Five NASCAR playoff drivers to watch at Dover International Speedway

Here are five NASCAR playoff drivers to watch as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Dover International Speedway for the Gander Outdoors 400.

The NASCAR Cup Series is headed to Dover International Speedway for the first race in the second round of the NASCAR playoffs.

Three of the five drivers from the last edition of who to watch finished inside the top-10 at Richmond Raceway. All five of those drivers finished inside the top-16.

After a wild cutoff race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, the second round of the playoffs is set to begin. Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Erik Jones were all eliminated from playoff contention following the race on the Roval.

Will Kevin Harvick make it two in a row at Dover? Could Team Penske continue their hot streak? Will Martin Truex Jr. rebound from his last lap spin at the Roval? Can one of the drivers currently sitting outside the top-8 find victory lane?

Here are five drivers to keep any eye on this weekend to see how they perform at Dover International Speedway.

Chase Elliott

If there is another driver who’s excited to see Dover International Speedway, then it’s Chase Elliott.

Elliott has the second best average finish, 5.5, among playoff drivers in the last four races at Dover. Elliott has three top-5 finishes in the last four races at Dover. Outside of Truex, he’s the only other driver to have three or more.

Elliott has historically run well at Dover but has never been able to close out a race with a win. Maybe this weekend will be different for the driver of the No. 9.

78: Martin Truex Jr. looks to bounce back at Dover after the Roval. (World Copyright: Rusty Jarrett, NKP)

Martin Truex Jr.

It looked like Martin Truex Jr. was going to win at the Roval. Until the final two turns. The good news for Truex is that he’s headed to Dover International Speedway. Arguably, one of the best tracks on the circuit for him.

In the last four races at Dover, Truex is the only driver to finish inside the top-5 in all four races. His worst finish in that stretch is a pair of fourth place finishes.  Truex has also led in three of those four races for 340 laps.

“No question Dover has been a good track for us,” said Truex in his teams pre-race report. “I really feel comfortable driving there. It’s been one of my favorite tracks.”

“Though we enter Dover with a modest cushion of playoff bonus points, we are very well aware that those points can evaporate in a hurry. We need to make sure we shine at Dover and Kansas to make the next round on our own and not worry about what other drivers are doing.”

Kevin Harvick is the most recent winner at Dover. (World Copyright: Matthew Thacker, NKP)

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick’s average finish of 16.0 over the last four races might not be the best. But, Harvick is the most recent winner at Dover and led 201 laps there in the spring.

“When I go to Dover, I think about one thing, and that is, ‘How can I win this race – what do we need to do as a team to focus on what we need to do?’ said Harvick in his pre-race release.

“Dover is the racetrack where you feel the sensation of speed more than anything. It’s a place where you drop off into the corner and slam into a lot of banking and then, as you come out of the corner, it’s kind of like jumping out of a hole and up onto the straightaway. It’s a really fun place to race. You feel that sensation of speed and you can be really aggressive.”

In the last four races at Dover, Kyle Larson has the most laps led. (World Copyright: John Harrelson NKP)

Kyle Larson

In the last four races at Dover, no one has led more laps than Kyle Larson. With a total of 378 laps led during that span, Larson leads the way.

Larson has two top-5 and three top-10 finishes during that stretch. His average finish of 10.5 is third best among playoff drivers.

After a race at the Roval where he barely made it into the next round, Larson should now be a force to reckon with at Dover.

Kyle Busch is always a driver to watch at Dover. (World Copyright: Nigel Kinrade, NKP)

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch is the defending race winner and deserves a mention on this list. After all, he has led 30 or more laps at Dover in three of his last four races there.

Throwing out the spring race where he had a drivetrain problem and finished 35th, Busch has a win, a second place and a 16th place finish in his last four races at the Monster Mile.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.