AAA 400 Picks

Race: AAA 400
Date: Sunday September 30, 2012
Track: Dover International Speedway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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As predicted, Denny Hamlin took home the win on Sunday at Loudon. He dominated the race, which is what he was looking for after his disappointing run in Chicago. Hamlin told everyone he would win, and win is what he did! Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five. That’s pretty impressive for those Hendrick drivers. Johnson’s second place finish boosted him to first in points, not that anyone should be surprised.

This weekend, we are headed to the Monster Mile at Dover International Speedway. This track is awesome. It’s a 1 mile oval that most have a hard time navigating without some damage before the end of the race. The frontstretch and backstretch are both 1076 feet. There’s a good amount of banking here too with 24 degrees in the turns and 9 degrees on the straights.

While Loudon was all about track position, we are going to see more pit strategy and tire wear play a role here at Dover. Taking 2 or 4 tires could mean the win or loss for these drivers. Strategy is going to depend on just how patients the guys will be on the track. With more cautions, we won’t see so many 4 tire stops. If for some crazy reason we see a lot of long green flag runs, we are going to have to determine who is going to risk 2 tire stops and who will take four. As always, this race can ultimately come down to fuel mileage. We will have to wait and see how the cautions play out and how much the drivers are going to risk this weekend.
With 7 wins here, it’s no surprise who my pick will be. Jimmie Johnson is in it for the championship. He needs to keep his lead and even extend it, and Dover is a great place to do that. He dominates here. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are also 2 guys who are really strong here. This is Truex’s home track, so look for him to be a force to be reckoned with. Here’s a rundown of your potential winners this weekend:

My Pick to Win: Jimmie Johnson
Middle of the Road Pick: Martin Truex Jr.
Dark Horse Pick: Jeff Burton

We haven’t really seen much from Burton this season. He did have a good run at Loudon, though. Burton is one of those drivers who really needs to step it up. If he can take some of the momentum from his top 15 finish, I think that Dover is a place that he can do well at.

Your top 12 haven’t changed too much, but there is a new leader as I mentioned earlier. Here’s your top 12 in the standings after Loudon:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Tony Stewart
5. Kasey Kahne
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Greg Biffle
10. Martin Truex Jr.
11. Matt Kenseth
12. Jeff Gordon

Gordon closed up some of the gap in the points, but he’s got a long road ahead of him is he has any chance at the championship this year. Teammate Johnson is only 1 point ahead of second-place Brad Keselowski. Kevin Harvick moved up 2 positions while Biffle and Truex each lost one. Look for Truex to jump after Dover as well as Hamlin. Expect Johnson to extend his lead.

Dover is a great track. It’s a track where patience wears thin very quickly, especially in a championship race. Stay tuned for Sunday’s race as we continue to wind down the season and get closer to crowning a champion.