Monster Energy meets Miles the Monster as Dover hosts the AAA 400 Drive For Autism Cup race

The Monster Energy Cup Series rolls its way onto the concrete at Dover to take on the Monster Mile, with Toyota laying down their marker so far this weekend.

Monster Energy meets Miles the Monster as Dover hosts the AAA 400 Drive For Autism Cup race
Kyle Larson leads a pack during last year's race. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Although the ever-impressive Kyle Larson in his Chevrolet topped the speed chart in the first practice session, it was the Toyotas who dominated qualifying – snatching the first two rows on the grid, and having six cars in the top 10.

Temperamental Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Kyle Busch, took the Coors Light Pole with a time of 22.648s (158.954mph) and shares the front row with points leader Martin Truex Jr, who put his Furniture Row car who finished up a mere 0.011s behind.

A fantastic effort from rookie driver Daniel Suarez to finish third, and JGR teammate Matt Kenseth – who won last year's AAA 400 Drive For Autism – ensured an all JGR second row, with the team having all four cars in the top 10 with Denny Hamlin rounding it out in that tenth spot.

Kenseth takes the checkered flag last year. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kenseth takes the checkered flag last year. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Larson’s Chevy is fifth alongside Kurt Busch, who has the highest placed Ford in sixth, before another Toyota and another rookieErik Jones – in seventh.

Brad Keselowski, Last week’s race winner Austin Dillon, and the aforementioned Hamlin round out the top 10.

It is not so long ago that people were worried about the future direction of NASCAR, but this season has shown that it could be exciting times ahead, despite the clutch of drivers that have stepped, or are stepping, away from the sport.

Four of weekends's top 10 are under 30. Last week’s race – albeit largely thanks to an inspired strategy call from his crew chief – was won by 27-year-old Dillon and driver of the season to date is arguably 24-year-old Larson.

The two Rookie of the Year contenders continue to look the part

The two top rookies, Suarez and Jones, both currently sit inside the top 20 of the points standings, and both have a real shout of making the playoffs – whether on points or by taking a win.

Considering that they have impressed at their first visits to tracks in a Cup car, and in just a few short weeks many of those circuits start to be revisited, the chances are that they will continue to thrive.

Both have a chance this weekend, but the smart money would be on one of the front row dominating the race, with both Truex and (Kyle) Busch – despite contrasting fortunes results-wise – largely dominating the races and laps led in the last few races.

Truex has a stage win at Charlotte and a race win at Kansas while leading 337 combined laps in both, but Busch, on the other hand, has a stage win at each, and led 122 combined laps.

Kahne is due for a good result and usually performs well at Dover

One driver outside the top 10 to keep an eye on this weekend is Kasey Kahne in the Hendrick Motorsport #5 Chevy.

He qualified in 20th with a time of 22.928s (157.013mph) which was almost two miles per hour and 0.280s behind the pole time of Busch, and was only 18th fastest in first practice.

But Kahne likes the concrete of Dover, and has the top finish of all the drivers who have raced in all of the last four races on the demanding one-mile oval.

Only his teammate Chase Elliott has a better average finish, but he has only competed in two cup races on the Monster Mile.

Kahne’s average finish of 6.5 could see him storm to the front, and may be a good shout for fans to include on their various fantasy league rosters.

Other drivers to watch will be the two Penske Fords of Keselowski and Joey Logano (starting 26th), and you can never count out Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick who start 14th and 18th in their Chevy and Ford respectively.

But it is difficult to see past a winner coming from anywhere other than a Toyota, but of course, that is what makes NASCAR so exciting – the total unpredictability of it.

Throw into the mix the first Dover race to have stages, and the increased intensity of driving that goes with it, and the favorites for the win could be as likely to end up in the wall, as in Victory Lane.

The race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (TSN 3, 5 in Canada, Premier Sports in the UK) for TV and MRN for radio coverage, and will feature 3 stages – 120 laps for the first two, and a final segment of 160 laps – with the green flag scheduled for 1.00pm ET (6.00pm UK).


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