By the numbers: The 2013 Chasers at Dover

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Next up in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup is the high-banked “Monster Mile” of Dover International Speedway, which will host Chase race No. 3 – the AAA 400.

Controversy struck in the series’ first visit to Dover back in June. In the closing laps, NASCAR found Jimmie Johnson to have jumped the final restart of the day with 19 laps to go and penalized him. That set up a fight between Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart, which the latter won by making what would be the race-winning pass with three laps remaining.

Among this year’s Chase contenders, Jeff Gordon led the group with a third-place finish with Kyle Busch in fourth after leading a race-high 150 laps. As for Johnson, he led 143 laps but wound up finishing 17th after the penalty.

Other Chasers in the Top 10 were Clint Bowyer in sixth, Joey Logano in seventh, Kevin Harvick in eighth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 10th. Current Chase leader Matt Kenseth, who has opened the post-season with back-to-back wins at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, finished 40th after suffering an engine failure toward the halfway point.

Once again, here’s a look at how each Chaser has done over his career at this frenetic track. Note to all you fantasy racers: You might want to put a certain five-time Cup champion – and seven-time Dover winner – on your team this weekend.

MATT KENSETH (Leader – 2,111 points)
Two wins, 13 Top-5s, 18 Top-10s
Average Finish: 13.6 in 29 races
Average Running Position: 9.4, second-best

KYLE BUSCH (second, -14 points)
Two wins, eight Top-5s, 11 Top-10s
Average Finish: 13.3 in 17 races
Average Running Position: 11.2, sixth-best

JIMMIE JOHNSON (third, -18 points)
Seven wins, 11 Top-5s, 16 Top-10s
Average Finish: 9.0 in 23 races
Average Running Position: 7.1, series-best
*Series-high 5,862 Laps in the Top 15 (86.2%)

CARL EDWARDS (fourth, -36 points)
One win, eight Top-5s, 12 Top-10s
Average Finish: 8.6 in 18 races
Average Running Position: 10.3, third-best

GREG BIFFLE (fifth, -38 points)
Two wins, six Top-5s, 10 Top-10s
Average Finish: 12.5 in 22 races
Average Running Position: 10.7, fifth-best

KEVIN HARVICK (sixth, -39 points)
Three Top-5s, 11 Top-10s
Average Finish: 15.6 in 25 races
Average Running Position: 16.0, 14th-best

KURT BUSCH (seventh, -40 points)
One win, six Top-5s, eight Top-10s
Average Finish: 18.1 in 26 races
Average Running Position: 12.7, eighth-best

JEFF GORDON (eighth, -42 points)
Four wins, 16 Top-5s, 23 Top-10s
Average Finish: 11.8 in 41 races
Average Running Position: 12.8, ninth-best

RYAN NEWMAN (ninth, -47 points)
Three wins, six Top-5s, 11 Top-10s
Average Finish: 13.1 in 23 races
Average Running Position: 12.7, seventh-best

CLINT BOWYER (tenth, -48 points)
One Top-5, eight Top-10s
Average Finish: 12.7 in 15 races
Average Running Position: 12.8, 10th-best

DALE EARNHARDT JR. (11th, -62 points)
One win, five Top-5s, nine Top-10s
Average Finish: 17.0 in 27 races
Average Running Position: 18.8, 20th-best

JOEY LOGANO (12th, -69 points)
One Top-5, five Top-10s
Average Finish: 16.8 in nine races
Average Running Position: 19.0, 21st-best

KASEY KAHNE (13th, -71 points)
One Top-5, five Top-10s
Average Finish: 21.5 in 19 races
Average Running Position: 16.9, 16th-best

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds