Series heavyweights welcome return to the Monster Mile
Carl Edwards and other Busch Series heavyweights didn't have a lot of success at Charlotte. Side-by-side racing on the Monster Mile could be just what they need, writes Rupen Fofaria.
With semi-surprising top-10 finishes from Kasey Kahne, Casey Mears, Scott Wimmer and Stephen Leicht this past weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway, there wasn't a lot of room at the top of the finishing order for some of the Busch Series heavyweights.
Guys like David Ragan, Matt Kenseth and series leader Carl Edwards are looking to bounce back. And what better place than Dover International Speedway -- a 1-mile short track that offers the feel of a wider and more expansive venue where speed and side-by-side racing are mainstays.
Dover is an exceptionally fast racetrack. For a mile-long racetrack, it generates a lot of speed. You're in the throttle a lot of the time. ...
"Dover is an exceptionally fast racetrack," said Jeff Burton, somewhat satisfied with fourth this past weekend but looking to repeat as race winner this weekend. "For a mile-long racetrack, it generates a lot of speed. You're in the throttle a lot of the time; there's a lot of banking; and you really have to work hard to get your car to turn well."
If you can get the car dialed in, Dover is one of the most fun tracks to drive. That's why some of the Cup racers who are regulars in the Busch Series and have well-tuned, fast rigs are looking forward to the weekend.
"Charlotte didn't go as well as we would have liked," said Kenseth, who failed to finish first or second for the second consecutive race after having done so four in a row. "We had a great qualifying run, but it kind of went downhill from there.
"We are taking our Charlotte car to Dover this weekend, and it is a car that has been great to us in the past. Hopefully, we can get the handling dialed in and get another good finish."
Ragan, who got his first top-20 Busch Series finish at Dover, is hoping the Monster Mile can give his team a boost after a poor Lowe's outing. Ragan finished 25th, five spots below his season average.
"We had a slight setback last week at Charlotte," he said, adding that his team is "ready to put in the work to make it right."
Boss in town
Wally Rogers always feels a little pressure when he comes to Dover. The crew chief grew up a couple of hours from the track and always has a lot of friends and family in town. This weekend, there's added pressure because the boss is racing in his car.
Kevin Harvick, who normally races for Richard Childress Racing but will drive for the Busch team he owns this weekend, has finished in the top 10 in his other two stints driving for himself.
"When Kevin drives, regardless of where we are, it is so important to me to have him win in his own car," Rogers said. "... It means a lot to have him drive for us. When you show up, you want everything to be flawless."
Ambrose 'making great progress'
Few expected to see Marcos Ambrose, the rookie from Australia, in the top 10 so early this season. In truth, his lofty ranking was partly because Cup racers had not raced in each early-season event and partly because there were so few events from which to derive points.
After all, even when he was ranked sixth after seven races, he had only two top-10s. Indeed, he was ninth through 10 races with only those same two top-10s.
Still, after finishing outside the top 20 in four straight events, Ambrose has finished 19th and 20th, respectively, in his past two and is ranked 13th. He has solidified his standing in third for the rookie race.
"The team is making great progress," he said. "We've been showing a lot of speed."
It's the pits
Although the banking and concrete at Dover combine to create great racing, the pits have a lot to say about the winner at the Monster Mile.
"Pit strategy plays a big part at this race," Busch Series Director Joe Balash said. "Pit road at Dover is tight with concrete boxes, so drivers need to have their cars under control and not slide the tires. This is key especially if they're making a two-tire stop."
Rupen Fofaria has covered NASCAR for ESPN.com since 2002. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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