Posted by: Dave Thompson, follow @phillyfan17
September 29, 2017
The NASCAR playoffs head to Dover International Speedway for the third race in the first round and the elimination of four drivers from the playoffs. Each week, Motor Racing Digest writers will follow four drivers each during their playoff pursuit of a NASCAR championship. Here is a weekend preview for Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray.
Brad Keselowski heads to Dove fourth in the playoffs standings after his top-5 finish at New Hampshire. He has just win at the “Monster Mile” in 15 starts, but with an average finish of 13.9, expect another solid finish on Sunday.
Keselowski has six top-10 finishes in 15 career starts and just one DNF which occured in June of this season.
Prediction: Keselowski scores another top-10 and Dover and easily moves into the next round of the playoffs.
Hamlin heads to Dover International Speedway for the final race of Round 1 of the NASCAR Playoffs this Sunday with Hamlin 44 points ahead of 13th-place Austin Dillon to advance into Round 2. Hamlin’s last three visits to the Monster Mile have resulted in three top-10 finishes, including an eighth-place finish during his last trip there in June. In 23 total starts at the one-mile oval, Hamlin has started from the pole position three times (2012, 2013 and 2015) and has collected three top-five and nine top-10 finishes.
Hamlin’s thoughts heading into the first NASCAR Playoffs cutoff race at Dover.
“Cutoff races typically stir up a different type of competition, so when you add that to a physically-demanding track like Dover, it’s obviously going to have an interesting result. I’m focusing on one track at a time and working to keep us in good standing for the Playoffs, so we’ll just tighten things up for this weekend and give it the best we can.”
Prediction: Hamlin finishes with a top-15 and moves on to Round 2 of the playoffs.
Busch has conquered Dover once in his career – in October 2011. He pulled away from Jimmie Johnson on a pair of late-race restarts to earn his 24th NASCAR Cup Series victory.Busch also owns nine top-10 finishes in 34 starts at the concrete ovalknown as the “Monster Mile,” where he’ll look to earn both his secondcareer Dover victory and second of 2017 Sunday.
The hill is steep but Busch knows it can be climbed. Which is why they are “all-in” at Dover.
“It’s all-in,” said Busch. “We’ll go there with everything we’ve got, like we have been. We’ve got to find the setup that will make that car cut, that will make it go through the center of the corner, and carry that speed on exit and give it our best.”
Prediction: Busch will have a better run than his previous two race in Round 1 and finish in the top-15, but it’s not enough to push him into the next round.
McMurray will make MENCS career start No. 30 this weekend at Dover International Speedway. He has an average start of 15.7 and average finish of 17.8. In 29 previous starts he has only failed to finish on once occasion, scoring two top-fives and eight top-10 finishes.
McMurray enters this NASCAR Playoff cutoff race, 11th in points and with a nine point cushion on the cutoff of 13th position.
He has been in cutoff position territory before, but McMurray is treating this race like any other and not concerned about the pressure of not making in to Round 2.
“For the most part, this year or last year every race was a cutoff race I feel like,” said McMurray. “So, I don’t really view this weekend as more pressure. I don’t even look at it as a cutoff race. I just view it as the next race and go out and do the best you can.”
Prediction: McMurray finished seventh at Dover back in June and will finish with another top-10 and earn a berth in Round 2 of the playoffs.