Once again, the NASCAR schedule shifts to a completely different track. Dover is unique. It’s part short track and part intermediate track. It features steep banking with a concrete surface. There’s an elevation change and even a bridge over the track.
As always, trust the data but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Würth 400 at Dover, which gets underway Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. ET.
Dover is a one-mile oval, but it’s not technically a short track. It’s a high-banked, concrete track, but it’s not Bristol. Ask the crew chiefs, and they’ll say the Dover setup is the Charlotte setup. At least that’s what Chad Knaus always said, and he won a lot of races at Charlotte and Dover.
For the most part, this is an intermediate track, so NASCAR will not be using the disastrous short-track package. The regular package — that has not been used regularly — will return this weekend. The last time this package was implemented was way back at the beginning of the season in Las Vegas, and before that, Fontana (Auto Club). This is just the third race in this package this season, and each track is completely different.
Although this is the second season in the Gen 7 car, the teams are still wrapping their heads around it. Up until the end of last season, spins and tire failures were a common issue in each race. The Dover race in May was no different. It was littered with spins and tire issues. Teams have learned a lot about the car since that race, but they’ve also learned how to be more aggressive with their setups. The favorites should control this race, but some drivers with slightly longer odds are in play on Sunday.
Race Winner — Würth 400
Chase Elliott +650
Every track suits Hendrick Motorsports. Each package is a strength for their stable of drivers. Elliott might be the best road course driver in the series. Also, he has multiple super-speedway wins to go with his intermediate and short-track wins. However, his biggest strength might be concrete surfaces. Some drivers have a better feel for the car at Dover, Bristol and Nashville. Elliott has nine top-5 finishes and two wins (2022 and 2018) in 12 Cup Series races at Dover. Last season, he won at Nashville and was the runner-up in the Bristol night race. Elliott is a concrete expert.
Chris Buescher +3500
Long shots are a thing in the new NASCAR. Super speedways and road courses were always potential upsets. In the Gen 7 package, the intermediate tracks are live, too. Last season, Buescher shocked everyone by winning at Bristol. It was not completely out of nowhere. Buescher won the pole earlier in the season at Dover. Clearly, he and his team can run concrete tracks. Ultimately, Buescher couldn’t get the job done at Dover. Although he faded, and it did not work out for him specifically, another long shot nearly won. Ricky Stenhouse Jr (+) finished second. Stenhouse is another driver that has performed well at concrete tracks (Dover, Bristol and Nashville) but has mostly been held back by inferior equipment. The Gen 7 car has leveled the playing field. The big teams do not have a major advantage. The unreliability of the car creates cautions and opens the door to strategy. The mid-pack drivers have a shot on Sunday.
Race Winner — Würth 400
Kyle Larson +500
Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus won at Dover 10 times. The duo won at Charlotte another 8 times. Add in another seven wins because Texas used to be Charlotte’s sister track. Finally, don’t forget their two wins at the high-banked, concrete bullring in Bristol. Johnson is gone but Knaus still works for Hendrick Motorsports. He has a senior role and advises each team. Since being elevated to this role, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman have won at Dover. When Bowman won in 2021, Kyle Larson finished second and led the most laps (236). While driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, Larson won the Cup Series race at Dover in 2019 and the Xfinity Series race in 2017. He has led over 80 laps at Dover five times and has five podium finishes. On top of his Dover supremacy, he’s had the fastest car in the intermediate track package this season. Larson could have won at Auto Club (Fontana) but a wiring issue cost him too many laps early in the race. The next week, he had the Las Vegas race in the bag, but a late-race caution allowed his HMS teammate William Byron to steal the win.
Ross Chastain +1400
It’s been a while since the Cup Series has raced in this package. Race two and three of the season at Auto Club and Las Vegas seem like a lifetime ago. It’s easy to forget that Ross Chastain had the highest driver rating at Auto Club. He had a top-5 car at Las Vegas (sixth-most laps inside the top 5 and third-most inside the top 10), but he was terrible on the final restart. Chastain finished third and led the second-most laps (86) at Dover last season. In 2021, he finished second at the concrete track in Nashville.
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