The 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup field goes from 16 to 12 following this weekend’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway in Delaware, and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin is currently on the outside looking in, sitting 13th in points. His JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth are currently in position to advance, but Kenseth is on the brink, with just 12 points separating eighth-place Kenseth and 16th-place Aric Almirola.
Hamlin, in the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry this weekend, is at a six-point disadvantage going to a track that has not been kind to him in the past. Hamlin is winless at Dover, with just six top 10 finishes and an average finish of 19.6. One bright side to Dover for Hamlin: he finished fifth in the spring race this year.
In 2013, Kenseth, in the No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Tools Toyota, was runner-up to Jimmie Johnson in the Chase with seven wins during the season; this season, he’s is still looking for win No. 1. Kenseth is tied for eighth, 13 points behind seventh-place Jeff Gordon, and visiting a track he has had some success at. Kenseth made his Cup Series debut at Dover back in 1998, substituting for Bill Elliott, and finished sixth – he has since racked up 20 top 10s in 31 starts, including a win in spring 2011.
Busch, in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota on Sunday, is fifth in points, 20 points behind leader Brad Keselowski but 20 points up on Kenseth. Dover has been kind to Busch in the past, earning two wins (spring 2008 and spring 2010) and 12 top 10 finishes in 19 starts. He’ll want to improve on this spring’s finish of 42nd, involved in an accident after leading 81 laps. On Saturday, Busch will be driving the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry in the Nationwide Series race, a series in which Busch has four wins and 13 top 10s in 18 starts at Dover. Busch dominated the spring Nationwide Series race at Dover, leading 124 of the 200 laps on his way to the win.
Joining Busch in the Nationwide Series race at Dover are Elliott Sadler in the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota and Justin Boston in the No. 20 Zloop Toyota. Sadler has seven top 10 finishes in 13 starts at Dover in the series, with a best finish of fourth in fall 2012. Boston made his Nationwide Series debut last weekend at Kentucky, starting 2th and finishing ninth.
Qualifying for the Nationwide Series race takes place Saturday at 12:15 p.m. ET, followed by the green flag at 3:30 p.m. ET. Qualifying for the AAA 400 takes place Friday at 3:0 p.m. ET, with the race going green at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday. Keep up with the action at joegibbsracing.com.
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