NASCAR & Auto Racing

Raceday: Your guide to Sunday's Fedex 400

Three things to watch

1. Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin is putting pressure on himself to excel. He has little other choice, since he missed four races to a back injury, and needs to pass several drivers in the standings to make the Chase. As he described it Friday, anything short of winning races doesn't count for much the next few weeks.

2. Qualifying and running in traffic aren't necessarily the same thing, but it's undeniable that Toyotas are running fast here. Five of the top six qualifiers were Toyota drivers.

3. Danica Patrick needed to enter the field on owner points. She'll start 39th.

Observations

Few drivers have more gravitas than Jeff Gordon right now. So Gordon calling NASCAR to task for not mandating Safer barriers throughout the Sprint Cup series has some weight. Gordon said what everyone was thinking; that the only conceivable reason not to do this is money. It's been a cold spring throughout much of the East Coast, so it seems everyone has been asking for a warm-up. Be careful what you wish for: It's brutally hot in Delaware this weekend, which figures to be rough on Dover fans, who'll fry all day Sunday.
Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano get back their crew chiefs - Paul Wolfe and Todd Gordon, respectively - after both were suspended by NASCAR. Does that give either team any sort of a jump-start today?

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Notes

Johnson visits Oklahoma: Growing up in Southern California, Sprint Cup driver Jimmie Johnson grew accustomed to the ground shaking under his feet during an earthquake.

But there was something about tornadoes that terrified him. When he met and married his wife Chani, who grew up in Oklahoma, he had to face that fear. Last week the Johnsons traveled to Oklahoma to help deliver provisions to the many left homeless by the tornadoes that spun through that state.

Rattling as the damage was, Johnson said he was more affected by smaller signs of human cost.

"I was certainly shocked and floored by what I saw,'' said Johnson, describing cars that were crushed like beer cans.

"I met a child who was in one of those schools (that collapsed) and I could still see on his face and in his eyes the fear he had,'' Johnson recalled.

"You'd say, 'There's a big beam from a building and there's a refrigerator.' And then you look and there's a stuffed animal. So kids lived here and families, and you start jockeying back-and-forth in your mind just the amazement of it.''

Johnson is donating prize money from last week's Coca-Cola 600 to the relief effort. Also, at the suggestion of Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops, he recorded a public-service announcement, encouraging others to contribute.

Kurt Busch fastest: Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Juan Pablo Montoya were fastest Saturday in the final practice session before Sunday's Sprint Cup race.

Busch ran the fastest lap of 153.224 mph.

Hamlin "comfortable'': Races at Dover are particularly grueling on drivers; if your car set-up is off, you can feel like your car is a basketball, bouncing up-and-down off the concrete surface.

That could be particularly hard on pole-sitter Denny Hamlin, still recovering from a severe back injury that cost him several races. But Hamlin said Friday his crew has adjusted how he sits in the car in a way that is optimal. They've installed a lumbar support, added some air-bag support and changed the configuration of his safety belt.

As Hamlin joked Friday, "I'm feeling great - ready to run a marathon.''

Appeal process: Brad Keselowski's crew chief, Paul Wolfe, is back after a NASCAR suspension that was shortened on appeal. Asked about that appeal process Friday, Wolfe made the point that nothing they were doing to the car was specifically banned in the Sprint Cup rule book.

"We were working in an undefined area of the rule book and that is why we chose to work there,'' Wolfe said. "(NASCAR) didn't agree with what we thought was right and I think we had a fair appeal process.''

Wolfe said he doesn't feel NASCAR was targeting his team: "I don't think they were necessarily picking on us. They just happened to find where we were working and didn't agree with it.''

Humanitarian award: NASCAR's charitable foundation - focused on children's causes - is accepting nominations for the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. The winning entry will receive a $100,000 donation to the children's charity of their choice. Nominations will be accepted through June 14 at NASCAR.com/foundation.

Race facts

Where: Dover International Speedway

Track type: One-mile oval

Race distance: 400 miles

Weather: Hot and dry, with temperatures running into the 90s.

TV: Coverage begins at noon on Fox. Green flag is 1 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN

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