June 29, 2011
How to make an informed pick for the Daytona Coke Zero 400:
1) Focus on studying drivers summer Daytona stats. The July race is completely different from the season opening Daytona 500. The Daytona 500 is far more unpredictable, but in the summer race some drivers really stand out among their peers.
Before you say, “But Ryan they repaved the track, handling shouldn’t be an issue”. My response to that is expect to hear on the broadcast 1) how hot it is and 2) how much the track has weathered since February in the Florida heat. Daytona is a narrow track and because of this handling will still be the key regardless of the repaving.
2) Since handling will be a key to winning this race it’s important to study happy hour. When you study happy hour at restrictor plate tracks you want to go by what you hear, not by what drivers practice speeds are.
3) When it comes to plate tracks and other tracks where DNF’s can be abundant I want to pick drivers who have positive momentum on their side. Picking drivers who are in the midst of slumps just doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Drivers who are performing poorly at the time often turn into “DNF Magnets” at this style of track.
4) Qualifying isn’t that important at plate tracks. Having a driver start up front is nice, but it’s really not important this week.
Drivers to watch in the Daytona Coke Zero 400:
Carl Edwards – Finished second in this years Daytona 500. His average finish in the summer Daytona race over the last four years is 4th.
Kurt Busch – Over the last month he’s been as good as anyone. In the last five summer Daytona races he hasn’t finished worse than 7th and he has a 4.4 average finish.
Kevin Harvick – He’s as safe as it gets on plate tracks. He blew up in the Daytona 500 this year but don’t let that scare you away. Kevin Harvick is the defending champion of this race.
Tony Stewart – Stewart’s won the summer race multiple times. His most recent win was in 2009. Kyle Busch was blocking him and was wrecked. I pity the driver who blocks him this Saturday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – He’s gonna win a race one of these days right? Why not Daytona. Last season he finished 2nd and 4th at this 2.5 mile track. If qualifying points matter to you don’t forget he won the pole for the Daytona 500.
Matt Kenseth – Former Daytona 500 winner who typically performs better in the summer race. In the summer Daytona races going back to 2005 he’s finished in the top fifteen every race and has an average finish of 7.5. Also don’t discount Roush’s engine cooling advantage at Daytona.
Kyle Busch – Do you like taking risks that can pay off big in fantasy NASCAR? If the answer is yes take Kyle Busch. He has one win and has been close several times. When I say he’s come close I mean getting crashed out at the end. Since his 2008 win things haven’t come easy for this Busch at Daytona. In this years Daytona 500 he finished 8th which is his only top ten since his win.
VegasInsider.com odds to win the Daytona Coke Zero 400:
Kevin Harvick 6/1, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 8/1, Kyle Busch 8/1, Carl Edwards 8/1, Jimmie Johnson 8/1, Jeff Gordon 10/1, Kurt Busch 10/1, Tony Stewart 14/1, Clint Bowyer 14/1
June 28, 2011
This weekend the Sprint Cup Series stops at Daytona International Speedway for the second time this season for some good old plate racing under the lights. Like I did back in April for the race at Talladega Superspeedway, I am going to change my format for this preview because of how unpredictable these races are. Anybody–and I mean anybody–could find themselves in the top ten once the checkered flag waves at the restrictor plate tracks. Two practices will be held on Thursday, followed by qualifying on Friday, and then the Coke Zero 400 is set to start around 7:45 pm on Saturday.
During The Last Race At Daytona…Trevor Bayne put the #21 Wood Brothers Ford into victory lane for the first win in his Sprint Cup career. Carl Edwards followed Bayne to the finish line while David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. In last season’s summer race at Daytona, Kevin Harvick started 1st and ended there as well after leading 28 laps. Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Jeff Burton all grabbed top five finishes that night.
My Recommendation To Fantasy Racers…If you read my articles on a consistent basis, you should know what I think about fantasy picks at Daytona and Talladega: just make a roster and go with it. As I said before, the races on these tracks are so unpredictable, and drivers that you would never think about picking any other week suddenly emerge as risky, yet potentially rewarding, choices. Last season’s July race at Daytona ended with some unfamiliar faces near the front, such as Reed Sorenson, Mike Bliss, and Scott Speed in the top ten and Steve Park and Kevin Conway finishing 13th and 14th, respectively.
My Five Favorites Heading Into The Coke Zero 400:
1. Clint Bowyer – Do you know what I like to do when I make my fantasy picks? Take the safest option, unless of course I’m trying to gain major points. And while where is no “safe” pick when the series stops at Daytona or Talladega, Clint Bowyer is the closest thing to it. His worst finish here is 29th and his average career finish at Daytona is 13.2, which is the best of all active drivers that have had at least two starts here (take that Trevor Bayne). In the last five points-paying races here, Bowyer has the 5th-best average driver rating, and at Talladega, the other restrictor plate track, he has finished 1st in 2nd in his last two starts.
2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Of course Junior is going to be ranked high when the series stops at Daytona: he has two wins at this track and only two full-time drivers (Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon) have led more laps here than Little E. The #88 ended the Daytona 500 in February in 24th place, but he had one of the best cars in my opinion. He sat on the pole here in February and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Earnhardt up there again when qualifying is over with. He finished 4th at Talladega in April.
3. Carl Edwards – Cousin Carl finished 2nd in the Daytona 500, but even if he was terrible at these tracks–which, by the way, he isn’t–I still wouldn’t bet against him, simply because how awesome of a season the #99 team is having. Carl has led only three laps in 13 career starts at this track, but his average driver rating over the past five races at Daytona is 3rd-best in the series and four of those ended in top 10 finishes for him. The last four July races at this track have given Edwards finishes of 6th, 4th, 2nd, and 4th. Also, on a side note: if anyone followed my “Avoid” warning of Edwards last week in Sonoma, I apologize; that was the most surprising finish of the race for me.
4. Kurt Busch - This team, and Penske in general, isn’t just hot, they’re scorching. Fresh off his win at the road course last weekend, I expect the elder Busch brother to challenge for his second in a row on Saturday night. He captured three poles in a row, why not two wins? He has never won at a restrictor plate track, but he’s pretty good at them. Kurt has the second-best average driver rating at Daytona in the last five races and seven of the last eight points-paying races here have ended with him in the top 10. In the last five July races at Daytona, Busch has finished 7th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 3rd. Don’t overlook his teammate, Brad Keselowski, either, who picked up his first Sprint Cup Series victory at Talladega.
5. Kevin Harvick – Every time that the series stops at a restrictor plate track, Kevin Harvick’s name has to come up as someone who has a solid chance at ending up in victory lane. His engine blew during the Daytona 500, but I thought he had the best car before that. “Happy” is the defending winner of this race and in 41 combined Daytona and Talladega points-paying races, Harvick has two…count ‘em…TWO DNFs. Kevin should be there at the end as long as he can avoid a wreck.
Others That Could Visit Victory Lane At The Coke Zero 400:
Tony Stewart - Let’s just hope him and Brian Vickers don’t get into it this weekend (although I don’t see that happening). “Smoke” has three wins in 25 starts at Daytona and all three were in the summer race (he started 1st or 2nd in all three, too). Stewart has led more laps than anyone at Daytona and he’s a threat to win any time the series visits the track. He should be starting to get on a roll soon…
Matt Kenseth – All of Roush should be tough, but I like Edwards and Kenseth the best. Matt’s career average finish here in 23 starts is only right around 18th, but he has five top 15 finishes in the last six points-paying races at Daytona and that includes four top 10s and one victory. In the last eight July races at this track, Kenseth has notched six top 10s and just one finish outside of the top 15.
Kyle Busch - It is inevitable that “Rowdy” is going to win again at Daytona, but it is just a matter of when. He always runs well here, but he can’t seem to get the finish he deserves. In the past five races at this track, Busch’s average driver rating of 98.2 is fourth-best in the Cup series, but his average finish in that span of 23.4 is 34th-best. Kyle, however, ended up 8th here in February and won this race back in 2008. In 2006 and 2007, he finished 2nd in both July Daytona races, and in the last eleven points-paying races here, Busch has led at least one lap in ten of them. And no, I’m not worried about the Gibbs engines this weekend.
Jeff Gordon – Remember who worked with Daytona 500 champ Trevor Bayne all of speed weeks? Gordon didn’t go on to have a good finish, but you have to keep him in your head once the series stops at the plate tracks. He has six wins at both Daytona and Talladega and the #24 Chevrolet came home 3rd in April at the latter track. Will that 2nd-place finish last week in Sonoma give Gordon the boost he needs to get a third victory of the season?
Jeff Burton - This guy is beyond due, don’t you think? He won his Duel race during Speedweeks this year and Burton’s season has just gone downhill from there, starting with a blown engine in the Daytona 500 (he led five laps, though). I don’t expect the Childress engines to have any problems this time around, and while I don’t think it is likely the #31 will end up in victory lane, I think Burton will finally get his first top ten of the season on Saturday night. He could, of course, continue to disappoint, though.
Will They Get Their First Career Win Saturday Night?
David Ragan – Of the four win-less drivers I have listed here, you have to believe that Ragan has the best chance. He almost won the Daytona 500 in February and he’s also been a pretty good pick when the series comes to Daytona. In nine starts here, David has seven top 20s and two 5th-place finishes. He’s ran well at times this season, and with a little bit of luck on Saturday night, he could find himself in victory lane. Of course, you could say that about anybody, right?
Marcos Ambrose – It’s certainly possible that Marcos could pick up his first victory at a plate race, but I’m looking for a realistic chance, not just a possible chance (although it would be a little ironic if he won the first race after a road course event). Ambrose finished 6th here in the July race during his rookie campaign, but he hasn’t finished better than 32nd at Daytona since then. He also finished 4th at Talladega in his rookie year, but he hasn’t crossed the stripe better than 32nd at that track since then, either.
A.J. Allmendinger – The Dinger hasn’t posted a DNF at Daytona in six starts here, but I just don’t see him getting his first victory at a restrictor plate track. His average finish at Daytona is 17.7 and 26.7 at Talladega. A.J. did finish 3rd in the 2009 Daytona 500, though, so you never know…
Paul Menard – It seems like all of the Richard Childress Racing cars are good when the race is at Daytona or Talladega, and Paul finished 9th in the Daytona 500 after two of his teammates blew up, and ended up 12th at the Talladega race in April. I think a top fifteen is more likely for Menard on Saturday, but if he has Kevin Harvick or Clint Bowyer pushing him, he could steal one.
Legit C-List “Start Savers” For The Coke Zero 400:
Trevor Bayne – You know the story with this kid. Winner of the Daytona 500, “next big thing”. I think if he gets shoved into the Cup Series next year it will be a mistake, but you have to like his power under the hood in his Wood Brothers #21 Ford, and Bayne was running well at Talladega before the wreck. I probably won’t pick him, but that’s not to say he won’t do good–I just like to go against the crowd at plate races.
Robby Gordon – I never see much mention of Robby Gordon outside of road course races, but I don’t see why. Since starting Robby Gordon Motorsports, Gordon has twelve starts at Daytona and eight of them have given him top 16 finishes. Robby brought the #7 home in 16th in the Daytona 500 and finished 12th in this race last season. Also, his last three Talladega starts have ended in top 20 finishes.
David Gilliland – I’m not just saying David will be a good “start saver” pick because he finished 3rd in the Daytona 500, although that is a part of it. He also brought the #39 Ford home in 9th in the April Talladega race, and with his solid 12th-place finish last week in Sonoma, that might give Gilliland a little momentum heading into Saturday night. Do not overlook him.
You Won’t Find Them On My Rosters:
Jimmie Johnson – “Five Time” escaped plate races with good finishes occasionally (his win at Talladega in April, his 2nd-place effort in this race in 2009, and his Daytona 500 win in 2006 come to mind) but other than that he actually isn’t very good at either track. Six of Johnson’s last seven starts at Daytona have ended in finishes outside of the top 20. Do you like those odds? Me neither.
Ryan Newman – Nineteen starts, nine top 20s, and five DNFs is the stat line for “The Rocketman” this weekend. He won here in 2008 but Newman’s best finish since then (five races in total) has been 20th. The whole Stewart-Haas stable hasn’t impressed me much on the plate tracks this year, bud while I may give Stewart a shot this weekend, you won’t find Newman on any of my rosters. He finished 24th at Talladega.
Jamie McMurray – Many people look at Jamie Mac’s victory at Daytona in the 2010 Daytona 500 and chalk him up as a great restrictor plate driver. Don’t worry, Jamie, they do that to Trevor Bayne as well. But the truth of the matter is that he is average at best. McMurray’s average finish at this track is 17.3 and eleven of his seventeen starts have given him finishes outside of the top 20. Don’t expect the #1 team’s season to turn around on Saturday night.
Denny Hamlin – He has supposedly had a race-winning car for the last seven races but bad luck has not given this team the finishes they deserve. Don’t be silly, Denny. He finished 3rd here in 2009 but that has been his only finish better than 17th in eleven starts at this super speedway. The #11 came home 23rd at Talladega.
Bobby Labonte – Some people may remember Bobby’s 4th-place finish in February’s Daytona 500 and think he may be a good pick this weekend, but don’t be fooled. He’s made 37 starts at this track and that finish has been his best, and trust me, lightning will not strike twice for this team. Labonte’s career average finish at Daytona is 21.7.
June 25, 2011
June 24, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdel||Marcos Ambrose||5||11.06|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Juan Pablo Montoya||22||12.25|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Marcos Ambrose||5||14.38|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Robby Gordon||18||15.56|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Juan Pablo Montoya||22||12.81|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Juan Pablo Montoya||22||11.56|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Marcos Ambrose||5||14.50|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Marcos Ambrose||5||14.19|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||44||15.13|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Marcos Ambrose||5||21.00|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Marcos Ambrose||5||15.94|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Marcos Ambrose||5||11.69|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Marcos Ambrose||5||12.38|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Marcos Ambrose||5||14.69|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Juan Pablo Montoys||22||13.13|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Juan Pablo Montoya||22||9.25|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Kasey Kahne||20||14.75|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||A J Allmendinger||13||17.88|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Marcos Ambrose||5||13.00|
June 24, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdell||Carl Edwards||3||12.38|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Jeff Gordon||2||12.50|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Tony Stewart||39||13.88|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Marcos Ambrose||5||10.75|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Juan Pablo Montoya||22||13.56|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Kyle Busch||11||16.31|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Marcos Ambrose||5||11.25|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Juan Pablo Montoya||22||15.13|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||44||14.38|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Robby Gordon||18||14.06|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Juan Pablo Montoya||22||12.75|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Tony Stewart||39||14.69|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Marcos Ambrose||5||13.69|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Kyle Busch||11||10.56|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Jeff Gordon||2||10.38|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Tony Stewart||39||13.00|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Kurt Busch||1||8.75|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Marcos Ambrose||5||9.94|
June 22, 2011
This week the Sprint Cup Series will visit the twisty two-mile track near Sonoma, California: Infineon Raceway. Some NASCAR regulars love these road course tracks, while others just try to survive the race, earn the most points possible, and move onto the next race. This week we also see some unfamiliar faces in the field, otherwise known as the “road course ringers”.
During The Last Race At Infineon…Jimmie Johnson started 2nd and led 55 laps en route to his first road course victory of his career. Marcos Ambrose was leading late but stalled his car trying to conserve fuel under a caution and lost his spot in line–causing him to accept a disappointing 6th-place finish. Robby Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, and Jeff Gordon followed Johnson to the line, giving them all top five finishes.
My Recommendation To Fantasy Racers…The road ringers used to be awesome picks–whether in an allocation league or not–but the rest of the Cup Series regulars have really learned to master these windy tracks lately. Later in this article you will find my views on picking ringers this week. Because it is so difficult to pass on these road courses, I find qualifying to be very important. Of the top nine finishers at this track last season, seven of them started in the top ten. Very few drivers are consistently great at these tracks, and usually each Cup Series regular will have at least one good run here.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Toyota/Save Mart 350:
1. Marcos Ambrose – If my prediction from April is going to be right, the #9 Ford will have to find victory lane this Sunday–and I think Ambrose will. He is one of–if not the–best road racer in the series and probably would have won the race here last season if he didn’t stall his car. In the last two years, Ambrose has the best average driver rating and best average finish at the road course races, even though he has yet to visit victory lane. Considering he should have won in his JTG-Daugherty Toyota last season, you have to believe Marcos will take the checkered flag in his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford on Sunday. His teammate, A.J. Allmendinger, finished 7th here in 2009 while running for Petty.
2. Juan Montoya – If JPM wants to make the Chase this season, he’s probably going to need at least two wins, and he could very easily win at both road courses. He already has a win at each track, and he hasn’t finished outside of the top ten at Sonoma in his four career starts here. Montoya’s average driver rating at Infineon of 104.1 over the past two races is good enough for fifth-best in the series.
3. Jimmie Johnson – “Five Time” finally got a win on a road course last season, taking the checkered flag at this race in June. Over the past two years here, Johnson has the best average driver rating as well as the best average finish, and you have to believe he’s going to come out driving hard after last week’s disappointing finish. Jimmie’s average finish at Infineon is 15.6 but he seems to have the tricky tracks figured out, posting two straight top 5s here and he also has four top 10s in nine starts at Watkins Glen.
4. Tony Stewart – I’m not going to mention the time of year, but Smoke’s 7th-place finish at Michigan last week should be the start of a string of solid runs for the #14 team. Over the past two years, Stewart’s average driver rating of 112.0 is fourth-best in the series, and he’s on a streak of four straight top 10s at this tricky track. Tony’s average career finish in twelve races at Infineon is 9.3 and he has visited victory lane twice here. He’s better at Watkins Glen, but Stewart isn’t too bad of a pick when the series visits Sonoma, either.
5. Kevin Harvick – My prediction that Harvick would slump this season is really turning out the be wrong, and while his average finish at Infineon is 16.8, he finished 3rd here last season and wound up 2nd in the 2007 race at this track. At the other road course track–Watkings Glen–”Happy” has one win and two top 11 finishes in the last three races. Harvick has seven finishes of 14th or better in the last eight Sprint Cup races, and it should be eight of nine after the checkered flag waves on Sunday.
6. Jeff Gordon – Gordon has excelled on the flat tracks this season, but has really disappointed on most intermediate tracks. So how will he do at the road courses? If you go by his recent finishes, one would expect a great run out of the #24 Chevrolet this weekend: Gordon has five straight top 10s here and has finished there in fourteen of the last sixteen races at Sonoma. He has five wins at this track (the last coming in 2006) and he has led an impressive 437 laps at Infineon.
7. Kasey Kahne – This ranking is the most likely one to change once I make my final predictions on Saturday. Kahne didn’t have a finish better than 23rd here before winning at Sonoma in 2009, but he proved he may have gotten the hang of this track last year by winning the pole and finishing a solid 4th. Kasey’s average driver rating of 118.1 is good enough for third-best in the series over the past two years at Infineon Raceway.
8. Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch–in case you haven’t noticed–can win at any track at any time, and ”Rowdy” proved that when he took the checkered flag here in 2008 after leading 78 of the 112 laps ran. He has five straight top 10s at the other road course (Watkins Glen) and that includes a victory in 2008 from the pole. This ranking may be a little too low for Busch, as momentum is important for drivers coming into road course races and he has two straight top fives. Kyle should improve his career average finish of 20.2 at Infineon this weekend.
9. Carl Edwards – Cousin Carl is fast every weekend, and this race should be no exception. At Watkins Glen, Edwards has five straight top 10s, but he hasn’t found that success at Sonoma yet, as he has just two top 10s in his six starts here. With the way Carl’s season is going, though, you have to believe he will have another good run in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday. In allocation leagues, there are probably better choices this weekend, but going against Edwards is usually not a very good decision–especially this season.
10. Kurt Busch – I used to always look at Kurt Busch as a fantasy option when the series came to road courses, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years. His best finish at Sonoma since 2006 has been 15th, but he has four straights top 11s at Watkins Glen during that span. Also, Kurt’s average driver rating over the past two years at Infineon is 7th-best in the series, even though he only has the 26th-best average finish. With the way the Double Deuce has been running (five straight top 14 finishes), I expect Kurt’s luck to change at Sonoma this weekend.
11. A.J. Allmendinger – There are many reasons that I like The Dinger this weekend, and you will probably find him on at least one of my rosters on Sunday. First, he’s now teammates with Marcos Ambrose, and you have to believe that the Tasmanian will share some secrets with A.J. Second, he’s not terrible here: Allmendinger’s last two starts at Infineon have ended in 7th and 13th-place finishes, and at Watkins Glen last season he brought the #43 Ford home in 4th.
12. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Little E has never posted a top ten finish in eleven starts at Infineon, but that could very well change this weekend. He’s having an awesome season–as you probably know–and at Watkins Glen he had three straight top 10s from 2003 to 2005. Remember, Junior has Jeff Gordon’s old crew chief, and those two have found success here recently. Earnhardt has finished between 11th and 13th in three of the last four Sprint Cup races at Sonoma.
13. Ryan Newman – “The Rocketman” isn’t the first name you think of when the series comes to a road course, but he’s not too bad at Sonoma. His average career finish here is 11th and Newman has completed 100% of the laps ran here in his nine starts. He’s never finished worse than 20th at Infineon and has five total top 10s at this tricky track–including a 2nd-place effort in 2006.
14. Clint Bowyer – Before last season’s 31st-place finish at Sonoma, Bowyer recorded three straight top 10s at this track after his 16th-place finish in his rookie attempt. Like Newman, Clint has completed 100% of the laps in all of his starts here and needs a good run to stay in the top ten in points.
15. Greg Biffle – In eight career starts here, The Biff has three top 10s and just two finishes outside of the top 15. He hasn’t finished better than 10th since Darlington, though, and I don’t expect that to change this weekend. However, a solid top 15 is a definite possibility for Biffle. In the last four Watkins Glen races, Greg has brought the #16 Ford home in the top 10 twice.
Breaking Down The Ringers:
There’s no question that each ringer has the skill to score a solid top ten finish at both road course stops on the circuit. What should concern you, though, is whether their equipment will hold up for the full race. Due to this, picking a ringer in your fantasy leagues is extremely risky, but their potential opens the possibility of you having a huge points week.
Boris Said – He isn’t on the preliminary entry list, but you have to believe someone will give Boris a ride this weekend. He ran his (somewhat) usual #26 at Sonoma last season and finished a solid 8th after leading eight laps. From 2004 to 2007, Said had three top 10s in the four Infineon races ran, and he will be the guy many Sprint Cup regulars will be going to for advice this weekend. Edit: Boris Said will drive the #51 Chevrolet this weekend, the same car that Landon Cassill finished 12th with last weekend in Michigan.
Robby Gordon – Gordon finished 2nd here last season, but most of the times when the series visits the road course, the #7 has mechanical issues. Since starting Robby Gordon Motorsports, Robby has started six races at Infineon, and that 2nd-place effort has been his only top 15. He has the talent, but the car reliability is a concern when picking Gordon this week.
Tomy Drissi – In case you don’t know who this is (I didn’t either), his Wikipedia page can be found by clicking here. I am assuming that he is a road course ringer because of my inability to recognize, or pronounce, his name, and he will be driving the #37 Black Cat Fireworks Ford this weekend. He ran the Nationwide Series race at Montreal (road course) last year, finishing 18th after starting 39th.
Tony Ave – Another guy I haven’t really heard of, but Tony Ave has made two starts in the Sprint Cup Series, both at the other road course track, Watkins Glen. His first was in 2004 when Ave qualified 42nd and wound up 31st when it was all said and done. In 2009, he finished 43rd at The Glen. He will be driving the #38 Long John Silvers Ford, which is the same car that Travis Kvapil has driven this season. They’re usually not a start-and-park, so watch Ave in practice.
Andy Pilgrim – This guy has also made two starts in NASCAR, but they were both in the Nationwide Series during the 2007 season. He raced at Montreal and Watkins Glen and finished 15th in both races while piloting the #88 for JR Motorsports. This weekend he will drive the #46 Chevrolet that is usually the seat for J.J. Yeley. Not sure if they will be a start-and-park or not.
P.J. Jones – You usually see P.J.’s name come up when the series visits the road courses, but I wouldn’t recommend picking him. He has started both races at Infineon and Watkins Glen over the past two years and has a best finish of 41st. He will be running a car (#177) owned by Robby Gordon this weekend.
Brian Simo – Simo posted a 10th-place finish at Sonoma in 2005, but he was in the #33 Chevrolet from Richard Childress Racing. This week he will pilot the #181 Whitney’s Collision.com Chevrolet, owned by Dusty Whitney. He will probably be a start-and-park, but I could be wrong. Either way, I would avoid him.
Please Note: The drivers on this list are the ones listed on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Toyota/Save Mart 350. I will update this list (and my thoughts) after practice and qualifying this weekend, and, as usual, you will be able to find that breakdown on www.ifantasyrace.com.
As I said earlier, it seems like every driver eventually has a good run at one of the road course races. For this reason, I won’t be doing an “Avoid” list in this preview, but I will tell you drivers I think you should avoid once practice and qualifying is over with. You already know where you can find that.
June 21, 2011
How to make an informed pick for the Toyota Savemart 350?
1. Picking a driver with a good starting position is crucial at road courses. Seventy percent of all races run at Infineon have been won by a driver starting in the top ten. In the twenty-two races run here only twice has a driver started from 21st or worse and won.
2. Having a good track history is a must for making an informed pick this week. Road course racing is a skill and the turning of a few wrenches won’t help a driver who struggles at serpentine tracks.
3. Practice also has a role this week in the equation of how to make a good fantasy pick. I don’t care about average laps times this week though. What I want to hear is that my drivers happy with their car, their brakes are good, and their not having any trouble with their transmission.
What’s the difference between Infineon and Watkins Glen?
Infineon Raceway is a technical track that is a lot slower than Watkins Glen. Infineon is the “Martinsville” of road courses and Watkins Glen is the “Talladega” of road courses. The difference between them is night and day but a good course driver excels at both. Traditionally this track is tougher on non-road course skilled NASCAR drivers.
Drivers to watch:
Jeff Gordon – 5 Wins here along with 5 straight top tens. Add in how well he’s been doing in recent weeks and this race appears his to lose. Don’t underestimate him this week.
Juan Pablo Montoya – This former Infineon winner / former F1 driver has an impressive 5.75 average finish. Look for him to go all out in the Toyota Savemart 350. Only once in his career has he finished outside the top ten at a road course and it was because of an accident with Kevin Harvick.
Marcos Ambrose – Ambrose had this race won last year but his fuel saving tactic of shutting off his car going uphill ruined his chances. His average finish in the last five road course races is 3.5.
Tony Stewart – Stewart is traditionally better at Watkins Glen but he’s no slouch here. Stewart has two wins here and five at Watkins Glen. He’ll definitely be a favorite this week.
Kyle Busch – In the last ten road course races he has eight top tens. In 2008 he won at both road courses.
Kevin Harvick – Harvick’s a previous road course winner. In 2007 when Juan Pablo Montoya won he might’ve actually had the best car. He just choose not to drive hard because he was given information that the 42 car didn’t have enough gas to make it to the finish.
VegasInsider.com odds to win:
Jeff Gordon 7/2, Jimmie Johnson 9/2, Kyle Busch 6/1, Tony Stewart 6/1, Juan Pablo Montoya 7/1, Marcos Ambrose 8/1, Kevin Harvick 10/1, Kurt Busch 12/1, Robby Gordon 16/1, Carl Edwards 16/1, Boris Said 18/1
June 15, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdel||David Ragan||20||11.47|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Mark Martin||9||11.60|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Brian Vickers||10||15.00|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Brian Vickers||10||15.40|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Brian Vickers||10||12.20|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Greg Biffle||15||10.87|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Greg Biffle||15||15.13|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Kasey Kahne||28||14.80|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||44||13.20|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||44||22.07|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Greg Biffle||15||16.67|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Greg Biffle||15||12.13|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||David Ragan||20||12.87|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Brad Keselowski||25||15.33|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Greg Biffle||15||12.53|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Greg Biffle||15||8.40|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||David Ragan||20||14.40|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||David Ragan||20||18.20|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Brian Vickers||10||13.53|
June 15, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdell||Carl Edwards||5||13.00|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Carl Edwards||5||13.20|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Carl Edwards||5||12.20|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Matt Kenseth||2||11.13|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Carl Edwards||5||13.00|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Dale Earnhardt Jr||21||16.67|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Carl Edwards||5||11.67|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Matt Kenseth||2||14.67|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||44||12.40|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||44||13.80|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Carl Edwards||5||12.13|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Jimmie Johnson||27||13.07|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Jimmie Johnson||27||14.27|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Carl Edwards||5||10.53|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Kevin Harvick||14||10.93|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Carl Edwards||5||11.27|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Tony Stewart||7||9.27|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Carl Edwards||5||10.27|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Matt Kenseth||2||11.07|
June 15, 2011
After last week’s exciting race at Pocono Raceway (I hope you sense the sarcasm), the Sprint Cup Series will head north to Michigan International Speedway for the Heluva Good! 400 this weekend. The last race that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won came at this track in 2008, so you have to believe that he will be one of the contenders on Sunday afternoon. As it has been for mostly every other race this weekend, two practice sessions are set to be held on Friday afternoon while the starting lineup will be set on Saturday. After qualifying, the cars won’t see the track until the drop of the green flag, which will be around 1:15 pm (eastern time) on Sunday.
During The Last Race At Michigan…Kevin Harvick led 74 laps and had an impressive driver rating of 141.0 and got his third (and ultimately final) win of the 2010 season. Denny Hamlin followed “Happy” to the line with Carl Edwards coming home 3rd. Two other Roush-Fenway drivers–Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth–rounded out the top five. During the spring race at this track, Denny Hamlin led 123 laps en route to the taking the checkered flag ahead of Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart. Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, and Joey Logano were the only drivers to post top 10 finishes in both Michigan races last season.
My Recommendation To Fantasy Racers…Some people may not think that qualifying is important, but if you look at the results of the Michigan races last season, it proved to be. In the spring race, seven of the top ten qualifiers finished in the top 13, and in the fall race, nine of the top ten qualifiers finished in the top 14. As with every week, practice speeds should be in the back of everyone’s minds–especially Happy Hour, when most teams will be in race trim only. Auto Club Speedway is the only other 2-mile intermediate track on the schedule so you can look back at that race to get an idea of who may be good this weekend.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Heluva Good! 400:
1. Carl Edwards – Here’s something you may not know: every time that Carl Edwards has finished outside of the top ten this season, he has gone on to record a top five finish in the following race. Putting that tidbit aside, Michigan is Edwards’ second-best track on the circuit (statistically) and he owns two victories at this 2-mile track. Carl has finished outside of the top 10 just twice in his thirteen starts in the Irish Hills and four of his last five starts here have ended in top five finishes.
2. Jimmie Johnson – When I look at the stats over the past two years at Michigan, Jimmie Johnson is way down on the list in terms of average finish (18.25). However, over those four races “Five Time” has led the most laps (280) and has had the best average driver rating (117.1) of anyone in the series, which tells you that he runs well but just hasn’t gotten the finishes. Michigan is very similar to Auto Club Speedway and Jimmie almost won at that track earlier this year. He’s never won at this track but Johnson should challenge for the win on Sunday.
3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Speaking of challenging for the win…when is Dale Junior finally going to end his winless streak? As I said earlier, Michigan is the site of Dale’s last win and he does have two top 10s in his last three starts here. It seems like every week many people are saying Earnhardt, Jr. is going to win the race, which is normal for any week–except one thing: this season, he could have legitimately won multiple races. Don’t worry Junior Nation, your king will find victory lane soon enough.
4. Kevin Harvick – As I said before, California is the sister track to Michigan, and I hope you remember who won that race earlier this season and how. If not, click here to watch it. “Happy” is the most recent winner at Michigan as well and his average career finish here is 14.7. He also hasn’t finished worse than 11th in the past four Sprint Cup races, and I don’t expect that to change this weekend. I said in the off-season that Harvick would have a down-year in 2011, but he’s really making me look bad thus far.
5. Greg Biffle – I don’t know what it is about this team and fuel, but they need to sort out their problems if they plan on winning a race this season. The Biff recorded top 10 finishes in both Michigan races last season and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him running there throughout the entire Heluva Good! 400 on Sunday. Biffle won here in 2004 and 2005 and has ended up in the top ten in ten of his sixteen starts here. He finished 11th at Auto Club Speedway earlier this year.
6. Matt Kenseth – Matt is a two-time winner at Michigan International Speedway and you have to believe that he will have a shot at winning the race on Sunday. He has just one top ten finishes in the last four races here but this is his second-best track (statistically) as he has an average finish of 9.8 at Michigan in 23 career starts. The #17 Ford came home 4th in California earlier this season.
7. Denny Hamlin – Over the past four races at Michigan, Denny Hamlin has the best average finish (4th) and the second-best average driver rating (113.0) of anyone in the series, but this isn’t the same team as last year and it’s hard for me to rank him very high when he’s not getting good finishes at the tracks that he is best at. Hamlin has a four-race streak of top 10s at Michigan, and while I don’t think that streak will end on Sunday, I don’t see the #11 Toyota repeating the 1st and 2nd-place finishes from the 2010 season.
8. Tony Stewart – “Smoke” disappointed all of his fantasy owners last weekend in Pocono, but don’t expect another run like that this weekend. Tony won at this track in 2000 and has finished in the top 12 in eight of the last nine Michigan races. I won’t mention the summer thing as I normally do with Stewart, but I will say this: the 14 will be in victory lane within the next four races. Stewart’s average finish here is 11.83 and he finished 13th at California earlier this season.
9. Juan Montoya – Last week’s tire gambles didn’t work out as planned for the 42 team, but they did come away with their first top ten since Martinsville in early April and I think they could make that two in a row this week in Michigan (as long as Juan doesn’t try to take down the wall). It took a while for Montoya to get used to this place–his best finish was 25th in his first four attempts at Michigan–but he got his first top ten here in his fifth start and hasn’t finished outside of the top 20 since. If he starts in the top ten, pick him. Montoya started from the pole at California earlier this year and went on to record a 10th-place effort.
10. Brian Vickers – Vickers didn’t race here in 2010, but he has won the past three poles at Michigan in the races he has started and he won here in August 2009. Brian is also on a streak of five top 10s at Michigan, believe it or not. This is his third-best track (statistically) on the circuit and Brian brought the #83 Red Bull Toyota home 8th at Auto Club Speedway earlier this season. These tracks are the bread and butter of Red Bull Racing and you should expect to see Vickers in the top ten often during Sunday’s race.
11. Jeff Gordon - Coming off of his second win of the year, many people will have Jeff Gordon ranked pretty high going into this weekend’s race. I’m not sold, though. He won the two flat tracks but he has been less than stellar at the intermediates this year. Jeff ended up 18th at California, 23rd at Texas, and 12th at Darlington–all lower finishes than expected from the #24 Chevrolet at those tracks. At Kansas, though, he finished 4th, so he may continue his streak of good races on Sunday. If he looks good in practice, expect Gordon to shoot up my rankings when I make my final predictions on Saturday.
12. Kasey Kahne – Remember what I just said about Vickers? Well, Kahne is in a Red Bull Toyota as well and he loves these tracks, so a good run can be expected from him this weekend. Kasey started in the top five in both Michigan races last season and went on to post finishes of 2nd and 14th. He ended up 9th–right behind his teammate–at Auto Club Speedway earlier this season, but Kahne hasn’t had a top ten since Darlington in early May.
13. Kurt Busch – The “Double Deuce” has been wicked fast the past couple of weeks and he should have–in my opinion, anyway–visited victory lane in one of those races. Over the past two years at Michigan, the elder Busch brother has the 11th-best average driver rating of anyone in the series and he has two top 10 finishes (an 8th and a 3rd). However, in the other two races, Kurt ended up 36th and 40th. Busch is a multiple winner here, though, and he now has three straight top 10s after his 2nd-place effort in Pocono last weekend.
14. Kyle Busch – “Rowdy” has made twelve starts at Michigan International Speedway, and like last week in Pocono, this definitely isn’t his best track, as he has just three top 10 finishes. Kyle finished 2nd here in August 2008 but his best finish at the Irish Hills since then has been 13th. I’m sure this ranking will end up being too low once it’s all said and done on Sunday, but Kyle Busch’s average finish of 17.8 at this track makes me turn away from him this weekend, especially after him and crew chief Dave Rogers got penalized for the #18 Toyota being too low last weekend; it seems, to me anyway, that a team has a down week after something like that happens. Kyle finished 3rd at Auto Club Speedway earlier this season, though, so he could have a good run at Michigan this weekend, too.
15. Clint Bowyer – This is Clint’s second-worst track on the circuit (statistically) but he hasn’t finished worse than 18th since Darlington in early May and in the last four Michigan races, Clint has two top 10 finishes and a 13th-place effort to his name. Bowyer also finished 7th at California earlier this year, which is the sister track to Michigan. Don’t expect a top five run out of the #33 team this weekend, but a solid top fifteen isn’t out of the question at all.
Just Outside The Top Fifteen Entering The Heluva Good! 400:
David Ragan – The most likely driver to enter the top fifteen once I make my final predictions this week is Ragan. He’s not as good as his teammates are at Michigan, but David finished 11th here last fall and has a 3rd-place effort to his name back in 2008. Statistically, this is his fourth-best track on the circuit.
A.J. Allmendinger – My sleeper of the week for Michigan is none other than A.J. Allmendinger. He wound up 14th at Auto Club Speedway earlier this season and finished 11th and 17th in the two Michigan races in 2010. He’s in a mini-slump recently, though, so make sure The Dinger has a good car before picking him Sunday.
Marcos Ambrose – The Tasmanian finished 15th in both Michigan races last season, and with the way he has been running at the intermediates this year, Ambrose could easily end up around there on Sunday. Watch the #9 Ford closely in practice before keeping him on your final roster this weekend, though.
David Reutimann – Reutty hasn’t finished outside of the top 20 at Michigan in his last five starts, and I don’t expect that streak to end on Sunday. He has one top ten here (a 9th in 2009) and while I don’t think he will grab a second, a top 20 is in reach for the #00 team this weekend.
Brad Keselowski – I still like the way that the Penske Dodges are running even though Keselowski didn’t get the finish he deserved in Pocono last week (in my mind anyway). BK’s best finish at Michigan came in his first start at the track when he finished 24th after starting 12th. Will we see a career-best finish out of Bad Brad this weekend? He did win at Kansas…
Avoid These Drivers For The Heluva Good! 400:
Mark Martin – In case you haven’t realized (or haven’t accepted) it, Mark Martin is done–this season anyway. He may pull off a surprise top ten run in a few races this season, but to have him on your fantasy rosters is entirely too risky. He has just three top 10s in the last eleven races at Michigan and he finished 20th at Auto Club Speedway.
Ryan Newman – “The Rocketman” won here in 2003 and 2004, but since then his best finish at “The Irish Hills” has been 12th. Furthermore, in his last six starts at this track, Newman has just one finish inside the top 20. He ran well at the intermediates earlier this season, so I could change my mind on Saturday, but right now I would avoid the #39 Chevrolet.
Paul Menard – If this race was the fourth or so of the season, I might like Paul to turn his luck around at Michigan, but it’s not. His average career finish here is right around 25th but Menard did cross the stripe 16th at California. Once again, though, that was earlier in this season when this team got off to their fast start.
Jeff Burton – Even if Jeff Burton was running consistently fast this season, I would still tell you to avoid him this weekend at Michigan. He finished 8th here last spring after starting 5th, but that is Burton’s only top ten in the last sixteen races at this track. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is the week the #31 team finally gets a top ten.
Jamie McMurray – Do I even have to explain this one? Jamie Mac deserves a permanent spot on everyone’s “Avoid” list this season.