryan Newman, and it’s not close.

Bowyer looks outstanding, too, and I think Kasey Kahne offers excellent value as well.

Sleeper pick: Joey Logano.

Group C
A.J. Allmendinger pretty much lived up to my mid-week expectations; he’s easily #1 in Group C this morning.

Paul Menard is the strong #2 in the group, followed by Sam Hornish Jr. and, pretty distantly, by Regan Smith, Scott Speed and Reed Sorenson.