Commentary

If it's Dover, it must be ... Kurt Busch in Victory Lane?

The Eliminator: Dover

Updated: September 19, 2007, 3:28 PM ET
By Matthew Willis | ESPN.com

Hi everybody, thanks for stopping by. You really should come by more often. Who am I talking to?

I'm sure everybody's looking for how I'm going to follow last week's second-place performance, courtesy of Jeff Gordon. I'm eager to find out as well, although I haven't lost faith in The Eliminator.

And to remind you not to lose faith, I'd like to quote some song lyrics, a poem, or perhaps even something I found printed on a Popsicle stick. But, to be honest with you, I don't feel like looking any of that up or dealing with pesky copyright issues. Instead, I'll persuade you with this logic.

Come on, it's The Eliminator.

Now, let's look forward by looking back -- trust my logic here -- to the last time the Cup Series visited Dover. We were coming off the 600-mile race at Charlotte, where we saw a first-time winner, Casey Mears, and a very unlikely top five.

So, the next week, we raced on a Monday, thanks to the rain, and got a second straight first-time winner, Martin Truex Jr.. We also saw Kurt Busch get parked after another incident with Tony Stewart.

Now, we're coming out of New Hampshire, where we had, guess what, a first-time winner in Clint Bowyer. Nobody got parked, and the rest of the top five wouldn't shock anybody, but if you can't get excited over just having some quaint New England charm, I don't know what you can get excited over.

Did you learn anything? Yeah, me neither. I should probably just get eliminating. Forty-nine drivers will go to Dover with dreams of taming the Monster Mile, but only one will, and I'll tell you who. Let's roll!

Here's a name from the NASCAR days of yore, Harry Gant. He swept both the Busch and Cup fall races at Dover in 1991. Since then, the winner of the fall race at Dover hasn't raced in the Busch race that same weekend. We'll take out the 17 drivers pulling double duty this weekend, including Chasers Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and last week's winner Bowyer.

We had a first-time winner at Dover in the spring, only the second driver to pick up his first Cup victory there, joining Jody Ridley, who got his only career Cup Series win at Dover in 1981. However, we've never had a first-time winner in the fall race. Let's go ahead and take out the nine remaining drivers without a Cup win. Twenty-three are left.

Maybe we won't see a first-time winner here, but chances are, we'll see a first-time Dover winner. The last three winners at Dover picked up their first wins at the Monster Mile, a list that includes Truex, Jeff Burton and Kenseth. That'll take out the 10 former Dover winners remaining, and leave us with 13.

It's been 154 races since the last driver won a Cup race who had missed a race earlier in the season. That was Greg Biffle in a fuel-mileage win at Daytona in the summer of 2003. We don't even know if the six remaining drivers outside the top 35 will be in the field this week, so you definitely can take them out of contention. Now we have seven left.

Let's finish this up in style. Over the last four years, the winner of this race finished at least 11th in the previous year's race. The year before that? In 2002, Jimmie Johnson won in his first Dover fall race. Six of the remaining seven weren't in the top 11 here last year, so we'll cross them all off the list.

Well, well, well, what do we have here? Earlier this season he got parked and was docked 100 points at Dover. Now, we'll see him in Victory Lane. Look for Kurt Busch to win another for The Eliminator this week.

Eliminator breakdown

  1. Since 1992, no fall Dover winner has raced in the Busch race that weekend (17 drivers eliminated, 32 remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: A.J. Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Robby Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Tony Raines, David Reutimann, Reed Sorenson, Martin Truex Jr., Scott Wimmer, J.J. Yeley.

  2. No first-time winners in the fall Dover race (nine drivers eliminated, 23 remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Drivers Eliminated David Gilliland, Jeff Green, Sam Hornish Jr., Kevin Lepage, Paul Menard, Scott Riggs, Johnny Sauter, David Stremme, Kenny Wallace.

  3. Last three Dover winners won their first career Dover race (10 drivers eliminated, 13 remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Kyle Petty, Ken Schrader, Tony Stewart.

  4. No winners who had missed a race earlier in the season since Daytona in July 2003 (six drivers eliminated, seven remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: John Andretti, Ward Burton, Jeremy Mayfield, Joe Nemechek, Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip.

  5. Last four fall Dover winners finished no worse than 11th in last year's race (six drivers eliminated, one remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Casey Mears, Juan Pablo Montoya, Elliott Sadler.

    And your winner is: Kurt Busch.

Matt Willis is a studio researcher at ESPN.

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