tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Friday, May 25, 2018
  • Home
Auto racing

Sprint Cup Preview: Dover

Last week's Coca-Cola 600 meant drivers were one-third of the way through the season, and Sunday's Best Buy 400 will make it halfway to the Chase. Pressure soon will start to mount on drivers fighting for the final few Chase berths, and that group currently includes Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth. Below, Tribune motor sports writer Tony Fabrizio takes a look at what's topical heading to the Monster Mile: Tony Stewart lost an almost certain victory in the Coca-Cola 600 because of a flat tire. Is he mad at Goodyear again? Stewart showed his frustration after losing a 5 1/2-second lead with three laps to go by stomping and throwing things in his hauler, but he left the track without comment. On his Sirius Satellite Radio show Tuesday night, he said he still doesn't know why the tire suddenly deflated (it may have been cut). Stewart caught a lot of grief from NASCAR and Goodyear for ripping the tire company at Atlanta in March. So even if he thinks the tire shouldn't have failed, he'll probably be careful about what he says. What's the fallout from the spat between Gordon and Kyle Busch at Charlotte?
Busch and Gordon were annoyed with each other after finishing third and fourth, respectively. Busch gave Gordon the finger late in the race and tried to approach him on pit road afterward, but Gordon brushed him off. Gordon suggested during testing this week at Pocono that Busch might be bitter about being nudged aside when Hendrick Motorsports had the chance to sign Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gordon added that Hendrick may actually have done Busch a favor, given that he's been on a tear with his new team, Joe Gibbs Racing. Martin Truex Jr. dominated last year's spring race at Dover en route to his first Cup-level win. Can he repeat? Truex considers Dover his home track (he's from Mayetta, N.J.) and he runs well there, but his team hasn't been as strong this year. He has one top-five finish - a fifth at Richmond - and he has led only 13 laps. Figure on three-time Dover winner Johnson, red-hot points leader Busch and Carl Edwards as being the favorites Sunday. Edwards, like Busch a three-time winner this year, has finished third, second and first in his past three Dover starts. Is Bruton Smith going to buy Dover International Speedway and move one of its Sprint Cup race dates to Kentucky Speedway? Dover is one of the few tracks left that hasn't been bought by the France family's International Speedway Corp. or Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc. And it's the only one that might soon be on the market. With the France family controlling the NASCAR schedule, Smith may not be able to get a date for Kentucky unless he moves a race from one of his current tracks or buys another track. •When Jimmy Elledge got fired last week at Chip Ganassi Racing, Zephyrhills' Brian Pattie became Juan Montoya's third crew chief in a month. Montoya opposed Elledge's firing, and he had a tough debut with Pattie, finishing 30th at Charlotte. They'll try again at Dover. •Zephyrhills' David Reutimann carries the momentum of a career-best 10th-place finish at Charlotte. He's also coming off a couple of decent runs in the Nationwide Series, finishing third at Darlington and 11th at Charlotte. •Land O' Lakes' Scotty Crockett had a respectable debut in the Craftsman Truck Series last week, qualifying 13th and finishing 23rd at Mansfield, Ohio. He'll compete next in the series June 28 at Memphis, Tenn.

Tony Fabrizio

Weather Center