It sounds fairly simple, but one of the most complicating factors is the venue at which the first of three elimination races is contested. Dover is a high-banked concrete oval with a penchant for chewing up racecars and veteran drivers alike. It can be one of the more taxing racetracks on drivers and equipment alike with its abrasive surface and high banking. The “Monster Mile,” as it is affectionately known, is an appropriate nickname considering the speeds carried through its high banks and short straightaways that allow little to no room for error.
Busch has conquered Dover just once in his career, in October 2011. He pulled away from Jimmie Johnson on a pair of late-race restarts to earn his 24th Sprint Cup victory. While he’s had a rough go of it at the concrete Dover oval since his win – his best finish since is 12th in June 2013 – Busch does have reason to believe this weekend may bring an end to that trend. As Busch and the Haas Automation team focus on advancing to the next round of the Chase, they will look to build on their most recent race at Dover.
Well on his way to scoring a top-10 finish in June, contact between Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin with just 14 laps remaining proved unavoidable for Busch. The No. 41 was clipped by the spinning car of Hamlin and sent hard into the outside retaining wall, resulting in a 31st-place finish. While the result was nowhere near indicative of the performance, the Las Vegas native knows he will need to have a racecar every bit as strong as he had in June and some better fortune to be comfortably among the 12 drivers who clinch a berth in the Contender Round.
Busch enters the weekend having scored six top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 30 career Dover starts. He hasn’t earned a pole at Dover but his qualifying record has earned him an average starting position of 12th. In addition to having a win in Sprint Cup competition, Busch has also visited victory lane at Dover in the Camping World Truck Series – during his rookie season in 2000.
There’s nothing Busch would like more than to be a contender during Sunday’s race, but also in the Contender Round following the always eventful 400-mile race.