At this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks, look for the trophy to be delivered to Hendrick Motorsports, with either Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon being the one accepting.
Jimmie Johnson has been dominant at Dover with nine wins, 14 top-5s and 19 top-10s in 26 career races at the track. The nine wins are the most by any driver in Dover’s Sprint Cup Series history. Johnson went to victory lane in this race last season, which was his second straight win at Dover. He followed that up with a 3rd-place finish in the fall race last season, a race that saw teammate Gordon take the checkered flag.
In his last 14 races at Dover, Johnson has an average finish of 4.9 with six wins, 10 top-5s and 12 top-10s. The 39-year-old driver has been extremely good in the last 11 years, finishing worse than 15th just twice in the last 21 Dover races.
Johnson may have gotten his love and dominance of Dover from Gordon.
The 43-year-old driver of the No. 24 has the second-most Sprint Cup Series wins among active drivers at Dover with five, including a win in the last race at the track. That win gave Gordon the automatic berth in the Contender round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Gordon not only has five wins at Dover, but has finished in the top-5 18 times and the top-10 25 times in his 44 career races. Like Johnson, he has been very good at the track of late, finishing outside the top-15 just twice in the last 18 races with one win, six top-5s and nine top-10s. He also had two other finishes of 11th. That’s just a continuation of how Gordon started his career at the track. In the 11 races at Dover from 1994 until the spring race of 1999, Gordon had three wins, two runner-up finishes, seven top-5s and nine top-10s. Those wins were consecutive, as he won the fall race in 1995 and then swept the two races in 1996, something that puts him in some great company.
Prior to Gordon, the only drivers who had ever swept the two Dover races in the same season since they went to two races in 1971 were David Pearson (1973), Bobby Allison (1983), Bill Elliott (1988), Dale Earnhardt (1989) and Rusty Wallace (1994). All five of those drivers were elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the first six classes.
By winning three races in a row at Dover, Gordon entered an even more elite class that still includes just himself, Pearson and Allison.
While being in that company is nice and all, a win this week at Dover would possibly be the most important one Gordon has ever captured at the track. A win would lock Gordon into the Chase in his final season as a full-time Sprint Cup Series driver. Winning is always the goal, but the win this week would be bigger for Gordon than it would for Johnson, as Johnson has three wins this season and already has his spot in the Chase reserved.
Between the two drivers of the No. 48 and No. 24 cars in the Hendrick stables, there are 14 trophies from Dover International Speedway, including the last three and seven of the last 12. It seems logical to think that Mr. Hendrick may need to make room on the shelf for another.