Five things to watch in today’s Dover race

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DOVER, Del. – Why should it be simple for Kyle Busch?

After missing the first 11 races when he was injured in an Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway, Busch’s title hopes seemed over. Then he dominated the summer to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Now, he faces another challenge – advancing to the second round.

Busch enters today’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on NBCSN one point out of a transfer spot, which is held by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Of course, few things come easy for Busch. Arguably one of the sport’s most talented drivers, his results have been forgettable in the Chase for much of his career. Failing to make it to the second round this season would cast a shadow on what has been a remarkable comeback.

Busch, though, is not panicked.

“I think that’s just sort of the name of what our season has been – just win and make enough points in order to get ourselves to transfer through or to transfer into the Chase and actually become Chase eligible,’’ he said.

Any trouble could keep Busch from advancing. Just like what happened at Dover in May. He was running in the top five when he was involved in an accident with a lapped car. Busch finished 36th.

Busch’s quest is just among the many storylines in today’s race.

WILL THE REIGNING CHAMPION ADVANCE? Kevin Harvick likely needs to win to advance to the second round after contact with Jimmie Johnson led him to crash at Chicagoland and he ran out of fuel while leading with three laps to go last weekend at New Hampshire.

Can Harvick overcome? If he does, he returns to being a championship favorite. Watch how people race Harvick late. The title contenders know that keeping him from advancing will help their chances.

IS BIGGER BETTER? Today’s race marks the debut of the expanded restart zone. It has been doubled in size at the request of many drivers, who claimed that the leader was at a disadvantage because the restart zone was so small that competitors could get a jump.

“I absolutely love it,’’ Jeff Gordon said. “I think it’s a great move. I’ve been asking for this for a while. I think we just kind of went too extreme. My only question is did they go big enough?”

REPEAT PERFORMANCE? If it seems the results are the same each time at Dover, well, they nearly are. Jimmie Johnson has won seven of the last 13 races at the 1-mile concrete track and has 10 wins there overall.

He’s in a good position to advance to the second round of the Chase, so will he and crew chief Chad Knaus need to be as aggressive today?

“We don’t have to win to advance, so I will be wrestling that in my mind and Chad will with his pit calls, but you can’t not try to win races,’’ Johnson said. “We are here to win the race.’’

PIT ROAD. The entrance is tricky and it’s not uncommon for drivers to miss it and have to make another lap, costing them valuable time. Also, the long pit road is narrow and tight and with a pit road speed of 35 mph, it’s easy for drivers to speed and be penalized. A mistake here could determine not only who advances in the Chase but who wins.