When this playoff format was first done with the prior schedule, as in up through 2017, I always was a fan of having the first round of the playoffs be concluded at Dover. Keep in mind, for the most part, the first round was done at a 1.5-mile speedway (Chicagoland), then a flat one-mile oval (New Hampshire) before heading to Dover.
You still had three unique tracks to start the quest for a title, however now with Dover actually being the opening race for the Round of 12, I like it more.
Here’s the reason: the second round of the playoffs has the more challenging tracks outside of the Charlotte Roval all in one.
Starting this round is the Monster Mile, where it’s fast yet tight, a short track that acts like a speedway. The concrete marvel that has claimed a lot of victims over the years, and in this race itself has ended title hopes, while also sending some into the promise land. I’d rather have Dover be the opening race as it is one track that is extremely capable of setting the tone for the next three races. Although next week’s event is always unpredictable, especially with the newer rules package that was developed almost on the fly, this race to me is the most critical.
Considering the fact that you have former winners at this place both in the playoff field, along with some that are on the outside looking in, there’s a lot of things that could happen at this place.
In the opening round, you had both Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott in victory lane. This year, it was Truex winning the first race here, and he is the hometown guy for this place. But, at the same time, this is where Elliott secured his spot in the next round a season ago. You have Denny Hamlin, who’s seen success here, on the pole and wanting to move on at a place he enjoys running.
Yet, we also know that with a new extension signed for his new sponsor, Jimmie Johnson is back at his fun house, where he’s the active driver with the most wins at the concrete beast.
This is why having Dover as the first race in a playoff round, rather than as the deciding race, is a lot better for the sport.
However, one thing that has not changed is the fact this place doesn’t care if it’s the first race in the playoffs, the meat in the sandwich, or the deciding event. It’s Dover, and Miles always seems to be craving sheet metal, engine oil, and Goodyear rubber. Come the end of Sunday’s race, his appetite will be mighty satisfied.