Sprint Cup Series
AAA 400 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, Del.
Matt Kenseth has an opportunity to make history in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship this weekend at Dover International Speedway.
After winning at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, Kenseth will try to become the first competitor to start the Chase with three consecutive victories. Two other drivers have begun the playoffs with back-to-back wins: Greg Biffle in 2008 and Tony Stewart in 2011.
Biffle won at New Hampshire and Dover and then finished third at Kansas (the third race in '08 Chase) before he faded from there, finishing third in the point standings. Two years ago, Stewart took the checkered flag at Chicagoland and New Hampshire but lost momentum by finishing 25th at Dover and then 15th at Kansas. He bounced back with six straight top-10 finishes, including three victories. Stewart ended the season in a points tie with Carl Edwards but captured the title by virtue of his five wins for the year compared to only one for Edwards.
Heading into Dover, Kenseth holds a 14-point lead over Kyle Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, and an 18-point advantage over Jimmie Johnson. Even though Kenseth is 2 for 2 in the Chase, there are still eight races to go. And anything can happen from Dover to the season-finale in Homestead, Fla.
"My outlook is really not any different, honestly," Kenseth said. "I know it's kind of cliche, but it really is one week at a time, especially right now. If you get down toward the end and you're lucky enough to have a lead or something, maybe you start looking at that more or thinking about it more. But eight weeks of racing is a lot of racing, and in this system, one bad finish and you're behind."
When the Sprint Cup Series last ran at Dover in June, Kenseth started fourth and led 29 laps before he suffered engine failure shortly before the halfway point. He finished a season-worst 40th. One year ago, Kenseth placed 35th here and fell to last in Chase standings. He trailed Brad Keselowski by 72 points at the time.
After spending 13 full seasons with Roush Fenway Racing in Sprint Cup, Kenseth is in his first year as driver of the No. 20 Toyota for JGR. He has scored a series-leading and career-high seven wins this season. Kenseth has won back- to-back races in Cup four times during his career (2004, '06, '09 and '13) but has never posted three straight victories.
Kenseth has won at Dover twice (June 2006 and May 2011).
Busch is off to his best start in the Chase after finishing runner-up to Kenseth at Chicagoland and New Hampshire. He's also a two-time race winner at Dover (June 2008 and May 2010).
"I've said it for years - if I could finish second in every single Chase race, I'd take it and win a championship over winning a single Chase race that doesn't mean as much as a championship would," Busch said. "It's all about the prize at the end. It's only two races, and you certainly would like to get off to a good start, but it's early."
In last year's Chase race at Dover, Busch led 302 of 400 laps but ended up finishing seventh after he was forced to pit for fuel with 10 laps to go. Keselowski conserved enough gas late in the race and took over the top spot when Busch pitted. He won the race and went on to capture the Sprint Cup championship.
Busch led the most laps in this year's spring race at Dover with 150 but faded in the late-stages to finish fourth.
Johnson has won at Dover seven times, which puts him in a tie with Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for most victories here. Johnson was on the way to posting his record-eighth win at this track in June, but after a restart with 19 laps remaining, NASCAR penalized him for jumping the restart. He had passed Juan Pablo Montoya for the lead. The Hendrick Motorsports driver and five-time series champion wound up finishing 17th. Tony Stewart won the race after he grabbed the top spot from Montoya with three laps to go.
"We were close there last time, led a bunch of laps and were in position there toward the end for a win," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, we got penalized on that final restart and weren't able to pull it off. I think we've clarified things a little bit with the new restart rule and are headed in the right direction. This team has had a consistent start to the Chase, and I expect more of the same this weekend in Dover."
Johnson has placed fourth and fifth in the first two Chase races. He began last year's playoffs with second-place finishes at Chicagoland and New Hampshire but ended the season third in points (-40). He finished 32nd at Phoenix and 36th at Homestead.
Carl Edwards comes to Dover fourth in points (-36), followed by Biffle (-38), Kevin Harvick (-39), Kurt Busch (-40) and Jeff Gordon (-42).
Ninth through 13th are: Ryan Newman (-47), Clint Bowyer (-48), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-62), Joey Logano (-69) and Kasey Kahne (-71).
Forty-three teams are on the preliminary entry list for the AAA 400.
5-Hour Energy 200 - Dover International Speedway - Dover, Del.
Joey Logano has figured out Dover International Speedway very well in Nationwide Series competition.
In June, Logano became the first driver to win three consecutive Nationwide races at Dover. He scored a season-sweep here in his last year with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2012. Logano's victory in this year's spring event at this track came in his fourth Nationwide start as driver of the No. 22 car for Penske Racing. In the last three races at Dover, he has led 404 of 600 laps.
"Every weekend, we want to go out there and win the race, and I think we have a great shot to do it at Dover," Logano said. "To think that you can win three straight and even four straight races at a track is pretty freaking cool. I really want to go out there and make it happen this weekend."
Last weekend at Kentucky, Ryan Blaney became the fourth different driver to take the No. 22 to victory lane in a Nationwide race this season, joining A.J. Allmendinger, Brad Keselowski and Logano. The 22 team has won 10 of 27 events in 2013.
Todd Bodine, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Logano share the record most Nationwide wins at Dover with three each. Busch is on the entry list for this weekend's race. He already has 10 wins in the series this season. The JGR driver finished fifth at this track earlier this year.
"This is a favorite track for most in the garage, because it's so unique with the concrete and high banking," Busch said. "It's fast and fun to maneuver, but challenging too. You have to keep up with it. JGR has obviously run well here, sweeping both events in 2012. I missed it a little in the spring race, had a good car and the last round of pit stops took us out of cycle to be where we wanted at the end."
Sam Hornish Jr., who is Logano's teammate at Penske, currently holds a 15- point lead over Austin Dillon. Regan Smith is third in points (-45), followed by Elliott Sadler (-54). None of those four drivers has won at Dover in the past.
Thirty-nine teams are on the preliminary entry list for the 5-Hour Energy 200.
Camping World Truck Series
Smith's 350 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Las Vegas, Nev.
While the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series compete at Dover, the Camping World Truck Series will run its last stand-alone race of the season this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Even though the Truck Series took a break this past weekend, Ryan Blaney comes to Las Vegas with a lot of momentum. Blaney claimed his first Nationwide win last Saturday at Kentucky. He drove the No. 22 car for Penske Racing.
This is Blaney's rookie season in trucks, driving the No. 29 Ford for Brad Keselowski Racing. He has two career wins in the series -- Iowa in September 2012 and Pocono last month.
"Any time you win in any series, your confidence level as a driver goes way up," Blaney said. "You hope to make something of that momentum going into the next week and just still keep building off of that and having good runs after that."
After finishing third in the most recent race earlier this month at Chicagoland, Blaney moved up two positions in the point standings to fifth. He is 82 points behind leader Matt Crafton. This will be the first time Blaney competes in a truck event at Las Vegas.
"We definitely got into a little bit of trouble earlier in the year, whether it's mechanical issues or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time and ending up with a wrecked truck," Blaney said. "But I think my Brad Keselowski Racing team has really improved here over the past few months with winning Pocono and having a good shot to win Bristol and running up front in Chicago.
"We've had a lot of good runs the past few months, and it's unfortunate we got ourselves so far behind in the first half of the season, but that's what racing is all about. The 88 team (Crafton) has done an awesome job of really being consistent and really being able to build up that huge point lead."
Crafton comes to Las Vegas with a 41-point lead over defending series champion James Buescher, who has won two of the last five races. Ty Dillon is third in points (-59), while Jeb Burton is fourth (-70).
Twenty-nine teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Smith's 350.