Podium Preview: Drydene 311 at Dover

While it's a competitors only Drydene 311 doubleheader race weekend, it's still fun times at Dover!

While it’s a competitors only Drydene 311 doubleheader race weekend, it’s still fun times at Dover!

All things considered, the Drydene 311 races at Dover may prove quite challenging for our NASCAR Cup Series competitors. Certainly, the 1-mile concrete oval throws more twists and turns than a Perry Mason mystery.

However, Rounds 24 and 25 will be quite treacherous in terms of the physical grind on the drivers and crews. For a final time, Dover plays hosts to a pair of Cup Series races and it does so uniquely with a doubleheader in late August.

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists, consisting of columnists, photographers, and fans, preview the racing action. This weekend, Ashley HobbsChrissi LuttrellCody ShoppeIsabelle Beecy, Kobe LambethMatteo MarcheschiMichelle Raynor, Stephen Conley, Terra Jones, and yours truly consider some of NASCAR’s changes and a sneaky Playoff threat!

Podium Preview: Drydene 311 at Dover
Trending Topics
Question 1
First, there's no doubt that the "Choose Cone" rule provides plentiful opinions.

First, there’s no doubt that the “Choose Cone” rule provides plentiful opinions.

2020 has forced some changes to the schedule (for example, mid-week races, doubleheaders, and nixing practice and qualifying sessions). NASCAR has also had the opportunity to try some new things (Choose Rule, moving the All-Star Race, and the Daytona Road Course, just to name a few). Of these changes, which would you like to see return in 2021, and why?

Sisoler :  Personally I’d like to see all of them come back in some shape or form going forward. The Choose Rule is an interesting way to line up for restarts and should be kept, while I feel they should rotate the All-Star Race between light-equipped race tracks, and the Daytona Road Course put on a good and clean enough show that I’d be ok with it being the permanent second trip to Daytona or as a completely new addition to the schedule. 

Hobbs :  This has, undoubtedly, been the NASCAR season of experimentation. I would not mind seeing mid-week races, assuming the next race is either a week and a half away, or is at the same track that coming weekend. The mid-week races definitely added a good level of differentiation to the sport.

I also liked seeing the All-Star Race at a new location, but the formatting of the race still needs work. This race needs to get more creative; shorter runs, cut-offs, etc. I’d love to see short sprints at the track where the field is whittled down to say two drivers with a two to five-lap shootout just bumping and banging. I think that would be awesome.

I am still on the fence about the Choose Rule. It does add a new layer to strategy but also gives the drivers a bit more control post-pit stop. The logistics, such as the painting on the track to notify when to make the decision, need to be enhanced (especially for us colorblind individuals).

On the flip side, I would not want to see nixing practice and qualifying continue. It is clear the same teams are benefiting from no practice or qualifying and that has made for underwhelming racing and results.

Jones :  I’m a fan of the Choose Rule / Cone Rule in that it could give someone slightly out of the picture the chance to get in the picture. I’m still deciding on doubleheaders. It’s definitely been fun to watch teams tackle shorter races and the quirks that come with that. Additionally, it’s been neat to see the teams adapt from one day to the next, especially with the top 20 inversinon. I’d also like to see the All-Star Race move locations just to mix it up a little each year. 

Lambeth :  In my opinion, I would be open to seeing some of the changes mentioned above remain a part of the sport for the foreseeable future. The Choose Rule can be effective, helping put a driver in position to make a big move. Also, drivers have the option to roll the dice and snag a win, depending on which lane is most preferred.

I believe that the All-Star Race should remain at Bristol or at another short track. It was time for a change. I am also in favor of keeping the Daytona Road Course on the schedule. The drivers really seemed to enjoy the circuit. Some doubleheaders can be good as well. However, I think midweek races need to be re-evaluated. The ratings did not particularly set the world on fire. Maybe we need to get those races on network television such as FOX and NBC, instead of FS1 and NBCSN.

Raynor : I was happy NASCAR brought in the “Choose Rule” so they can continue that at the tracks that the racing is not as great and or exciting. I like the Daytona road course, I love mid-week racing because it adds excitement and breaks up the week. And I hope they keep the Allstar race in Charlotte. I am good with a couple of doubleheaders in 2021 as it adds a cool level to the racing and if it allows for a shorter season then I am all for it. 

Question 2
All things considered, can Jimmie Johnson return to Victory Lane and the NASCAR Playoffs?

All things considered, can Jimmie Johnson return to Victory Lane and the NASCAR Playoffs?

As we wrap up the regular season, which driver do you think has the best chance to sneak their way into the Playoffs? Defend your answer!

Tiongson : It is so strange to say this driver is sneaking his way into the Playoffs given his success in the past 20 years. However, Jimmie Johnson will make his way into the Playoffs. He’s quite competitive at Dover and he’s a steady superspeedway racer as well. With a little luck and fast pit stops, Johnson can return to the Playoffs.

Marcheschi :  I wouldn’t expect to see a surprise winner at either Dover race, but then… well then we have Daytona. Remember who won at Daytona in February? No, not Denny Hamlin, before that… that’s right, Erik Jones! He won the Clash with a beaten and battered race car. Jones won the summer race at Daytona two years ago as well, and seems to step up when the time is right.

Last season, Jones won the Southern 500 at Darlington, the penultimate race of the regular season. Jones also has some extra incentive, as he’s out of a ride after this season. While there appear to be a few openings, a win at Daytona and a Playoff berth would certainly put his stock on the rise. Look for Jones to shake things up as the regular season reaches a thrilling conclusion!

Conley :  I believe we have what we have. I’m not sure Johnson, Reddick or Bell are gonna be able to race their way in. If Matt DiBenedetto has an issue at Dover, then maybe Johnson could sneak up there. I don’t see the 48 team running well enough to be able to collect enough points or the wins this weekend. But, anything could happen at Daytona. Unfortunately, for seven time, it will be two years in a row outside of the playoffs. Set, the field now. We’re ready to roll. 

Beecy :  I think Matt DiBenedetto will be the one to sneak in there. He’s consistent, which really helps when you’re trying to make your way into the championship picture. And as Chrissi mentioned, he’s improved his finishing position every year, which also helps when you’re trying to make your way into the championship picture.

Luttrell :  I’m going to say Matt Dibenedetto makes it into the playoffs this season. He has shown consistency throughout the year, and improvement over the past couple seasons. Matt’s average finish has gone from 18.3 in 2019 to 14.9 in 2020. I believe that he will find a way to score more important stage points, sneak into the playoffs, and hopefully stick around for a couple rounds!

Two laps and two races at Dover will always prove quite entertaining! Now, let’s rewind to last Sunday’s Go Bowling 235 race weekend at Daytona’s road course!
No doubt, Terra Jones was pleased with Chase Elliott!

No doubt, Terra Jones was pleased with Chase Elliott!

Still, we don't like the machine.

Still, we don’t like the machine.

Next, Ashley Hobbs considers the numbers that serve noteworthy for Saturday’s Drydene 311 at Dover!
How does your favorite team fare in the first Dover race?

How does your favorite team fare in the first Dover race?

Of course, Toyota digs Dover.

Of course, Toyota digs Dover.

Since 2004, the spring Drydene 311 race winner has an average starting spot of 9.8, led an average of 124.5 laps, started within the top-five 43.75 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 62.5 percent of the time.

Since 2004, the spring Drydene 311 race winner has an average starting spot of 9.8, led an average of 124.5 laps, started within the top-five 43.75 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 62.5 percent of the time.

However, MTJ relishes racing at Dover.

However, MTJ relishes racing at Dover.

Next, here's the trends in the first Drydene 311 race since 2010.

Next, here’s the trends in the first Drydene 311 race since 2010.

Now, find the trends at the first Dover race since 2015.

Now, find the trends at the first Dover race since 2015.

Now, here’s our picks for Saturday’s Drydene 311 at Dover.
Let's roll the dice for the first Drydene 311 race at Dover!

Let’s roll the dice for the first Drydene 311 race at Dover!

Jones :  Why not? Denny Hamlin seems to like these doubleheader weekends!

Shoppe :  With the results this team has had this year it is hard to not pick the 11 today!

Sisoler :  Smart money is on one of the Big Two drivers to take the checkered flag at the Monster Mile, and this time it will be the guy who has finished 2nd in the past two races. Third time will be the charm for Denny Hamlin as he gets his first Dover win in the Cup Series!

Conley :  It’s one of Martin Truex Jr‘s many home tracks, but it’s probably his best. Look for a dominating win and lots of stage points.

Lambeth :  It is hard to believe that he only has a single win so far in 2020. Look for MTJ to pick up No. 2 this weekend!

Beecy :  Matt Kenseth does well at this track, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s in CGR equipment at the moment.

Hobbs :  While Chase Elliott‘s average finish at short tracks this year is not the best, he has the best average finish at Dover (when they visit for the first time in a season).

Marcheschi :  What can I say? Kevin Harvick is the class of the field. With six wins and only four finishes outside of the top ten, it seems like a slam dunk. Plus, Harvick has been pretty strong at Dover: he’s on a streak of four consecutive top-six finishes at the Monster Mile, including a win in the fall of 2018. Look for Harvick to make it seven on Saturday!

Tiongson :  I’d like to think we see Jimmie Johnson rAlly his way back to Victory Lane.

Next, Ashley Hobbs provides the numbers for the second Dover race that used to be run in the fall!
First, how does your favorite team fare in the second Dover race?

First, how does your favorite team fare in the second Dover race?

Again, Toyota seems dominant at Dover.

Again, Toyota seems dominant at Dover.

Since 2004, the Drydene 311 (second race) winner has an average starting spot of 6.5, led an average of 139.3 laps, started within the top-five 56.25 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 81.25 percent of the time.

Since 2004, the Drydene 311 (second race) winner has an average starting spot of 6.5, led an average of 139.3 laps, started within the top-five 56.25 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 81.25 percent of the time.

Now, Rowdy seems stout at Dover.

Now, Rowdy seems stout at Dover.

Consider the trends at Dover's second race since 2010.

Consider the trends at Dover’s second race since 2010.

Here's the trends in the second Drydene 311 race since 2015.

Here’s the trends in the second Drydene 311 race since 2015.

Oh, that machine.

Oh, that machine.

Ultimately, here’s our picks for Sunday’s Drydene 311.
Oh my...we almost all agreed!

Oh my…we almost all agreed!

Beecy :  Kevin Harvick does well at this track. And as Terra mentioned, he does well on doubleheader weekends.

Conley :  He wraps up the regular-season championship today with an exclamation point on Sunday.

Jones :  Same reason I picked Denny for Saturday’s race – he seems to like these doubleheader weekends!

Lambeth :  This driver is performing at such a phenomenal level at age 44. I do not expect him to slow down soon as he will secure the regular-season title and earn win No. 7 of the season.

Shoppe :  The dominant team in 2020 will continue to their winning ways at the Monster Mile!

Sisoler :  This panelist chooses Kevin Harvick.

Hobbs :  The second Dover outing of the season tends to be good for Martin Truex Jr and with his runner up finish in yesterday’s race, I am hoping for 1 position better for him today.

Marcheschi :  It’s been back-and-forth between Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Each seems to be strong during these doubleheader weekends. I say Hamlin takes the victory on Sunday on the strength of five wins so far this season. He doesn’t have the best record at Dover. But in a season where so much has gone his way, he’ll find his way to the front at the Monster Mile.

Tiongson :  It’s a good Sunday for Chase Elliott as he takes the victory at Dover!

TPF Stats:  He battled hard and showed he can take the win, but came up short yesterday. The numbers still have faith in Chase Elliott to be victorious at Dover.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Drydene 311 races at Dover International Speedway!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into this weekend’s races? Who are your favorites to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon!  Please stay safe, wear a mask, and wash your hands often!

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *