NASCAR notebook: Weather forces schedule changes at Dover International Speedway

DOVER — With the possibility of rainy weather looming, NASCAR officials decided to pick up the pace of today’s racing schedule at Dover International Speedway.

The start of the OneMain Financial 200 Xfinity Series race has been moved up one hour to 12:30 p.m., as well as the rest of today’s schedule at the high-banked, one-mile oval.

The drivers in the Monster Energy Cup Series will now practice at 8:30 a.m., followed by qualifying for the Xfinity race at 9:35 a.m. and final practice for the Cup drivers will take place at 11 a.m.

Events outside of the race track have been moved up an hour as well, including the Jeff Gordon marquee plaque unveiling at the Monster Monument at 9:15 a.m.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a 40 percent chance of rain showers in Dover for today, mainly after 1 p.m., with a high temperature near 73 degrees.

“It’s really just a pre-emptive effort to get everything in order in case the weather comes through,” said Gary Camp, assistant vice president for marketing and communications at Dover International Speedway. “The weather models just keep changing. We’ve seen a million different scenarios.

“It looks pretty good. It looks like it’s going to slide out, but this is something (NASCAR has) the ability to do to within 24 hours before the event to make that decision. There was a meeting (Friday) morning, where (NASCAR) just decided it just made sense based on the way the storm looks like it’s moving.”

The NWS is calling for a 50 percent chance of rain showers and a high of 68 degrees for Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.

Sauter to fill in for suspended Xfinity driver

Johnny Sauter will drive GMS Racing’s No. 23 Chevrolet that had been piloted by Spencer Gallagher in today’s OneMain Financial 200 Xfinity race at Dover, the team announced Thursday evening.

Gallagher, who won last weekend’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway, was suspended indefinitely on Wednesday for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy.

Gallagher agreed to complete the Road to Recovery program.

Sauter competes full-time for GMS Racing in the Camping World Truck Series.

Sauter, the 2016 Truck Series champion, last competed in Xfinity in 2014 in the July race at Daytona. He has 205 Xfinity starts and three wins.

Building tires for Dover a monstrous task

The high-banked, concrete surface at Dover International Speedway provides quite a challenge for Goodyear tire engineers.

The right-side tire that Goodyear brings to Dover’s fast one-mile configuration is built to withstand the loads generated and features a tread compound that will rubber-in the surface, especially in the corners.

Goodyear engineers elected to change its left-side compound to enhance grip after conducting a tire test at Dover last July.

“There are a lot of factors that come into play when designing and building a tire set-up for Dover,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “With 24 degrees of banking in the corners, Dover is an extremely fast track that generates a lot of load.

“Our right-side tire is designed to handle all that and is also the tire that is charged with laying rubber on the concrete surface.”

Stucker noted that Dover is a different challenge than other tracks on the NASCAR circuit.

“What fans will notice is Dover’s white surface turning black with rubber as the weekend progresses,” Stucker said. “During the races, under caution when the cars are not at speed and actively laying rubber, the hot tires will actually pick up some of the rubber back off the track surface.

“Once the race goes back under the green flag, this right-side compound will quickly lay rubber down again.”

Four to battle for $100,000 Xfinity Dash 4 Cash check

Four drivers in the Xfinity Series will be looking to earn a $100,000 bonus check at Dover in today’s OneMain Financial 200.

Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, Brandon Jones and Ryan Sieg will all be gunning for the big check in the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash finale after qualifying for the program based on last weekend’s finishes at Talladega Superspeedway.

Sieg became eligible for the bonus after Spencer Gallagher, last week’s Xfinity race winner, was suspended on Wednesday due to violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy.

The top finishing driver among the quartet will receive the bonus.

Sadler has been the most successful at banking the big checks this season, as he has collected the last two Dash 4 Cash bonuses at Richmond and Talladega. Ryan Preece is only other driver to score the bonus this season when he won at Bristol.

Sadler (11.8) has the best career average finish at Dover among the Dash 4 Cash qualifiers, followed by Justin Allgaier (12.7), Ryan Sieg (16.1) and Brandon Jones (27.5).

“It’s a big weekend for our OneMain Financial team,” Sadler said. “Any time the sponsor of your car is also the race entitlement sponsor, it puts a little bit more added pressure to try and get to victory lane with those guys.

“We’re going for our third Xfinity Dash 4 Cash victory in a row and I know Kevin (Meendering, crew chief) and the guys will bring a hot rod (to Dover) this weekend.”

Xfinity Series producing a wide variety of winners

Nine Xfinity Series races have produced nine different winners so far this season, with the possibility of the streak stretching to 10 in today’s OneMain Financial 200 at Dover.

This season’s Xfinity winners include: Tyler Reddick (Daytona), Kevin Harvick (Atlanta), Kyle Larson (Las Vegas), Brad Keselowski (Phoenix), Joey Logano (California), Ryan Blaney (Texas), Ryan Preece (Bristol), Christopher Bell (Richmond) and Spencer Gallagher (Talladega).

If a 10th different winner should occur today it will tie 1987 for the second longest different winner streak to start the season in series history.

The record for the highest number of different winners to start a Xfinity Series season is 13, back in 1988.

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