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This weekend the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams take it to the Monster Mile at Dover. There is no mistaking this is one of the driver favorites and there is no mistaking it is a monster of a challenge when it comes to the toll it takes on the drivers as they navigate the concrete surface of the one mile oval.
Go ahead, ask the drivers what they think about the Monster Mile and they will tell you two things in particular. First, it is a track they love to race on (probably because it is such a challenge to their abilities.) Second, it is a track that they “feel” all of the physical stresses it puts on them with its speed and the 24 degree banking in the turns and the 9 degree banking on the straights. Of course there are also those expansion joints and a few bumps they have to contend with along with those speeds they are traveling.
One thing is certain, the JGR Toyotas showed up ready to take it to the rest of the field. Well, that is if the first practice and qualifying says anything at all about how things might go on Sunday afternoon. Considering Kyle Bush is starting on the pole and Martin Truex Jr. is right next to him on the front row with Daniel Suarez and Matt Kenseth starting right behind them. Denny Hamlin starts tenth, Eric Jones seventh and both were looking pretty stout along with the other JGR and associated teams. It could definitely be a Toyota day “IF” (and notice I stress the word “if”) they continue as they have so far this weekend.
As has been the case most of the season, Kyle Larson once again showed up with a very fast Ganassi Chevy. In fact, he and Austin Dillon were the only Chevys in the top ten and, from this fan’s view, Kyle could be the one to challenge the Toyotas’ seeming readiness for the weekend. Larson has been strong all season, well at least so far, and is almost weekly considered as the one to beat if someone wants to take a win. Of course, things do happen and it is only approaching mid season but, he is definitely looking like he will be a strong contender in the playoffs at the end of the season.
Martin Truex Jr. is another that has been impressive this season and this fan thinks will continue to perform well as the season progresses. Since I’ve been talking about the JGR Toyotas and he is an associated team, I have to mention he has actually been one of the stronger performers of the group almost every week. I expect he will definitely be one making a bid for the win on Sunday afternoon. After all, he was only beaten out for the pole by Kyle Bush by about a thousandth of a second. That also might mean something when it comes down to the checkers at the end of the day.
Although not many want to get their hopes up, Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified eleventh and actually showed some speed in the first practice and in qualifying. Of course it remains to be seen how he will do in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism race on Sunday afternoon. As fans, we all want to see him do well and possibly even win since this is his final season in Cup racing competitively. A win would also mean he could compete for the Championship at the end of the season and much to the delight his fans, could depart full time competition in NASCAR Cup with a chance at becoming the 2017 Cup champ. (Wouldn’t that be something…?) I guess in some ways, we all would like to see that happen even though we might be fans of some other driver.
Of all the ones running in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism race, Jimmie Johnson is the one with the most victories at the Monster Mile. From this fan’s view, he hasn’t really shown that much in the first practice or in qualifying – he qualified 14th – but considering past performances he can’t be ruled out as one to be there when it all comes down to taking the checkered flag. It wouldn’t be the first time he showed up as winner on race day when it seemed he was going to be an “also ran.”
He already has a couple of wins so he is already in the playoffs for the Championship so we never really know what he and Chad are working on. It’s not like he “has to” win or to make an impression and his past performance at this track shows he is quite capable of ending up in Victory Lane no matter where he starts. I guess it just remains to be seen how he does on Sunday; well, at least from this fan’s view.
Once again, the stage racing instituted this season has made things very interesting and I expect this Sunday’s race will be no different. They have definitely added to the intensity and drama of the races and, though I wasn’t so sure about them to begin with, I am definitely a supporter of them now. Every race on the Monster Mile is intense and filled with emotion and I don’t expect this one to be any different. I will say this though… This is one of the only shorter tracks in NASCAR Cup racing where we even think about the “Big One” and how it can change the entire outcome of the race, but it can… and quite likely will…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 3, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
All audio productions by www.podcastnorm.com and PodCastNorm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated