To accommodate the increase of road courses and new tracks, NASCAR had to limit several tracks to one race. Last year after hosting two events per season for 49 years, Dover International Speedway fell to one.
Dover is one of the most difficult tracks on which the series competes. For most of its history, Dover’s events were grueling, 500-mile affairs that took more than four hours to complete – on a high-banked track with lap times equaling a little more than 20 seconds (more than 165 miles per hour). The concentration level required to hit precise marks on this rhythm track is immense.
Dover is a mostly unique track and for years we treated it that way. It is a big sister to Bristol Motor Speedway with concrete high banks, but with the paved version of that course also dropping to one race in 2021, comparatives became difficult.
Before North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham disappeared from the schedule in 2005, we grouped Darlington Raceway with that track and called them rough-surfaced courses. The close similarity between Bristol and Dover gave us the rationale to form two distinct groups, but lately we have found it helpful to resurrect the track type in order to create a deeper data pool.
Then Nashville Superspeedway came along and while none of these courses are as tough on tires as Darlington is and Rockingham was, it takes some of the same skill to manage the wear. On the rough-surfaced courses, drivers need to be patient and race the track. And as one moves down the list from the 1.3-mile tracks (Darlington and Nashville) to the 1-mile Dover and 0.5-mile Bristol courses, maintain patience gets increasingly difficult.
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Despite his difficulties on many other tracks, Kevin Harvick was solid on rough-surfaced courses last year with results of sixth or better in five starts. In 2020, he won four times and finished in the top five in six of seven events. Kyle Larson was first or second in all five races last year. Denny Hamlin and William Byron earned four top-10s.
That suggests Dover is also a rhythm track where streaks are commonplace. Before slipping to 19th in 2021, Martin Truex Jr. entered with four consecutive top-two finishes and eight top-fives in his last nine attempts. Chase Elliott started his career on this track with six top-fives in his first seven races, while Harvick has finished sixth or better in his last seven attempts on the concrete high banks.
Looking back over the past two seasons, consistent finishes pop up throughout the order. In those three races, Joey Logano finished between fifth and eighth, Cole Custer was either 10th or 11th, Ryan Blaney finished either 12th or 14th, and Chris Buescher landed between 14th and 17th.
There were some pleasant surprises at Dover last year. Top-10s for Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suarez, and Custer suggest they may have found the key to success on this course. Since drivers often refer to a switch that seems to flip on rhythm tracks, they could be profitable when you find plus odds for a top-10. Depending on how the lines look, it might be a good idea to place moderate wagers on all three in the hope that two of them are able to back up their strong 2021 run.
May 1, Drydene 400
Power Rankings After Week 10
3: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch
1: Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin
13: Kyle Busch
10: Kevin Harvick
9: Kurt Busch, Martin Truex, Jr.
8: Chase Elliott
7: Kyle Larson
6: Denny Hamlin
5: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano
4: Alex Bowman
2: Aric Almirola, William Byron
1: Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones
Kevin Harvick: 7 top-10s (6th or better); 7 lead lap finishes
Kyle Larson: 3 top-fives; 7 lead lap finishes
Joey Logano: 3 top-10s; 3 lead lap finishes
Alex Bowman: 2 top-fives; 2 lead lap finishes
William Byron: 2 top-fives; 2 lead lap finishes
Cole Custer: 2 top-10s; 3 lead lap finishes
Denny Hamlin: 4 lead lap finishes
Chris Buescher: 2 lead lap finishes
Kurt Busch: 2 lead lap finishes
Austin Dillon: 2 lead lap finishes
Tyler Reddick: 2 lead lap finishes
Bubba Wallace: 2 lead lap finishes
May 16, Drydene 400:
1. Alex Bowman (1800), 2. Kyle Larson (440), 3. Chase Elliott (900), 4. William Byron (1600), 5. Joey Logano (1500)
Rough surfaced tracks: Dover, Darlington, Nashville, Bristol
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Atlanta Motor Speedway
Auto Club Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway (dirt)
Daytona International Speedway
Las Vegas Motor Speedway