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Passing may be at a premium Sunday at Dover, some drivers say

DOVER, DELAWARE – MAY 16: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 NationsGuard Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Reser’s Fine Foods Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway on May 16, 2021 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

DOVER, DEL. — The 36-driver NASCAR Cup Series field will line up for Sunday’s Duramax Drydene 400 at Dover Motor Speedway, where passing may be at a premium.

Martin Truex Jr. was honest in his assessment of what the race may hold, stating “it’s going to be the hardest race to pass I think we’ve ever seen.”

Truex’s comments are telling, as his three wins (T-1st), 996 laps led (3rd), 11.7 average finish (3rd) and three poles (2nd) rank among the best of any active NASCAR Cup Series driver at Dover.

“It’s going to be important to unload strong and have a good qualifying run because it’s going to be hard to pass,” Truex elaborated. “It’s going to be track position, track position, track position.”

Truex’s sentiments were echoed by Kyle Larson, who has led 116 fewer laps at Dover than Truex, despite running 6,731 fewer laps and having 18 fewer starts at Dover than him.

“I feel like the dirty air is going to be really bad,” Kyle Larson said during his post-race media availability at Talladega. “Right here at Talladega, I don’t expect much passing [at Dover] but I hope I’m wrong.”

Photo: Chris Salazar/TRE

While this season has seen an average of 20.2 lead changes after ten races (excluding Atlanta) – up from 20.1 last season (excluding Atlanta) – they have sharply declined on tracks under 1.366 miles.

This season, there has been an average of 10.2 lead changes after five races at tracks <1.366 miles this season – down from an average of 15.4 after five races at tracks <1.366 miles last season.

For races this season at tracks <1.366 miles, the spoiler was heightened from 2.75 inches to 4 inches tall – and the horsepower target was reduced from 750HP to 670HP.

In addition to having a bigger spoiler and less HP, the Gen 7 car’s revamped aero configuration also features a flat underside and a rear diffuser.

While racing at the shorter tracks has yet to live up to expectations, speedway racing has been more well-received. Industry members have also cited easy fixes for the shorter tracks, such as bringing a tire that wears more easily after a hard tire was blamed for minimal passing during an April 9 race at Martinsville.

Dover has been known for being a mix of high speeds seen at speedways and rough-and-tumble racing seen at shorter tracks, which may make the racing more unpredictable.

“You know, I don’t know what it’s gonna be like in the race. Dover’s such a fast track, such a fast place,” Dillon said. “It can be hard to pass there because it is so fast, so we’ll see.”

Photo by Erick Messer/TRE

The Duramax Drydene 400 goes green at 3 p.m. ET from Dover Motor Speedway (TV: FS1; Radio: PRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Ch. 90).

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