|The Monster – Dover International Speedway|
This week the Sprint Cup teams are heading to the Monster Mile at Dover International Speedway, one of two concrete tracks on the circuit. At Dover and on concrete since 2008, there is one team that stands out along with one crew chief, and they will be going head-to-head to reign in the Monster at the FedEx 400 this weekend.
Among active drivers, the most successful driver-crew chief combination at Dover has been Johnson and Knaus with six wins, nearly half of Hendrick Motorsports, total 13 wins at the track. Johnson found early success, winning twice in 2002, then again in 2005. He repeated his Dover sweep in 2009 and then won again in 2010.
As impressive as those numbers are, since 2008 there is someone with an equal number of three wins at Dover and greater overall success on concrete tracks.
Looking at NASCARS’ only two concrete surface tracks – Dover and Bristol – between 2008 and 2011, with eight races at each track, there’s one crew chief that stands out among the rest. With two different drivers, he has earned four wins – three at Dover, six top-threes, seven top-fives and nine top-tens with drivers – Kurt and Kyle Busch. The two drivers have combined to lead 1,398 laps; 1026 led by Kyle and 372 laps led by Kurt. During this time, the two drivers were outside the top-20 only three times. The crew chief behind these drivers’ success – Steve Addington.
|Addington in Daytona January 2012
Photo – Jared C Tilton/Getty Images
Addington is now at Stewart-Haas Racing as crew chief for the 2011 Sprint Cup champion, Tony Stewart. In an interview this week, Stewart was asked about his past success at the track and he acknowledged, in more recent years the track has proven to be challenging. “Whatever we’ve had in the past, we’re not bringing back,” said Stewart. “I told Steve (Addington), I don’t care what package you put in the car, just make sure it isn’t what we ran the last two races there.”
In the same 2008 to 2011 time frame, Stewart has notched zero wins, two second-place finishes and five top-ten results with 275 laps led and seven finishes outside the top-20. Despite his recent not-so-good results, Stewart goes into this weekend with a great deal of confidence in his crew chief – Steve Addington – who he considers his competitive advantage.
During the same media interview as Stewart, Addington was asked about how different his set-up is on concrete tracks? “Well, it’s a different animal just because of the speeds you carry at both those places – Dover and Bristol,” said Addington. “Keeping our tires and tire geometry to where we really watch our camber wear and stuff like that, because it’ll mislead you in places like that and you can get off. That’s the big thing – our front-end geometry and how we put the ride in the car.” Addington’s, impressive results on concrete tracks, reveal he knows what he’s talking about, when it comes to competing for a win at Dover.
With the regular season at the half-way point at the conclusion of the FedEx 400, this race will confirm for fans who to watch for the next half of the season going into the Chase.
Knowing the recent success of the #48 team and Steve Addington – particularly on concrete – it seems there’s an interesting concrete King match up developing for this weekend. Which King will reign in The Monster?
Add to the equation, that since 2002, there are only two drivers with a total of eight championships between them – Stewart and Johnson – it becomes even more clear they are the two main drivers to watch and not just this weekend as they continue to position themselves for their next crowning title.
For fans it will be fun and perhaps even historic to watch these two championship teams compete. But now the question we are all wondering – is there anyone else this year that will step up to challenge Johnson or Stewart beyond this weekend?