Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – There are those that are pretty good and those that are really good. But when it comes to racing at Dover International Speedway, one who is greatest: Jimmie Johnson.
The 11-time Dover winner returns to the notoriously tough “Monster Mile” this week for the AAA 400 (2 p.m. ET. Sunday, FS1, SiriusXM NASCAR radio) looking to score his first win of the season – and first in the last 33 races. It’s not the typical set of circumstances for the seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion. But his desire to win isn’t based on how long it’s been since he last won. He just likes to succeed and Johnson sure has hoisted a lot of trophies in Dover victory lane.
“I love Dover, wish we raced there more than twice a year, it’s a great race for this Lowe’s for Pros team and I absolutely cannot wait to get there,” the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet said this week.
And it’s not that he has just “good” reason to feel that way, but fantastic reason to feel that way.
Johnson’s 11 victories are most all-time at the track. Should he win another race Sunday afternoon Johnson would have more victories at Dover than all the other competitors in the field – COMBINED.
How good is he? Johnson won the first two Cup races (2002) he ever ran at Dover – a historical first. And in that fast start, he led 358 of the combined 800 miles – nearly 50 percent of the laps run.
Johnson is the only driver to earn multiple wins in the last 13 races, and during that span alone, he has won five times. His 3,105 laps out front is a record mark. It’s significantly more laps led at the track than anyone else on the list, which includes NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison (2,803), sure-to-be Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (2,396), and Johnson’s fellow seven-time Cup champions Richard Petty (2,205) and the late Dale Earnhardt (2,151).
Since 2009, Johnson hasn’t gone more than four races at Dover without a victory. He easily leads the statistics in six of the nine categories kept by NASCAR including a driver rating of 118, which is a stunning 10 points more than any other competitor. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott is next with 107.6 through four career starts at the track. Of those with a higher number of starts, Kyle Busch is next with 105.8.
A hard-fought 12th place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway over the weekend moved Johnson up to 14th in the 2018 Cup championship standings – his highest position yet after a frustratingly slow start. However, he has top-12 finishes in four of his last six races including a season best of third place at the challenging Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway short track three weeks ago.
Elliott Sadler will compete a perfect four-race effort competing for the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus in this week’s OneMain Financial 200 (1:30 p.m. ET. Saturday, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) in Dover, Del. Sadler picked up his second big Dash 4 Cash check last week with a fifth place finish in Talladega – tops among the four eligible drivers.
He’ll try to earn his third check this weekend competing against JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier, Talladega runner-up Brandon Jones and Talladega sixth place finisher Ryan Sieg. Both Jones and Sieg will be making their debut in the popular incentive program. The veteran Allgaier won the bonus checks twice last year.
Of the four eligible to win the big money from Xfinity and Comcast, Allgaier has the best finish at Dover. He was runner-up in last year’s Fall race. He has seven top-10s in 14 starts. Sadler has the most starts (20) among the four and has finished in the top-10 in 10 of the last 12 years. A fourth place (Fall, 2012) is his best showing at Dover.
The 21-year old Jones has made four Dover starts with a best finish of 17th (in 2016). Sieg has eight previous starts at Dover with a best result of 13th in 2014.
CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES
This weekend’s JEGS 200 (Friday, 5 p.m. ET.,FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the long-awaited debut of Gilliland versus Gilliland in the Camping World Truck Series. David Gilliland, 42 and his 17-year old son Todd will compete together on NASCAR’s national stage for the first time.
David Gilliland, the 2007 Daytona 500 polesitter, also won the pole position for the 2018 season-opening truck series race at Daytona, driving on the superspeedway for his son who isn’t eligible to compete on the intermediate tracks or superspeedways until he turns 18. Todd’s birthday is May 15.
There is a lot of legitimate anticipation of Todd’s fulltime arrival in the truck series. He finished 14th at Martinsville, Va. after starting 23rd in his only 2018 start last month. He has three top-10 finishes in seven career truck races, including a best of third place at Loudon, N.H. last year.
Gilliland is a two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion and last season nearly won both the series’ West and East championships. He had six victories and seven pole positions en route to the West title. He had four victories and 13 top-10 finishes in 14 races in the East division, finishing championship runner-up.
He finished in the top-10 in 20 of his 21 East Series starts and in 27 of his 29 West Series starts.
The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver has one previous truck series start at Dover, finishing 20th after retiring the truck midway through the race because of a mechanical problem.