“It's always good to come here, It's my home track. I love coming up to this race track for a lot of reasons. Of course, being close to home is always neat, but a lot of friends and family come to this race, so it's always neat to see them." -- Sprint Cup driver Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. has come close enough to taste a couple of victories in the Sprint Cup Series this season.
However, just when it appears as if he’s about to take a big bite of the tasty nectar of victory, someone always seems to snatch it away from him at the last second.
Truex is hoping he’ll be able to shake away those gremlins in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway.
“It’s a lot easier than if you weren’t fast and let one slip away and felt like your chances or the opportunity would be hard to get again,” Truex said. “It’s definitely easier when you’re running good and you feel like every time you show up at the race track there’s an opportunity, you can get up there and lead some laps and have a shot at winning. It definitely helps.”
Consider that Truex was at the front of the pack on the final lap of the season-opening Daytona 500 but was edged by Denny Hamlin in a photo finish when the checkered flag waved.
Truex then had the dominant car at Texas in April, leading a race-high 141 of 334 laps, until an untimely caution flag relegated him to sixth.
Once again, Truex had the car to beat at Kansas last Saturday night, but his race unraveled when the head bolt fell of his brake during a pit stop on lap 212, forcing him to pit road a second time as he finished 14th.
Truex believes the high banks of Dover International Speedway just might be able to cure what’s been ailing him. After all, the Mayetta, N.J., native considers Dover his “home track.”
He recorded the first win of his Sprint Cup career at Dover in the spring of 2007, only adding to his affinity for the track where he watched his father compete in the Busch North Series as a youngster.
“It’s always good to come here,” said Truex, who has finished seventh or better in five of his last eight races at Dover. “It’s my home track. I love coming up to this race track for a lot of reasons. Of course, being close to home is always neat, but a lot of friends and family come to this race, so it’s always neat to see them.
“Most importantly, I love the race track. Our cars have been fast this year and I’m looking forward to hopefully going back to victory lane ... that’s what it’s all about, that’s what we’re here for. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.
Harvick, Earnhardt to start from front row
Kevin Harvick, the winner of last fall’s race at Dover International Speedway, will start from the pole position for Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism Sprint Cup Series race after qualifying was rained out on Friday afternoon.
The starting lineup for the AAA 400 will be determined by Friday morning’s practice speeds according to the NASCAR rule book.
Harvick posted the quickest lap in Friday’s practice session, turning the high-banked, one-mile oval at an average speed of 165.145 mph.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up alongside second on the front row after posting a lap of 164.707. Kyle Busch (164.489) and Carl Edwards (164.144) will start third and fourth, respectively.
“The outlook’s been a lot different just coming to this race track,” Harvick said. “Obviously, it all came together for us the last time here in the fall and the car was fast when we unloaded in practice.”
Earnhardt said he’ll take the good starting spot, but he said there is plenty more work to do.
“Hopefully we’ll get some practice [Saturday] and get to work on our race setup,” Earnhardt said. “We got some speed out of it and made it real comfortable. I love this race track. It’s a fun challenge but it’s a tough place to run well at consistently every time you come here.”
Patrick’s misfortune leads to practice crash
Mechanical issues with Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet just six minutes into Friday morning’s first Sprint Cup Series practice session ignited a flame-throwing, metal-grinding crash at Dover International Speedway.
Patrick’s Chevrolet spewed smoke and broke loose exiting the fourth turn before the rear end of her car erupted into flames as she spun down the frontstretch of the high-banked, one-mile oval.
Patrick’s car owner and teammate Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray both crashed hard into the fourth-turn wall after driving into oil left on the track by her car.
“I got back to the throttle and it was like a muffled [sound] – really muffled like I blew an engine,” Patrick said. “And then it just got sideways and hit the wall. There were a lot of flames, too. Obviously, some kind of oil of something like that in there that created that.”
Stewart, who hit the wall in three separate places, initially slammed hard into a part of the outside wall in the fourth corner that is not protected by a SAFER barrier.
Stewart, who missed the first eight races of the season due to a back injury he suffered in an off-road crash in the offseason, walked gingerly to the ambulance after his car came to a stop against the pit wall.
Jamie McMurray was also collected in the crash and appeared to suffer an injury to his elbow.
All three drivers were evaluated and released from the infield care center.
“I really feel bad because Jamie’s elbow hurt pretty bad and I don’t know if Tony’s feeling perfect,” said Patrick. “Definitely unfortunate. It’s not something we commonly see.”
Patrick was obviously concerned with Stewart’s health, especially considering his previous back injury.
“I think at any point in time you worry for Tony, just making sure that he’s OK after everything he’s gone through physically,” she said. “Hopefully, he’s alright, but I guess only he knows how he feels right now.”
The crash was cause for concern for other drivers, as they questioned by the entire track is not protected by the SAFER barriers.
“I think as we get down the road here every single piece of wall that you could possibly hit on a race track is going to be a SAFER barrier,” Truex said.
Patrick was appalled that there wasn’t a SAFER barrier in place where Stewart and McMurray hit already.
“It shouldn’t even be a question whether or not tracks have SAFER barriers all the way around,” Patrick said. “It should be mandatory. It shouldn’t be a financial decision.”
Dover adds safety improvements
Dover International Speedway had completed two projects in the name of safety for NASCAR race weekend.
The track extended its SAFER barriers (soft walls) by almost 500 feet along the backstretch and into the entrance of the third turn and has also expanded the pit stalls along pit road by two feet each.
Truex said he is definitely excited about the added space on Dover’s extremely tight pit road.
“Pit stalls – that’s a big deal – enlarging them, making them just that few extra feet could make all the difference,” said Truex. “It’s always been a really tight pit road, difficult to get in and out of your box, especially if there’s someone in front and behind you – not a lot of room for the pit crews to do their work, so it’s definitely going to be a big help.”
New asphalt has also been added along the area behind pit road, from the entrance of the Sprint Cup Series garage down to the start-finish line.
Facts on the recent construction are listed below:
-- 479 feet of Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers were added to the one-mile, high-banked, concrete oval.
-- 78 feet of standard SAFER barriers were added to the existing inside backstretch wall and 401 feet of SAFER barriers were included in front of a new, steel post inside wall on a newly placed stretch of concrete in front of the grassy area at the entrance to the third turn. The Monster Bridge near the entrance in the third turn sits above the new construction area.
-- Along pit road, three pit stalls were eliminated, leaving space for 40 cars. Each pit stall was increased two feet in length, to 34 total feet. All stalls remain 16 feet wide.
NASCAR teams to support autism awareness
More than 40 drivers from NASCAR’s three premier national touring series will be showing their support for Autism Delaware’s mission this weekend at Dover by displaying a special decal on their cars and trucks.
In total, 21 drivers from the Sprint Cup Series, 13 drivers from the Xfinity Series and 13 drivers from the Camping World Truck Series will display the Autism Delaware decal on their respective cars and trucks.
Autism Delaware, a leader in the First State on autism awareness since its founding in 1998, is working with AAA Mid-Atlantic to raise funds and awareness during Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism Sprint Cup Series race.
This will be the 10th consecutive year that Dover’s spring Sprint Cup race has had a tie-in with the cause of autism awareness.
The Monster Mile will also host Autism Awareness Day at the Races in its enclosed grandstand for the fifth-straight year on Sunday. The event provides a sensory-friendly environment for children and families on the autism spectrum to enjoy the race.