If NASCAR’s Sprint Cup season were a hockey game we’d have concluded the first period last week with Kasey Kahne’s win in Charlotte. Twelve races of the 36 on the docket have been completed, and Greg Biffle is holding on to the lead as drivers converge on Dover for the FedEx 400 on Sunday.
“Some of these drivers, their luck is starting to turn,” said TheSportsNotebook’s NASCAR consultant Bill Flaherty, who doubles as the editor’s brother. “Kasey Kahne is one of them.” Kahne is Bill’s favorite driver so commentary there is about as unbiased as listening to me talk about the Red Sox or Celtics right now, but the standings—in addition to last week’s win bear that out. Kahne has moved up to 15th in the standings. While he’s still five spots—and a good chunk of points—away from automatic qualification for the Sprint For The Cup in September, Kahne is ideally positioned for one of the two wild-card berths. He and Brad Keselowski are the only drivers outside the Top 10 with a win and outright wins count the most in determining the two extra slots.
Tony Stewart won last year’s Cup, although this season he seems to be the equivalent of that NBA team that’s playing just well enough to make the postseason. Stewart is ninth, and a comfortable 20 points ahead of 11th-place Carl Edwards and has two wins, but Stewart hasn’t found the consistency to really make a strong push to the top four. I say four, because Biffle’s closest contenders are Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and there’s a bit of a dropoff to Jimmie Johnson at the five-spot.
Thus we come to Dover and the track known as The Monster Mile, with a trophy in the form a monster that gets a model of the winning driver’s car put in its hand. Beyond the nickname, Dover has a concrete surface. “It makes for a stronger grip, which in turn tears up the tires,” Bill said. If the tires wear down, it does open up some potential for crashes if the race isn’t managed properly. Over the past three years no one was managed Dover better than Jimmie Johnson. There are two races a year held at The Monster Mile and over the past three years, Johnson has three wins. If we go to a four-year window, Kyle Busch was won twice. Johnson and Busch are both situated in the 5 thru 9 spots on the standings, where they are comfortable in the playoff race, but could use a good push to solidify their position. The push starts Sunday at 12:30 PM ET and can be seen on Fox.