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Previewing the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks
by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Location: Dover, Del.
Specs: 1-mile oval; Banking/Turns: 24°; Banking/Straightaways: 9°
2010 Winners: Kyle Busch (May); Jimmie Johnson (Sept.)
2011 Race Length: 400 miles/400 laps
Track Qualifying Record: 161.522 mph (Jeremy Mayfield, 2004)
Race Record: 132.719 mph (Mark Martin, 1997)
From the Spotter's Stand
Jimmie Johnson has been rock solid at the concrete 1-mile oval in Dover, and last year was no different. The 48 dominated for the sixth time at “The Monster Mile” — and for the third time in four races — by starting on the pole, leading a race-high 191 laps and taking the checkers by a 2.637-second margin over runner-up Jeff Burton in the second race of the Chase.
Earlier in the year, Johnson led 225 laps but could not hold it together after being busted for speeding on pit road while going mano a mano with wild child and eventual winner Kyle Busch. Rowdy led 131 laps before raising the “Miles the Monster” trophy in Victory Lane for the second time in his career.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Dover is an all-concrete track and is banked all the way around; even the straights have nine degrees of banking. Therefore, right-side tire management is a race-long concern.
“Dover provides drivers with multiple grooves from which to choose, but normally, the best cars are the ones that will run the low line around the track. The transitions from turns to straights are unique. Drivers call it ‘falling down’ in the turns.
“Back in the 1990s, it was asphalt, but it was so rough it was more like a gravel road. Concrete has its pluses and minuses, but it made this track a lot better.”
Looking at Checkers: Look no further than the 48’s six wins in 18 career Cup starts.
Pretty Solid Pick: Mark Martin has made no secret of his love of Dover. His four wins are proof of it.
Good Sleeper Pick: Guys turn it up a notch when racing at their home track, and this is Martin Truex’s.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Juan Pablo Montoya has led only three of the 3,222 laps he’s completed at Dover.
Insider Tip: Trouble happens quick here. Having a good qualifier who stays up front is a bonus.
Classic Moments at Dover
Proving his shocking win in the Daytona 500 earlier in the season was no fluke, Derrike Cope leads 93 laps and wins the 1990 Budweiser 500 in Dover.
Cope starts 15th, but shoots to the lead by lap 160. However, a miscalculation by his crew chief causes his No. 10 Purolator Chevy to run out of gas while pacing the field, dropping him off the lead lap.
Cope has a strong car, though, and races his way back onto the lead lap (without the aid of Lucky Dogs or wave-arounds). A fast pit stop under a lap 421 caution bumps him up to second, and on lap 446, he passes Rusty Wallace, who leads 131 laps in the Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac, for the lead.
From there, Cope holds off Ken Schrader to earn his second, and final, career victory. Dick Trickle, Mark Martin and Sterling Marlin round out the top 5.
Another notable feat that occurred during this race was when Dale Earnhardt’s engine blew, his No. 3 crew actually repaired it, and the car returned to competition. Predictably, though, the engine fatally expired later in the event, marking Earnhardt’s only DNF of the 1990 season.