(Photo courtesy of NASCARmedia.com/256956Patrick Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Why do they call the one mile oval Dover International Speedway track the “Monster Mile”? Drivers will tell you that it is because if you don’t stay focused on racing the track will chew you up and spit you out. The turns have 24 degrees of banking and it is the only track on the NASCAR circuit that is completely concrete instead of asphalt.
The high banking lends itself to faster speeds around the track. The concrete racing surface lends itself to wearing down tires quickly during a green flag run. The drivers will have to remain focused as those tires begin losing grip on the track. With the high speeds and loss of grip, just a momentary lapse in focus can result in a car slipping sideways and spinning into another car or the retaining wall. With 43 cars racing around the track, a single car losing control can cause several cars to ultimately find themselves wrecking.
The crew chiefs and pit crews will also have to be on top of their game if they hope to see their driver in Victory Lane at the end of the FedEx 400. Throughout the 400 lap-400 mile race the crew chief will need figure out the adjustments to make on the car so that the driver can handle the car and stay focused on driving the car. The pit crews will need to make those adjustments and service the car on pit stops quickly to get the driver back out on the track in the best position to advance through the field and have a shot at winning the race.
Current NASCAR Sprint Cup point leader Jimmie Johnson is the best at staying focused and winning on the “Monster Mile.” In fact, the five-time NASCAR Champion is one of the best at winning at Dover ever in NASCAR history. Jimmie has seven wins on the “Monster Mile” which has only been matched by NASCAR legendary drivers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. Jimmie won the FedEx 400 last year and wore a rainbow colored wig for driver introductions and in Victory Lane after the race. Will Jimmie be wearing the “good luck wig” for this year’s introductions with the hopes of having it on again after the race?
The next closest to Jimmie in the win category at Dover among active drivers are Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin with four wins each. Ryan Newman is next on the list with three wins on the “Monster Mile.” Drivers with two wins at the track include Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. All of these drivers will be doing what they can to add another win to their racing resume.
Seven active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have just a single trophy that features the track’s mascot “Miles The Monster.” Brad Keselowski (who won the fall race at Dover in 2012), Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Bobby Labonte will try to collect a second trophy to complete a unique set of bookends. Of course the drivers who have not tasted victory on the “Monster Mile” will also be driving for all they are worth to grab their first win on the concrete mile track.
No matter who ends in Victory Lane, the races on the “Monster Mile” are always some of the most exciting for fans to watch. The FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks gets under way at 12 noon central time Sunday, June 2nd at Dover International Speedway.
By: Buck Stevens
(Jimmy Johnson photo courtesy of NASCARmedia.com/256961Geoff Burke/Getty Images)