The tug-of-war between drivers Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin did not let up over the two race double-header this past weekend at Dover. It was Hamlin that struck first blood on Saturday, working himself around race leader Martin Truex Jr. with eight laps left remaining. Hamlin put himself into a jam after a bad restart on lap 193 but would systematically pass through the cars in front.
Harvick would answer back in the close out event on Sunday and was pretty much in full control from start to finish. He would not only sweep both stages but led 223 of 311 laps. It would again be Truex Jr. that finished as the runner-up, losing out by a pretty sizable 3.525 seconds. Jimmie Johnson would come through with an impressive third-place result, after trying his best to challenge both drivers on that final restart with 17 laps remaining. With the win, Harvick secured the regular-season championship along with 15 bonus points to be added to his playoff total.
We now leave Dover, Delaware, and head back down South to Daytona, Florida for the regular-season finale. For the second week in a row Harvick wins the pole, and starting opposite him on the front row will be last week’s runner up Truex Jr. So without further ado, let’s delve into the driver options for this upcoming Cup series event. I’ve broken down the selections between high salary and mid-range. Best of luck to everyone with your lineups this weekend.
Ryan Blaney (10,000 DK 10,000 FD)
In the past seven cup races at Daytona, Blaney has racked up three top 10’s and has the best average driver rating among current drivers. His last visit to Daytona back in February resulted in that runner up result. Having qualified ninth in the starting grid, Blaney should be one of the favorites to lead multiple laps. Consider that he has led 147 laps over the past seven attempts, which ranks second among current drivers. The Fords always team up well together here, which should work to Blaney’s advantage as he looks to snap his recent string of ho-hum results.
Erik Jones (9,800 DK 11,200 FD)
It’s been three seasons since Jones picked up his first career cup win at this track. Since that time Jones has returned three times, in which he secured the best result of third place. After having made the playoffs in the previous two seasons, Jones is now in a do or die situation here in 2020. With just one race left and still 17th in points, it’s probably going to take a win in order to punch his ticket. Jones is slated to start off the line in the 20th place starting position and should be able to work himself through the draft easily if he can catch on with drivers from the Gibbs camp.
Ryan_Newman (6,500 DK 10,000 FD)
Had it not been for that very unfortunate wreck on the last lap, Newman was certainly a strong contender to steal the win at Daytona back in February. Statistically speaking this has been Newman’s best track over the past four seasons. Consider that he has five finishes inside the top 10 over his last seven Daytona tries along with an average finish of 10.00, which is tops among all current cup drivers. Newman offers a very nice source of points through place differential and possible fastest lap. Currently, 245 points out of a playoff spot look for him to try and use this one final opportunity to punch his ticket with a hard-fought win.
Michael McDowell (6,900 DK 9,800 FD)
A pure dark horse selection for Daytona, McDowell has put up some of the better results among current drivers. Consider that over the past seven visits here, McDowell has the second-best average finish among current drivers. Only Newman has fared better over that time frame. What I love most about McDowell’s potential this weekend is his starting position. McDowell is slated to start all the way back in 26th place, which given the No. 34 drivers past showings at this track could be a potential gold mine of points through place differential and fastest lap. I would not count McDowell out as a potential winner either, as he has shown to be very competitive when these Daytona events go down to the wire.
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