This Kyle Busch guy is on an amazing run lately. The Las Vegan just won his series leading third race of the season Saturday, his first ever at Kansas Speedway, which was his series leading ninth top-five finish in 11 races.
After watching the first 11 races last season sitting in his rocking chair at home due to breaking a leg in the season opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona, he grew up real fast as a driver. He understood that the series was moving along just fine without him. Coupled with experiencing the birth of his first child at the same time, he’s learned to not be so “Rowdy” anymore and that adjusted temperament helped him win the first Sprint Cup title of his career and he’s been on cruise control ever since.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he also drives for Joe Gibbs Racing which is producing great cars for not only for Busch, but also Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth while providing equipment for Martin Truex Jr. Edwards’ 5 top-fives is tied Kevin Harvick for second most in the series and his two wins are tied with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski for second most. Kenseth, who has had awful luck this season despite great cars, finally got his first top-five of the season at Kansas.
This Sunday will be the first time the traveling NASCAR show hits the northeast at Dover, Del. after criss-crossing the U.S. in the first 11 races. While the JGR drivers all figure to perform well on the one-mile high-banked concrete layout, the undisputed King of Dover and favorite to win is Johnson.
Last May, Johnson won for a track-record 10th time at Dover which made him the fifth driver in Cup history to win 10 times at a single track joining Richard Petty, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt. In 28 starts, he has 15 top-five finishes, a ninth-place average finish and a series-best 2,999 laps led. At all phases of his career, Dover has been a consistent winner for him. He’s currently on a run of winning three of the past five there.
Although Johnson is best at Dover, there was one driver that was better last season. Harvick finished second behind Johnson last May and then won in the fall during the Chase where he led 355 of the 400 laps. It was his first win in 30 starts on the track dubbed “The Monster Mile”.
Busch has two Dover wins, but none since 2010. In 22 starts, he’s got 14 top-10s and has led 1,037 laps. He finished second to Harvick last fall. The case to be made for him this week to win lies mostly with momentum, but also the new low downforce package which has never been used at Dover. The Gibbs drivers have it figured out and Kyle has shown he is a big momentum guy no matter the type of track. He won four of five during a stretch in July and won two straight to start April.
This is technically Mayetta, NJ native Martin Truex Jr’s home track, and it was the site of his first career win in 2007. He’s only won two races since, but he’s probably never had a car set-up so perfectly week-to-week like this season. Last week he led 172 of the 267 laps at Kansas, but settled for 14th. He’s been 11th or better in his past four Dover starts.
Edwards’ only Dover win came in 2007, a time when he went on a run of finishing in the top-five in eight of 13 starts. He hasn’t cracked the top-five since then with finishes of 11th or worse in his last six. The reason you might want to support Edwards this week is because of leading 276 of 500 laps in a win at Bristol’s half-mile concrete layout last month. The speeds are way faster at Dover, but the banking is similar which makes the required set-up similar.
We haven’t seen a decent payout at over 15-to-1 at Dover since Truex, but there are two drivers that have shown consistency in recent years that will fetch high odds. Kyle Larson (30/1) has a 7.2 average finish over four starts, including a best of third in this race last year. Aric Almirola (100/1) was fifth in both races last year. Kasey Kahne (25/1) was fourth and sixth between the two 2016 races.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: [email protected].