Matty’s Picks Vol. 20 – Dover – AAA 400 – October 2, 2011

The Monster-Mile! Dover International Speedway is one of my favorite tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, so yes I will watch the race this Sunday for the first time in three weeks.

[media-credit name=”doverspeedway.com” align=”alignright” width=”254″][/media-credit]A short 6-hour trek from where I grew up, Dover has been a popular destination for vacations of my family and friends. Dover’s high concrete banking offers endless passing potential, high speeds, and even a spot to pay for your trip in the casino located along the backstretch of the 1-mile concrete oval.

I was lucky enough, two years ago, to have the opportunity to ride shotgun in a two-seater, NASCAR Stock Car around the high-banks of Dover International Speedway. Monster Driving School offered members of the media complementary rides in the two-seater stock cars at the Monster Mile, and in turn gave me the utmost respect for stock car drivers. The experience is one that I will never forget and made my interest level in NASCAR go from insane to outright ridiculous.

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American Muscle

Now for anyone out there that thinks the 43 guys that strap into the 750-horsepower stock cars each week are not actual athletes, THINK AGAIN. I had the opportunity to take 8-laps around the Monster Mile, and I will tell you I had all I could do to walk straight when I climbed out of the car. The exuberant amount of adrenaline I had flowing through my veins that day was the only thing aiding my head to stay straight and remotely close to my body. I have the utmost respect for those guys now after just 8-laps, I can’t fathom the physical strain 3.5 hours of petal to the metal action puts on a driver’s body.

So if you’re one of those people who think NASCAR isn’t a sport, I challenge you to climb into one of those 750-horsepower stock cars and THEN see what you think.

Loudon Recap

If I had fifty-cents for every time one of my picks ran out of gas in the past two weeks, I would have enough for one double cheeseburger at McDonalds. (My roommates’ favorite snack in college)

It was another terrible week for me in New England last week (even though I got my revenge by my Bills taking it to Tom Brady and the Patriots last week), marking my worst combined total finish in the 19 editions of Matty’s Picks.

Ryan Newman was my winner pick last week, and yes I did make the pick before the dramatic qualifying session that ensued last week, resulting with Newman starting on the pole for last Sunday’s Sylvania 300.

Newman led the following 62 laps, when a miscue on pit-road sent him back in the field, never to reach the lead again. The bad news continued to roll in for Newman when he cut a tire down late in the race while running in the top-10 with just five laps remaining. The catastrophe cost Newman an imminent top-10 finish, and a boost in the points standings as well. Instead, the misfortune caused Newman to drop from 8th to 12th in points.

Newman spoke earlier this week about his misfortune in the first two races of The Chase “The results have not equaled the performances for our team at the past two races,” said Newman. “We’ve put ourselves in a hole, but the good news is that we still have eight races to go to make up the difference. We’ve been known for our comebacks and the way we fight through adversity. One thing you always hear from our Soldiers is that you never quit and you complete the mission. That’s what this Army race team has done and will always continue to do.

As for my Dark Horse pick, Clint Bowyer was poised to win the race Sunday but his gas tank did not agree with him winning the race.

After starting 11th, Bowyer wasted no time in breaking into the top 10 and was shown in 8th-place around the midway point in the race. It was at that time when crew chief Shane Wilson came over the radio and told Bowyer to save as much fuel as he could for the end of the race.

Bowyer flexed his muscles after a round of pit-stops near lap 250 when he took the lead, conserving fuel all the way. He was ahead of race-winner Tony Stewart by half a second when his engine was finally starved of fuel with just three laps remaining. Bowyer’s day ended on pit-road with a 26th-place result and he was short when speaking with the media following the race “It’s just not our year. I’m proud of this team. What a great car. It just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to.”

Even Stewart had sympathy for fellow Chevy driver Clint Bowyer following his win last Sunday “I know exactly what that feels like. I know exactly how he feels (Clint Bowyer) right now. I saw him slow down the back and I thought ‘Oh, no, you’re kiddin’ me’. That is not the way you want to win it for sure.

Dover Picks

The spring race at Dover back in May marked the debut of Matty’s Picks, and laid the groundwork for a successful regular season of picks this year. I am looking to rebound off the past two weeks of miserable picks and get back into championship contention down the stretch here in the final 8 editions of Matty’s Picks.

Considering five drivers (Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth) have combined to win 15 of the last 19 races at the Monster Mile, it leaves little for question this week.

Winner Pick

Jimmie Johnson sits 10th in points going into Sunday’s race, a position he is fairly unfamiliar with this far into the Sprint Cup Schedule.

He leads all active drivers with 6 wins at the Monster Mile, including three of the last five after sweeping both races in 2009 and taking the fall race last year in Dover. The concrete mile has been kind to Johnson throughout the years (something that doesn’t always happen when your tires break loose due to the severe banking all around the track), making one of the most incredible saves in NASCAR history back in his 2006 qualifying efforts.

Johnson has an average finish of 9.6 at Dover, and sitting 10th in points is nowhere he wants to be for any period of time. “New Hampshire obviously wasn’t the finish we were looking for especially with how good we were throughout the weekend. I’m really looking forward to this weekend though. Dover has always been a good place for the 48 team and I really enjoy racing there. I’m not really sure why, but it has always just kind of suited my driving style” said the five-time champ earlier this week about his chances this weekend.

Jimmie Johnson’s quest for 6 in a row is underway, and now the time to make his statement, a win will do it.

Dark Horse Pick

Since the other four drivers are in The Chase that are a part of the statistic above pertaining to the past 19-races at Dover, I have to go with the only driver without a shot at claiming the Sprint Cup this year.

Greg Biffle’s trends at Dover have been rather interesting to look at this afternoon. It seems like he is more back and forth than a ping-pong match. In the past 5 races at the Monster Mile, Biffle’s finishes have been: 19th, 6th, 19th, 3rd, and 16th. In the 5 races prior to the start of the 2009 season, Biffle’s finishes were: 1st, 3rd, 6th, 2nd, and 8th.

Now, Biffle is not in the Chase, but is a serious contender to take the checkered this Sunday. His average career finish across 18 races is 11.4 and he currently sits 13th on the speed charts in Sprint Cup Final practice.

The Biff is also coming of an impressive third-place finish last week at Loudon, and sits just three points out of the top Non-Chaser points in 14th. Biff spoke about his success at Dover this week “I’ve had some success at Dover and it would be great to get the 3M Ford Fusion in victory lane there this weekend. It’s been a pretty up and down season for us so far but I feel like we’re moving in the right direction. A win would definitely keep the momentum going though. As a driver, you have to be on your toes in Dover. You want your car to be a little loose but at the same time, it can’t be too loose. I have high expectations for this weekend.

That’s all for this week as I look forward to watching my first Chase race this season on Sunday afternoon because my Buffalo Bills are on the road this week in Cincinnati.

Until next time…You Stay Classy NASCAR NATION!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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