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Apr 28, 2024 1:42 am

Take 5: Intriguing drivers to watch in Wurth 400 at Dover

martin truex

As the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the Monster Mile this weekend, there are many storylines to follow. From favorites looking for a win, a former champ looking to relive the glory days, and a young phenom making his first Cup Series start, here are five drivers that you should keep up with during the Wurth 400 at Dover Motor Speedway on Sunday.

5. Jimmie Johnson, No. 84 Toyota Camry XSE, Legacy Motor Club: Nobody has conquered Dover more than Johnson, who has 11 wins at the track. Making his first start at Dover since 2020, Johnson is hoping that the Sunday race will be a return to his Dover dominance, rather than a continuation of his streak of poor showings in NASCAR’s seventh generation car. In five starts with the Next-Gen car, Johnson’s best finish is 28th, which occurred in the 2024 Daytona 500. He did earn his first lead-lap finish with the Next-Gen car on April 14 at Texas, but that was still a lackluster 29th-place run. Nobody is asking the 48-year-old driver to win on Sunday, but an incident-free, top-25 day would be much appreciated for a driver who has struggled mightily in his part-time role.

4. Corey Heim, No. 43 Toyota Camry XSE, Legacy Motor Club: Heim makes his first Cup Series start on Sunday in a similar fashion to Bubba Wallace, a current Cup Series star. Wallace made his Cup debut at Pocono in 2017 after Aric Almirola sustained a back injury at Kansas, while Heim will make his first Cup start as a substitute for Erik Jones, who injured his back in a crash at Talladega last Sunday. While not the circumstances Heim was hoping for going into his Cup Series debut, the 21-year-old phenom has proven he has what it takes behind the wheel, and has the opportunity to show his talent to the world on Sunday.

3. Chase Elliott, No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro, Hendrick Motorsports: A two-time winner at Dover, Elliott broke a 42-race winless streak just two weeks ago at Texas. Despite a mediocre 15th-place finish at Talladega, Elliott has three top-five results in the past four races and is seemingly back to being the championship threat that he was from 2020-2022. With the winless streak snapped, he is one of the favorites heading into the weekend — and oh by the way, he won the first race at Dover with the Next-Gen car in 2022.

2. Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Toyota Camry XSE, Joe Gibbs Racing: A Mayetta, N.J., native, Dover is a home race for Truex, which could be part of the reason why he has won there four times, including a victory there last year that completed a Truex family weekend sweep. His brother Ryan won the 2023 Xfinity Series race at Dover. Truex is always a contender at the Monster Mile but has lost some pace since his heartbreaking Richmond defeat on Easter, with three straight finishes outside the top 10 since the March 31 race. Dover could be a “get-right” race for the veteran driver, and a win would be huge for a team looking to rebound from its embarrassing playoff run in 2023.

1. Kyle Larson, No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro, Hendrick Motorsports: Perhaps the favorite for Sunday’s race, Larson won at Dover in 2019 and finished second to Alex Bowman in Hendrick’s iconic 1-2-3-4 finish at Dover in 2021. Unfortunately for Larson, he didn’t get to show how fast his car was at Dover a year ago, as an early incident with Ross Chastain took the No. 5 car out of contention. After two straight 21st-place finishes at Texas and Talladega, — neither of which can be blamed solely on Larson — the 2021 Cup Series champ is looking to avenge his 2023 Dover defeat and notch his second win of the 2024 season.

–Samuel Stubbs, Field Level Media

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