In the post-Covid era, Hendrick Motorsports has been the dominant player at the Dover Motor Speedway. Since the high-banked one-mile track went from two races per year to just one, there has been no other team to visit the facility’s victory lane. And based on the early results from the 2023 season, there is every reason to believe that the Rick Hendrick-owned organization will enter Sunday’s Wurth 400 as a favorite to once again take the checkered flag ahead of the pack.
In 2022, HMS Chevrolet driver Chase Elliott led a total of 73 laps on his way to victory at the ‘Monster Mile’. But it was in 2021 that the team turned in one of the most dominant performances ever in a single NASCAR Cup Series event. Hendrick cars took the first four positions in the final running order with Alex Bowman scoring the win. In all, their four drivers led 382 of the 400 laps that made up the race distance.
Of course, only the 2022 results came with the use of the Next Gen car while the Gen 6 was still being used in 2021. But it appears as if the Hendrick organization has gotten a hold on the relatively new machine.
So far in 2023, with HMS drivers William Byron and Kyle Larson doing the honors, that company has won every race on tracks of one-mile or less this season. That early season success combined with previous Dover triumphs sets up nicely for the North Carolina-based operation.
Byron won at Phoenix while Larson earned victories at Richmond and Martinsville. However, there is reason for concern for HMS. Chase Elliott will be entering only his third race since suffering a broken leg in a snowboarding accident last month. Also, Alex Bowman was recently diagnosed with a concussion after wrecking a Sprint Car earlier this week which will leave him sidelined at Dover.
Josh Berry will replace Bowman in the No. 48 Chevrolet.
Perhaps to Hendrick’s advantage could be the weather in Delaware. Predictions are calling for rainy conditions throughout much of the weekend, so much so that NASCAR has moved the start time for Sunday’s race up to 1:00pm. If the weather forecasts prove to be correct, teams may have to roll their cars onto the starting grid with no practice or qualifying which would seem to benefit the teams who have previously had a good setup on that concrete oval.
Can Hendrick maintain its Dover dominance this weekend? Even with the issues working against them in terms of driver injuries, it would appear as though the answer to that question will be yes.
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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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