Home NASCAR NASCAR: Who will slay the ‘Monster Mile’

NASCAR: Who will slay the ‘Monster Mile’

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NASCAR’s Gen 6 Sprint Cup car continues to impress, and last week’s Coke 600 was another great edition of a race that had become boring in the last few years. “The Closer” found himself in victory lane again after a long night was made even longer by crashes and one of the oddest moments in sports history.

Previously on NASCAR 2013

The Coke 600 is the only 600 mile race on the NASCAR schedule, and it’s referred to as “stock car racing’s longest night.” It got even lengthier in the early portions of the race, when a strange incident occurred with the camera hoisted above the racetrack. It was Fox’s version of the “flying” cameras you see at most football games, wherein ropes are tied from end to end on the stadium and the camera can zoom back and forth above the field of play. For some reason, one of these ropes broke and fell to the track during the race. Before the issue was discovered, several drivers ran over the exposed cable. It became completely entwined in Marcos Ambrose‘s car and also caused a significant gash in the right front of Kyle Busch’s machine. But more concerning is that when the cars ran over the cable, it made the portions that had fallen into the stands lash violently, whipping fans. Spectators took to actually throwing trash onto the race track in an attempt to force a caution, which finally came after 45 seconds. Check out this fan video from the incident.

In an unprecedented move, NASCAR allowed affected teams to work on their cars under the red flag (usually not permissible) for 15 minutes to take care of any damage, and also let them get their spots back when the race restarted. Fortunately for fans, the series moves away from the godawful FOX network after this week, but moves right to TNT, which isn’t any better.

As for the race, Busch dominated much of the night before blowing an engine and giving us another bitchy KB gem in his post-race interview (“catastrophic engine failure. It’s that time of year again.”), and Ricky Stenhouse caused a late race wreck that took out his lovebug Danica Patrick and 2012 champion Brad Keselowski. At the end of the day, Kevin Harvick found himself at the front when it mattered most and took home the checkered flag for his second victory of the season.

This week

On Sunday, the series heads to one of my favorite tracks on the circuit, Dover International Speedway, a one mile concrete oval that will produce high speeds and close racing, for the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks. The track itself is narrow and when something goes wrong, it’s hard to avoid an incident. It also features one of the coolest seating options in all of the sport by way of bridges that go over the track at the exit of turn two and entrance of turn three, allowing fans to sit directly above the action while the cars scream by beneath them.

Last year

In 2012, Jimmie Johnson led 289 of the race’s 400 laps en route to a dominating victory in a car sponsored by the new “Madagascar” movie. He wore a wig in victory lane.

Storylines

  • It’s Fox’s last race of the season, and although they’ve already renewed their contract with NASCAR to continue broadcasting the sport well into the 2020s, I’m sure they want to make up for last week’s failure with the camera. When one of your announcers is Darrell Waltrip, though, that’s a tall order.
  • I say it every week, but Dover is another track where protecting your tires is crucial. The concrete surface of the track is rough on Goodyears, and with a race usually predominated by long green-flag runs, protecting the rubber is a must-do.
  • Busch is running all three races this weekend, so he’ll look to complete the sweep. With the way his luck’s gone this year, he’ll probably take care of the Truck and Nationwide races handily, before a late race failure will take him out in the Cup event.

Who to Watch

  • The aforementioned Busch. After an engine failure took him out last week, he’s mad and looking to rebound. And trust me, nobody likes him when he’s angry.
  • Kyle’s brother Kurt Busch has also put together a great season, and almost challenged for the victory in the Coke 600. The one-car Furniture Row Racing team out of Denver, Co. is continuing to make strides, and if they can ride out Kurt’s inevitable tantrums when things go wrong, they’re poised to strike gold soon enough.
  • After his incidents with Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart earlier this year, Joey Logano has done a good job staying out of trouble and rattling off good finishes. He took a nasty flip at this track a few years ago, but he’s good here when he’s not upside down.

Who Will Win

Another strong run was ruined last week by a late race wreck, but Jeff Gordon continues to have fast cars and just needs a little bit of luck to get to victory lane. He loves Dover, and the track loves him back, so we should see him with the trophy.

How I’ve Done

Don’t say a word. My fictional driver is 6th in the standings.

Current Record: 0-11

Last week

Coca-Cola 600 (Charlotte)

My pick: Jimmie Johnson (finished 22nd)

Winner: Kevin Harvick

2013 Sprint Cup Standings (after 12 of 36 races)

1. Jimmie Johnson

2. Carl Edwards -32

3. Matt Kenseth -51

4. Clint Bowyer -60

5. Kasey Kahne -75

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -81

7. Kevin Harvick -83

8. Paul Menard -98

9. Martin Truex Jr. -109

10. Brad Keselowski -110