Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover

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NASCAR heads to Dover Motor Speedway this weekend for the Next Gen’s car first race at the 1-mile banked concrete track.

Will Hendrick Motorsports be as dominant as was it was last season, sweeping the top four spots and leading most of the race? Will Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain become the first driver to win three races this season and follow his Talladega win with another visit to Victory Lane?

Here’s a look at who could be in the mix Sunday (3 p.m. ET on FS1) at Dover:

FRONT RUNNERS

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 8th

  • Last three races: 22nd — Martinsville; 21st — Bristol Dirt; 5th — Talladega

  • Recent at Dover: Has finished top 2 in four of the last five Dover races

It has been an up-and-down season for Joe Gibbs Racing. Truex embodies that. He’s had a four-race stretch where he had three finishes outside the top 10, and he’s had a three-race stretch of top-10 finishes.

Dover is one of his better tracks. He has three wins there. He’s scored nine top 10s in the last 11 races on the 1-mile concrete track. Truex also has led laps in nine of the last 13 Dover races.

Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 7th

  • Last three races: 19th — Martinsville; 4th — Bristol Dirt; 4th Talladega

  • Recent at Dover: Three top-3 finishes in his last three starts at the track

It’s good to be in a Hendrick Motorsports car at Dover. Hendrick drivers went 1-2-3-4 last year. Larson finished second to Alex Bowman after leading 263 of the 400 laps. The key moment came when Bowman beat Larson off pit road and went on to lead the final 97 laps last May.

Larson has led at least 85 laps in five of his last nine Dover starts. He has 10 top 10s in his last 12 races at the track. He’s finished in the top 10 in seven of his 13 career starts.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 5th

  • Last three races: 12th — Martinsville; 6th — Bristol Dirt; 9th Talladega

  • Recent at Dover: Defending race winner

Last year’s winner has four top fives in the last five Dover races. The Hendrick cars are again strong this season, having won four of the first 10 races. Bowman has five top 10s in the last six races this season. Since his win at Las Vegas in the third race of the year, Bowman has not finished worse than 14th in any event.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 9th

  • Last three races: 5th — Martinsville; 33rd — Bristol Dirt; 1st Talladega

  • Recent at Dover: Has never finished better than 15th at the track

AJ Allmendinger said on this week’s NASCAR on NBC Podcast that he views Chastain as a championship contender in Cup. Chastain and William Byron are the only drivers to score more than one win in Cup this year. Chastain has six top-five finishes in 10 races this year. The other four races he’s placed 19th or worse.

Dover, though, has not been a place where Chastain has had great success. However, it should be noted that before he drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021, he was not in competitive Cup rides. It would seem likely that Chastain will change that this weekend.

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 4th

  • Last three races: 7th — Martinsville; 1st — Bristol Dirt; 3rd Talladega

  • Recent at Dover: Two straight finishes of 11th or worse at Dover

Busch comes to Dover with questions about his future after his cryptic comments last weekend but no question about his performance. He’s scored four consecutive top-10 finishes. The three-time Dover winner has finished 27th and 11th in his last two Dover races. The only question for Busch to answer is about snapping his little drought at Dover.

Ryan Blaney

  • Points position: 2nd

  • Last three races: 4th — Martinsville; 5th — Bristol Dirt; 11th — Talladega

  • Recent at Dover: Six consecutive finishes of 11th or worse at Dover

Blaney has not been a threat to win a Cup race at Dover in his career. He’s never finished better than eighth in 11 career starts at Dover. Four times he’s placed outside the top 20 there. Does that change this weekend?

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Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover originally appeared on NBCSports.com