1) Matt Kenseth (Starting – 1st) (Odds To Win – 7/1)
What you need to know about him – I really like Matt Kenseth at Dover in the AAA 400. He’s a “Master” at the Monster Mile and he’s won half the races over the last two months. One aspect I like about him is that I know how he’ll race. He’ll be going for the win and won’t be points racing like many of the other contenders who need to play it safe because of their points situation. This spring Matt Kenseth was top five good but finished poorly after having suspension issues. I think that misleading result will increase his fantasy value because it could steer some away. In the AAA 400 he’s starting on the pole which will give him a big advantage. This season when he’s started first he’s had results of 1st, 1st and 4th.
Dover History – Matt Kenseth is very good at Dover. As long as he avoids trouble he’s proven himself to be a lock for a top ten finish. At the Monster Mile you could almost say he’s a natural. He made his first career start here in 2008 and finished 6th. Since then he’s been to victory lane twice and has finished in the top five nearly half the time (45%). This spring Matt Kenseth had top five potential but had suspension issues which led to his 39th place finish. If he didn’t have that problem he would’ve finished very well. Last fall he had a very strong showing and was a consistent front runner. When the checkered flag waved he finished 5th, earned the 6th best driver rating and had a 7th place average running position. In spring 2014 he had one of the strongest cars and would’ve finished 2nd if it wasn’t for a late restart. In that race he earned the 2nd best driver rating, finished 3rd, had a 5th place average running position and led 17 laps. In fall 2013 he wasn’t a threat to win but he ran well throughout the event. He finished 7th, had a 4th place average running position and led 36 laps. In spring 2013 he potentially had the best car but while he was leading before the midpoint his engine blew up.
Momentum –Matt Kenseth has won 4 of the last 8 races! In every race over this stretch where he didn’t have problems he’s finished in the top 5. Currently he has three straight top fives.
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2) Kevin Harvick (Starting – 15th) (Odds To Win – 9/2)
What you need to know about him – Dover is one of four tracks where Kevin Harvick has never been to victory lane. He better win on Sunday or else his Chase is over. He’s not in a situation where he can feasibly points race his way to the next round. That means he’ll be in all out “Hail Mary” mode. That can either bite you or be really good. His “Hail Mary” last week proved to be really bad. Performance wise at Dover Harvick has been stellar. Our PROS Rankings show you who subjectively had the best car and he’s ranked #1 in the last three races at the Monster Mile. One attribute I like about Harvick is that he’s proven himself to be a clutch performer who rises to the occasion. In the AAA 400 he’s starting in 15th which isn’t great but keep in mind Jimmie Johnson won from 14th this spring. In practice it was mentioned that Harvick felt confident with his setup. In Happy Hour Harvick had the best 5 lap average speed.
Dover History – Kevin Harvick has been very fast at Dover recently and over the last three races he’s had the strongest car in my opinion. This spring he had a great car and was a serious threat to win. He finished 2nd, earned the 2nd best driver rating, had a 3rd place average running position and led 91 laps. If it wasn’t for late cautions which regrouped the field I think he would’ve won hands down. In 2014 he had the car to beat in both races but neither event was incident free. Last fall Harvick was extremely fast and dominated the race up until lap 252 when he had a left front tire go flat. At that time he was the leader and it dropped him a lap down back to about 20th. In that event he started on the pole, led 223 laps and finished 13th. In June 2014 his race was very similar and while he was leading on lap 165 he had a flat tire. Just prior to getting his flat he led 24 laps. His Yahoo Race Chart does a good job portraying his level of competitiveness. When the checkered flag waved he finished 17th. Between 2010 and 2013 he was extremely consistent and had the 6th best driver rating, an 8.9 average finish and a 10.5 average running position.
Momentum – Harvick had problems in the last two races and has results of 21st and 42nd. In those races he was a contender to win until trouble struck.
Further Recommended Reading – Happy Hour Notes, Happy Hour Speeds, Practice #1 Notes, Practice #1 Speeds, 10 Lap Speed Cheat Sheet, Dover Starting Lineup, Dover PROS Rankings, Dover Odds To Win, Dover Scouting Report, Dover Asterisk Mark Report
3) Jimmie Johnson (Starting – 5th) (Odds To Win – 4/1)
What you need to know about him – Jimmie Johnson is good at a lot of tracks but Dover is his best. He’s won here ten times and his only results outside the top ten since 2008 deserve an asterisk mark. If you’re looking for a fantasy NASCAR lock it doesn’t get any closer than picking him at Dover. This spring at the Monster Mile Johnson reached victory lane. That win is also his most recent victory of the 2015 season. Since then he’s only challenged for the win once and it’s been 11 races since he last led. In the AAA 400 Johnson is starting 5th. His magic finish number is 25th in order to ensure he advances to the next round of the Chase. I expect some level of points racing from the 48 team. In practice it appeared Johnson had a good car. He didn’t make any long runs but in both practice sessions his overall speed ranked as the 8th best. On Sunday I don’t think we’ll see a dominant Johnson, but I expect him to be very good.
Dover History – Jimmie Johnson is more than a fantasy ace at Dover, he’s a legend. He’s won here 10 times and has been to victory lane in 3 of the last 4 events. Over the last 15 Dover races he has the best driver rating by a wide margin, a 4.7 average finish, 3.6 average running position and has averaged leading 163 laps per race. This spring Johnson had a good car and raced his way to victory lane with a little help from late pit strategy. Strength wise I thought he had the 3rd best car (PROS Rankings). In the race it should be noted he had a 5th place average running position and led 23 laps. Last fall Johnson drove a conservative race and during the event Chad Knaus kept reminding him to “focus on the big picture (championship).” He was a consistent front runner but it marked the first time he failed to lead any laps since spring 2007. When the checkered flag waved he finished 3rd and had a 4th place average running position. In the two Dover races prior to that he dominated the competition. In spring 2014 he was untouchable en route to victory lane. In that race he earned a near perfect driver rating and led 272 laps. In fall 2013 he had a similar afternoon earning a near perfect driver rating and leading 243 laps. In spring 2013 he had the best car but jumped a late restart while battling for the lead and finished 17th as a result. In the five races prior to that he had a 3.4 average finish.
Momentum – Jimmie Johnson has been showing more muscle in recent weeks. It should be noted however that he hasn’t led since Daytona in July.