This weekend marks the second "Triple Threat" of the 2012 season, as the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck Series will all be in action at the Dover International Speedway.
The one-mile concrete oval is notorious for chewing up race vehicles, hence its nickname "The Monster Mile," so there should be no shortage of action - and carnage - on the docket. Think Bristol, but a half-mile longer and only slightly less cramped, and that's what you get this weekend.
Though he was shut out of victory lane in both races last season, Jimmie Johnson is money at Dover nearly every time the Sprint Cup Series visits there. He swept both races there in his rookie season of 2002, then repeated the feat in 2009. He also has victories in September 2005 and September 2010. He was dominant in the two races last year, but late pit strategy felled him in the spring and he ran a close second to Kurt Busch in October.
Matt Kenseth, the defending champion of the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks, is a two-time Dover winner and consistent sight near the front. Howver, Dover is also the scene of perhaps his most embarrassing moment in racing. In September 2004, Kenseth spun as he tried to hit pit road for a deflating tire and wound up sitting atop a stack of monster truck tires placed at the end of the pit lane to protect the last pit stall in the event of a crash during green-flag pit stops.
Saturday's Nationwide Series will see a new event champion, as Carl Edwards - who swept the season at the track last year - is not scheduled to race in the series this year as he pursues a Sprint Cup title. An automatic pick after Edwards would be Kyle Busch, who swept the season in 2010, but he too isn't racing. In fact, of the entire entry list, only 2000 series champion Jeff Green - subbing for the still-injured Eric McClure - is a former Dover winner. His one Dover win came in the track's September event in that championship-winning campaign.
The only Sprint Cup drivers racing this weekend are Kurt Busch, Joe Nemechek, and Joey Logano, making the 5-Hour Energy 200 an opportunity race for one of the series regulars to score a win. Favorites have to include the top-two drivers in the standings (and the two who dueled for last year's championship), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler. Stenhouse has three victories already this season, while Sadler has won twice (including at Bristol, the other concrete track on the schedule).
The Camping World Truck Series' Lucas Oil 200 could also likely see a new face in victory lane. Only 2007 winner Ron Hornaday Jr. and 2009 victor Brian Scott are competing in the race. Those two, along with the rest of the field, will have their work cut out for them if they are to win Friday afternoon's event. Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick is racing the No. 2 truck for Richard Childress Racing, a partnership that usually makes the rest of the field look like sacrificial lamb. In Harvick's only prior start of the season, he led 248 of the 250 laps at Martinsville in a beat-down for the ages.
One notable omission from the field this weekend will be John King, the unheralded rookie who stunned the racing world by winning at Daytona in February. His No. 7 Toyota has been shuttered due to lack of sponsorship. King had been 13th in the standings after the most recent race in Charlotte two weeks ago. That event was won by Justin Lofton - his first victory in the series - and propelled him to a one-point lead over Timothy Peters in the fight for this year's championship.