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Friday, September 30, 2011
Updated: October 4, 4:08 PM ET
Expert picks: Dover

By NASCAR Staff
ESPN

With eight races left, Sprint Cup drivers head to the Monster Mile. Will Tony Stewart make it three Chase wins in a row? Can Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 crew get things back on track? NASCAR personalities Ricky Craven, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Jamie Little share their podium picks for Dover International Speedway.

Ricky Craven's analysis

Jimmie Johnson has proven he can capitalize on his opportunities at Dover. He did it last year after a difficult New Hampshire race, and he needs to do it again this year under similar circumstances. Like any other track, Dover is sensitive to handling and balance. But it's also a driver's track. Someone with Johnson's skill has the ability to move between grooves if he is having trouble with the car. I expect the No. 48 team to get itself back into the Chase with a maximum point day at Dover.

Another driver who understands working grooves to enter and exit turns is Carl Edwards. Dover is an aggressive, fast, physical track, and historically, Rousch Fenway drivers have succeeded at it. He has been quietly hanging around (14 points back of Tony Stewart), and I wouldn't be surprised to see him make a push this weekend.

My third-place finisher, Greg Biffle, isn't a Chaser. But he finished third at New Hampshire and seems to be in a good place right now. He's gaining more and more confidence in crew chief Matt Puccia, and again, Rousch Fenway drivers typically run well on the Monster Mile.

Dale Jarrett's analysis

Kyle Busch and his team haven't gotten off to the start they wanted. This is a statement race for them if they want to find themselves in the middle of this championship battle. They need a good run, and this concrete track seems to suit Busch's style of racing. This is a rebound week.

It's hard to believe that I'm saying this about a five-time defending champion, but Jimmie Johnson needs to get things in order, and I don't think there's a better track for him to do that at than Dover. I don't see him winning, but I think he'll run well.

Lastly, I think Carl Edwards will continue his stretch of good driving to have a decent finish at Dover. Edwards has always excelled on concrete. It's a totally different feel in terms of racing and driving the car than what you get on asphalt, but whether in Nationwide or Cup, Edwards has been exceptional on concrete.

Rusty Wallace's analysis

There's a reason they call Carl Edwards "Concrete Carl," and I think he'll remind us this weekend at Dover. He is just dominant on concrete tracks and is only 14 points back of Chase leader Tony Stewart.

Jimmie Johnson has speed and an excellent history at Dover, but the wheels are starting to fall off the wagon just a little bit. This isn't the No. 48 crew I've seen for the last five years. They are going to have to get themselves into a meeting and talk about the things that they were doing right to win the past five Sprint Cup championships. In the end, I think they can still do it. Johnson will be there all race long at Dover.

Jeff Gordon also runs well at Dover, and one of his big sponsors, Dupont, is from that area. They always have a lot of guests at the track, and it seems like he drives extra hard. He has momentum, too. He was crushing everyone in Loudon until he ran into fuel problems again. I look for him to have a great day on Sunday.

Jamie Little's analysis

For the second week in a row, Jimmie Johnson is my pick to win. Though he's come up short more times than not this year, the guy is tough to beat at Dover. With six career wins at the Monster Mile, including the last two Chase races here, he is the favorite.

Crossing the finish line second this week will be Carl Edwards. Though he has just one win at Dover, he has the best average finish of all active Sprint Cup drivers: 7.6. He is quietly marching his way up the points ladder, and I see him continuing that trend Sunday.

Rounding out my top three is Matt Kenseth. He has two wins at Dover, one as recent as this spring. And despite being spun by teammate Edwards at Loudon last week, Kenseth drove his way up to sixth and gained three spots in the points. He's more than capable of finishing strong again at Dover.