By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Last week we saw feverish racing all day long, and in the end we had a driver break an 88-race-winless streak. However just days later we found out that Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 team bent the rules just a bit.
This week we enter race No. two of the 10 race “Chase For The Sprint Cup” at Dover International Speedway.
The last time the Sprint Cup Series invaded Dover back in May, Jimmie Johnson led the most laps, but it was Kyle Busch who easily cruised to victory in the end… Here are five things to watch for this weekend.
1. Could Dover Be Hamlin’s Achilles Heel?
Denny Hamlin somehow, someway left New Hampshire with his point lead intact. Hamlin got spun late in the event, which actually turned into great fortunes as he was able to get the fuel he would need to make it to the finish.
Hamlin ended up second, just behind Clint Bowyer… who of course failed post-race inspection.
Kevin Harvick now trails Hamlin by 45 points, but of all the Chasers this year Hamlin has the worst career average finish at Dover (22.8). Could this race doom Hamlin’s chances at the championship? Or can he run like he did in May, when he drove to a fourth place finish here?
2. Which Outsider Could Play The Spoiler This Weekend?
Last week in Loudon Jamie McMurray came home third. He was followed closely by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fourth. Both of these drivers are not in the 2010 Chase For The Championship, yet they nearly pulled off the spoiler victory.
So of the drivers outside the top-12 in points, who has the best shot to pull off the upset this week in Dover?
Well Jamie McMurray has been a threat to win all year long at just about every kind of racetrack he wouldn’t be a bad pick. However if you are looking for some other underdogs… Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have a grand total of nine wins between them at the monster mile.
One would imagine that these guys would have some decently long odds for this race, so if you’re thinking about putting some money down they’re definitely worth a look.
3. Can Jimmie Rebound?
Mr. four-in-a-row, Jimmie Johnson got his Chase started off on the wrong foot last weekend. A spin, and a late pitstop for a vibration, wrecked his day. As a result Johnson was relegated to a disappointing 25th place finish at one of his best racetracks.
Sure Jimmie is down, but he is not out folks.
Expect Johnson to rebound big Sunday. Double-J leads all active drivers with five career victories at Dover International Speedway.
4. Will “Concrete Carl” Finally Get His First Win Of 2010?
Carl Edwards over the last 10 races has outscored every other driver in the Sprint Cup Series garage… He just doesn’t have a win to show for it.
Early in the year his team was behind the eight-ball when some of their simulation hardware was off. There is no doubt that whatever was wrong has been rectified, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Edwards.
The driver who has been dubbed “Concrete Carl” for his dominance on concrete tracks, is hitting his strides entering the concrete oval in Dover.
Edwards has the best career average finish at Dover of any active driver (7.9). Not only that but he won this exact race back in 2007.
5. Can Clint Bowyer Rebound From His Huge Penalties?
Clint Bowyer snapped an 88-race stretch of mediocrity with a win last week at New Hampshire. The team was on cloud nine, and they officially became a contender for the championship…
Then just days later when the dust settled, his car was found to be illegal. Now all of a sudden he is reeling back in 12th in the points. In addition to that he could lose his crew chief and car chief for six races pending an appeal.
If Bowyer’s hopes for the championship seem slim, it’s because they are. If he has any shot at winning this title still, it is imperative that he gets a good finish this weekend.