CONCORD, N.C. – For the first and only time in 2023, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Dover, Delaware, to compete at the famous 1-mile, concrete track of Dover Motor Speedway.
In many ways, there is no facility quite like the “Monster Mile” on the tour’s calendar. While the 24 degrees of banking in each turn is on par with many 1.5-mile circuits, the shorter distance of only one mile and nine degrees of banking on each straightaway contributes to more throttle usage than normal, leading to higher speeds than other facilities the series visits. Earlier this week, Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, explained this phenomenon well on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
"It would be better if we were off the throttle a little bit more. It is unbelievable. It is a one-mile racetrack and as soon as the car lands, you are cracking back into the throttle," Fugle explained. "The sooner you can finish throttling, the better you are going to be. It doesn’t take long. Usually, you come off the straightaway and jump down into the corner, which I call the quarter to three-eighths mark. By the time you hit the three-eighths mark, you better be back in the throttle and full throttle by dead center of the corner or you are not going to be running that good. It’s crazy how much throttle we use at a track that small."
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The track is also one of three concrete surfaces (Bristol Motor Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway being the others) that will host a Cup Series race this year. Between the high banking and the unique racing surface, it has been a longtime favorite of both drivers and fans alike.
Throughout the years, Hendrick Motorsports has seen success at Dover dating all the way back to 1986 when Geoff Bodine earned the company’s fifth ever win. Since then, Rick Hendrick’s team has won 21 races, led by Jimmie Johnson with 11. Team vice chairman and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon has five checkered flags at Dover while Chase Elliott has two. Alex Bowman, Ken Schrader and Ricky Rudd each sit in a tie with Bodine having each won a single race for the organization at the 1-mile circuit.
The team's historic top-four finishing positions sweep in the 2021 race marked the first time in organizational history and the fourth time in NASCAR history (and first since 2005) that a Cup Series team swept the front four spots in the field. That day, Hendrick Motorsports led 95.5% of the laps (382 of 400) as Bowman finished first, Kyle Larson took second, Elliott came in third and Byron placed fourth.
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Hendrick Motorsports has a streak of 23 straight races at Dover with at least one driver in the top 10. That run dates back to the September 2010 race at the facility. In fact, the last time the organization did not have one of its drivers finish in the top 10, Byron was 12 years old.
Byron’s statistics at Dover have seen their highs and lows. In fact, these have even come on the same weekend at the "Monster Mile” before. During the doubleheader weekend of 2020, Byron finished 28th in the first race, but bounced back to score a fourth-place result in the second race. The next season, Byron again finished fourth at Dover, marking his second top-five finish at the track. He is one of three drivers with at least two top-five finishes over the last three races at Delaware venue -- teammates Bowman and Elliott are the others.
Throughout his career, Dover has been kind to Elliott. In 12 starts at the "Monster Mile," the 27-year-old driver has earned nine top-five finishes, highlighted by two victories. This track is one of four where he recorded multiple Cup Series victories in his career. Elliott has led in five separate races at Dover, finishing in the top five in all of those races. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native enters with momentum on his side as well, as his average of scoring 30 points per race ranks fourth in the field.
Sticking with the theme of success at Dover, Larson has also visited victory lane in Delaware. Although his triumph came with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2019, the 30-year-old driver has an impressive record at the 1-mile track. Larson has finished inside the top-12 spots in all but one of his 14 starts and his 6.93 average finish is the best all-time at the track among drivers with more than two starts. With Hendrick Motorsports, he holds an average finish of 4.00 at Dover in two starts with the No. 5 HendrickCars.com group. Those two starts have also seen Larson lead a series-best 282 laps and spend a combined total of 505 laps inside the top five (second-best behind Elliott).
RELATED: Looking at Larson and Elliott's Dover success by the numbers
Josh Berry will be filling in for Bowman at Dover and for the next several races. Bowman is expected to sidelined for 3-4 weeks after suffering a fractured vertebra in a sprint car event in Iowa this week. Berry, who drives for Hendrick Motorsports affiliate JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, was the substitute driver for five of the races that Elliott missed earlier this season. The 32-year-old Henderson, Tennessee, native earned a career-best second-place finish while subbing for Elliott at Richmond Raceway. One of Berry's five Xfinity Series wins came at Dover last year and he was the runner-up in the 2021 Xfinity Series race, too.
Here’s what you need to know to catch this weekend’s action.
WHAT TIME IS PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING?
Group practice will begin at 10:35 a.m. ET on Saturday, April 29, and will be broadcast on FS2. FS1 will have coverage starting at 11 a.m. ET. Qualifying will follow practice and begin at 11:20 a.m. ET on FS1.
Berry, Elliott and Byron are in Group A, while Larson will be in Group B.
WHAT TIME IS THE RACE?
The 400-lap Cup Series main event has been postponed to 12 p.m. ET on Monday, May 1, and will be broadcast on FS1.
CAN I LISTEN ON THE RADIO?
Cup Series broadcast will be on PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).
CAN I STREAM ONLINE?
WHAT CHANNEL IS FS1 AND FS2?
It varies by location, but this link allows viewers to find the channels by entering their zip code and selecting their television provider.
FIVE FAST FACTS HEADING INTO DOVER
Data provided by Racing Insights
4: In just his fourth Cup Series start with Hendrick Motorsports, Berry posted a runner-up finish at Richmond.
22: Hendrick Motorsports’ 22 wins are the second-most wins from any team at one track. The team holds the first spot on the list with 28 victories at Martinsville Speedway.
85: Stage points earned by Larson in 2023. He sits second in this category, only trailing Byron by 7 markers.
99: Number of wins for the No. 24 car. Gordon accounts for 93 of those, while Byron has six -- including two this year.
586: Laps run in the top five by Elliott at Dover in the last two races. All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers sit in the top-five positions.