NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
           === Johnson hoping for another monstrous race at Dover ===
 
 Philadelphia,  PA (Sports  Network) - Round three in the 10-race Chase for the
 Sprint  Cup  championship takes  place  this  weekend at  Dover  International
 Speedway.
 
 After  finishing  second at both Chicago  and New Hampshire, Jimmie Johnson is
 atop  the championship  standings, as he holds only a one-point advantage over
 Brad  Keselowski. Denny Hamlin's win last Sunday at New Hampshire moved him to
 within seven points of the lead.
 
 Dover,  also known  as  "The Monster  Mile,"  could be  the  turning point  in
 Johnson's  quest for a sixth Sprint Cup Series title. The driver of the No. 48
 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has won four of the last seven races there.
 
 In  June, Johnson  avoided a 12-car wreck  in the early stages of the race and
 led 289 of 400 laps to claim his seventh win at Dover. It moved him into a tie
 with  NASCAR Hall  of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison for most all-time
 victories at this one-mile, concrete-surfaced racetrack.
 
 "So  far it's been  a great track for us," Johnson said. "The thing there that
 is  tough and we have been very fortunate to miss it, if something happens, we
 know  it's a  self-cleaning track, and you  get torn up pretty bad because you
 are going so fast."
 
 Dover  is one  of several tracks on  the Chase schedule where Johnson has been
 dominant. Johnson has also been strong at Charlotte, Martinsville and Phoenix.
 His biggest concern in the Chase, though, is Talladega on Oct. 7.
 
 "We have tracks that have been great to the 48 for a lot of years; tracks that
 we  were very  successful at in the  spring events," he said. "The one hanging
 out there that has me concerned, is the same for everybody else, is Talladega.
 I  haven't finished  a plate  race this  year...But outside  of 'Dega  and the
 unknown  at that track, there's a lot of tracks for this 48 team that I'm very
 optimistic."
 
 Johnson  won  the Chase race at  Dover in consecutive seasons from 2009-10. He
 finished second there one year ago.
 
 While  Johnson maybe dreading Talladega, Hamlin is worried about Dover. Hamlin
 considers  Dover as  one  of  his most  troublesome  tracks.  His most  recent
 finishes  there show it.  He has just two top-10 finishes in his last 10 races
 there.
 
 "It's  unlike any racetrack that we go to all year," Hamlin said. "There is no
 high-banked,  one-mile  track other than Dover.  It's concrete on top of that,
 which  makes it even  more difficult. If the track was paved, I'm sure I would
 run  a lot better  there, because I have such a good feel on the pavement. But
 the  concrete surface  has kind of thrown me  for a loop over the course of my
 career."
 
 Hamlin  has  yet to win a  Sprint Cup race at  Dover. His best finish there is
 fourth,  which  came in the  2007 and '10 spring  events. Hamlin does have two
 Nationwide Series victories at this track.
 
 Keselowski  has  also struggled  at Dover.  His best finish  in his five races
 there  is  12th, which came  earlier this season. He  placed 20th at Dover one
 year ago.
 
 "There  is no question that Dover is probably our weakest track in the Chase,"
 Keselowski  said. "We've  had some good, not  great, cars there in the past. I
 let  a top-10  finish slip away there last  year when I stalled the car on pit
 road  late in the  race. So we know we can get a solid finish, but we're going
 up there to win the race.
 
 "I  know (crew  chief) Paul  (Wolfe) has  really targeted  Dover for  the last
 several weeks, really putting a lot of emphasis on it. I'm confident we can go
 up there and keep ourselves in the championship conversation."
 
 Keselowski  began  the Chase by  winning at Chicago.  He finished sixth at New
 Hampshire.
 
 While seven points separate the top-three drivers, Tony Stewart, the defending
 series champion, heads to Dover with a 10-point deficit. Kasey Kahne and Clint
 Bowyer are both 15 points behind. Dale Earnhardt Jr. trails by 26.
 
 Dover  has been a difficult track for Earnhardt Jr. as well. Earnhardt Jr. had
 finished  outside the top-10 in eighth consecutive races there before snapping
 that streak with a fourth-place run in June. He won at Dover in Sept. 2001.
 
 "Dover's a tough track, a track that I don't have the greatest track record on
 over  the  last several races, although  we did finish in the top-five earlier
 this  year,"  Earnhardt Jr. said. "I  got good confidence going in. We're just
 going to try to maximize our opportunity on the racetrack."
 
 Eight  through 12th in the Chase standings right now are: Kevin Harvick (-31),
 Greg  Biffle (-33), Martin Truex Jr. (-34), Matt Kenseth (-35) and Jeff Gordon
 (-45).
 
 Forty-eight teams are on the preliminary entry list for the AAA 400.
 
 Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, September 30. Race: AAA 400. Site:
 Dover International Speedway. Track: one-mile oval. Start time: 2 p.m.(ET).
 Laps: 400. Miles: 400. 2011 Winner: Kurt Busch. Television: ESPN. Radio: Motor
 Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
 
 
 09/27 14:22:23 ET

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