August 31, 2011
For the first time since the Sprint Cup Series started racing here, this will be the first and last race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this season. As you probably remember from off-season changes, the second Atlanta race was dropped (in response to requests by owner Bruton Smith) so that Kentucky Speedway–also owned by Smith–would be able to host an event for the top series in NASCAR. Atlanta is a 1.54-mile quad-oval race track with 24-degree banking in the turns and just 5-degree banking on the straightaways. Charlotte Motor Speedway has the exact same banking and is a 1.5-mile quad-oval, so I will be looking back at that race often in this article as well as some of the other intermediate track results. Surprisingly, no driver has a career average finish here better than 10th.
During The Last Race At Atlanta…Back in September of last season, Tony Stewart led 176 of the 325 laps and grabbed his first victory of the 2010 season. Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five that day. Polesitter Denny Hamlin led 74 laps but an engine problem ended his day early and in 43rd place. In the March race at this track, Kurt Busch put the Blue Deuce in victory lane with Matt Kenseth, Juan Montoya, Kasey Kahne, and Paul Menard following him to the line. Kurt Busch and Montoya were the only two drivers that were able to post top 10s in both Atlanta races last season.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Advocare 500:
1. Jimmie Johnson – Although his average finish at Atlanta is 10.4, Jimmie Johnson’s is the best of anyone in the series here. The five-time champion has won three times at this 1.54-mile track and his average driver rating of 104.6 over the past four races here is fifth-best in the series. I still think this team is going to get another win before the Chase starts, and they are really starting to click lately, with four straight top 10s and three of them being in the top 4. In the last two cookie cutter races–Kentucky and Michigan–Johnson has finished 3rd and 2nd, and he finished 3rd here at Atlanta last September.
2. Matt Kenseth – This team has prepared a brand new chassis for this race on Saturday night, and if you look back at what has happened this season, that’s bad news for the rest of the field. At Texas and Dover–in April and May, respectively–Kenseth had a new chassis and visited victory lane both times. That’s not saying he’s a guaranteed lock for a victory on Saturday night, but with eleven straight finishes of 13th or better at Atlanta, you know he’s going to be in the running for the win. By the way: of those eleven straight, six have been top 5s.
3. Kyle Busch – Rowdy’s record isn’t stellar here by any means, but he’s been great on the intermediate tracks this season and that shouldn’t change this weekend. As you probably remember, Busch won at Michigan a few weeks ago and also dominated at Kentucky back in July after finishing 3rd in the first Michigan race. Kyle has started in the top 5 in each of the last three Atlanta races but has just one good finish to show for it (a 5th last September). He has just three top 10s in thirteen starts at this 1.54-mile track, but remember that he won here in 2008 after leading 173 laps and could very well find himself bowing to the crowd for the fifth time this season on Saturday night.
4. Jeff Gordon – With all of the success the next driver in my rankings is having recently (hint: his initials are BK), Gordon’s hot streak has been a little overshadowed. In the last three months, though, Jeff hasn’t finished outside of the top 20 and has just one result worse than 13th. He also has top 10 finishes in the two most recent cookie cutter races (Michigan and Kentucky), but Gordon struggled at Atlanta in 2010, with finishes of 18th and 13th. Before that, though, he had five straight top 10s here, and with his history here (four wins and twenty-three top 10s in thirty-seven races) I don’t see Jeff Gordon finishing any place near his results last season at this track.
5. Brad Keselowski – I’m not going to say much about BK this week–you know the streak he’s on, and not picking him would be like going against Jimmie Johnson during the Chase. At Atlanta, his finishes haven’t been great, bur Keselowski’s best finish at Bristol before his win last weekend was 13th. History doesn’t matter when a driver and team are running like this. Remember though: Keselowski was looking like a top ten car here last March before Carl tried to kill him.
6. Kurt Busch – Kurt has been in a slump lately (one top 10 in the last five Sprint Cup races) but he’s coming to a track that has been kind to him lately. The elder Busch brother has the second-best average driver rating at Atlanta over the last four races here and has led the most laps (373) over that span as well, which includes two victories, a 6th-place finish, and a 38th. He actually had a perfect driver rating (150.0) during his win in March of 2009 here, where Kurt led 234 of the 330 laps after starting 2nd. Since 2006, Kurt has finished outside of the top 15 just once at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
7. Denny Hamlin – In the last four Atlanta races, Denny Hamlin has the third-best average driver rating of all drivers despite posting just one top 10 finish. He has also led at least 23 laps in each of the last three events here. Do you know what that says? Hamlin runs well here, but doesn’t get the finish. With the Chase looming, Hamlin should be on his A-game Saturday night and with a new TRD engine under the hood, I wouldn’t be worried about any engine problems like he has experienced before on the bigger tracks this year. In eleven starts at Atlanta, only two races have ended with Hamlin having a driver rating of less that 88.8, yet he only has three top 10s.
8. Carl Edwards – Carl broke out of his little slump last weekend with a top 10 at Bristol, but was the really the run that put them back on the map? He was favored to win that race by many people yet led only two laps and finished 9th. This team hasn’t really been on top of its game since June and I don’t see them as a top 5 car going into the race. That may change once practice and qualifying is over with, though, so be sure to check out my post-qualifying Predictions at ifantasyrace.com. Edwards has made thirteen starts at Atlanta and has four finishes of 37th or worse. In the nine other races, though, Carl has three wins, two 2nd-place finishes, two 3rd-place finishes, and two 7th-place finishes.
9. Ryan Newman – Over the last seven Sprint Cup races, “The Rocketman” has quietly notched five top 10s and a worst finish of 16th. In the most recent cookie cutter events, Newman has finished 5th and 6th in the two Michigan races and came home 4th at Kentucky. He also looked good at the intermediates earlier this year–which was surprising–with top 5s at both Las Vegas and California. At Atlanta, Newman has two top 10s in his last three starts and he won every single pole here from 2003 through 2005 (six races!). He won’t win on Saturday night but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Flyin’ Ryan grab another top 10 and clinch his spot in the Chase.
10. Tony Stewart – This is one pick that could very easily change a whole bunch of positions in my rankings once practice and qualifying are over with. Smoke’s comments about his team didn’t help much at all last weekend at Bristol, as the #14 Chevrolet came home in 28th place, but Atlanta is a track where this team could get a boost and head into the Chase (or stumble once again). In twenty-four career starts here, Stewart has twenty top 20 finishes–with fourteen of those being top 10s–and has visited victory lane three times. Smoke is also the most recent race winner here and his most recent cookie cutter finishes include a 7th and 9th at the two Michigan races and a 12th-place effort in Kentucky.
11. Kasey Kahne – If this team makes no mistakes this weekend has the #4 Toyota has speed, Kasey Kahne could visit victory lane on Saturday night. However, we all know how under-performing this Red Bull team has been all season and with just two of their eight top 10s on the season coming at cookie cutter tracks, it’s hard to say they are a flat out favorite this week. In the last four Atlanta races, though, Kasey has the best average driver rating and has three top 10s, including a win in 2009, which was his second at this 1.54-mile track. He’s hit-or-miss here, though, so be cautious: in fourteen starts here, Kahne has eight top 10s and six finishes of 28th or worse.
12. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – I personally think Dale Junior is already a lock for the Chase, but because it’s still mathematically possible that he misses it, the talking heads at ESPN and ABC will continue to blab about him all race (unfortunately for us). That being said, I don’t think Junior will push the issue on Saturday night, and if he can post a solid top 15, I think he will be alright with that and feel confident in his Chase chances. He has one victory at Atlanta–which came back in 2004–but hasn’t finished better than 11th here in five races. This Chevrolet has been a mid-teen car for the last month and a half, and I don’t see that changing much. Believe it or not, Earnhardt has just one top 10 in the last ten Sprint Cup races, and that was a 9th at Pocono.
13. Greg Biffle – It’s a cookie cutter track, that should be a lock for Biffle and the Roush crew to all get top 10s, right!? Not so fast. Greg has nine top 10s here in sixteen starts and an average finish of 16.3. He has never won here and of those nine top 10s, only three have been top 5s. He has two top 10s over the last two years here but also two finishes outside of the top 30. Also, the last three intermediate races have ended with Biffle in 20th, 21st, and 15th (Michigan, Kentucky, and Michigan again). If this team struggles to find speed in practice, expect to find the #16 Ford on my avoid list on Saturday.
14. Juan Montoya – Believe it or not, JPM has three straight top 10s at this track. Many believe that this will be the site of his first oval win, and I could see that happening, but not this weekend. Could a top 15 be provided by the #42 Chevrolet on Saturday night, though? It’s certainly possible. If he qualifies in the top 10 or so, I’d consider Juan this weekend. If not, just pass; his momentum coming into this race is less than stellar, anyway: Montoya has five finishes of 19th or worse in the last month and a half.
15. Marcos Ambrose – Marcos has scored the ninth-most points of anyone in the series over the last three Sprint Cup races and has had some decent runs at Atlanta recently. Last March, he finished 11th after starting 12th, and Marcos came back in September and posted his first top 10 at this 1.54-mile track despite starting the race in 32nd. He has been a 20s type of driver in recent cookie cutter races, though, so make sure you keep an eye on Ambrose in practice.
Those To Avoid Entering The Advocare 500:
Kevin Harvick – To say this team is struggling is an understatement. The #29 Chevrolet has looked good over the past month or two in practice, but has really disappointed fantasy owners on race day, with just one top 10 in the last seven Sprint Cup races. He won the race at Charlotte, but you have to remember that fuel mileage was a factor, and he spent much of that race outside of the top 15. Harvick has four top 10s in the last six races at Atlanta but his career average finish here of 20.5 is nothing to ride home about. Going into the race, Harvick is a mid-teens driver at best, and fantasy championships aren’t won picking those guys.
David Reutimann – Reutty is at his best on these intermediate race tracks but Atlanta is a completely different story for him. He has a 4th-place finish to his name that came back in 2009, but in his other six starts here, Reutimann has a best finish of 16th and has cracked the top 20 just twice. His only top 10s of this 2011 season have came at Charlotte and Kentucky, but other than those two races this #00 team has been sub-par at best on the ovals.
David Ragan – Statistically, this is David’s fifth-worst track on the circuit, with a career average finish of 25.6. He posted an 8th-place finish in October of 2008, but other than that, his Ragan’s best finish in Atlanta has been 19th, which he has accomplished twice. In eight career starts here, half of them have ended with him outside of the top 30. Ragan has an average finish of almost 22nd since the race at Kentucky, which came after his win in Daytona.
Paul Menard – It’s going to be slim picking this week for the Yahoo! fantasy racers in the C-division. Menard has a 5th-place finish to his name at Atlanta, but other than that, he has just one additional top 10 at the 1.54-mile race track in eight other starts. In that race that Menard came home 5th, he had a driver rating of 88.7, which was good enough for just 12th-best in that race. He finished 29th at Charlotte and the last two “cookie cutter” races (Michigan and Kentucky) have ended with Paul in 26th and 24th position, respectively.
Joey Logano – “Sliced Bread” just can’t seem to get a hold of this place. In four career starts, Joey’s best finish has been 22nd and he has yet to finish on the lead lap. His qualifying efforts aren’t much better here, either, as Logano’s best start at Atlanta was 29th in the spring race last season. You may have guessed it, but statistically this is his second-worst track on the schedule. He posted a 3rd-place finish at Charlotte this season, but Logano’s driver rating of his 71.5 in that race shows that he wasn’t even a top 20 car, which has been the type of intermediate driver he has been all season.
August 30, 2011
How to make an informed Fantasy Pick at Atlanta
1) Studying practice will take you a long way in your quest for making an informed fantasy pick for the Adcocare 500. This week fantasy racers will be able to see practice sessions before they sign the dotted line and are committed to their fantasy pick. There’s long runs at Atlanta so picking a driver who’s good over the many laps is all the more important. Last year in this race the first caution flag didn’t come out until lap 134.
2) Studying recent intermediate track races should also be a focal point for you. Michigan and Kentucky aren’t shaped like Atlanta but it doesn’t mean there isn’t fantasy value there. Remember your a fantasy racer and not a geometry teacher.
3) Past Atlanta success is a good indicator for future Atlanta success. It’s an engineering aero track so you don’t want to dig to deep into the past. I wouldn’t go back anymore than 2008 (COT era).
4) Picking drivers who qualify good here shouldn’t be a must. Drivers who qualify good often finish well, but I think it’s because their good teams.
Five Drivers To Watch in the Atlanta Advocare 500
Jimmie Johnson – This three time Atlanta winner has the best average finish (7.7) in the Sprint Cup series since 2004. Last summer he finished third and led 8 laps. In the two most recent intermediate track races Johnson has finished third (Kentucky) and second (Michigan)
Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch has had highs and lows at Atlanta. He won the first COT race in 2008 and in 2009 he essentially raced his way out of the Chase. Kyle Busch will unquestionably be a top contender in the Atlanta Advocare 500. Last year in the night race he finished 5th but he may very well of had the best car. He had an early pit road speeding penalty that was a major setback. Here’s his Yahoo! race chart from last years race. Kyle Busch is two for two in the last two intermediate track races (Won Michigan and Kentucky).
Carl Edwards – In the summer night race last year Edwards finished second to Tony Stewart. In the spring race he was involved in “an incident” that scared people in the first few rows. In his fully completed races he’s as good as gold here. Edwards has three wins at Atlanta.
Matt Kenseth – There’s not a steadier driver at Atlanta then Matt Kenseth. He’s never won at this fast track but he did finish second last spring. Since the summer 2005 race Matt Kenseth hasn’t finished worse than 13th. In the last four intermediate track races this year he’s come home with finishes of 6th (Kansas), 2nd (Michigan), 6th (Kentucky), and 10th (Michigan 2).
Jeff Gordon – Despite being winless at Atlanta since 2003 look for Jeff Gordon to be a venerable competitor in the Advocare 500. Gordon finished in the teens in both races last year but I think he’ll be extremely competitive Sunday night. Historically Atlanta has always been good for him. He has four wins and twenty three top tens. His average start is 12.6 and his average finish is 12.5.
To see the rest of my rankings check out my Atlanta Fantasy Preview
Sleepers for Atlanta
Brad Keselowski – No one can go wrong by picking Brad this week. Right now he’s looking unstoppable on the track and Tony Stewart should be very concerned about being bumped from the top ten from the 2 team. Last year in the spring Atlanta race Brad had a top six car but Carl Edwards had revenge on his mind.
Marcos Ambrose – Marcos Ambrose is a solid sleeper who’s well below nearly everyone’s radar this week. He’s been strong all year long on similar tracks. This year on 1.5 mile tracks he finished 4th at Vegas, sixth at Texas, and sixth at Charlotte. Last year at Atlanta he finished 10th and 11th. The 9 car has a strong history of success at Atlanta and last year in the spring race Kahne led 144 laps.
VegasInsider.com Odds to win at Atlanta:
Kyle Busch 5/1, Jimmie Johnson 6/1, Kevin Harvick 6/1, Denny Hamlin 7/1, Jeff Gordon 9/1, Tony Stewart 10/1, Carl Edwards 10/1, Kurt Busch 12/1, Matt Kenseth 12/1, Brad Keselowski 14/1, Kasey Kahne 16/1, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 18/1
FantasyRacingCheatSheet.com momentum over the last five races:
1)Brad Keselowski 2)Kyle Busch 3)Jeff Gordon 4)Jimmie Johnson 5)Ryan Newman 6)Matt Kenseth 7)Martin Truex Jr. 8)Dale Earnhardt Jr. 9)Jamie McMurray 10)AJ Allmendinger
Racing4Glory.com Stat Center
August 26, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdel||David Ragan||20||10.67|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Greg Biffle||31||14.75|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Greg Biffle||31||16.46|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Jeff Burton||15||14.92|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Greg Biffle||31||15.38|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Denny Hamlin||7||14.54|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Greg Biffle||31||14.96|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Kasey Kahne||11||13.58|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||no pick||44||24.75|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Marcos Ambrose||10||21.58|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Mark Martin||38||17.33|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Denny Hamlin||7||11.08|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Mark Martin||38||15.29|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Denny Hamlin||7||15.00|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Denny Hamlin||7||14.04|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Greg Biffle||31||11.54|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Greg Biffle||31||14.79|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Kasey Kahne||11||16.50|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Greg Biffle||31||14.25|
August 26, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdell||Kyle Busch||14||14.33|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Kyle Busch||14||14.75|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Kurt Busch||17||13.46|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Tony Stewart||28||11.75|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Kyle Busch||14||13.42|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Kyle Busch||14||15.92|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Kyle Busch||14||13.46|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Carl Edwards||9||15.17|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||no pick||44||24.25|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Kyle Busch||14||12.96|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Kyle Busch||14||12.42|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Jimmie Johnson||4||14.92|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Jimmie Johnson||4||11.79|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Kyle Busch||14||11.58|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Carl Edwards||9||12.08|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Kyle Busch||14||13.29|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Jimmie Johnson||4||9.54|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Kyle Busch||14||11.96|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Kyle Busch||14||14.83|
August 24, 2011
Five Drivers to watch at Bristol:
Kyle Busch – There’s not a better pick you can make this week for the Irwin Tools Night Race then Kyle Busch. He’s won four out of the last five races at Bristol and in the COT era he’s won more than half the races (5/9). In the last five races here his average finish is 3rd, he’s led 861 laps, and he has an impressive 125.16 driver rating.
Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson is the only driver not named Kyle Busch who has won here recently. In the last five races at Bristol there’s no question Jimmie Johnson is the clear second fiddle driver to Kyle Busch. Last season he finished 35th but that was due to a wreck with Montoya. His other finishes in the last five races are 3rd, 8th, 1st, and 3rd. Also in the last five races Johnson has led +84 laps every race for a grand total of 618.
Matt Kenseth – I’ve liked Matt Kenseth at Bristol for a long time. He’s won here multiple times and Roush cars have been extremely strong here in recent races. In the last four Bristol races he’s finished 10th, 5th, 10th and 4th. Another good thing about Matt Kenseth is that no one’s mad at him.
Carl Edwards – Edwards has won the Bristol night race twice. In his most recent win he wasn’t afraid to nudge Kyle out of the lead. In the spring race this year he finished second and led 18 laps. He never ran lower than 13th and his average running position was 5th.
Kurt Busch – Before Kyle Busch started dominating Bristol Kurt Busch was the king here. He’s a five time Bristol winner but his most recent win was back in 2006 (before track reconfiguration and the COT). He’s still a very attractive fantasy pick for Bristol though. In the last four races he’s finished 7th, 9th, 3rd and 7th. In the spring 2010 race he led 278 laps. He should’ve won but in a late restart he was in the slow lane and Jimmie Johnson had his lucky horseshoe.
To see the rest of my rankings check out my Bristol Fantasy Preview
How to make an informed fantasy pick at Bristol
1) Focus on studying the races dating back to the summer 2007 night race. That was the first race on the reconfigured Bristol Motor Speedway. Prior stats before that date are somewhat irrelevant because the old Bristol and the new Bristol race much differently.
2) Since Bristol is a “skill” track studying average finishes is a quick short cut to having a successful fantasy week. Average finishes at skill tracks hold their value.
3) Happy Hour at Bristol will be important. Bristol isn’t a crash up derby anymore and I expect to see green flag pit stops.
4) Qualifying doesn’t hold the value it used to at Bristol. In Kyle Busch’s four most recent wins he never started better than 12th. Bristol in many ways now is a mini intermediate track because drivers can simply change lanes and get around another driver.
5) Drivers who’ve had lots of negative momentum lately should be avoided as a safety precaution. As I said this track isn’t a crash up derby anymore but it’s certainly no place for a driver to expect his negative fortunes to turn around.
VegasInsider.com Bristol Odds:
Kyle Busch 7/2, Jimmie Johnson 4/1, Carl Edwards 6/1, Denny Hamlin 9/1, Kevin Harvick 10/1, Tony Stewart 10/1, Greg Biffle 10/1, Matt Kenseth 12/1, Jeff Gordon 14/1, Kurt Busch 14/1
Racing4Glory.com Stat Center:
FantasyRacingCheatSheet.com Driver momentum over the last five races:
1)Ryan Newman 2)Jeff Gordon 3)Jimmie Johnson 4)Brad Keselowski 5)Kyle Busch 6)Tony Stewart 7)Matt Kenseth 8)Clint Bowyer 9)Martin Truex Jr. 10)Dale Earnhardt Jr.
August 22, 2011
One of the most exciting races of this NASCAR season will take place this Saturday evening at Bristol Motor Speedway as the drivers will gear up for (at least) 500 laps under the lights on this half-mile race track. Races at “The Bull Ring” have recently ended with some surprising faces up front–Paul Menard, David Reutimann, and Marcos Ambrose come to mind–so this may be the week to put some underdogs on your rosters and take a chance. With this track, there is always a chance to go past the scheduled distance, but believe it or not, the last four races haven’t gone past the 500 laps. Your fantasy roster could be ruined in one lap if a driver gets pissed off and decides to take out someone, so it’s pretty difficult to predict these Bristol races. However, I’ll still try my best, so be sure to check out my post-qualifying predictions over at www.ifantasyrace.com.
During The Last Race At Bristol…In March, Kyle Busch got the sweep of the weekend and won his second race in a row on this half-mile track (and fourth of the last five) after leading 153 of the 500 laps ran. Pole-sitter Carl Edwards led only 18 laps but followed “Rowdy” to the line, with Jimmie Johnson, who led the most laps that day with 164, coming home 3rd. Matt Kenseth and Paul Menard rounded out the top five. You can view the full results of that race by clicking here.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Irwin Tools Night Race:
1. Kyle Busch – You’ll be hard pressed to find any fantasy preview this week that goes against “Rowdy” Busch. He’s coming off his fourth win of the season and has won four of the last five races held at Bristol, leading over 35% of the laps ran during that span. His average finish here is 8.7, and that is the best in the series. Kyle’s first two starts at the fastest half-mile in the world gave him finishes of 28th and 33rd, but in the eleven races here since then, he has just one finish outside of the top 10. His 1,370 laps led at Bristol Motor Speedway is second all-time behind Jeff Gordon.
2. Jimmie Johnson – He didn’t get the win last weekend in Michigan, but you have to believe that this team is going to get their second of the season sometime soon. At Bristol, Johnson isn’t dominant, but he does have ten top 10s in nineteen starts and win here last season. In the last five races at this track, “Five Time” has led a total of 618 laps with at least 84 led in each race. Jimmie had the best driver rating–and led the most laps–here in March and has four top 10s in the last five Bristol races.
3. Matt Kenseth – Kenseth is his normal self when the series make a stop at Bristol: consistent. In twenty three career starts, Matt has visited victory lane twice and notched fifteen top 10 finishes while compiling an average finish of 12.2. Even more impressive is that he has finishes outside of the top 15 just five times. Kenseth is on a streak of four straight top 10s at the world’s fastest half-mile and unless he gets wrecked on Saturday night, I expect him to make it five straight once the checkered flag waves.
4. Jeff Gordon – One main thing I’m focusing on this weekend is momentum, and Jeff Gordon has had awesome race cars for the last two months. He hasn’t finished worse than 13th since Michigan in mid-June and I don’t see that changing this weekend at Bristol. Gordon has just one top ten in the last five races at this half-mile track but he has won here five times and has led more laps than anyone here (by over 1,000 laps). When you see that Jeff has finished 14th, 11th, and 14th in the last three races here, it may make you shy away from him, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when that #24 Chevrolet is challenging for the win Saturday night under the lights.
5. Kurt Busch – From 2002 through 2004, Kurt was doing the exact same thing that his brother is accomplishing now, taking four checkered flags in five races and leading a whole bunch of laps (490 to be exact). He struggled a little bit after his dominance, but lately the elder Busch brother has been on top of his game once again: in the last eight races at “The Bull Ring,” Kurt five top 10s and hasn’t finished worse than 15th. He’s on a streak of four-straight top 10s here right now and I fully expect him to make it five-straight once it’s all said and done on Saturday.
6. Ryan Newman – “The Rocketman” wasn’t great here early in his career but he seems to have gotten the hang of this place lately. In the last six Bristol races, Newman has posted five top 10s and a worst finish of just 16th. His average driver rating of 98.1 over the past five races here is also good enough for fifth-best in the series. However, don’t expect much more than a top 10 from Ryan on Saturday night: he has eleven top 10s at this half-mile track but only one of them have been a top 5. This team has to feel pretty good about their Chase chances right now but a mess-up this weekend could hurt them badly.
7. Brad Keselowski – This team is running on a championship-caliber level right now, and with Keselowski posting career-best finishes (top fives at that) in the last two weeks, I could easily see that happening again on Saturday night. In his rookie start here, Brad started 36th but ended up leading 26 laps and finishing a respectable 13th, which is the best finish he has been able to muster in three career starts here. Keselowski’s last two finishes here have been 18th and 19th but I see him continuing this hot streak he is on and posting a solid top ten once these 500 laps are ran.
8. Greg Biffle – The Biff is good at Bristol but I’m not convinced that this team can finish out a race and get the good finish they deserve. His average finish of 10.7 is second-best in the series believe it or not, and while he hasn’t visited victory lane in “Thunder Valley” yet, Biffle does have eleven top 10s to his name here. He’s on a streak of four-straight top 10s at Bristol and has finished in the top 11 in eight of his last nine starts at this half-mile race track. Greg is sixth in terms of average driver rating over the past five races at this track.
9. Carl Edwards – Cousin Carl has been very consistent here, with eleven straight finishes of 16th or better (which includes six top 10s and two wins). However, I can’t look past the fact that this team is really starting to struggle. After last week’s engine woes–in Michigan of all places!–Edwards now has just one top 10 in the last five Sprint Cup races. Bristol would be the perfect place for him to turn his luck around, as Edwards finished runner-up to Kyle Busch in March–but if he struggles in qualifying and practice, expect Carl to make it onto my “Avoid” list for the second week in a row when my post-qualifying predictions go up on Friday.
10. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Overall, Bristol has been good for Earnhardt, Jr., and a good run on Saturday night could solidify his spot in the Chase this year. Even though Little E struggled mightily in 2009 and 2010, he was still able to post two top 10s in four races at Bristol and never finished worse than 14th during that span. He has one win here, which came back in 2004, and has the third-best average finish at Bristol (11.5) of anyone in the series. Statistically this is Junior’s best track and he has finished outside of the top 20 just three times in twenty-three career starts at “The Bull Ring”.
11. Mark Martin – Martin has really flew under my radar for the past month or so, as I pretty much wrote him off after being so unreliable for the first half of the season, but Mark has three finishes of 13th or better in the last four Sprint Cup races and I think he has a great chance of making it four in the last five once the race is over on Saturday night. He has visited victory lane two times in his forty-five career starts at the world’s fastest half-mile and has twenty-three top 10s to his name. If this team is starting to turn a corner like some people think they are, Martin could notch is twenty-fourth top 10 in the Irwin Tools Night Race this weekend.
12. Kevin Harvick – Earlier in this preview I noted how Carl Edwards has been struggling recently. Another driver that seems to be in a slump is Kevin Harvick. He has just one top 10 in the last six Sprint Cup races, and while he is still a pretty solid driver at Bristol, I’m still going to be a little leery putting him on my rosters this weekend. Harvick finished 6th here in March but before that his last top 10 at this track came back in 2008, and as of right now I don’t see “Happy” posting his thirteenth career top 10 at Bristol on Saturday after his twenty-second career start here.
13. Kasey Kahne - Kasey Kahne is pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to Bristol, so–for me anyway–it’s going to be a coin flip whether or not he’s going to make my preliminary rosters this weekend. In fifteen starts at “The Bull Ring,” Kahne has posted six top 10s but he has ended up outside of the top 20 six times as well. He finished 9th here in March during his first start for Red Bull Racing, which also makes it two top 10s in a row for Kasey here, but if he starts worse than 15th or so, I’d pass on KK this Sunday.
14. Tony Stewart – “Smoke” said it himself that this team isn’t Chase-caliber, but I just don’t see them missing the Chase this season. If he gets in a wreck on Saturday, though, my mind will probably change. At Bristol, Steward has led a very impressive 1,354 laps in his career, but lately he has really struggled: in the last five events at this track, Tony has a second-place effort to his credit, but all four other finishes have been 17th, 19th, 27th, and 33rd. I think he’ll be fighting hard to prove that this team can win a championship, but I don’t see Stewart being better than a teens driver this weekend.
15. Juan Montoya – If JPM can control his emotions for the entire 500 laps on Saturday, he has a chance to get a solid top 10 finish. However, this is Montoya, so chances are he’s going to ruin his night (or at least someone else’s) if they get in his way. In the last five races at the world’s fastest half-mile, Montoya has the eighth-best average driver rating but only two top 10s and three finishes outside of the top 20. Those two top 10s (9th and 7th) are also his only finishes there in his nine career starts as well.
Just Outside The Top Fifteen Entering The Irwin Tools Night Race:
16. David Reutimann - Believe it or not, Reutimann has the tenth-best average driver rating over the past five races at Bristol. His best finish here came in this race last season when he finished runner-up to Kyle Busch after starting 5th and leading 25 laps. If he starts outside of the top ten, I would probably pass on Reutty this weekend, but if he looks good in practice and has a good starting spot, you may just want to take a chance on him.
17. Marcos Ambrose – I really like giving Ambrose a shot on the short tracks where brake issues can happen just because of his road course talents and his ability to conserve his breaks to be strong late in the race. Marcos’ first start at “The Bull Ring” yielded him a solid 10th-place finish and he followed that up with a 3rd-place effort in the 2009 night race. Since then, though, Ambrose’s best finish here has been 15th, which came earlier this season.
18. Denny Hamlin – As you could probably tell by now, I’m looking at recent driver performance a lot this weekend. Since his win at Michigan, Hamlin has one top 10 in the last eight Sprint Cup races and an average finish of 22.1, which is terrible timing for a team trying to make it into the Chase. A couple more sub-30s finishes and someone like Greg Biffle or Clint Bowyer getting a win, and suddenly Hamlin will be the odd man out. At Bristol, Denny posted top 10s in each race during the 2008 and 2009 seasons but since then he has posted finishes of 19th, 34th, and 33rd here. You won’t see the #11 on my rosters this weekend.
19. Jeff Burton – Burton has been running pretty well for the last month or so–for him this season anyway–and recorded his first top 10 of the season at Watkins Glen and has finishes of 16th, 17th, and 17th to go along with that in the last five Sprint Cup races. In the last four Bristol races, Burton has three finishes between 16th and 20th in addition to a 10th-place finish in March 2010, but I think the former is more likely to happen on Saturday night.
20. Clint Bowyer – Bowyer better hope to prove me wrong if he wants to make the Chase this season. He’s 24 points out of the top ten, and this team only has three top 5s this season, so I don’t see Bowyer stealing a win here soon to make it in the wildcard spot. In eleven Bristol starts, Clint has five top 10s to his name, but he also has five finishes outside of the top 20. What worries me about him putting together a good run on Saturday is that he has just one top 20 in his last four starts here. If he impresses me on Friday, this ranking may change.
Those To Avoid Entering The Irwin Tools Night Race:
Joey Logano – When you look at Joey’s qualifying efforts here, you might think he could potentially be a good pick. However, he has never finished on the lead lap in his five starts at Bristol and Logano’s average finish here of 28th is worse than these drivers, just to name a few: Brendan Gaughan, Johnny Sauter, and Scott Speed.
Martin Truex, Jr. – For the first time in his career, Truex led laps–63 to be exact–at Bristol earlier this season after starting 8th. However, he ended up finishing 17th, which means Martin still has yet to record a top 10 finish in eleven starts at “The Bull Ring”. Could that change this weekend? The race in March was his best-ran race at this track (in terms of drive rating), so it’s certainly possible, but don’t be surprised if he disappoints you once it’s all said and done.
Brian Vickers – You only have to know one number when it comes to Brian Vickers at Bristol: zero. That’s how many top 10s he has recorded in thirteen starts at this track, and with the way his season is going (Bobby Labonte almost has more points than him) I don’t see that changing this weekend. At best, Vickers will be a teens driver on Saturday, and you don’t win fantasy championships by picking those drivers.
August 18, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdel||David Ragan||12||10.26|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Greg Biffle||20||14.04|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Greg Biffle||20||15.83|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Brad Keselowski||3||14.91|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Greg Biffle||20||14.70|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Kurt Busch||36||14.87|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Greg Biffle||20||14.26|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Greg Biffle||20||13.70|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||no pick||44||23.91|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Trevor Bayne||24||22.09|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Brad Keselowski||3||16.43|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Brad Keselowski||3||11.26|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Paul Menard||26||14.30|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Brad Keselowski||3||15.35|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Greg Biffle||20||14.35|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Greg Biffle||20||10.70|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Brad Keselowski||3||14.09|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||A J Allmendinger||11||16.74|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Brad Keselowski||3||13.52|
August 18, 2011
|Expert||Website||Pick to Win||Finish||Experts Avg|
|Josh Lobdell||Carl Edwards||36||14.35|
|Jerry Lagger||One and Done Game Winner||Carl Edwards||36||14.78|
|Dennis Michelsen||RaceTalkRadio.com||Carl Edwards||36||13.30|
|Steve Wronkowicz||On Pit Row||Matt Kenseth||10||11.04|
|Eric McClung||KFFL||Kyle Busch||1||13.39|
|Eric McGuire||free agent||Carl Edwards||36||16.00|
|Dan Beaver||Fantasy Racing Games||Carl Edwards||36||13.43|
|Matt Mercer||On Pit Row||Matt Kenseth||10||15.43|
|Adam Ansell||Roto Experts||no pick||44||23.39|
|Chris Leone||On Pit Row||Brad Keselowski||3||12.91|
|Bob Ellis||NASCAR Ranting and Raving||Denny Hamlin||35||12.35|
|CharlieTurner||On Pit Row||Carl Edwards||36||15.39|
|Jordan McAbee||On Pit Row||Kyle Busch||1||12.13|
|Jon Rodgers||Gillette Young Guns Challenge Winner||Carl Edwards||36||11.48|
|James Jones||On Pit Row||Matt Kenseth||10||12.22|
|Mike Wells||Racing4Glory.com||Denny Hamlin||35||13.26|
|Darren Fauth||FantasyRacingCheatSheet||Matt Kenseth||10||9.78|
|P J Walsh||FantasyNASCARPreview.com||Carl Edwards||36||11.87|
|Charles Rantz||ifantasyrace.com||Carl Edwards||36||14.87|
August 17, 2011
For the second and final time this season, the Sprint Cup Series will visit Michigan International Speedway this weekend for the Pure Michigan 400. This is a 2-mile D-shaped oval, which means 200 laps will be scheduled for the race on Sunday, equaling the 400 miles. The schedule for the weekend is a bit different than normal, though. There will be a practice session on Friday at noon and qualifying will be held on Friday as well at 3:30 pm (all times Eastern). Happy Hour will then be held on Saturday morning, and it is scheduled to start around 10:10 am. No drivers will be in qualifying trim during Happy Hour so that session should give us a good feel as to who will be strong on Sunday. Be sure to check out my Practice Breakdown as well as my Post-Happy Hour Predictions over on ifantasyrace.com. They should be posted sometime Saturday afternoon.
During The Last Race At Michigan…The Roush-Fenway Fords of Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Greg Biffle combined to lead 115 of the 200 laps, but none of them took the checkered flag. Rather, Denny Hamlin, who started 10th and led just 8 laps, took his second win in the last three Michigan races. Kenseth followed him to the line followed by Kyle Busch and Paul Menard with Edwards rounding out the top five. Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart are the only two drivers to post top 10 finishes in each of the last three races at Michigan International Speedway.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Pure Michigan 400:
1. Carl Edwards – It’s kind of crazy just got good Carl Edwards is at Michigan. This is his second-best track statistically and out of the fourteen career starts he has made here, twelve have ended in top 10s, while only one has been outside of the top 20 (and that was a 22nd back in 2006!). Carl is a two-time winner in The Irish Hills and it would not surprise me one bit to see him do a backflip once again on Sunday. Edwards’ average finish at Michigan of 6.2 is the best in the series.
2. Kyle Busch – Is it just me, or does it seem like every week Kyle Busch “loses” a race, he comes back the next week looking for vengeance? If so, the field better watch out this weekend. Kyle is hit-or-miss at this track, which is the reason for his average career finish of 16.2, but he finished 3rd here in June and led the most laps. Add in the fact that he dominated the most recent “cookie cutter” race (Kentucky) and led over 75% of the laps at California earlier this year (also a two-mile track), and all signs point to “Rowdy” being a “hit” rather than a “miss” on Sunday.
3. Matt Kenseth – It’s Michigan time so it’s time to load up on the Roushkateers. Kenseth has made twenty-four starts in The Irish Hills and like his teammate, Carl Edwards, has just one finish outside of the top 20 and two wins. In his last eight starts here, Kenseth has five top 5 finishes and three finishes of either 14th or 20th. If he starts in the top 20 and the Roush stable looks good in practice, expect another top five out of Kenseth on Sunday. He finished 4th at Fontana, the other two-mile “cookie cutter”.
4. Denny Hamlin – Here is the biggest question mark for me this weekend. Which Denny Hamlin will show up? The one in May-June that had five top 10s in seven races that ended with his win at this track, or the one that we have seen recently that seems to run into more problems than he should and has just one top 10 in the last seven races? I guess we’ll find out soon enough… Hamlin has five straight top 10s at Michigan and four of those are top 3 finishes, including two wins. Be sure to check back at ifantasyrace.com on Saturday to see if I change my mind on Denny Hamlin!
5. Greg Biffle – As you probably know, you can’t go wrong by picking the Roush Fords at Michigan, although I would definitely pick Edwards or Kenseth before considering The Biff. However, Greg has ten top 10s in seventeen starts at this two-mile track and two wins, so he’s not too shabby either. He finished 15th here in June but led 68 laps, so it’s not like he had just a decent car, and he has four top 10 finishes in the last six races in The Irish Hills, with three of those being top 5s. As long as Boris Said doesn’t beat him up before the race, I think Biffle has a good shot at putting another top 5 on his record at Michigan.
6. Kurt Busch – The elder Busch brother’s record isn’t stellar here, but he does have the eighth-best driver rating over the past two years here and these Penske Dodges are so fast week in and week out that you really need to throw history out the window. He won here in 2003 and has finished in the top 11 in each of the last three spring races in The Irish Hills. The August race at this track, though, hasn’t been too nice to Kurt over the past three years, as he has completed just 62% of the laps and has posted finishes of 36th, 36th, and 40th. I think he’ll change that little streak once this weekend is over, though.
7. Tony Stewart – “Smoke” is going to have to put together a streak of good runs if he wants to solidify his spot in the Chase this season, and Michigan is a perfect place for him to get over that disappointing ending at Watkins Glen International. He has made twenty-five career starts at this two-mile track and has just five finishes outside of the top 20. Stewart has eight top 10s in the last ten races at this track and the sixth-best driver rating over the past five races here. He finished 7th here in June.
8. Jimmie Johnson – Believe it or not, this is Johnson’s fifth-worst track on the circuit. His average finish here is 15.8 and he has no wins and just seven top 10s in nineteen career starts. However, it’s not the fact that “Five Time” runs bad here, it’s just that he doesn’t get the finish. Over the last five races at Michigan, Johnson has the fifth-best driver rating of any active driver and has led more than double the laps (280) than the driver second on the list, Denny Hamlin (with 134). However, his average finish is just 21st-best of anyone (with 20.0). If this team can go mistake-free through the race, a top ten should be expected.
9. Brian Vickers – Before Brian had to miss both Michigan races in 2010 for his blood clot problem, he had a streak of five-straight top 10s here and three-straight poles. The off-year didn’t affect him much, though, because Vickers picked up right where he left off in June and posted a solid 10th-place finish after starting 4th, making it six-straight top 10s in The Irish Hills. This team needs to turn things around to salvage a decent season and this is the perfect track for them to do just that.
10. Jeff Gordon – I’m still not very impressed with Jeff Gordon on the intermediate tracks this year. He’s been dominant at the flat tracks, but not so much at the “cookie cutters,” especially earlier in the year when he finished 18th and 17th at California and Michigan, respectively. He finished 4th at Kansas and ended up 10th at Kentucky, though, so is this team turning things around on these tracks? He has three top 5s in the last five Michigan races, but the most recent of those five have ended up with Gordon in 27th and 17th. Since that last Michigan race in June, though, Gordon hasn’t finished worse than 13th.
11. Joey Logano – “Sliced Bread” has been very good for most of the last couple months, so I’m going to go ahead and throw out his 18th-place finish at this track in June when this team was really struggling. Before that, Joey had three straight top 10s here, and I think there is a good chance that he ends up around 10th once it’s all said and done on Sunday. This is Logano’s fifth-best track–statistically–on the circuit.
12. Kevin Harvick – “Happy” is the most recent winner of this race, but that has been his only top 10 in the last five races in The Irish Hills. However, he won earlier this year at California, which is also a 2-mile race track, so he may reverse his fortunes at Michigan this weekend. This team hasn’t exactly been getting the finishes they deserve in the last month, though, so I’m a little leery in ranking Harvick very high going into the weekend. If he impresses me in practice, expect the #29 to jump up in my rankings.
13. Kasey Kahne – Kasey has one win and three 2nd-place finishes at Michigan, so he definitely knows how to get around this track, but which Kahne will show up this weekend? You should know by now that he is very inconsistent, so make sure you watch him in practice to see if that #4 Toyota is fast. He was running near the top 5 in June when he ran out of fuel and couldn’t get the car started again, which delegated Kasey to a 28th-place finish. Last August he finished 14th after starting on the pole.
14. Brad Keselowski - Seriously, a 2nd-place effort at a road course with a broken ankle after grabbing a win in Pocono? That makes it four top 10s in the last five Sprint Cup Series races for Mr. Keselowski, which is the reason he has scored the fifth-most points in the series over that stretch. However, will this hot streak continue? If it is going to, Brad is going to have a career-best effort at Michigan, though, as currently his best finish here is 24th. I expect that to change on Sunday.
15. David Ragan – These are David’s best type of race tracks, and I don’t think there are many things (other than a win) that cure a little soreness from a wreck than having a good run the following week. His career-best finish at Michigan is a 3rd back in 2008, which is also the last time Ragan got a top 10 here. He started 20th and finished 20th at this track back in June, but when he qualifies near the front, the #6 is usually a good pick on these intermediates.
Just Outside The Top Ten Entering The Pure Michigan 400:
16. Clint Bowyer – Bowyer hasn’t posted a top ten since the race at Sonoma in June, and I just don’t see him turning around his luck this week. He has made nine starts at Michigan and owns an average finish of 19.3 and just three top 10s. Clint finished 8th here in June, but I think his finishing position on Sunday will be closer to his career average than that result in the first race here.
17. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – When Junior was in the top five of the points standings earlier this year, I thought it would be next to impossible for him to miss the the Chase. My friend Dave Norris even did the math on how unlikely it would be (click here to read). Well, I guess Junior likes to keep us doubting out math, because I seriously think he’s going to have to turn things around a bit to stay in the top ten after Richmond. Junior won at Michigan in 2008 but has finished 19th and 21st in his last two starts here. I think the #88 Chevrolet will run around the same spot it has for the last month: right around the top 15.
18. Trevor Bayne – Every time Bayne races at an intermediate track in the Sprint Cup Series, I consider him as a top 20 pick. He made his first career start at Michigan International Speedway in June and started 17th and went on to finish a respectable 16th. At Fontana–which is also a two-mile track–Trevor started 27th and finished 30th. So, if he starts in the top 20, I expect a similar result.
19. Jeff Burton – Finally Jeff Burton got a top 10! Will he make it two in a row? I doubt it, but this team is light-years better right now than they were earlier in the year. Jeff has just nine top 10s in thirty-five starts at Michigan, but he has recorded twenty-four top 20s. With the way this team has been running for the last month, I think Burton will make it twenty-five, and with a little luck could post a top 15.
20. Paul Menard – Before the June race, Menard had five straight finishes of 24th or worse in the Irish Hills and they he came out of nowhere (well…somewhat) and posted a solid 4th-place effort after starting 9th and leading two laps. I don’t think Paul will repeat his result in June, but a top 15 wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
Those To Avoid Entering The Pure Michigan 400:
Juan Montoya – JPM has shown some flashes at Michigan (top 10s in one of the two races in 2009 and 2010) but overall his average finish here is 23rd and he has completed just 92% of the laps ran. Until his top 10 at Watkins Glen last weekend, Montoya was on a bit of a bad luck streak and had just one top 10 in the last seven Sprint Cup races. If it wasn’t a road course event last weekend, I think that would have turned into one in the last eight. Juan finished 30th here in June.
Marcos Ambrose – He’s coming off his first career Sprint Cup win, but I don’t think that momentum will be enough to turn around Marcos’ luck at Michigan. He has two 15th-place finishes here in six starts, but those other four races have ended with Ambrose in 23rd or worse, which is the reason his average finish at this track is 27th. He seems to be running better on the intermediates this year, but he will really have to blow me away in practice for me to put the #9 on my rosters this weekend.
David Reutimann – Reutty started on the outside pole here in June but ended up finishing 35th, and I think he has to be pretty sore after that wreck at Watkins Glen on Monday. I have been wrong about injuries before (ahem: Brad Keselowski) but with as inconsistent as Reutimann is, it’s hard for me not to just avoid him all weekend. He finished 9th here in 2009 but that is David’s only top 10 at this track and his career average finish here is 20.4.
Martin Truex, Jr. – Here’s another driver that was a great pick last weekend that will more than likely be a dud for Michigan. Truex has a couple of runner-up finishes to his name at this track (both back in 2007), but in the seven races since then he has cracked the top 10 just once and has an average finish of 20.1. If he starts near the front, I may think about taking a chance on him, but even then it is very risky.
August 16, 2011
How to make an informed fantasy pick at Michigan:
- Practice is by far the most important element this weekend in terms of making a informed fantasy pick for the Pure Michigan 400. If a driver struggles during Happy Hour at Michigan then the smart thing to do is look for someone else to pick. Drivers can’t overcome bad practice sessions and expect to get a good finish at Michigan.
- Look back at what happened the first time the series visited Michigan this year. I still like Happy more though.
- In term of evaluating similar tracks this weekend the two that you really want to look back to are Auto Club Speedway and Kansas. Auto Club Speedway is Michigan’s sister track. Both are 2.0 mile tracks but the banking is a little bit steeper at Michigan. Kansas is a 1.5 mile track which is essentially a mini-Michigan.
- Qualifying at Michigan is overrated. All that it’s good for is pit selection. If you’re making your fantasy picks based on pit selection then your probably making it a little bit harder than it needs to be. It’s a sign that you’re an expert because your complicating simplicity.
Drivers to watch in the Pure Michigan 400
Kyle Busch – Busch finished third earlier this season at Michigan Speedway. His driver rating was the second highest (124.3) and he led the second most laps (59). Another thing I really like about Busch is how strong he performed at Auto Club Speedway in March. In that race he led 151 laps, had an average running position of 2nd, and had the best driver rating by far (143.4).
Carl Edwards – Edwards will be tough to beat in the Pure Michigan 400 especially now that his contract distraction is out of the way. Edwards has always been successful at Michigan and only once in fourteen races has he finished lower than 12th. Edwards has two wins at Michigan and earlier this season he finished 5th. His average finish here is 6.2 (best in series).
Matt Kenseth – Kenseth is a two-time winner at Michigan and earlier this season he finished second. He was very impressive and had the highest driver rating (130.1). His average running position was 4th and he led 17 laps. Michigan is a Roush track and he’s one my favorite heading into the weekend.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon finished 17th earlier in the year but I wouldn’t be worried about picking him. Since Kansas it’s his only finish worse than 13th. Because of that I consider it an irregularity and not something that should be to concerning. In the last couple of years he’s had lots of success at 2.0 mile tracks.
Kevin Harvick – Harvick is the defending champion of the August race at Michigan. Last year he held off Denny Hamlin and avoided a Toyota sweep at GM’s home track. Harvick is as good as they come on tracks where the high line around the track comes into play. You also can’t discount the fact that RCR cars get good horsepower and good fuel mileage when needed. In March Harvick won at Michigan’s sister track (Auto Club) and out dueled Jimmie Johnson for the win.
To see the rest of my rankings check out my Pure Michigan 400 Fantasy Preview
VegasInsider.com odds to win the Pure Michigan:
Denny Hamlin 4/1, Jimmie Johnson 6/1, Kyle Busch 7/1, Tony Stewart 8/1, Kevin Harvick 9/1, Kurt Busch 9/1, Jeff Gordon 10/1, Carl Edwards 12/1, Brad Keselowski 18/1
Racing4Glory.com : Michigan Loop Data Ebook
FantasyRacingCheatSheet.com momentum over the last three races:
Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard