DOVER, Del. (AP) -- The Monster Mile, one of the most dreaded obstacles on the NASCAR circuit, has been little more than a personal playground for Tony Stewart.
In just three career starts at Dover Downs International Speedway, he has finished fourth, second and first. So Stewart, winless in his last eight races, couldn't be in a better place to get going again.
He sees the MBNA.com 400 at the high-banked concrete oval as an opportunity to make a move up in the Winston Cup standings. After finishing a rookie-record fourth last year, Stewart is now seventh.
"It's definitely important for us," said Stewart.
., who won the MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover in June. "We need to take every one of the tracks where we feel we're strong, and we need to be able to capitalize on those days and gain as many points as possible."
A good finish Sunday could move him to fifth. He's just 15 points behind Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd, who between them have won seven times at Dover.
"There are some tracks where I struggle," said Stewart, a three-time winner this year. "So, we need to take advantage of tracks like Dover, where this team does run well."
Stewart, trying to become the seventh driver in history to sweep the Dover races, got the most recent of his six career victories in July at New Hampshire International Speedway. He finished 23rd there last Sunday.
Stewart's Pontiac was one of the dominant cars in his Dover debut 15 months ago, but he was among those who had to make a late-race fuel stop and settled for fourth when Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte stretched his gas to the end and won despite being outrun.
After finishing second last September as Mark Martin won this race for the third year in a row, Stewart returned with a vengeance in June. He led 242 of 400 laps.
"I was surprised that we were as dominant as we were," said the 29-year-old driver from Indiana. "I had a feeling we were going to be good when we got there, just from the past runs, but I don't think we anticipated being as dominant as we were."
But that doesn't mean Stewart expects a repeat performance. He knows a driver can assume nothing at Dover, one of the three most difficult layouts on the circuit.
"The biggest thing is the fact that you're in the corners for so long and you run so fast here," he said. "It just keeps putting a lot of load on your body all day long. That's why Dover is such a physically demanding race track."
Although he's winless at Dover since 1994, when he got the last of his three straight victories on the track, Wallace should be stout once more. He's the only four-time winner this season and the runaway leader with eight poles.
And Wallace set the track qualifying record last September, winning his third pole in the last five Dover races with a lap of 159.964 mph. He also had the pole three months ago, but a flat tire did him in and he wound up 32nd.
"We were able to lead laps and had lap times as fast as anybody out there," Wallace said. "Then we had that right front go down."
Later, his engine faltered, and Wallace's car limped around on seven cylinders. But he wasn't complaining as he began preparing for this race.
"We were lucky to have kept that thing off the wall," he said.
Others who figure in the mix are Martin, four-time Dover winner Rudd, three-time winner Jeff Gordon, points leader Labonte and rookie leader Matt Kenseth.
Labonte, always a factor at Dover, holds a 168-point lead over Jeff Burton, to whom he finished second in New Hampshire.
Kenseth has won the Busch Series race each of the last two Septembers, and will compete twice this weekend. He finished fourth in the Winston Cup race last fall -- one of his dress rehearsals for this season -- and finished second to Stewart in June.
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