Heading into this Sunday afternoonâs Drydene 400, the opening race of the round of 12 of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, at Dover International Speedway, Hendrick Motorsportsâ Chase Elliott is the most recent race winner, as he won this past Sundayâs round of 16 finale at the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval.
Elliott is also the reigning race winner of the playoff race at the four-turn, 1.0-mile (1.609-kilometer) high-banked Monster Mile oval in Dover, Delaware.
The 23-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia native led only 11 laps of this 404-lap race on Sunday, October 7, 2018, but he led the raceâs final 11 laps after opting not to pit late for new tires. He ended up holding off Joe Gibbs Racingâs Denny Hamlin by just 0.265 seconds to secure the victory.
But Elliottâs victory stands alone, at least as it pertains to the past decade-plus at the Monster Mile.
And itâs not exactly for a positive reason, although itâs hard to argue as a ânegativeâ reason.
Elliott hasnât had a ton of chances to change this reason considering the fact that he is only 23 years old and the 2019 season is just his fourth season as a full-time Cup Series driver, but he is certainly in position to do so in the near future, perhaps even in mid-November.
Since the 2009 season, a total of 21 races have been contested at Dover International Speedway. Of these 21 races, 20 were won by drivers who are now Cup Series champions.
Only the race that Elliott won wasnât, making Elliott the only non-champion to win at the Monster Mile since Greg Biffle won at the track in September of 2008.
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson won eight of these 20 races while 2015 champion Kyle Busch, 2003 champion Matt Kenseth, 2014 champion Kevin Harvick and 2017 champion Martin Truex Jr. each won two. 2004 champion Kurt Busch, 2012 champion Brad Keselowski, three-time champion Tony Stewart and four-time champion Jeff Gordon each won one.
Fortunately for Elliott, three of these 20 victories were earned before the winners were Cup Series champions. Kyle Busch was not yet a champion when he won at the track in May of 2010 while Keselowski was not yet a champion when he won there in September of 2012 and Truex was not yet a champion when he won there in October of 2016.
Additionally, of these nine drivers, only Kenseth, Harvick and Kurt Busch earned their first victories at the track at a time when they had already won a championship.
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Will Chase Elliott win for the second time at Dover International Speedway this Sunday, October 6? If not, will a former NASCAR Cup Series champion take the checkered flag? Will Elliott eventually win a Cup Series championship?
The Drydene 400 is the 30th of 36 races on the 2019 schedule, and it is set to be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Elliott is set to enter this race as one of the 12 remaining playoff drivers.