Dover Not a Slam Dunk for Toyota Armada

So, is there a realistic chance someone not driving a Toyota wins today’s Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway?

Actually, there is.

Toyota drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch will start on the front row in today’s first-round elimination race of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Not coincidentally, Truex and Busch also won the first two playoff races. And five of the top six qualifiers are in Toyotas.

But Saturday’s practices showed the Chevrolet and Ford teams have some muscle, too.

In the morning practice, the Stewart-Haas Racing Fords of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch clocked in first and third, respectively, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. second in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Jamie McMurray’s Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy nearby in fourth.

The final practice saw Hendrick teammates Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson atop the board, with Harvick third and McMurray’s teammate Kyle Larson fourth.

That said, Kyle Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was fastest in best 10 consecutive-lap average speeds in both sessions, so he remains one of the favorites to win.

Still, this race could be a little more wide open than the first two playoff races at Chicagoland Speedway, where Truex won easily, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Busch dominated. Collectively, the two Toyota drivers led 81.4 percent of the laps in those two races.

“I think we’ve got it closer,” Elliott said after Saturday’s final practice. “I think we are still off from a couple of guys, but I think we are in the ballpark.”

“Second practice (Saturday) went really well and we will just fall into a group (Sunday) and go racing at one of our best tracks and try to get the best result,” said Johnson, an 11-time Dover winner.

At the conclusion of today’s race four of the 16 playoff drivers will be eliminated from championship contention.

The four currently on the outside looking in are Austin Dillon, who is tied in points with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. but behind on a tiebreaker; Ryan Newman (-1), Kurt Busch (-17) and Kasey Kahne (-21).

By Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.