The Dog Days of summer are quickly coming to a close for the NASCAR Cup Series with the first of two Drydene 311 races at Dover International Speedway. The doubleheader event on Saturday-Sunday is the third and final such experiment for NASCAR this season.
It'll be the shortest distance at this grueling 1-mile oval nicknamed the "Monster Mile" since 1970. At the same time, back-to-back 311-mile events at this high-banked speed bowl will be a major test of a driver's stamina. The g-forces will beat up the body far more than the two previous experiments this summer at Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway.
It'll also be a major hurdle to clear for drivers on the playoff bubble. Just three races remain until the 10-race postseason begins Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway. And where you are in the points matters when it comes to setting the starting lineup.
This weekend marks the second edition of NASCAR's new rules on their qualifying procedure. A formula is used to set the lineup as the sport insists on no practice or qualifying during the COVID-19 pandemic.
50 percent of the metric will be their finishing position from the previous race.
35 percent of the metric will be their team's position in the NASCAR Cup Series owner standings.
15 percent of the metric will be their fastest lap during the previous race.
Officials will then set the lineup based on those totals (the lower the number, the better the starting spot for each driver). And not enough points will weigh you down in the running order. For example, Chris Buescher finished fifth at Daytona's road course last week but will only start 12th in Saturday’s race. Twenty-second (22nd) in points wasn't enough to keep him close to the front.
Meanwhile, last week's winner Chase Elliott had enough under the formula to leave him on the pole for this race. The runner-up finisher from last week, Denny Hamlin, will start alongside.
Forty teams are entered for 40 spots on the grid this week, meaning everyone who entered made the race. Two "open" teams that have been running part-time schedules, the No. 78 of BJ McLeod Motorsports and the No. 7 of Tommy Baldwin Racing, returned to the track this weekend. Meanwhile, the No. 62 of Beard Motorsports, who entered the Daytona road course event, are back off the schedule for this one.
1. Chase Elliott
2. Denny Hamlin
3. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Joey Logano
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Brad Keselowski
8. William Byron
9. Kurt Busch
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Alex Bowman
12. Chris Buescher
13. Erik Jones
14. Matt DiBenedetto
15. Michael McDowell
16. Tyler Reddick (R)
17. Aric Almirola
18. Christopher Bell (R)
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
20. Ryan Blaney
21. Cole Custer (R)
22. Kyle Busch
23. Ryan Newman
24. Bubba Wallace
25. Ty Dillon
26. Matt Kenseth
27. Ryan Preece
28. Daniel Suarez
29. Corey Lajoie
30. Brennan Poole (R)
31. John Hunter Nemechek (R)
32. Austin Dillon
33. Timmy Hill (i)
34. JJ Yeley (i)
35. Quin Houff (R)
36. Reed Sorenson
37. Josh Bilicki (i)
38. Joey Gase (i)
39. Garrett Smithley (i)
40. BJ McLeod (i)
(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
- Chase Elliott (pole) will start up front for the first time since Atlanta Motor Speedway back in June.
- Denny Hamlin (2nd) has his fourth front row start in the last five races (but no poles during that stretch).
- Martin Truex Jr. (3rd) is the defending race winner.
- Clint Bowyer (4th) has his best starting spot at Dover since 2012.
- 11-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson (6th) has his best start at the track since 2015.
- Tyler Reddick (16th) is the highest-qualifying rookie. He’s also the last driver realistically on the playoff bubble by points, 57 behind William Byron for the final position in the 16-driver field.
- Kyle Busch (22nd) has his worst starting position since Darlington Raceway back in May.
- Austin Dillon (32nd) returns to the track after missing the Daytona road race due to a positive COVID-19 test.
- Reed Sorenson (36th) is back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet this week, replacing road ringer Stanton Barrett.
- Josh Bilicki (37th) is back in the No. 53 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet this week, replacing Garrett Smithley. It’s his first race in the No. 53 since Kansas Speedway last month.
- Joey Gase (38th) returns to the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing Ford he’s driven for most of the season. James Davison (Daytona) will not be in the car this weekend as he’s running the Indy 500 for RWR.
- Garrett Smithley (39th) becomes the fifth different driver for Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 7 in 14 races this season.
NASCAR RACE BREAKDOWN
Race: Drydene 311
Track: Dover International Speedway (Dover, DE)
Date: Saturday, Aug. 22
TV: NBCSN, 4:00 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 311 laps (311 miles)
Stage 1: 70 Laps
Stage 2: 115 Laps
Final Stage: 126 Laps
William Byron stops by the Frontstretch podcast to talk about life on the NASCAR Cup Series playoff bubble before hosts Mike Neff and Dustin Albino turn their attention to a busy weekend at Dover International Speedway.