DOVER, Del. — Jeremy Mayfield has no plan to finesse anybody today at Dover International Speedway.
It will be full speed ahead for the polesitter of the MBNA 400.
"Track position is everything," said Mayfield, easily the fastest in qualifying for the NASCAR Nextel Cup race. "The guy that starts up front has got the lead and has got clean air all day."
To be in that position, Mayfield will have to outrace only fellow Dodge driver Ryan Newman to the first turn on the Monster Mile. After that, Mayfield can settle in and let his pursuers risk their cars on the narrow, high-banked concrete oval.
After posting a record-setting qualifying speed of 161.522 mph, Mayfield definitely has the car to beat.
"They give me great cars, and you can't say enough about how far this team has come along," he said. "We just keep getting better and better, and that says a lot about Ray Evernham."
Car owner Evernham was the best crew chief of his era, guiding Jeff Gordon to three of his four series title and 47 victories before leaving to become Dodge's point man for its return to NASCAR three years ago. The team has only four victories — all by former driver Bill Elliott — but is now hitting stride with Mayfield and rookie Kasey Kahne.
"He put this deal together and worked real hard to get it where it is," Mayfield said of Evernham. "I'm real excited about the future with this team."
This is a good opportunity for Mayfield to end a 129-race losing streak dating to 2000. He almost did it last September at Dover but finished second to Newman.
"We haven't won, but I feel like we've got a good feel for what's going on," Mayfield said.
Newman certainly poses the biggest threat from his position on the outside of the front row. He won twice last year at Dover and will try today to become the first driver since Gordon in 1995-96 to beat the track three times in a row.
Newman's approach is simple.
"My expectations are the same as they were coming into this race last year," he said. "Do our best, and doing our best got us two wins here last year."
Mayfield also would like to establish himself as the top driver on Evernham's team. The pole Friday was his first this year.
Kahne is tied with Newman for the series lead with three poles, and has three second-place finishes.
"I just hope my teammate doesn't beat me," Mayfield said.
Kahne isn't offended by that.
"It's two different race teams come race day," he said.
Kahne will have to do some impressive driving to seriously challenge. He starts 12th in a field of 43.
Aside from Newman, Mayfield's biggest challenge could come from rookie Brian Vickers, who starts third in a Chevrolet. Vickers thought he could have gone faster in qualifying but has no regrets.
"We focused on race trim," he said of his preparation. "Hopefully, it will pay off at the end of 400 miles."
It certainly paid off at the end of 200 last September, when Vickers won here in the Busch series.
The field is packed with several drivers who have had considerable success at Dover.
Gordon and Ricky Rudd have won four times apiece; Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin three times each. Jimmie Johnson swept here in 2002 and Tony Stewart accomplished that two years earlier.'
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who leads Johnson by five points in the series standings, was a Dover winner in 2001. Former champions Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett also are among the winners here.
BUSCH SERIES: Bobby Hamilton Jr. will have the lead when the rain-delayed NASCAR Busch series race resumes Monday at Dover International Speedway.
The MNBA 200 was stopped after 28 of 200 laps Saturday. Another 72 laps were needed to make it official. Drivers were called to their cars twice, but each time the covers were removed the rain resumed.