Jimmie Johnson is a monster at Dover

May, 31, 2012

This weekend at Dover, it looks like the stars are aligning for a classic, dominant Jimmie Johnson kind of day.

His team, Hendrick Motorsports, has won the past four events: two points races (Johnson at Darlington and Kasey Kahne at Charlotte) to go with Johnson's All-Star win and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Sprint Showdown victory.

This week, the Cup series heads to Dover International Speedway, where Johnson has won six times, just one off the track record shared by Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.

Sure, Johnson has won six times at other tracks. But going back to the start of 2009, Dover hasn't been just his dominant track, it's been the best track for any Sprint Cup Series driver.

Let's start with a basic number: laps led. Johnson has 1,349 in those six races, over half the total laps run and 1,000 more than any other driver. In fact, only four other drivers even have 100 laps led at Dover in that time.

Johnson has been the fastest car on the track on nearly a quarter of the total laps run at Dover -- 24.7 percent to be exact -- since the start of 2009. That's the second-highest mark of any driver in that time, behind road course specialist Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen.

Going back to driver rating (an overall statistic incorporating many of NASCAR's loop data stats), Johnson gets back to the top of the charts with a 139.4 average in that span, the best of any driver with at least two starts at a track.

The next-best mark is more than 10 points behind, Johnson's 126.7 at California.

Count me in the camp looking for great things out of the 48 on Sunday.

Looking for Trouble

Every week, my fellow members in ESPN Stats & Information crunch the numbers and tell us what to watch for the following weekend. Here's what they found:

Dover used to be the site of some early-race mayhem, but that's not the case anymore. In four of the past six races, there hasn't been a wreck in the opening 100 laps. And in the past seven races, there have been multiple wrecks in the first 100 laps once.

That's a stark difference from 1993-2004 at Dover, when there were multiple wrecks in the first 100 laps in 10 of the 12 races.

But if there is a wreck, don't be surprised if last week's winner, Kahne, is in it. Since Kahne's first race at Dover, no active driver has been involved in more wrecks there than him.

The Eliminator: Darlington

For those of you new to my little blog, every week I use a device called The Eliminator to predict a winner.

It's pretty simple: Instead of telling you somebody will win, I'll point out why everybody else has to lose. The driver remaining, by process of elimination, will be the race winner.

And if you want to see who was eliminated in each step, I'll post the info on my Twitter account (@MattWillisESPN).

1. The past 15 Sprint Cup Series winners finished 16th or better in the previous race at the track (31 eliminated, 15 remaining).

2. The past nine Dover winners had a top-12 finish in the most recent Phoenix race (11 eliminated, four remaining).

3. Six of the past seven Dover winners finished in the top seven in the previous year's race (three eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Kyle Busch

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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