Martin Truex Jr. laid a self-proclaimed ass-whooping on the rest of the field last Sunday to pick up his third victory of the season. MTJ led 248 of 293 laps on his way to completing the Stage 1, Stage 2, and race winning sweep at Darlington.
Truex had won at Darlington before, but never in such dominating fashion. Truex remains the lone driver to win more than one race this season as he picked up his third victory of the 2021 campaign. Nine other drivers each have one victory apiece this season. The Darlington win was his second at the track and his 30th career Cup Series victory in his 16th full time season.
Kyle Larson yet again showed that he has a strong 1.5-mile car as he caught Truex in the late stages of the race, but didn’t have enough car left to pass MTJ, resulting in a 2nd-place finish.
The Truex Train will keep rolling into Dover, Delaware. A track that Truex has been dominant at in the past. MTJ owns three career victories at the one-mile concrete oval which is tied with Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Newman for most wins at the track among active drivers.
This weekend’s race – The Drydene 400 – is a 400-mile (400 lap) race around the 1-mile Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Dover has been run twice per season in the past but will only be run once this year with its second date being shifted to Nashville later in the season. Dover has been run six times over the past three seasons. Over those past three seasons, winners at the track include Kevin Harvick (twice), Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. Last season both races were run on the same weekend in a double header style format. Hamlin picked up the win in the first race while Harvick won the second.
Dover is an incredibly unique track because it is completely concrete. The only concrete surface run so far this season was Martinsville, where just the corners are concrete while the straightaways are asphalt. Bristol is also 100 percent concrete but was run on dirt earlier this season. Dover and Bristol do profile as similar tracks, though Dover is twice the size as Bristol.
It’s a bit of a crap shoot as to what driver comes away with the victory this weekend, but I’m looking toward the usual suspects. When you’re hot, you’re hot and Martin Truex Jr. looks like he is on his way to his second career championship this season. As I mentioned above, he has three Dover wins in the past, one as recent as 2019. He also finished runner up in both races last season, so I believe he is a solid choice as this week’s driver to beat. Odds makers agree, as Truex has opened as a +350 favorite to win this weekend. Other favorites include Kyle Larson (+450), Denny Hamlin (+600), Kevin Harvick (+750), Kyle Busch (+800) and Chase Elliott (+800). Though this profiles as a MTJ track, his odds are a bit too short for me to want to lay any serious money down. Instead of betting straight MTJ, I’m considering putting a little extra on Joe Gibbs Racing to win at +150. That way I’m covered in case Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch or even Christopher Bell sneak out a win.
Drivers I Like
Denny Hamlin ($11,100)
I mentioned above that Dover is a track that Martin Truex Jr. thrives at, but his nearly $12k price tag on DraftKings this weekend makes me want to foolishly fade him yet again. I won’t be fully avoiding him, but I’m going to try to save some money and go with Denny Hamlin. Hamlin starts on the outside of the front row and will need to lead a lot of laps to make spending $11,100 worthwhile. I think if anyone can get past Truex in the early going it will be Hamlin. Over the last six Dover races, Hamlin has led 333 laps which is second most behind just Kevin Harvick. Hamlin picked up a Dover victory last year and the potential to do it again is certainly there. Hamlin has finished top-5 in nine of 12 races this season and Dover lines up for him to do so yet again.
Kevin Harvick ($9,800)
Just like Hamlin, Harvick also won at Dover last season. As you also see above, Harvick has led the most laps of anyone over the past six Dover races, having led 676 laps and winning two of the last six races. Harvick is six-for-six in top-10 finishes in the last six Dover races and hasn’t carded a finish outside the top-10 since the fall of 2017. Harvick is also heating up recently. He started off the season with a four-race top-10 streak and then struggled for a bit. Recently he has finishes of fourth at Talladega, second at Kansas and sixth at Darlington. Heading to one of his better tracks could help give him a solid run this weekend. He’ll start from the fifth position.
Aric Almirola ($8,200)
I feel bad for Almirola who is truly having an awful season despite being a relatively good driver. Almirola was the first car out at Darlington when he made hard contact with the inside wall on just the sixth lap. This is Almirola’s fourth DNF of the season in just 12 races. To put that into perspective, Almirola hasn’t had four DNFs in a single season since 2016 when he raced for Richard Petty Motorsports in the 43 car. Fortunately for us, Almirola’s early exit places him deep in the field for Sunday’s race, giving him a good chance to improve on his starting position. In two races at Dover last season Almirola finished ninth and 17th. He’s starting 32nd Sunday which gives him a lot of room for improvement. I also like Kurt Busch in this price range this week to improve on his 28th-place starting position as well.
Cole Custer ($7,700)
Custer is another SHR car that starts deep in the field Sunday after a similar crash to Almirola’s last week. Custer hit the inside wall on the back stretch on lap 98 to end his day. In his two career Dover starts, Custer has finished 11th and 10th which prove he can find his way around the tricky concrete oval. I’m willing to take a shot on Custer this weekend to improve mightily on his 30th-place starting position. He only has one top-10 this season, but even a top-15 gives him 15 place differential points in DraftKings scoring.
Daniel Suarez ($6,300)
Suarez comes in at a great value this week at only $6,300. He had a rough go of things at Darlington which resulted in him starting from the 24th position this weekend. Suarez is a good pick at Dover, as its one of his best tracks. Back when Suarez raced for Joe Gibbs, he racked up four top-10 finishes in four races at Dover. At Stewart-Haas, Suarez added two more top-15 finishes with finishes of 11th and 14th in two Dover races. Now he is back in solid equipment again and looks to keep up his solid Dover performances. Lock Suarez in as a cheap driver than can return some solid points. I like Bubba Wallace in this spot as well, as he also takes a step up from prior equipment. Wallace typically ran 20th in lesser equipment in prior seasons. He starts from 22nd position this weekend.
Drivers I’m Avoiding
Chase Elliott ($10,700)
Elliott is my risky fade of the week this week after I was burned by Truex last week. Elliott has had good finishes at Dover including a win but has been inconsistent over his career at the track. In two of the last three Dover races, Elliott hasn’t even completed 10 laps before mechanical failures or on-track incidents have ended his day. Elliott also concerns be a bit because he just hasn’t shown the consistent top-5 speed this season that we’ve come to see from him in his championship campaign last year. Elliott will eventually heat up but improving on his eighth place starting spot this week could be a tall task.
Joey Logano ($9,500)
The $9k-range was small this week, but Logano stands out as the guy I’m willing to fade. Surprisingly enough, Logano has never won at Dover in his Cup Series career. He had a pair of top-10 finishes last season (sixth and eighth) but sports a career average finish of 11.83 at the track. Logano has also been struggling recently in general. He has not recorded a top-10 finish since Richmond which was four races ago. Since Richmond, his flip at Talladega, Logano has finished 39th, 17th and 13th in the last three races. Starting in ninth position, I don’t see him gaining many positions over the course of the race. I don’t expect him to threaten to win this weekend.
Ryan Blaney ($8,400)
Blaney is an easy fade for me this week. His last top-10 finish at Dover came back in 2018 in his first career Dover race with Team Penske. Blaney has recorded just two top-10 finishes in 10 career Dover races and sports an average Dover finish of 15.83. He starts up front (seventh) after a top-10 finish at Darlington and has never finished better than eighth. In 10 Dover races, Blaney has led just 37 total laps. Keep him away from your lineups this week.
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,800)
Matty D is staying on the avoid list this week as we head to yet another track where he tends to struggle. DiBenedetto has recorded just one top-10 finish in 12 career Dover races. He sports a 20.00 average finish over the last six races and a 26.08 average finish at the track over the course of his career. DiBenedetto starts 18th Sunday which is higher than his average finish which makes him an avoid for me.
Michael McDowell ($6,200)
McDowell has a best finish of 22nd over the last six Dover races. As a matter of fact, McDowell’s best career finish at Dover is 19th and it is his only top-20 finish in 20 career Dover races. He starts 21st Sunday, so I wouldn’t expect him to move forward very far. If you take McDowell, the points you accrue in DraftKings scoring will be minimal.
($50,000 budget, 6 driver lineup)
We were able to score some cash with the DraftKings lineup this week, though it wasn’t much. My lineup listed below just hung on at the end to pick up enough points to make a small profit. Kyle Larson led the way for us but didn’t put up near the numbers that Martin Truex Jr. did last week. Remember when I said he was a risky fade last week? Yeah, he made me pay for that one. However, none of our drivers ended up crashing and all finished inside the top-20 with Erik Jones’ 18th-place finish as our lowest finisher on the weekend. Last week’s highlighted drivers: Kyle Larson (58.95 pts), Alex Bowman (29.35), Erik Jones (42.00), Ryan Newman (44.00), Ross Chastain (33.50). Last week’s avoid drivers: Martin Truex Jr. (137.90), Chase Elliott (37.35), Aric Almirola (-6.00), Matt DiBenedetto (13.00), Corey Lajoie (28.00).
Last week: 242.25 pts.
1. Kyle Larson ($11,400): 58.95 pts.
2. Alex Bowman ($9,400): 29.35 pts.
3. Erik Jones ($8,200): 42.00 pts.
4. Tyler Reddick ($7,400): 34.45 pts.
5. Ryan Newman ($7,200): 44.00 pts.
6. Ross Chastain ($6,300): 33.50 pts.
Remaining Budget: $100
Last week’s perfect lineup: 362.45 pts.
1. Martin Truex Jr. ($10,300): 137.90 pts.
2. Kyle Busch ($9,800): 51.35 pts.
3. Ryan Blaney ($9,000): 46.25 pts.
4. Ryan Newman ($7,200): 44.00 pts.
5. Chase Briscoe ($6,800): 43.00 pts.
6. Chris Buescher ($6,500): 39.95 pts.
Remaining Budget: $400
Some bad late-race luck came back to bite us last week, as only one bet on the card was able to hit when Austin Dillon (16th) came away with a better finishing position than Matt DiBenedetto (19th). We almost hit on Christopher Bell beating Ryan Blaney, but a tire issue with just five laps remaining forced Bell to pit, giving Blaney the advantage. We could have also hit on Team Hendrick to win, had Kyle Larson been able to pass Martin Truex Jr. after catching him with roughly 30 laps remaining. We also came up just short in picking Denny Hamlin to win Stage 1. Hamlin finished second in the stage just behind Truex. We dropped 6.8 units last week putting us down 13.35 units on the season. This is not great but hitting on one longshot winner could get us right out of the hole in no time.
Kevin Harvick Top-5 (+105, 1 unit)
Austin Dillon over Matt DiBenedetto (-115, 1 unit)
Cole Custer over Erik Jones (-115, 1 unit)
Kevin Harvick Top Ford (+155, 1 unit)
Kyle Larson top Chevrolet (+125, 1 unit)
Joe Gibbs Racing to win (+150, 1.5 units)
Kyle Larson to win (+450, 1.8 units)
Cole Custer to win (+20000, 0.2 unit)
One and Done
*Rules for One and Done: Each driver can only be picked one time over the course of the season, unless you pick the race winner, then that driver can be picked again. Driver’s finishing position is the number of “points” you score each week. Goal: Finish with as few points as possible. Feel free to play along!
I thought we were going to pull out a win with Larson last week. He ran down Martin Truex Jr. late in the race but was never able to pass Truex despite the leader being caught in lapped traffic. Alas, we’ll have to settle for a 2nd-place run in our one and only use of Larson this season. As much as I wanted that win, second place isn’t that bad in the long run.
This week: Cole Custer
The Stewart-Haas group has struggled this season, but in the one-and-done, we’re still going to have to use them somewhere. Cole Custer fits the mold for a top-20 finish this weekend, as he ran quite well at Dover in his rookie season of 2020. At the Dover double-header near the end of the 2020 regular season, Custer finished 11th in the first race and 10th in the second race. Those are his only Cup Series starts at Dover, but if we go back to his time in the Xfinity Series, the number are just as nice. In the 2019 Xfinity Series playoffs, Custer picked up a win at Dover. In six career Xfinity Series starts at Dover, Custer finished top-10 in five of them which includes four finishes inside the top-4. This has profiled as a strong track for Custer in the past, but can he overcome the woes he has faced so far this season? He only has one top-10 finish this season, a 10th-place showing at Talladega. I’m hoping for at least a top-20 this week, but if we’re lucky we could see him in the top-15 or even the back half of the top-10.
Results: Race Driver Finish
Daytona 500 Jamie McMurray 8th
Daytona RC A.J. Allmendinger 7th
Homestead Tyler Reddick 2nd
Las Vegas Kevin Harvick 20th
Phoenix Kyle Busch 25th
Atlanta Kurt Busch 39th
Bristol Stewart Friesen 23rd
Martinsville Ryan Blaney 11th
Richmond Austin Dillon 10th
Talladega Harrison Burton 20th
Kansas Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 34th
Darlington Kyle Larson 2nd