July 28, 2011
Now that the NASCAR season is officially past halfway, it’s time to separate the men from the boys in fantasy racing. There will be no more off-weeks for the Sprint Cup Series until the season is over at Homestead, which will make many people–myself included–very happy. There are two practices scheduled to be held on Friday, and I would assume that most cars will work on their race setup for both of those sessions because there is another practice on Saturday morning before qualifying. If a driver struggles in practice, I would stay away from him this week.
During The Last Race At Indianapolis…Jamie McMurray grabbed his second huge victory of the season by taking the checkered flag at the 2010 Brickyard ahead of Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, and Tony Stewart. Even though Juan Montoya won the pole and led 86 laps, you probably remember that he was in a late-race incident with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Montoya also had a great race going for him in the 2009 Brickyard but ended up a disappointing 11th.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Brickyard 400:
1. Jimmie Johnson – If the race at New Hampshire showed me anything, it was that this 48 team can overcome multiple mistakes during a race and still come out with a solid finish. I still think this team is due for a win here soon, and with three victories under his belt at Indianapolis, look for Jimmie Johnson to once again contend this weekend. His average finish of 18.3 in nine starts at this track may turn some fantasy racers away, but “Five Time” has finished in the top five in every flat track race this year, and I don’t see that changing this weekend. Just imagine how much less JJ will have to work if there aren’t any mistakes made.
2. Jeff Gordon – If Gordon wouldn’t have ran out of fuel in New Hampshire (I’m still baffled as to how that happened) he would be 3-for-3 for top 5s at flat tracks, and I have said all season long that this team is completely different when the series comes to these tracks. The four-time Brickyard champ has finished outside of the top 10 just four times in seventeen career starts here, and Gordon has three top 10s in his last four starts at Indy. The #24 Chevrolet ended up in victory lane at Pocono as well as Phoenix, which are decently similar (in my mind) to Indianapolis.
3. Tony Stewart - “Smoke” finally got the finish in New Hampshire, and I think he will continue his strong running as of late this weekend in Indianapolis. Statistically, this is Stewart’s second-best track: he just one finish outside of the top 20 in twelve starts as well as two wins. In the last seven Brickyard races, Tony has six top 10s, and all but one of those were top 5s. The #14 Chevrolet finished 21st at Pocono, but the other two flat track races (New Hampshire and Phoenix) have given this team finishes of 2nd and 7th.
4. Kevin Harvick – Believe it or not, this is Harvick’s second-best track on the circuit. In ten races here, “Happy” has posted seven top 10s–including one win from the pole back in 2003–which accounts for his average finish of 9.9. With only two finishes outside of the top eleven for Harvick, I don’t see this team struggling this weekend, and the fact that the #29 ended up 5th in Pocono has to be re-assuring for fantasy owners.
5. Carl Edwards – Cousin Carl has made six starts at Indianapolis and has come away with three top 10s and a worst finish of just 18th. He has scored all three top 10s in “even year starts” (2006, 2008, 2010), though, and has posted finishes of 12th, 18th, and 15th in the “odd year starts” (2005, 2007, 2009). Will this little streak continue? I don’t think so because the #99 Ford has been great all season, and has even been good on the flat tracks but Edwards hasn’t earned the finishes. Don’t expect to see Carl near the front at the beginning of the race, though, as his average start at Indy is a measly 27.3.
6. Kyle Busch – How often does “Rowdy” Busch have two bad races in a row? Not often, and after his 36th-place finish at New Hampshire, I expect Kyle to turn around this weekend in Indianapolis in a big way. His first three starts at this track gave him three top 10s, and after a couple stumbles (15th in 2008 and 38th in 2009), Busch rebounded last season with a solid 8th-place finish at the Brickyard after starting 23rd. The #18 ended up 2nd and 3rd at Phoenix and Pocono, respectively, which are the two other flat tracks other than New Hampshire.
7. Juan Montoya – Over the past two years at Indianapolis, JPM has the best average driver rating (125.6) and has led the most laps (202) than anyone in the series, yet he has the 22nd-best average finish (21.5). Will this be the year Montoya puts everything together and breaks into victory lane? It’s certainly possible, but with the recent crew chief swap, I don’t see it happening. He has the skills to race this track better than most (remember Montoya finished 2nd here in his rookie year) but he’s a very risky pick, as you should know by now. Juan has started on the front row in three of his four Brickyard starts, though, so you should be able to pick up some qualifying points in Yahoo! this week. The #42 ended up 7th at Pocono in June.
8. Kasey Kahne – One driver you don’t think of right away when the series comes to Indianapolis is Kasey Kahne, but he should be in the back of your mind this weekend. Kahne has posted top 12 finishes in all three flat track races this season and has four top 10s in seven starts at Indianapolis. If you take away his 36th and 40th-place efforts in 2006 and 2007 (both listed as accidents) Kasey has never finished outside of the top 13 at this track. His teammate, Brian Vickers, got a top five finish here in 2009.
9. Matt Kenseth – Matt finished 8th at Pocono in June and I think he has the potential to finish right around there in Indianapolis on Sunday. His average career finish here is right around 15th, but Matt has two top 10s in the last four Brickyards and a 12th-place effort during that span as well. He struggled in New Hampshire–as many people predicted the Roush Fords would–but Kenseth still has five top 10s in the last seven Sprint Cup races, and barring any accident or engine failure, Matt should make that six of the last eight once the checkered flag waves on Sunday.
10. Joey Logano – “Sliced Bread” continued his hot streak in New Hampshire with a 4th-place effort, and I expect it continue this weekend in Indianapolis. Logano has made just two starts at this 2.5-mile track, but he owns 9th and 12th-place finishes after starting 34th and 18th in those races, respectively. Joey finished 11th at Pocono in June and that’s right about where he should end up in Indiana on Sunday.
11. Clint Bowyer – Bowyer has to get out of this slump he is in (two top 10s in the last eight Sprint Cup races) soon…right? This has been a good track for Clint, but if he doesn’t impress people in practice, go ahead and take him off of your roster before the drop of the green flag. He’s finished 4th here twice (in 2006 and 2010), but Bowyer’s three other starts at Indy have ended in finishes of 13th, 19th, and 18th. Which #33 Chevrolet will show up this weekend? I guess we’ll find out soon enough, but I wouldn’t bank on a top 10, and even this 11th-place ranking may be too high.
12. Ryan Newman – If you have the 2011 Athlon Sports magazine Racing Preview, you probably noticed that they list “The Rocketman” on the “Runs on Seven Cylinders” list for Indianapolis. While Newman hasn’t been spectacular at this track, he has been consistent as of late, and with his win in New Hampshire, Ryan should have boosted confidence coming into his home track. He has just one top 10 in ten starts at this track, but Newman has finished 13th or 14th in three of his past five starts here. The #39 has ended up in the top 10 in every flat track race this season, including a 9th-place effort at Pocono in June.
13. Kurt Busch – Indianapolis isn’t Kurt’s best track, but you can’t overlook the fact that the “Double Deuce” hasn’t finished worse than 14th since May 7th in Darlington, and has six top 10s in the last eight Sprint Cup Series races. Busch has made ten starts at this 2.5-mile racetrack and has an average finish of 18.1 with four top 10s, including one last season. This ranking may be a little too low for the elder Busch brother, so be sure to check out my post-qualifying predictions over at ifantasyrace.com on Saturday afternoon.
14. Denny Hamlin – Hamlin poses the biggest question mark in the field for me. He is an awesome flat track driver, but Denny’s finishes at Indianapolis are nothing short of disappointing. He posted a 3rd-place finish here in 2008, and that combined with his 10th-place effort in 2006 are his only finishes better than 15th in five career starts here. Here’s something to think about: Hamlin hasn’t finished worse than 15th in “even year starts” at this track (2006, 2008, 2010), but his finishes in the “odd year starts” (2007, 2009) have been 22nd and 34th. If this continues, expect a down week from the #11 Toyota this weekend.
15. Greg Biffle – He may be ranked high in other fantasy NASCAR writer’s minds, but you won’t find Biffle on any of my rosters this weekend unless he really blows me away in practice. Greg has the best average finish at Indianapolis over the past two years of anyone and he is on a streak of four straight top 15s here (three straight top 10s). However, The Biff has a new crew chief this weekend, which makes me leery, and this team has really struggled on the flat tracks this season. The #16 hasn’t finished in the top ten since June 5, and I don’t expect that to change after Sunday.
Just Outside The Top Fifteen Entering The Brickyard 400:
16. Mark Martin – Mark “The Kid” Martin has six straight top 11 finishes at Indianapolis, but this team has barely even sniffed the top 11 since late May. Martin scored a 9th-place finish at Michigan, but other than that his best finish since Charlotte on May 29th has been 19th. Mark is a good driver at this track, but you have to question his equipment this season as well as the entire #5 team. This veteran will need a whole bunch of luck to come close to the top ten this week.
17. Martin Truex, Jr. – Truex finally finished a race and got the finish he deserved in New Hampshire (thankfully because I put him on my roster), and I think that will give Martin a little momentum coming into Indianapolis. His best finish here came in 2007 when he came home 12th, and if you take out Truex’s 42nd-place finish in his first start here, his average finish here jumps to 19.6 (from 23.3). The #56 wound up 10th at Pocono and ended up 14th earlier this season in Phoenix.
18. A.J. Allmendinger – Here’s another driver with a new crew chief, which makes you wonder whether or not they will be meshing well enough to have a strong running in one of NASCAR’s most prestigious races. I’ve liked The Dinger on flat tracks all season, and he brought the #43 home in 9th at Pocono in June. In three starts at Indy, A.J. has an average finish of 15.3 and captured a top 10 here during his rookie year. Watch for Allmendinger to jump up my board if he catches my eye in practice.
19. Jeff Burton – I really though Burton would finally get a top 10 in New Hampshire–which is why he was on most of my rosters–but of course he ended up being his normal self and disappointing fantasy owners. However, I think this team hit on something (they were really fast at the beginning of that race) and will transfer over to a decent run at Indy. However, I’m being conservative and placing Burton in 19th right now. He does have three top 10s in the last four Brickyard races, though.
20. Jamie McMurray – As long as his engine don’t blow, I think Jamie Mac should be pretty trustworthy for a solid top 20 finish on Sunday. Too bad you don’t win any fantasy leagues by picking 20th-place drivers. As you probably remember, McMurray won this race last season, and he posted a 6th-place effort in 2008, but Jamie’s other finishes since 2004 have been 17th, 26th, 33rd, and 21st.
Avoid These Drivers For The Brickyard 400:
David Reutimann – If Reutty posts a fast lap in qualifying, I may bump him up in my rankings, but even then it would be risky to put the #00 Toyota on your roster this weekend. He finished 8th after starting 5th here in 2009, but in Reutimann’s three other starts at this 2.5-mile track, his best finish is 28th and his best start has been 29th. David started 9th and finished 13th at Pocono.
Brian Vickers – Vickers finished 5th in his last start at Indianapolis, but that was back in 2009 and I think missing a year will set Brian back a bit. His best effort on the flat tracks thus far in the 2011 season has been 22nd (back in Pocono) and he’s simply too unreliable to be picked this weekend. As I said before, though, his Red Bull Racing teammate would be an excellent pick for the Brickyard.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - Junior’s top 15 in New Hampshire surprised me, but the fact of the matter is that the sport’s most popular driver hasn’t posted a top ten since Pocono back in June. That in itself could translate to a good run this weekend, but I don’t see that happening: Earnhardt has eleven starts at Indy and has posted just two top 10s, compared to five finishes outside of the top 20.
Greg Biffle – The Biff has a three-race streak of top 10s at Indianapolis, and has finished 4th and 3rd in the last two races here, but I think he and his new crew chief are going to struggle this weekend. In the last three flat track races, Biffle’s best finish has been 18th, and he hasn’t had a top ten since early June. If he impresses me during practice and qualifies well, I may change my mind, but right now you won’t find the #16 on any of my rosters.
July 28, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdel||Greg Biffle||7||10.50|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Juan Pablo Montoya||28||13.50|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Juan Pablo Montoya||28||15.55|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||A J Allmendinger||22||15.55|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Juan Pablo Montoya||28||14.25|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Juan Pablo Montoya||28||13.35|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Joey Logano||25||14.95|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Clint Bowyer||13||13.00|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||No Pick||44||20.90|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||No Pick||44||24.10|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Juan Pablo Montoya||28||18.25|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Greg Biffle||7||12.35|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Juan Pablo Montoya||28||14.50|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Jeff Burton||35||17.40|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Greg Biffle||7||14.05|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Greg Biffle||7||9.85|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Kasey Kahne||18||14.60|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Juan Pablo Montoya||28||17.25|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Juan Pablo Montoya||28||13.75|
July 28, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdell||Kevin Harvick||11||13.05|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Jimmie Johnson||19||13.55|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Tony Stewart||6||12.55|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Carl Edwards||14||11.05|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Tony Stewart||6||13.70|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Tony Stewart||6||14.95|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Jeff Gordon||2||12.35|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Kurt Busch||21||15.10|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||No Pick||44||20.30|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Tony Stewart||6||13.05|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Tony Stewart||6||11.65|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Kevin Harvick||11||14.55|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Kevin Harvick||11||13.00|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Kyle Busch||10||10.90|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Tony Stewart||6||11.90|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Jeff Gordon||2||11.80|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Jimmie Johnson||19||9.25|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Tony Stewart||6||9.40|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Jeff Gordon||2||13.20|
July 26, 2011
Important Fantasy Notes for the Indianapolis Brickyard 400:
1) Forget 2008 ever happened. There wasn’t a race that year, it was a battle of who could last 15 laps before their tire blew. If a driver finished poorly in 2008 forgive them and look the other way for your fantasy teams sake this weekend.
2) It’s important to take Pocono seriously this week. Both tracks require competitors to have a superior engine to really succeed. Both have big straightaways and the Tunnel Turn at Pocono is modeled after turns at Indy.
3) Starting position is a must this week. It’s flat out hard to pass at Indy because it’s such a narrow track. As I just mentioned only drivers with superior engines will be able to makes passes this week. Nine of the seventeen races won at Indy have been won by a driver who started in the top five. The farthest back anyone’s won from is 27th.
4) When you make a pick at Indy look for drivers who you think can win the championship. This race is typically won by drivers who win the championship. Four out of the last six races at Indy have been won by the eventual champion. Indy winners who went on to be the eventual champion are Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, and Dale Jarrett. In total 8 of the 17 winners of this race won the championship.
Five Drivers to watch in the Indy Brickyard 400:
Jeff Gordon – Gordon has four wins in the Indianapolis Brickyard 400 including the inaugural race in 1994. Out of the races we’ve seen this year Pocono is the most similar to Indy and of course Jeff Gordon won that race.
Kevin Harvick – Harvick won at Indy in 2003. Last year Harvick finished second to surprise winner Jamie McMurray. In ten races at this 100 year old track he’s only finished 11th or worse twice. It’s also notable that Harvick has three straight top five finishes at Pocono (similar track).
Tony Stewart – Stewart won at Indy in 2007. In his last two performances at this historic track he’s finished 5th and 3rd. Loop data wise his average running position in the last two races here is ninth.
Jimmie Johnson – Johnson has won three out of the last five races at Indianapolis Motorspeedway. Before you sign the dotted line and pick Johnson it’s important to note his hero or zero pendulum performances in the Brickyard 400. Beyond his three wins he only has one other top ten and five finishes of 18th or worse.
Matt Kenseth – Kenseth is a big name sleeper who I think will be a contender at Indy. He’s come very close to winning on multiple occasions. When you look at his stats going back to 2002 (omitting 2008, flat tire) his worst finish is 16th, and his average finish is 7.5.
To see the rest of my rankings check out my Indy Fantasy Preview
TheSpread.com Odds to win the Brickyard 400:
Jimmie Johnson 6/1, Carl Edwards 6/1, Kyle Busch 8/1, Kevin Harvick 10/1, Matt Kenseth 10/1, Jeff Gordon 10/1, Juan Pablo Montoya 10/1, Kurt Busch 10/1, Tony Stewart 10/1, Denny Hamlin 12/1
FantasyRacingCheatSheet.com Momentum over the last three races:
1)David Ragan 2)Joey Logano 3)Kasey Kahne 4)Ryan Newman 5)Tony Stewart 6)Jeff Gordon 7)Denny Hamlin 8)Jimmie Johnson 9)Matt Kenseth 10)Kurt Busch
July 14, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdel||Clint Bowyer||17||10.68|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Clint Bowyer||17||12.74|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Clint Bowyer||17||14.89|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Kasey Kahne||6||15.21|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Juan Pablo Montoya||30||13.53|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Martin Truex Jr||8||12.58|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Joey Logano||4||14.42|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||A J Allmendinger||12||13.00|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||19.68|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Regan Smith||33||23.05|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Brad Keselowski||35||17.74|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Clint Bowyer||17||12.63|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Brad Keselowski||35||13.79|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Brad Keselowski||35||16.47|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Brad Keselowski||35||14.42|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Joey Logano||4||10.00|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Clint Bowyer||17||14.42|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Jeff Burton||16||16.68|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Clint Bowyer||17||13.00|
July 14, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdell||Kyle Busch||36||13.16|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Jeff Gordon||11||13.26|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Kurt Busch||10||12.89|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Kurt Busch||10||10.89|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Kyle Busch||36||14.11|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Kevin Harvick||21||15.42|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Jeff Gordon||11||12.53|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Tony Stewart||2||14.79|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||19.05|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Ryan Newman||1||13.42|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Denny Hamlin||3||11.95|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Jimmie Johnson||5||14.74|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Jeff Gordon||11||13.11|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Dale Earnhardt Jr||15||10.95|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Kyle Busch||36||12.21|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Jimmie Johnson||5||12.32|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Jeff Gordon||11||8.74|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Jeff Gordon||11||9.58|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Kurt Busch||10||13.79|
July 13, 2011
This week, the Sprint Cup Series visits New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. Parking and traffic shouldn’t dominate the headlines this weekend, as it did before, during, and after the Kentucky race a few days ago (click here to read my story of that race, my first NASCAR experience). Now that my schedule is finally clear for an entire weekend, make sure you check out my Practice Breakdown and Post-Happy Hour Predictions, which can be found at www.ifantasyrace.com. Remember: the Sprint Cup Series takes the weekend after this race off before returning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the last weekend of July.
During The Last Race At Loudon…Clint Bowyer led a race-high 177 laps en route to his first victory of the 2010 season. He would have nearly all of those points taken away though as NASCAR found the rear of his car to not not be up to specs after the race. Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Kevin Harvick all recorded top fives that day. Tony Stewart, as you may remember, was leading with one lap to go but ran out of fuel and finished a disappointing 23rd. “Smoke” led 100 laps that day. In the spring race at New Hampshire, Jimmie Johnson started 10th and led only nine laps but took the checkered flag once it was all said and done. Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Kevin Harvick followed him to the line. Harvick, along with Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., posted top ten finishes in both Loudon races last season.
My Recommendation To Fantasy Racers…Practice, practice, practice. I preached that average speedswould be a huge determinant in the Loudon race last fall, and you can click here to see if I was right or not. There is one practice session scheduled for Friday afternoon, and those speeds will set the qualifying lineup, which starts later that afternoon. I wouldn’t pay much attention to the first practice session speeds. However, there are two practices set to be ran on Saturday morning/afternoon, and I would watch them very closely to figure out who to pick on Sunday. I will also be referring to Pocono and Phoenix a lot in this preview, as those are the other two flat tracks that have been raced on this season. Be sure to check out my Practice Breakdown on ifantasyrace.com, and my Fantasy Predictions will return this week as well.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Lenox Industrial Tools 301:
1. Jimmie Johnson – One of the most surprising things to me thus far in the 2011 season is that the #48 team has only one win and that it came at Talladega of all places. I think that this will change in Loudon on Sunday. Johnson has the best driver rating over the past two years at this track and if a wheel wouldn’t have came loose from his Chevy in last year’s fall race, he would probably be coming into this race with an eight-race streak of top 10s at “The Magic Mile”. “Five Time” has visited victory lane here three times and has finished outside of the top 20 just twice in his eighteen career starts at this flat track.
2. Kurt Busch – I don’t know what Penske hit on, but week in and week out both of their cars are fast–and I don’t expect that to change this weekend. Only Johnson has a better driver rating over the last two years at Loudon than the elder Busch brother, and the “Double Deuce” came home 2nd and 8th at Pocono and Phoenix, respectively. Kurt has visited victory lane three times at New Hampshire, and you have to believe that he will grab a victory here soon. Will it be this week? I guess we’ll find out. Before Kurt’s 13th-place effort in the last race here, he had a streak of five finishes in the top 6 at this track.
3. Kyle Busch – After last week’s dominating performance at Kentucky Speedway, it’s official: no one is as hot as “Rowdy” Busch is right now–not even his brother. Over the last five Sprint Cup races, Kyle has accumulated 199 total points, five more than Kurt. In the last ten, the younger Busch brother has amassed 367 points. Matt Kenseth is a distant second in that category with 350 points collected. At Loudon, Kyle Busch has one win and eight top 11 finishes in twelve starts. At Pocono, Busch finished 3rd after starting 34th, and at Phoenix he 23 laps before finishing runner-up to Jeff Gordon. This season it’s been boom or bust for Busch, so expect either a top five or a mid-teens finish out of the #18 on Sunday. I’d bet on the former, though.
4. Tony Stewart – Fantasy owners are getting a surprise this summer: “Smoke” hasn’t been a great pick week in and week out. He has had great race cars, though, and eventually this team will put everything together and get the finish they deserve. Over the last four races at this track, Stewart has the third-best average driver rating in the series and two top five finishes, which both came in the summer race. Tony has led at least one lap in the last seven races at New Hampshire, and remember: he was leading the last race here with one lap to go and ran out of fuel (giving him a 24th-place finish). When you take that out of the equation, “Smoke” hasn’t finished worse than 14th at this track since early 2007.
5. Jeff Gordon – This year I haven’t really liked picking Jeff Gordon, but he’s 2-for-2 on flat tracks this year and I think he could contend for the win on Sunday as well. Jeff finished 4th and 6th at New Hampshire last season and three wins and five runner-up finishes in his 32 starts here. In the last eleven races at this track, Gordon hasn’t finished outside of the top 15, which is quite an impressive feat when you think about it. In the last two years, only three drivers have a better average driver rating than Gordon at this track.
6. Denny Hamlin – Statistically, this is Denny’s fourth-best track on the circuit, as his average finish here is 7.6 over ten career starts. That average finish is also the best of anyone in the series. He visited victory lane at New Hampshire in 2007, and in two of the last three races here the #11 has finished runner-up. The one thing that really stands out to me when looking at Hamlin’s stats at this track is that he has completed 100% of the laps ran, which is the reason he has never finished outside of the top 15. I don’t expect that to change this weekend.
7. Kevin Harvick – “Happy” won from the pole here in 2006 and has eleven top 10s in twenty career starts at this track. He crossed the stripe in 5th during both Loudon races last season and has finished in the top 15 in four of the last six Sprint Cup Series visits to the track. Harvick notched top five finishes at both Phoenix and Pocono earlier this year, and I don’t think it would surprise many to see the #29 Chevrolet up around there on Sunday, either.
8. Clint Bowyer – Bowyer isn’t consistently great at New Hampshire, but the most recent race winner here does have two career victories on this track and is on a three-race streak of top 10s here. The #33 got caught up in that wreck at Phoenix and wasn’t very competitive at Pocono, so he may drop in my rankings once Happy Hour is over, but going into the race I look at Bowyer as a pretty solid pick. He has the fifth-highest average driver rating at Loudon over the last four races.
9. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Even though Junior didn’t have a great 2010 season, he did find success at Loudon, notched 8th and 4th-place finishes. He has never visited victory lane at this track, but Dale does have six top 5 finishes in his twenty-three starts at “The Magic Mile”. He finished 10th at Phoenix and came home 6th at Pocono, so you have to believe this team is going to get out of their little dry spell (best finish of 19th in the past four Sprint Cup Series races).
10. Ryan Newman - “The Rocketman” is a very good flat track racer, and he has the fourth-best average finish since 2009 on those type of tracks of anyone in the series. At Loudon, Newman has visited victory lane twice and notched twelve top 10s in eighteen career starts. He is on a three-race streak of top 10s at this track and I expect him to make that a four-race streak once the checkered flag waves on Sunday. At Pocono, Newman finished 9th, and at Phoenix he wound up 5th.
11. Carl Edwards – This will be the week that the #99 team has the chance to show that they are championship material. Of the 23 tracks on the Sprint Cup Series circuit, New Hampshire ranks 16th (in terms of average finish) for Carl Edwards. He has made thirteen starts on this one-mile track but has come away with just two top 10s, which were 2nd and 3rd-place efforts in 2006 and 2008, respectively. However, what is impressive to me is that Cousin Carl has just one finish outside of the top 20 in his career, and that was a 25th-place result in this race last season.
12. Brad Keselowski – As you probably know, I don’t like going against anyone on a hot streak, and over the last ten Sprint Cup races, only nine other drivers have scored more points than Brad Keselowski. He’s not blowing anyone out of the water–although I thought for a while that he was going to win in Kentucky–but he has three straight top 15s coming into the race this weekend. At New Hampshire, BK has an average career finish of 16.7, but he grabbed a 6th-place finish in his first start at “The Magic Mile” and won the pole here last September. At Phoenix, Brad brought the “Blue Deuce” home in 15th.
13. David Reutimann – With an average career finish of 17th, this is Reutimann’s third-best track on the series, and I think his 2nd-place run last weekend will give him momentum for a solid run at Loudon on Sunday. He started and brought the #00 Toyota home in 7th in the most recent race at this track and is on a five-race streak of top 15s here. As I’m sure you have figured out by now, Reutty is very hit-or-miss, so if he doesn’t look very good in practice, expect him to fall in my rankings.
14. A.J. Allmendinger – Right here is my sleeper pick for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. Dinger was running in the top five in the last race here before running out of fuel and finishing 12th, and he also brought the #43 Ford home in 9th-place at Phoenix earlier this year. In this race one year ago, A.J. finished 10th. If he starts in the top fifteen and looks decent in practice, you’ll probably find him on at least one of my rosters Sunday.
15. Juan Montoya – The main concern with Montoya this week is whether he is going to get the finish he deserves. He was running great last week in Kentucky but had a pit road speeding penalty and had to settle for a finish outside of the top ten. In the last three Loudon races, JPM has two poles and a 5th-place start, but only one top ten (a 3rd in 2009) to show for it. In those three races he has also led a combined 141 laps. Juan’s average finish here is 19.5 but that should improve after Sunday’s race.
Just Outside The Top Fifteen Entering The Lenox Industrial Tools 301:
16. Joey Logano – If you are going to buy into “Sliced Bread” at New Hampshire, take your chances in the summer race. He won the race here in 2009–albeit being rain-shortened–and followed that up with a 9th-place in the summer race last season. In the fall races, though, Logano’s best finish in three starts has been 21st. Joey finished 11th at Pocono and started 6th at Phoenix before he had engine problems. If the #20 Toyota is fast in practice, expect Logano to move up my rankings when I make my post-Happy Hour predictions on Saturday.
17. Jeff Burton – Even this ranking may be a little to high for Burton, but I’m going to go with it. His 19th-place effort in Kentucky last weekend has been the #31 Chevrolet’s best finish since mid-May, but the team has been consistent in that span, with all finishes coming between 19th and 25th. Burton’s last three starts at Loudon have given him finishes of 16th, 12th, and 15th, and he finished 20th at Pocono last June. It’s hard to believe that this team still do not have a top 10 to their credit this season, and I just don’t see that changing this weekend.
18. Matt Kenseth – Please scroll down to the “Avoid” section of my post to read my thoughts on Matt Kenseth this weekend…
19. Kasey Kahne – Kahne started 2nd and led 110 laps in this race last season before an engine issue delegated him to a 36th-place finish. He followed that up with a 14th-place effort in the fall race at Loudon. Kasey’s best finish here is 4th, but that came in 2004, and his best finish in the last nine races at this track has been 10th. The fact that he has completed less than 90% of the laps ran here is enough for me to avoid Kahne this weekend. He finished 12th and 6th at Pocono and Phoenix, though, so I could be wrong.
20. Mark Martin – Martin won here in 2009, but I expect him to be his usual self on Sunday. He finished 21st and 29th in the two Loudon races last season and if you still think the #5 time has a chance to be competitive this season, I’m guessing you’re not doing very well in fantasy. In ten of Martin’s first twelve starts at “The Magic Mile” he finished in the top 10, but that was in the 90′s and this is 2011.
Avoid These Drivers For The Lenox Industrial Tools 301:
Matt Kenseth – I may have him ranked this week, but you won’t find him on any of my rosters. Matt hasn’t finished better than 17th at Loudon since 2007, but he used to find success at this track so I could end up being completely wrong on the #17 this weekend. From 2003 to 2007, Kenseth posted ten top 10s in eleven races at “The Magic Mile” and the lone finish outside of that was a 14th. He ended up 8th and 12th at Pocono and Phoenix, respectively, earlier this year.
Jamie McMurray - I wouldn’t touch Jamie Mac for the rest of the season. This has done a complete 180 from their very successful season in 2010. Jamie finished 3rd here last year, but that was then and this is now. Before that run, you have to go back to 2004 to find McMurray’s last top ten at New Hampshire. His average career finish at this track is 22.2.
Martin Truex, Jr. – Truex found some success at “The Magic Mile” from 2007 to 2008, where he posted four straight top 10s, but since that little run he had (he was running for DEI at the time), Martin has yet to finish better than 19th here. He finished 10th and 14th at Pocono and Phoenix, respectively, but I don’t see Martin coming anywhere close to that this weekend.
David Ragan – His momentum may give him a little luck this weekend, but I would still avoid David Ragan at New Hampshire. His best finish came in his first start at this track–he ended up 15th after started 32nd–and David has only completed 94.6% of the laps in the races he has started here. If you’re in an allocation league, I wouldn’t even think about starting Ragan this week. If not, and you feel like taking a major risk, make sure he starts up front and looks stout in practice.
July 12, 2011
How to make an informed pick at New Hampshire:
1) Study past races at New Hampshire, NASCAR visits this venue plenty of times so there’s an abundant amount of fantasy data available. Things may change but because this is a drivers track past history is especially important here.
2) Studying recent similar track results should be second on your list in terms of making a good fantasy pick for New Hampshire. The tracks I would recommend you study are Phoenix and Richmond. Back in Kurt Busch’s final year at Roush Fenway Racing he won at Richmond and because these tracks are similar to each other his chassis returned to the track the following week and was raced by Mark Martin. This of course happened back in the “old car” days so it’s a testament about how similar these tracks are to each other.
3) Practice has a role in terms of making fantasy picks every week. This week if you watch practice make sure you focus on selecting drivers who are strong on long runs. At New Hampshire a fuel window should be around ~80 laps, so a long run will truly be a long run on Sunday.
4) Track position has been very important all year long so picking a driver who starts up front is always a plus. However the good teams always get to the front here. They may not get to the front by passing tons of cars but they’ll get to the front through pit strategy.
5) One thing I really wouldn’t focus on this week is studying correlations between New Hampshire and Martinsville. You can do it if you believe there similar, but I’m going to pass on that. New Hampshire is twice as large. That’s a big deal and as a result I’m leaving Martinsville out of my equation this week. Fantasy wise I view Martinsville is a unique track. If you really want to hang on to the theory their similar study the differences between how good Kurt Busch is at New Hampshire and how lack luster he is at Martinsville.
Drivers to watch in the New Hampshire Industrial Tools 301:
Denny Hamlin – Hamlin hasn’t led a lot of laps at New Hampshire but beyond that he’s as good as gold this week. He has one win and an impressive 7.6 average finish. In ten starts Hamlin has never finished outside the top fifteen.
Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch has one win at New Hampshire and he’ll certainly be looking like the driver to beat heading into the weekend. What I really like about Kyle Busch is how strong he’s been on similar tracks this season. At Phoenix he finished second to Jeff Gordon and at Richmond he absolutely dominated. Some say Martinsville is a similar track (I have my disagreements here) and he finished 3rd there.
Kurt Busch – Kurt Busch has an excellent record at New Hampshire. Last fall he finished 13th but in the five preceding races he finished inside the top six every race. Kurt has three wins at New Hampshire.
Jimmie Johnson – Johnson is the defending champion of this race and he’ll be tough to beat in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. Last year Johnson had the third best driver rating (109.45) in both combined New Hampshire races.
Kevin Harvick – Harvick finished 5th in both races last season. In 2006 he won the Chase opening race at New Hampshire and led 196 laps. Some more positives about Harvick is that he finished 4th at Phoenix and won at Martinsville.
FantasyRacingCheatSheet.com Driver Momentum over the last three races:
1)Kyle Busch 2)Jeff Gordon 3)Kurt Busch 4)Matt Kenseth 5)Joey Logano 6)Jimmie Johnson 7)Brad Keselowski 8)Kevin Harvick 9)David Ragan 10)Kasey Kahne
VegasInsider.com Odds to win at New Hampshire:
Denny Hamlin 5/1, Kyle Busch 6/1, Harvick 6/1, Jimmie Johnson 7/1, Jeff Gordon 8/1, Carl Edwards 9/1, Tony Stewart 10/1, Kurt Busch 10/1, Greg Biffle 12/1, Clint Bowyer 14/1, Matt Kenseth 15/1
July 7, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdel||David Ragan||8||10.33|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Joey Logano||14||12.50|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Greg Biffle||21||14.78|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Jeff Burton||19||15.72|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Joey Logano||14||12.61|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Kasey Kahne||13||12.83|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Joey Logano||14||15.00|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Brad Keselowski||7||13.06|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||44||18.33|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Jamie McMurray||36||22.50|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Joey Logano||14||16.78|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Greg Biffle||21||12.39|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Joey Logano||14||12.61|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Mark Martin||22||15.44|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Joey Logano||14||13.28|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Greg Biffle||21||10.33|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Kasey Kahne||13||14.28|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Joey Logano||14||16.72|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Greg Biffle||21||12.78|
July 7, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdell||Carl Edwards||5||11.89|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Carl Edwards||5||13.39|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Matt Kenseth||6||13.06|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Matt Kenseth||6||10.94|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Kyle Busch||1||12.89|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Carl Edwards||5||15.11|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Jeff Gordon||10||12.61|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Kyle Busch||1||15.50|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||44||17.67|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Jeff Gordon||10||14.11|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Kyle Busch||1||12.44|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Greg Biffle||21||15.28|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Carl Edwards||5||13.22|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Carl Edwards||5||10.72|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Kevin Harvick||16||10.89|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Kyle Busch||1||12.72|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Kyle Busch||1||8.61|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Carl Edwards||5||9.50|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Carl Edwards||5||14.00|