Drivers seeing record speeds at Dover track

Chase Elliott gets swarmed by autograph seekers after winning the Gander RV 400 Pole at Dover International Speedway on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Dover International Speedway’s 50th anniversary celebration has a chance to get wild.

The track has seen its highest speeds ever recorded this weekend ahead of today’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, the Gander RV 400. The green flag is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Pole-sitter Chase Elliott has a message for the rest of the field.

“It’s going to be a tough race so you better eat your Wheaties,” Elliott said.

Twenty-three drivers broke the track record in the first practice of the weekend alone.

Elliott earned the pole with a record lap of 165.960 mph on Friday. Speeds were still quick on Saturday as drivers made their final tune-ups before the race.

Jimmie Johnson, Elliott’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, posted the best lap on Saturday as cars went into race-trim. Johnson said he was surprised how the speed lasted well into the runs Saturday.

“It’s amazing how fast we are going after 15-20 laps still,” Johnson said. “There is not much drop off. There is a lot of drop off when you get to a pack of cars in front of you. I think that tall spoiler gives us a lot of confidence by ourselves, but in traffic I think we are going to have less available air and some issues there.”

All of Hendrick Motorsports have shown plenty of speed this weekend.

Not only is Elliott on the pole but William Byron will start second. Alex Bowman will also start in the top-five.

Elliott won the last race at Dover in the fall and Johnson has won here plenty of time — 11 to be exact which is a track record. If he earns No. 12, it will snap a 69-race winless streak for the seven-time champion which is the longest of his career.

Martin Truex Jr., a previous winner at the Monster Mile, was second in the final practice.

“It’s pretty hairy out there,” Truex said on Friday. “A pretty wild ride, a lot of fun, but you’ve got to really attack. … Just trying to figure out where the limit is because it’s something we just haven’t done here before like this.”

Other cars who are expected to be in contention are Gnassi Racing teammates Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch. The pair went one-two in the first practice session of the weekend and Larson was fourth on Saturday.

Larson also had the best 10-lap average on Saturday followed by Erik Jones. Previous Dover winners Truex, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano also were in the top-10.

Then there’s Kyle Busch who is attempting to make some history of his own.

Busch has finished in the top-10 in all 10 races so far this season. A top-10 on Monday would tie him with Morgan Shepard in 1990 for the longest such streak to open a season.

“It is kind of on our mind right now,” Busch said. “Going into every week, we want to win. That is what we strive to do every time we hit the track.”

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