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David Gilliland learned to respect the "Monster Mile" the first time he raced there. That's because his first visit to Dover (Del.) International Speedway resulted in a self-inflicted wreck.
As he heads to the one-mile oval for his 14th Sprint Cup Series start there, he now refers to the track as both "fun" and "awesome." He also enters the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks race weekend with momentum, after scoring a top-20 finish in last weekend's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Gilliland has two top-20 finishes in his 13 Cup starts at the "Monster Mile." This weekend his No. 38 Long John Silver's Ford will carry the Autism Speaks puzzle piece decal to support awareness and fundraising for the cause.
Comments from Long John Silver's team driver David Gilliland about heading to Dover:
"I love going to Dover. I'm really looking forward to it. We ran really well at Bristol and feel like a similar set-up will work there. It's just a racetrack that I really enjoy going to. It's really fast and definitely lives up to its name, the 'Monster Mile.'
"The first time I went there, it was probably the lowest point in my career. We unloaded in qualifying trim and we were fast, maybe fifth or sixth fastest. And we decided to make one more run. I was a little too tight, so I asked them to free it up because I thought I could go way faster. And, dang, if I didn't wreck off of Turn 2. So I learned instantly the Monster will reach out and grab you.
"It's a track you've got to respect, but it's an awesome track. Your sensation of speed there is unlike anywhere else you go. You can pass there, and it's just a really good racetrack. It's definitely physically demanding. It's challenging, for sure. But that's what makes it fun. It's, for me, one of the most fun racetracks we go to.
"I'm really proud of our performance in the Coke 600 last week. We got a top-20 finish, the best we've ever finished there, in what I think was the best intermediate-track car we've ever had. And that's really how we've been running all year. We've had much better cars all year. We just haven't gotten the results every week to show for it. So it was really gratifying to have a result that showed just how good the car was and how far this team has come. It's going to give us that much more confidence the next time we go to an intermediate track."
Josh Wise and his No. 35 MDS Transport Ford team will take a different approach to the "Monster Mile" when they arrive at Dover (Del.) International Speedway this weekend. In his first full Sprint Cup Series race at the one-mile oval, Wise will want to ensure his car is good for the long run in Sunday's 400-mile event.
Last year, when Wise was required to make the race on qualifying speed, the team focused more on being prepared for time trials. The change in focus should have Wise better prepared for an afternoon with the 'Monster,' a unique track with high banking and elevation changes.
The No. 35 team will support the cause behind Sunday's FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks by carrying the Autism Speaks puzzle piece decal on Wise's car.
Comments from MDS Transport team driver Josh Wise heading to Dover:
"Oh, I love Dover. It's always been one of my favorite tracks since the first time I ran a Nationwide car there. This will be my first full race in a Cup car there, which is pretty exciting. We'll just go there and try to really learn about race trim. Last year we had to go there and really worry about qualifying, so we worked on qualifying trim a lot, obviously. This week we'll go and see how we get the car to drive in the long run and really try to learn as fast as I can to get the car working well to have a good weekend.
"It's kind of crazy. The straightaways are kind of flat compared to what the corners are, and then you literally kind of drop into the corner. So there's a really unique feeling that we don't get at any other track, especially entering the corner. The track falls away from you and you fall into the banking, and then it loads up really heavy because you're in heavy banking and it's a tight corner, and then it compresses coming off the corner and unloads. It's a unique place and somewhere that I look forward to going to always."
Michael Annett will make his third NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) start of the season this weekend at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. He overcame a speeding penalty and a near on-track accident at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway last weekend to record a hard-fought top-20 finish in his first race back in the No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford since Daytona.
The Des Moines, Iowa native has eight starts at Dover, accumulating one top-five finish. Annett had his strongest showing at the one-mile concrete track last season. He finished 11th in the spring event and third in the fall event.
Richard Petty Motorsports has proved to be a force to be reckoned with at the "Monster Mile." The team has 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and two NNS starts at the Delaware track over the past four years, earning two top-five and 11 top-10 finishes between the two series.
Comments from the No. 43 Flying J Travel Plaza Ford Mustang driver Michael Annett:
"Charlotte was a good first race back. It seemed like we came across every scenario possible to keep us from going to the front, but we held on for a top-20 my first race back. It's not what I was hoping for, but I'll take it. It's definitely something we can build off of. The best part is that I felt great after the race; it felt just like getting out of the car after Homestead.
"I was itching to get back into the car before, and now that I have my first race back under my belt, I couldn't be more ready to get back to where we left off last season. This team hasn't skipped a beat, and we're more than capable of going into Dover this weekend and getting a top-five finish. Last year, we finished third at Dover in the fall and just missed the top-10 in the spring, so I'm pretty optimistic for the weekend. I really like going to the 'Monster Mile.' I like short track racing, and this track fits my driving style."
Comments from Crew Chief Philippe Lopez on Dover:
"Dover is pretty cool because it is a cement track and a lot like Bristol because you don't have tire fall off. Changes make sense, and you can have really good practices at Dover because you're not chasing tires. Goodyear has done a really good job with the tires they made for Dover, so it's just a matter of making the right changes. I'd say the only handicap we have is the short amount of time we have to practice. We only have an hour and a half to get it all right. If you're pretty close, it's a fun time, and Dover is a really cool place to race.
"Our biggest focus for Dover, other than getting Michael comfortable and looking for speed, will be to try to keep the car off of the ground. The place is so high-banked and so fast, kind of like Bristol but times two. You have to really focus on keeping your car in the best aero attitude you can but not scrape the ground. When you scrape the ground there, you slow way down. It will be a little bit of a balancing act. Some race tracks you can just focus on aero, but this place is 50/50.
"I think Michael did a fantastic job at Charlotte for his first race back, other than the finish, which I think we were all disappointed in. He had no physical issues whatsoever and is hungrier than ever. He did a great job with the car and feedback. It was like he was never out of the car for three months and definitely picked up right where he left off. We were all probably a little subpar for qualifying; however, Michael showed his usual trait that he can just blast right through traffic when the race starts. We had a good race going other than a speeding penalty. It was going to be a good race, and we were on our way to a top-10. If you're going to get a speeding penalty, you want to do it early, and we did ours late."
Memorial Day weekend and the NASCAR races at Charlotte Motor Speedway are specials for many reasons, First of all, we honor all of our military and all that they have done to insure the freedom that we have today. And, for race teams, it’s an opportunity to race at the track closest to many of their shops in the Charlotte-Mooresville area. When you combine the two, the May race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the largest, and most prestigious, events on the schedule each year.
For NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie Dexter Stacey and the KH Motorsports Team, the History 300 at CMS presents huge challenges as well. Competing fulltime in the Nationwide Series in 2013 as a rookie, nearly every track is a “new track” for Stacey and his #92 Maddie’s Place Ford. Of his eight races thus far in ’13, six have been at tracks where has never seen, much less raced at prior to this season. And, when you consider that Stacey had to qualifying his way into the starting lineup for the History 300, the challenge becomes greater.
However, we’re not talking about just any ordinary 20-year old racer. Stacey, a Native American from Kahnawake, Quebec Canada, is proving that he is a talented young racer who meets challenges head-on. The History 300 at CMS was another example of his character and determination.
With 44 cars attempting to qualify for the 40-car field, Stacey knew that he and the KH Motorsports Team would have to be at their best. After a full day of testing on Wednesday, Stacey had two practice sessions on Thursday to prepare for qualifying on Saturday morning. In his three practice sessions, Stacey ran 87 laps as he adjusted to the always tough 1.5-mile Charlotte track.
“When I first went out to practice, I struggled to get my Maddie’s Place Ford to turn down to the bottom,” Stacey said. “We changed everything and anything to try to help, but nothing seemed to help much. So, my first day of testing didn’t turn out as well as expected.”
“Crew Chief David (Ingram) changed some front end stuff on Thursday and I managed to gain a whole second,” Stacey continued. “We even put an experienced driver (JJ Yeley) in the car to give us some feedback that was able to help us overall.”
Stacey was the 13th car to make his qualifying run on Saturday morning, and the rookie responded with a fast lap of 30.324 seconds / 178.077 mph to earn the 29th starting position for the 200-lap, 300-mile race. Challenge #1 – qualify for the History 300 – mission accomplished.
Stacey and his KH Motorsports Team knew that the Nationwide Series races are Charlotte Motor Speedway are truly a grueling test of both man and machine. Plus, the competitive nature of this event usually leads to a number of cautions. Therefore, racing the complete race was next on the list of challenges. That challenge would be easier said than done.
No less than three times during the History 300, Stacey had to drive his way around and through accidents and potential wrecks. Each time, the rookie performed like a veteran and managed to escape each incident. Driving a very “smart” race, Stacey was able to bring the #92 Maddie’s Place Ford to the checkered flag in the 27th position. Challenge #2 – racing every possible lap and finishing the History 300 – mission accomplished.
“Going into Charlotte, I knew that it would be a very tough weekend,” Stacey concluded. “Everyone wants to race well at Charlotte, and so did our team. I’m very proud and thankful for all the hard work and determination that everyone on our team gave this week. We had challenges to meet, and we did our best to meet each one. Now, it’s on to Dover and our ‘next’ challenge.”
The NASCAR Nationwide Series travels to the “Monster Mile”, Dover International Speedway, for the 5-Hour Energy 200 on Saturday, June 1st. The 200-lap, 200-mile event is set for a 2:30 PM ET start on Saturday with qualifying earlier in the day at 11:05 AM. And, by the way, when Nationwide Series practice begins on Friday, May 31st at 12:40 PM ET, it will be the first ever time that Dexter Stacey has visited “The Monster Mile”.
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David Ragan compares Dover (Del.) International Speedway to a roller coaster. The banking and dips of the one-mile oval make it a challenging track, but the driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford is at the front of the line to go for the ride.
As tough as the "Monster Mile" can be, Ragan enjoys racing at Dover. He'll strap in this weekend for his 14th Sprint Cup Series start for the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks. His No. 34 Ford will carry the Autism Speaks puzzle piece decal for Sunday's race and he will participate in Thursday's "Drive for Autism" Celebrity-Am Golf Outing to raise awareness and funds to serve people affected by autism.
Ragan has two top-15 finishes at Dover with a top finish of 14th (2007).
Comments from Front Row Motorsports team driver David Ragan heading to Dover:
"Dover certainly can be a monster. It's a lot of fun to race if you've got a good-handling car and you can be the aggressive one. But if you're the one that's getting thrown around, that's getting passed, it can be a long day. I've been a part of some races where I've had a good, fast car, and it's a fun 400 miles. I've also had weekends there where we've struggled and it has been a long, tough weekend.
"That track is very physically demanding and it can suck you up in a wreck very quick. I've been a part of some big wrecks and I've also been able to maneuver my way through some. It is a fun track. There are a lot of passionate fans in that area, and it's one of the coolest facilities we go to with the Dover Downs Casino right there on property.
"You feel speed at all of the racetracks we run on, but I think Dover is one of the tracks where you feel it the most because you have the sensation of almost dropping down into the corners. There's a lot of banking and you're in the throttle a lot, and it almost shoots you out of the corners. I guarantee there is an elevation change because it really feels like you're on a roller coaster. You're falling down, digging through the corners. And it's tough to see around the corners because of the banking and how tight the corners are. It's a very tough racetrack. The straightaways are even banked a good bit, so you're really flying around that place."
Matt Crafton and Toyota are both riding significant success streaks into Dover International Speedway this weekend and both obviously hope they continue in Friday afternoon's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' Lucas Oil 200.
Crafton's 2013 ThorSport Racing teammate Todd Bodine won last year's Dover Truck race, albeit for another team. Bodine's 22nd career win was Toyota's fifth consecutive Truck Series victory at "The Monster Mile."
For his part, Crafton comes into Dover with his No. 88 Goof Off / Menards Toyota riding streaks of five consecutive top-10 finishes this season -- which leaves Crafton firmly planted atop the Truck Series' championship standings by 22 points over rookie Jeb Burton -- and also five consecutive top 10s at Dover, stretching back to the 2008 event.
Crafton's career-best finish in eight Truck Series starts at Dover is third, in 2011. He has the best average finish, 9.9, of all drivers with at least three Dover Truck starts there, but Crafton's been an ace on concrete racetracks for years. Seventeen of Crafton's last 20 starts on concrete tracks, including Dover, Bristol and the inactive Nashville Superspeedway, have been lead-lap finishes.
But Dover's at the top of Crafton's list.
"Dover is definitely one of my favorite racetracks, without a doubt" Crafton said. "Atlanta was always my favorite racetrack and Dover is definitely in the top-three of my favorite tracks. I've always marked it on my calendar and I look forward to going there because it's always great, side-by-side racing where the groove widens out as the race goes on."
Crafton was in good company in loving Atlanta, where the track's well-worn pavement gave drivers almost limitless options to search for racing room, with dramatically close finishes the norm.
"That's what racing ought to be, everywhere we go," Crafton said. "Ever since I first went (to Dover) it's been the kind of racetrack where you can move around and find a better groove, and as a driver that's all you can ask for.
"That's what I love about Dover, the great side-by-side racing. That's what the fans come there to see, not everyone freight-training around the bottom of the racetrack. I was always leery of concrete, but Dover is an awesome racetrack and Bristol is the same way -- you can move around wherever you need to. So now I think concrete is pretty cool."
That's definitely true, but Crafton's also in a position to crow about the performance of crew chief Carl "Junior" Joiner and his ThorSport team. Crafton's No. 88 bunch is the only Truck squad this season that's scored five top-10 finishes in the first five races. Charlotte two weekends ago was the latest comeback effort, where Crafton twice was a lap down before rebounding to finish fourth.
"Charlotte was the kind of night where, if we're lucky enough and good enough to be in position to win this championship at the end of the season, we'll absolutely look back and say that was a championship effort," Crafton said. "That night just showed how good of a race team ThorSport is and how great of a race team that 88 team is.
"We've had the same kinds of things happen in three of the five races we've run (this season). At Martinsville we almost went a lap down (before finishing second to teammate Johnny Sauter), at Rockingham there was a point in the middle of that race where we were terrible and these guys never stopped working on the truck, to make it better. That's just great communication by Junior and the guys."
It's got Crafton expecting great things in the next stretch of races that includes Dover and Texas, then two weeks off where the team will test at Kentucky, two weeks before that track's important mid-summer event on June 27.
"I feel like there's nothing that could come up, at any racetrack, that this team couldn't overcome," Crafton said. "If we continue to do what we're doing, at the end of the season we're going to look back at nights and days like we've had at Charlotte and Martinsville and say that's why we continued to contend for this championship, because these guys never give up."
This weekend opens Thursday afternoon with a pair of Truck Series practices, from 2:30-3:45 p.m. ET and 4:15-5:30 p.m. Truck qualifying is at 10:05 a.m. Friday, with live coverage on the SPEED Channel.
The season's sixth of 22 races, the Lucas Oil 200 is 200 laps and 200 miles. It's scheduled for a 5 p.m. Friday start and for the second consecutive year SPEED will have live coverage preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 4:30. MRN Radio has live coverage, also beginning at 4:30.
Doubling down is a common occurrence at the black jack tables located inside Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, but it's on the one-mile concrete oval adjacent to the property where Kyle Busch hopes to be doing his doubling down on Friday. The driver of the No. 51ToyotaCare Tundra will take aim at his second consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of 2013 in Friday's Lucas Oil 200. If he is successful, it would also be his second consecutive Truck Series win at "The Monster Mile," having won in his last series start at the challenging track.
In the series last stop at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Busch overcame a pair of engine issues in practice and a pit road miscue by his over-the-wall crew while leading near the halfway mark to pick up his first Truck Series win of 2013. The win was his first in the Truck Series since dominating the 2011 event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, breaking a seven-race winless streak, amazingly his longest drought in Truck Series action since going winless over a span of 13 races in 2006 and 2007.
The last time Busch was in a truck at Dover, he led 128 of the 200 laps en route to victory in the 2011 Lucas Oil 200. The 28-year-old also won in his first career Truck Series race at the 1-mile oval in 2005, making him the only repeat winner in 13 races at the track. While he has only collected two wins, the talented wheelman has been a threat to win in all seven of his starts in NASCAR's third division at the Delaware track. He has led double-digit laps in every start and 75 or more laps in each of his last six, but varying issues of bad luck - a fuel pump in 2010, tire problems in 2007 and 2009, a transmission in 2008 and a hood pin in 2006 - have kept him from leading the most important lap, the last one.
You can bet that the Las Vegas native will be a threat to win again in Friday's 200-lap event as he looks to double down and register consecutive Truck Series wins, both on the 2013 schedule and in series starts at Dover. A Truck Series win would also serve as successful start in his quest to deal three aces this weekend - wins in all three series.
Ryan Blaney (@RyanBlaney22), driver of the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford F-Series, will make his 2nd career start at Dover International Speedway, and his first at the Monster Mile in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) during Friday night's Lucas Oil 200.
Blaney's first start at Dover came last September during the OneMain Financial 200 in NASCAR Nationwide Insurance Series (NNS), where he started 8th and finished 13th.
Doug Randolph will lead the No. 29 Ford F-Series team as crew chief in Dover.
Blaney and the No. 29 Cooper Standard team now sit 7th in NCWTS driver point standings, 42 points back from first.
"Dover is a special place. It's one of those tracks where you have to be in the zone form the get go until the very end. One mistake can cost you the entire weekend. It's a very fast track, something I love about the place. I had a blast racing here last season in the NNS, but I look to build on that and take the Cooper Standard Ford to victory lane for the first time of the season."
- Ryan Blaney
Ross Chastain (@RossChastain), driver of the No. 19 Melon 1 Ford F-Series, will make his fourth start for Brad Keselowski Racing (BKR) during the Lucas Oil 200 this Friday night at Dover International Speedway.
Melon 1 will serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 19 BKR (@TeamBKR) entry this week for the third time this season. Melon 1 is on deck for two more entries this season as primary sponsor.
This Friday will be Chastain's second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) start at Dover. Chastain's first start at Dover came last June in the Lucas Oil 200, where he started 12th and finished 15th.
Chad Kendrick will lead the No. 19 Ford F-Series team as crew chief in Dover.
The No. 19 BKR team now sits 11th in NCWTS owner point standings, 51 points back from first.
"This race is one I've been looking forward to all year, especially since Melon 1 has a great group of farmers in the Delaware region who are on our Truck for the race. I raced here last year and didn't get the result I had hoped for. It has certainly motivated me for this weekend's race and we look forward to showing some speed out there on the track" - Ross Chastain
Justin Marks will make his NASCAR SprintCup Series debut in next month’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Marks will continue his long-standing relationship with GoPro, piloting the No. 7 GoPro Chevrolet SS in the road course race for Tommy Baldwin Racing.
Marks has previous NASCAR stock car experience, competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as well as the ARCA Racing Series, earning a total of one win, five poles, 12 top fives and 30 top-10 finishes across the three series.
Marks, a former factory BMW driver, has extensive road course racing experiencing, having participated in the NASCAR Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Marks scored eight wins, including the coveted Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2009. Marks also earned a total of 15 podium finishes and five poles while maintaining an average start of 7.1 and an average finish of 8.1 throughout his Grand-Am career. In his one full season of competition, in 2004, Marks finished the season ranked third in the final point standings.
Marks, a native of Northern California, is looking forward to making his Cup Series debut at the NASCAR track closest to his hometown, Los Altos.
“It’s really the culmination of a dream to be able to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series,” explained Marks. “It’s fitting that it’s going to happen at Sonoma Raceway, where I kind of grew up racing and cut my teeth. I know Tommy and all the guys at TBR are going to bring a well-prepared GoPro Chevrolet to the track, so it’s just going to be a matter of getting to know the Gen-6 car and getting reacquainted with the racetrack. My goal for the weekend is to run a clean, competitive race and keep that 7 car up in the points.”
“We’re really excited to have Justin in our car,” said Tommy Baldwin, owner of Tommy Baldwin Racing. “He is a really great young man and with all his road course experience, I think he can definitely be successful in his Cup Series debut at Sonoma.”
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