September 25, 2012
We’re at another one-mile race track this weekend, but unlike Loudon the speeds at Dover International Raceway tend to get pretty fast. Nicknamed “The Monster Mile,” there seems to be no “middle ground” for drivers here in Dover Delaware; essentially, you’re either really good or really bad here. Six of the twelve Chase participants have an average finish of 16th or worse at this track, so to say this year’s AAA 400 is important is an understatement. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing some people’s championship hopes go up in smoke (maybe literally) on Sunday.
During The Last Race At Dover…Jimmie Johnson simply dominated here back in June, which shouldn’t be surprising. He led 289 of the 400 laps en route to the victory. Following him to the line was Kevin Harvick, who started 6th that day, followed by Matt Kenseth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top 5. Pole sitter Mark Martin, who led 43 laps that day, ended up 14th.
Practice Schedule…This weekend we’re back to the schedule that we’ve been more accustomed to this year. On Friday, there will be two practice sessions. The first will start at 11:00 am followed by Happy Hour at 2:30 pm that afternoon. Once those are done with, the cars won’t be on the track again until Saturday afternoon during qualifying. There will be no practice after that and then the race on Sunday is set to start around 2:00 pm. All times are in Eastern. If you play Yahoo! Auto Racing, that means we don’t have to lock down our rosters until Saturday morning, which is pretty advantageous (and allows you to use some start savers/sleepers).
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The AAA 400:
*Chase participants marked in red*
1. Jimmie Johnson – I’m still waiting for a legitimate reason as to why Jimmie Johnson should not be the favorite going into Dover this weekend. There really is none, but if you think you have one, go ahead and send me it. Not only is this team firing on all cylinders, but this is one of Five Time’s best tracks. He’s won at Dover an incredible seven times and has led more laps (2,275) than anyone except Jeff Gordon, who has led 2,291. However, keep in mind that Gordon has made 18 more starts here than Johnson, and I have a feeling that Jimmie will pass his teammate on Sunday. When you take out his two finishes in the mid-30s (back in 2003 and 2004), which were due accidents, Jimmie Johnson has never finished worse than 16th at Dover–he’s just that good here.
2. Matt Kenseth – Matt Kenseth is a two-time winner at The Monster Mile (most recently in the spring race of 2011), and although his record isn’t quite as impressive as Jimmie Johnson’s, it’s still pretty damn good. Basically, Kenseth is a top 5 machine here; in eight of the last nine events at Dover, the #17 has ended up inside the top 5 once the checkered flag waved. Furthermore, Kenseth has had a driver rating below 100.0 in only two of the last fifteen races here. This team needs a great run (read: win) this weekend to keep their Chase hopes alive, although it should be a little concerning to fantasy racers that they haven’t been as strong lately. Matt has just three top 10s in the last ten Sprint Cup events. Still, Dover his is fifth-best track on the circuit and he has finished inside the top 10 in 66.7% of his starts here. The #17 Ford should be a factor come Sunday.
3. Clint Bowyer – Clint Bowyer finally cracked through and got his first top 5 finish at Dover earlier this year, and I’m expecting something of the same on Sunday as well. Statistically, this is Clint’s seventh-best track on the circuit, and he has just two finishes outside of the top 20 in his thirteen career starts. So at least he’s consistent. What I really like is how strong this team has been lately, with seven top 10s in the last eight Sprint Cup events, including the win at Richmond and the solid 4th-place showing at Loudon last week. I did, however, hear that Bowyer was a little disappointed with their finish at New Hampshire, so that may give him some extra fire come Sunday. This may end up a bit of a reach with the #15 in 3rd, but don’t sleep on this team this weekend.
4. Kyle Busch – You can’t do anything about engine issues, so try and keep Kyle Busch’s woes in Loudon out of your head this weekend. Ironically, Busch also had problems with the motor the last time we were here at Dover. The good news, however, is that he was inside the top 5 for most of the race before that happened. The story of Kyle Busch at this track is really him simply being a hit-or-miss pick. In fifteen career starts at The Monster Mile, Rowdy has recorded nine finishes of 6th or better including wins in 2010 and 2008. On the other hand, Kyle has five finishes outside the top 20 completely. Most, if not all of those, however, were not the result of a slow car, but rather a mechanical issue or wreck. There’s no doubt in my mind that the #18 Toyota will be one of the fastest cars this weekend, it will just be up to this team to put a full race together and bring home the finish. It’s a super risky pick to take Kyle Busch this week, but you know what they say: high risk, high reward.
5. Denny Hamlin – Half of the 2012 Chase drivers have an average finish of 16th or worse at Dover International Raceway, and that includes Denny Hamlin. This team will be facing an even tougher test this weekend as well because Darian Grubb has been terrible with Tony Stewart here the past couple years as well. Looking at Hamlin’s statistics at this track, he has made thirteen career starts at The Monster Mile with an average finish of 20.5 and only four top 10s, and (even worse) two top 5s. He finished 18th here back in June and has had just two races at this track with a driver rating of at least 100.0. So, you may ask, why am I ranking him 5th? The Chase Effect. This team has been putting race-winning cars on the track for what seems like the last two months, and drivers tend to “step it up” once NASCAR’s playoffs begin. You hate to do it, but sometimes history needs to be thrown out the window. This race could easily be Denny’s Achilles heel and de-rail his championship hopes, but I wouldn’t count on that. I don’t think he’ll win, but I do think that Hamlin will be in the mix for a top 5 come Sunday.
6. Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski is another driver that I think is going to benefit from the Chase Effect this weekend. He hasn’t quite figured Dover International Raceway out yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Brad ended up 12th here back in June, which is also his best career finish at this track thus far (five career starts). What’s encouraging to me, however, is that Kurt Busch was able to win this race last season while running for Penske. I know that that doesn’t necessarily transfer over to Brad Keselowski this year, but I think it will help them in a way. It’s also hard to go against the driver that has finished worse than 9th just once in the past twelve Sprint Cup races and who is 2nd in points.
7. Martin Truex, Jr. – I’ve had this race circled for this #56 team all season, and I’m sure Martin has as well. Dover is the site of Truex’s first (and only) Sprint Cup victory, and although he hasn’t really gotten the finishes he deserves here sometimes, he always tends to run well when the series visits this track. Back in June, Martin started 18th but ended up with a solid 7th-place finish at the end of the day. He won the pole for this event last season as well. His average finish of 16.4 may scare some people away this weekend, but I fully expect Martin Truex, Jr. to be in the running for a top 10 in the AAA 400. I don’t know about a top 5, but a top 10 is definitely within reach for this team.
8. Kevin Harvick – This #29 team still isn’t showing anything overly impressive on Sundays, but Dover has been pretty good to Kevin Harvick lately. As I said before, he ended up 2nd here back in June, and that makes it three straight top 10 finishes for him at this track. Furthermore, Harvick has finished 12th or better in six of his last eight starts here, and hasn’t finished worse than 12th in the last month of Sprint Cup action. It would probably surprise me to see this team challenge for a win again come Sunday, but I do think the #29 will be good for a top 10 finish. As always, however, make sure this Chevrolet shows some speed in practice before committing.
9. Jeff Gordon – I still think that this team’s championship chances are over, but a solid run out of the #24 Chevrolet this weekend (at least a top 5) could change my mind. There’s no doubt that this team will bring a fast car to the track on Friday (they’ve been doing it for the last two months it seems), but whether or not they will be able to fine tune it to Jeff’s liking is the question. Gordon hasn’t recorded a top 10 finish at Dover since 2009, although in the five events since that last occurred, he does have four finishes between 11th and 13th. Also, back in June, this #24 car was really one of the only ones that had a shot of keeping up with the #48. Gordon ended up 13th that day but it was because of a loose wheel. This car should have top 5 power on Sunday, but it will come to this team having a mistake-free race. Gordon’s pit crew has been a bit of a let-down all season long as well.
10. Carl Edwards – Cousin Carl has the best average finish among active drivers at this track, so it’s hard to go against him this weekend. Do remember, however, that this team has under-performed all year and is in no way a lock for a top 10 on Sunday. In other words, make sure that the #99 Ford looks good in the practices on Friday before committing to Edwards on Sunday. In sixteen career starts here, Carl has an average finish of 8.5 and has captured one victory (back in 2007). Before his 26th-place finish here back in June, Edwards was on an eleven-race streak of finishes 11th or better at The Monster Mile. He hasn’t gotten a top 10 in Sprint Cup action in over a month, though, so I do think there are better options. However, this team can’t be terrible forever, can it?
11. Kasey Kahne – Kasey Kahne has been pretty bad here at The Monster Mile over his career, but he’s in Hendrick equipment now and has what I like to call the Chase Effect on his side. Also, he’s coming off of a surprising top 5 finish at Loudon last weekend and has been fast pretty much week-in and week-out over the last two months. Kasey ended up 9th here in June, which isn’t bad, and finished 4th in this race last season while driving for Red Bull Racing. That has been his best and only top 5 finish in his seventeen career starts at Dover. I don’t think he’ll make it another on Sunday, but a top 10 isn’t out of the question for this team at all.
12. Jeff Burton - Burton finished 22nd here back in June, but you really have to dig deeper than that. The #31 was running solidly inside the top 15 all day and Burton made it up to the top 10 before having engine problems with about 40 laps to go. You can’t predict mechanical failures, and I don’t try to. When you look at the races at Dover over the years, Jeff Burton is the model of consistency. Since 2005 (fifteen total races), Burton has amassed twelve finishes of 12th or better at this track including an 11th-place effort in this event last season. In some leagues (like Yahoo!), Jeff would be an awesome “start saver” this weekend, as he could pull off a surprise top 10 on Sunday considering this team has shown some speed as of late.
13. Mark Martin – Martin has finished between 10th and 14th in four of his last six Sprint Cup startes, and I think we’re looking at another between there this weekend. For whatever reason, it seems like his old age is catching up to him to me. It’s getting late in the season and he’s just a tick slower than he was early in 2012. Still, Mark has been a qualifying machine this season, and he won the pole here back in June, like I said before. Dover is his seventh-best track on the circuit and he owns thirty-one top 10 finishes in fifty-two career starts. Martin’s average finish of 12.5 here is seventh-best among active drivers with more than ten starts.
14. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Junior finished top 5 here last time around, but this team has taken a noticeable step backwards, and that worries me. Another alarming statistic? That his Earnhardt’s only top 10 at Dover since the 2007 season. This team has gotten off to a slow start in the Chase this year and I think their little slump could continue this weekend as well. However, this is a Hendrick Motorsports team, and Steve Letarte has found success here with Jeff Gordon over the years. I’m not guaranteeing a mediocre finish out of Junior on Sunday, but right now I’m saying that it is likely. Pay attention to this team in practice, they may jump up in my final rankings if the #88 shows some speed.
15. Marcos Ambrose – SLEEPER ALERT! With his 10th-place finish here back in June, that makes it three straight top 10s for Marcos Ambrose at Dover. For some reason, Richard Petty Motorsports has a handle on this track as of late (Aric Almirola finished 6th here last time). The #9 team didn’t crack the top 10 at all in September, but I think that could change this weekend. Then again, he’s a sleeper pick, so nothing is guaranteed. Like Earnhardt, it will all come down to how Ambrose looks in practice before I make my final decision about him.
Those To Avoid Entering The AAA 400:
Tony Stewart - Smoke is a two-time winner at Dover but for whatever reason has really struggled here recently (even during his incredible run in last year’s Chase). With his 25th-place effort here back in June, Stewart now has four finishes outside of the top 20 at this track and has recorded only four top 10s in his last FIFTEEN starts. Don’t let his somewhat attractive average finish of 13.4 here fool you: Tony Stewart won’t be a good pick this weekend, and you should avoid him at all costs.
Juan Montoya - In some leagues, you are required to dig a little deeper and go with someone “out of the box”. That’s fine, and I have no problem with that, just don’t go with Montoya in Dover. He’s had one good run here (a 4th back in 2009) but other than that the results have been terrible for the Colombian. In eleven career starts, Montoya has compiled an average finish of 23.4 and completed only 93.4% of the laps. Furthermore, he finishes outside of the top 20 more often than not (seven times total thus far). Let’s not forget that Juan has just one finish better than 20th in the last eleven Sprint Cup events and probably doesn’t even deserve a ride in this series.
Regan Smith - He ended up with a 17th-place finish in this race last season, but don’t look too far into that. Smith ended up 27th here back in June and that goes along well with his career average finish of 26.7 over nine career starts. He’s turned into a qualifying machine, and even if he gets the pole on Saturday I wouldn’t consider him. Smith has finished on the lead lap in only one of his nine career starts at The Monster Mile.
September 19, 2012
We’re back at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend for the second race of the 2012 Chase. The events at this short track are some of the shortest on the schedule (only 300 miles on Sunday), so qualifying is pretty important here. As far as making picks this weekend, the drivers get a whole bunch of practice (three sessions total) and that should help a bunch. As usual, if a driver is missing from the ten-lap average charts, pass on him.
During The Last Race At Loudon…A mis-communiction between Denny Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb cost the #11 team the win here back in July. Hamlin led 150 of the 301 laps but ended up running out of time in his charge to the front at the end of the race and finished 2nd to race-winner Kasey Kahne. The top 5 was rounded out by Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Brad Keselowski.
Practice Schedule…For those that play Yahoo! Auto Racing, be sure to lock down your rosters before Friday. No, we don’t get to see any practice before doing so. There is one session scheduled for Friday at noon followed by qualifying at 3:40 pm. Then, on Saturday, the teams (and us) will have an early day, with the second practice of the weekend starting at 9:15 am followed by Happy Hour at 11:00 am. The 2012 Sylvania 300 is set to begin around 2:00 pm on Sunday. All times are in Eastern.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Sylvania 300:
*Chase participants marked in red*
1. Brad Keselowski – I hope you’re still not sleeping on Bad Brad because this kid’s the real deal. This Blue Deuce team puts out super fast cars each and every week and have done so for the last three months straight (seriously). With his win at Chicagoland last Sunday, Keselowski has now finished 3rd or better in four of the last six Sprint Cup events and he has single-digit finishes in all but one of the last eleven. Earlier this season I said that BK didn’t belong in the A Group for Yahoo!, and boy was I wrong. After finishing runner-up in this event last season, Brad brought home another top 5 here back in July. He also grabbed a pole here back in 2010, and he finished 6th back in 2009 in his first career start at the track while driving for under-funded Phoenix Racing. A couple of weeks ago in Richmond, Keselowski said that they were testing R&D things on the car for this weekend at New Hampshire, for what it’s worth. He finished 7th that day. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Blue Deuce and Brad Keselowski will be in the top 5 (at least) once it’s all said and done on Sunday.
2. Denny Hamlin – Despite only having one victory here at Loudon (back in 2007), Denny Hamlin has the best average finish (8.5) among active drivers. A pit road miscue made him charge through the field here back in July, and if that race was one or two laps longer, there’s no doubt in my mind that Hamlin would have won. That 2nd-place disappointment, however, makes it four top 3 finishes in the last six events this track, though. After the race at Chicago last weekend, Denny tweeted that they were going to win in New Hampshire on Sunday. Drivers rarely make guarantees like that, and when they do it seems (to me, anyway) that they never happen. But that’s just my two cents. Either way, the #11 Toyota will be force come Sunday, just like it is every time we stop at this short track.
3. Jimmie Johnson – Despite having three victories here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson really hasn’t dominated at this track like we’ve seen him do at countless others. In twenty-one starts here (roughly 6,300 laps), Five Time has led just 319 laps total, which equals roughly 5.1%. Still, he has an average finish of 9.9 here and that ranks him second among active drivers. However, Johnson has had a little struggle as of late at this track, with just one top 5 in the last four events. Still, this team looks as strong as I’ve seen them in a long time and there’s no doubt in my mind that the #48 will be near the front on Sunday. Loudon is technically considered (by DriverAverages.com) a flat track, and nobody has been better on them since the start of the 2010 season than Johnson. He started 7th and finished 7th at the race here back in July.
4. Kasey Kahne – Kahne will be one of those drivers that I will watch closely in practice and his ranking could change drastically once I post my final race predictions on Saturday. As I said earlier in this article, he’s the most recent winner at Loudon, but he didn’t have the best car that day. Still, his #5 Chevrolet was really strong, and Kasey led over 20% of the race that day. He was great in both races here during the 2011 season but had some problems in the fall event, finishing 15th despite leading 43 laps and having a driver rating of 118.2. He ended up 6th in the July race that year. Both of those were while Kahne was in his one-year stint with Red Bull, though, so you have to consider that. As long as he doesn’t run into problems, KK is generally a pretty good bet here at New Hampshire, but his two top 5s in seventeen career starts can be a little alarming. Still, only one driver has had a better average driver rating than Kahne in the last five races here. Kasey knows how to get around this place and should be a threat this weekend.
5. Clint Bowyer – I tend to view Michael Waltrip Racing at its strongest on the shorter tracks, and considering that Clint Bowyer has won here at Loudon twice, that makes a really good combination. Both of those victories were dominating efforts, too; in 2007, he started from the pole and led 222 of the 300 laps with a perfect driver rating of 150.0, and in 2010 he led 177 of the 300 laps from his 2nd-place starting position and had a driver rating of 149.4. I would consider Loudon to be one of Clint’s best tracks on the circuit, but his average finish says otherwise. In thirteen career starts here, that number is 15.9. However, only two drivers have a better average driver rating over the last five races here than Bowyer (107.2) and he should be in the running for a top 5 on Sunday. I’m not sure about a win, though, but we’ll see.
6. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - Junior has actually ran very well here since joining Hendrick in 2008, but sometimes he didn’t get the finishes that he deserved. This team has no problem with that this season, however, and should have another rocketship to work with all weekend. Earnhardt was solid all day here back in June, posting a 4th-place finish with a driver rating of 116.1. He even qualified near the front that weekend (9th), which has been a struggle for this #88 team in 2012. Junior has never won here at Loudon, but he does have eleven top 10s in his twenty-five starts here, and seven of them have also been top 5s. Only two drivers have a better average finish over the last five races at New Hampshire than Junior (9.6).
7. Jeff Gordon – Statistically, nobody has been better at Loudon since the start of the 2010 season than Jeff Gordon. Over those five races, he has a series-best average finish of 6.2 and a series-best average driver rating of 111.8. You have to go back all the way to 2005 to find the last time that Gordon finished outside of the top 15 here–he’s just that good. Over thirty-five career starts at this one-mile race track, Jeff has amassed twenty top 10s–fifteen of which were also top 5s–among three visits to victory lane, the most recent coming in 1998. Nobody in the series has led more laps at this track than Jeff Gordon (1,309), although he does have a lot more starts than most. I still think that this team “used everything up” (so to say) getting into the Chase, so if he looks weak in practice, expect Gordon to drop like a rock in my rankings.
8. Tony Stewart – Smoke is a three-time winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and could easily find himself in victory lane for a fourth time this Sunday. It all comes down to which #14 car and team shows up. I’ve harped all year about the inconsistencies of this team, and I’m not going to stop until they prove me wrong. Stewart finished 12th here back in June and that was the first event here since early 2007 that he didn’t lead at least one lap. Is that foreshadowing as to what’s to come this weekend? I guess we’ll find out. Over the last five events here, Stewart has the second-best average finish (8.2) and the fourth-best average driver rating (106.2). His stats would be even better if he didn’t run out of fuel in this race two years ago.
9. Martin Truex, Jr. – Before this breakout season for Truex, New Hampshire Motor Speedway was actually somewhat of a bright spot on his resume, and it is his fifth-best track on the circuit statistically. In thirteen starts here, Martin has averaged a finish of 14.8 while amassing five top 10s and only three finishes outside of the top 20. In the July race, he qualified 4th but didn’t race that well and ended up 11th. He was somewhat disappointing for fantasy owners last weened in Chicago, but this is still the same guy that has finished 11th or better in eight of the last nine Sprint Cup races. He should make it nine of the last ten once it’s all said and done on Sunday. That being said, it’d take a lot for this team to finish top 5, but I guess it’s possible.
10. Kevin Harvick – Happy is getting back to being better-than-average with three straight finishes of 12th or better, and I’m expecting him to make it four straight on Sunday. Harvick does have one win here at New Hampshire (a dominating run in 2006), and he currently has four finishes of 12th or better in the last five events at this track. That includes his 8th-place run here back in July. Harvick actually has the eighth-best average finish at this track among active drivers (13.8) and has led more laps than Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne, believe it or not. I wouldn’t take the #29 in Yahoo! this weekend, but in other formats I wouldn’t have a problem with it–just make sure Harvick looks good on the speed charts.
11. Ryan Newman – After his mishaps at Bristol and Atlanta, I kind of wrote off Newman, but with his 5th-place finish at Chicago last weekend, it seems like this team is back to cranking out top 10s again. That makes eight finishes of 11th or better in the last ten Sprint Cup races for The Rocketman, and this week we’re stopping at one of his best tracks on the circuit. In twenty-one career starts here at Loudon, Newman has amassed three victories (the most recent in the 2011 July race) and an average finish of 12.9. He ended up 10th here back in July and started on the pole in this event last season, leading 62 laps but finishing 25th. I think he had a loose wheel or something with 5 laps to go, but I’m not sure because there seems to be no history of that race in the NASCAR.com archives. He still had a driver rating of 101.1 in that event, and that is Ryan’s only finish outside of the top 10 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway since early 2009. In other words, he should be a good pick this weekend.
12. Brian Vickers – If you have been paying attention at all this season, you should know that Vickers has been a force pretty much every time he’s gotten behind the wheel of the #55 Toyota. In just six starts this year, he has amassed three top 5 finishes and an average finish of 14.8. When you take out his 43rd at Watkins Glen (he blew an engine at the start of the race), that average finish jumps up to 9.2. He raced this car in the July event here and ended up 15th after starting in that spot as well. If they can get the setup right this weekend, however, Brian could possibly challenge for a top 5 on Sunday. He ended up 5th in this race last season and 11th in 2009. One thing that I have noticed, however, is that it seems like this #55 car has come down a notch over the past few weeks. Still, I’m still expecting a top 15 out of Vickers this weekend.
13. Joey Logano – This team hasn’t been able to put back-to-back top 10s together since June, and I wouldn’t expect that to happen this Sunday, either. However, a top 15 isn’t out of the question for young Joey. He ended up 14th here in July and also finished there in this event last season, which was pretty surprising. Historically, the fall race at Loudon has been a let-down for Logano despite his success in the spring race. Just look at the finishes. In the spring events here, Logano has posted a win (rain-shortened event in 2009), a 9th, a 4th, and a 14th. On the other hand, in the fall races, Joey has put up finishes of 32nd, 21st, 35th, and most recently 14th, like I mentioned before. It’s quite a risky pick, in my opinion, but if you’re looking for a start saver in Yahoo!, Sliced Bread just might be your guy this weekend.
14. Matt Kenseth – I’m still trying to figure out what happened to this organization last weekend in Chicago. It certainly doesn’t give them any momentum coming into a track in which the Roush Fords generally struggle at. Kenseth has an average finish of 14th here at Loudon and has recorded just five top 5s in twenty-five career starts. The good news, however, is that he has just five finishes outside the top 20. He’s consistent here, but it’s something I like to call consistent mediocrity. Matt ended up 6th in this race last season, and I like to contribute out-of-the-ordinary finishes to “the Chase effect”–a theory that those involved the Chase step it up a notch in the final ten races. A top 15 is likely out of this team on Sunday but that’s not what you want out of a fantasy stud like this. Personally, I would stay away from all of the Roush-Fenway Fords this weekend.
15. Greg Biffle – The Biff has a slightly worse career record at this track compared to Kenseth (twenty career starts, 16.3 average finish), but he’s picked it up here lately. In addition to running 3rd in this event last season, Greg ended up 9th here back in the July race. Still, this team has struggled since their win at Michigan, and this is not the place for them to turn it around. I would feel much more confident in picking the #16 this weekend if they had more than one top 10 in the last four Sprint Cup races. When it comes to Yahoo! Auto Racing, the only way that I would recommend putting Greg Biffle on your roster this weekend would be if you had five or more starts left (which I’m assuming you do not).
SLEEPER! Jeff Burton - The #31 was my sleeper the last time around as well, but Burton disappointed and ended up 21st. That’s why it’s called a sleeper pick, though–they’re not guaranteed. What I like out of this old veteran at a track like Loudon is his consistency; in the last six events here in New Hampshire, Burton has finished 16th or better in five of them, including 13th in this race last year. His career average finish of 13.8 puts him 7th among active drivers. Watch the #31 Chevrolet in practice, and if he looks fast and qualifies inside the top 15, I’d take a shot with Burton this week.
Those To Avoid Entering The Sylvania 300:
Sam Hornish, Jr. - In Yahoo!, you are probably going to be picking two of the following: Sam Hornish, Jr., Brian Vickers, and Aric Almirola. You should really go with the latter two. I already stated my thoughts on Vickers above, and there’s one major reason why you should choose the #43 over the #22 this weekend: Hornish won’t be in Loudon. The Nationwide series race is in Kentucky this weekend and seeing as Sam is running for the championship in that series, he will be focused on that car. Another driver will practice and qualify the Double Deuce this weekend, which means Hornish will start from the back of the field on Sunday. A top 20 is still possible, but I’ll give Sam a break this week.
Kyle Busch - One top 5 in the last nine races at this track is nothing to get excited about, and not worth the risk in an allocation league like Yahoo!. Any other league, make sure he looks good in practice and has a good qualifying effort. Busch’s average finish here in fifteen career starts is 15.9.
September 11, 2012
This week the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup kicks off at Chicagoland Speedway, a race that replaced the event at Loudon that began the playoffs until 2011. The track is located in Joliet, Illinois and is a 1.5-mile tri-oval with 18-degree banking in the turns. The crew chief’s take in Athlon Sports’ 2012 NASCAR Preview issue says that Chicago is like no other 1.5-mile track on the circuit, although you could make a case that it compares nicely to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and somewhat nicely to the speedways in Kansas and Kentucky.
During The Last Race At Chicago…Tony Stewart started his 2011 winning campaign in this event last year, where he led 35 of the 267 laps ran en route to his first of five victories in the Chase. Smoke was followed to the line by Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., with Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top 5. The lap leader for last year’s event was Kurt Busch, who started 3rd and led 64 laps before ending up 6th. He also had the highest driver rating in that race (124.5).
Practice Schedule…We’re getting down to crunch time in Yahoo! Auto Racing, and chances are you are running low on starts in the B Group among the strongest drivers. Thankfully, we get to see the cars on track before locking down this week, so that opens up the opportunity to use sleepers this week (or “start savers”). There are two practice sessions scheduled for Friday afternoon (the first starting at 1:00 pm and the second at 4:00 pm) followed by qualifying on Saturday at 1:30 pm. Once the starting lineup is set, the drivers won’t get any more track time until the Geico 400 on Sunday, with the green flag set for around 1:45 pm.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Geico 400:
*Chase participants marked in red*
1. Jimmie Johnson – Five Time has had trouble in the last couple intermediate races (wreck at Atlanta, blown engine at Michigan), but it’s the Chase now and chances are slim that those will happen again, especially the latter. Johnson has never won at Chicagoland but has been been close: he finished 2nd here in both the 2008 and 2004 events and wound up 3rd in the 2005 and 2003 races. Last year he ended up 10th and that is also his career average finish here, which is third-best in the series among active drivers. What’s most impressive with Jimmie’s record at this track is that he leads laps here. In his ten starts at Chicagoland, Johnson has led at least 15 laps in eight of the events, and has led a total of 365 over that span. He’s never had a driver rating under 100.0 since they started keeping track of that statistic in 2005. One of these times he’s going to get the finish he deserves in Chicago, and I’m betting that it’s going to be this weekend as Johnson starts his 2012 campaign for the title.
2. Denny Hamlin – This team is still the best in the garage right now and I honestly think this is Hamlin’s championship to lose. I would have him ranked 1st this week, but Denny’s history at this track is inconsistent to say the least. In six career starts here, Hamlin has just one top 5 (in 2009) and has compiled an average finish of 19.2. However, as I said before, similar tracks to Chicago are Kansas and Kentucky, and the #11 Toyota ended up 1st and 3rd in those races this year, respectively. The only thing concerning with picking Hamlin this weekend is how subpar the entire Joe Gibbs organization has been at this track over the years, although Kyle Busch did have a dominating win here in 2008. Denny has had the best car in the series over the last three weeks and should be a contender once again on Sunday. If he looks a little off in practice, however, you may want to think about someone else.
3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Junior had a total of four top 5 finishes during the 2011 season and one of them came right here at Chicagoland. This team has been a top 10 machine on the intermediate tracks this season and I think NASCAR’s golden boy could challenge for the win on Sunday if they play their cards right. Earnhardt was 4th at Kentucky, 7th at Kansas, and was real strong at Las Vegas earlier this year, leading 70 laps. He finished a somewhat disappointing 10th despite having the third-best driver rating in that race. Focusing strictly on Chicagoland, Junior has one victory here (back in 2005) and has an average finish of 14.8 in eleven career starts. Despite a bit of a bad luck bug, this team has been running up front often as of late, as Earnhardt has led at least 13 laps in four of the last six Sprint Cup races.
4. Brad Keselowski – Although the Chase last year was the time when Keselowski started cooling down from his hot streak, he still ran well in pretty much all of the races, and Chicago was no exception. He even got the finish (5th, like I mentioned before). It’s becoming increasingly harder not to rank Bad Brad high every week simply because he’s running that well. In fact, over the last ten Sprint Cup races, no one has scored more points than BK (he has nine finishes of 9th or better over that span). Keselowski won at Kentucky a few weeks ago and won the Nationwide race here at Chicago a year ago. Like it or not, the Blue Deuce should once again finish up front on Sunday, and could better his career-best 5th that he posted here last year. And if he’s going to back up my Chase ranking of 3rd, he’s going to need a good run to start the playoffs.
5. Clint Bowyer – The Sprint Cup series’ most recent winner actually has a very good record here at Chicagoland, and has the momentum to go along with it as well (that win in Richmond makes is six top 10s in the last eight races for Clint). This is Bowyer’s third-best track on the circuit, believe it or not. In six career starts here, Clint has just one finish outside of the top 10 and has completed every single lap ran in those events. He ran 6th at Las Vegas earlier this year, and like I said before that is the track that compares the most to Chicago (in my mind anyway). Don’t forget, Bowyer’s teammate at MWR, Martin Truex, Jr., has been great on the 1.5-mile tracks this year, including a near win at Kansas. I think this will be a week that could be a proving point as to whether or not these two drivers are serious about contending for a championship in 2012.
6. Kevin Harvick – Make that two top 10s in a row for Harvick with his new crew chief, and don’t be surprised if he gets another this weekend in Chicago. This is actually his third-best track on the circuit, but I have to warn you: there really is no middle ground for Harvick–he’s either on or off when the series stops here. In eleven career starts here, Happy has notched two victories (in 2001 and 2002) and six total top 5 finishes, the most recent coming in this race last season when he ended up 2nd. However, Harvick does have four finishes of 17th or worse at this 1.5-mile race track. Looking back at Las Vegas, he had the sixth-best driver rating in that race but finished 11th after a late-race restart. Also, the #29 was one of the best cars at Atlanta a couple weeks ago. I’m expecting a top 10 out of this team on Sunday.
7. Jeff Gordon – With his runner-up finish in Richmond last weekend, Jeff Gordon now has three straight finishes of 3rd or better in Sprint Cup action and has finished worse than 6th just three times in the last twelve. To say that this team is firing on all cylinders is an understatement. However, I do have my worries. It seems to me that drivers that pull all their effort in to making the Chase end up disappointing when the races actually count (the final ten). Now I’m not saying this is going to happen this weekend, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Gordon is outside the top 10 when the 2012 season is overwith (I actually have him ranked 11th). Looking past all of that, however, it is reasonable to assume that the #24 should be good this weekend. In eleven career starts at Chicagoland, Gordon has amassed seven top 10s (six of which were also top 5s) and one victory, which came in 2006. He finished 5th at Kentucky in June.
8. Matt Kenseth – This is going to be the real test (in my mind) to see whether or not the #17 team is out of their slump. He finished 21st in this event last season, but you really need to look further into that race to see how good Kenseth really was. He won the pole, led 46 laps, and had a driver rating of 114.2. Doesn’t sound like a 21st-place effort, does it? The #17 ran out of gas on the last lap and ended up 9th, but David Gilliland gave him a push to make that happen so Kenseth was handed down the penalty of being the last car on the lead lap officially. He’s never won here, but Matt has two runner-up finishes at Chicago (in 2005 and 2007) and a career average finish of 12.3.
9. Martin Truex, Jr. – Truex has been solid all year on the intermediate tracks and has been decent here at Chicagoland over his career despite an average finish of 18.2. In his one really bad finish at this track (39th in 2007), Truex blew an engine. However, he started 2nd that day and led 12 laps. Last season, he finished 18th but led 14 laps and he ended up 11th in 2010. At Atlanta a couple weeks ago, the #56 Toyota was great all day (despite starting 28th) and came home inside the top 5, and Truex nearly won back in Kansas. I don’t think he’ll be that strong this weekend, but then again it wouldn’t surprise me. Expect a top 10 out of Martin this weekend and look past his history at this track (like you’ve been doing all season, really).
10. Greg Biffle – This track ranks right down there with Talladega and Daytona on The Biff’s resume in terms of average finish. In nine career starts here, Biffle has averaged around a 19th-place finish, and has just one (!) top 10. That was a 4th-place effort here back in 2008. However, Greg’s bad finishes aren’t solely his fault. Last year he was pretty good before an unscheduled pit stop (ended up 26th) and two years ago he blew an engine (finished 35th). Still, the 11.1% top 10 rate at this track is still a little alarming to me. Another thing to mention is that Biffle was uncompetitive and finished 21st at Kentucky, but he had top 5 runs at both Las Vegas and Kansas. We’ll just have to see how the #16 looks in practice on Friday. Most likely, The Biff will jump in my final rankings on Saturday.
11. Tony Stewart – In all reality, this ranking is quite low for Smoke. However, it all depends on which #14 shows up this weekend. Their inconsistency this weekend is frustrating to say the least. One thing I really like is how good Stewart’s new crew chief, Steve Addington, was with Kurt Busch here one year ago. It also doesn’t hurt that Smoke won, either. Statistically, this is his third-best track on the circuit, with an average finish of 8.7 in eleven starts. He’s won here three separate times and has finished inside the top 5 in eight of the last ten Chicago races. If he looks good in practice on Friday, expect Tony to make a huge jump in my final Predictions post on Saturday, which you can find at www.ifantasyrace.com.
12. Kasey Kahne – His weak performance still has me concerned about the #5 team, but this ranking could easily change with a good practice session or two on Friday. Kahne has never really ran exceptional here at Chicagoland (only 12 total laps led in eight career starts) but finished 3rd and 6th here in 2009 and 2010 while with Petty and ran a solid 12th with Red Bull in this event last year. When you look at the tracks similar to Chicago, Kasey won the pole in Las Vegas and then ended up 8th at Kansas and 2nd at Kentucky. He really could go either way in my mind this early in the week. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on Kasey during Friday’s practices.
13. Mark Martin – Okay, I’ll admit that I’m starting to trust Mark Martin again. He didn’t run practice like he normally does last weekend, and hopefully he doesn’t this weekend as well because he could be a valuable pick. With his 3rd-place finish at Richmond on Saturday, Mark now has four finishes of 12th or better in his last five Sprint Cup starts, and his record at Chicagoland isn’t too shabby. He has made eleven career starts here and owns an average finish of 12.5. Martin led 195 of the 267 laps in the 2009 event (he won the race) and finished 9th here last season while driving for Hendrick. In the most recent intermediate track race–which was Atlanta–Mark ended up 10th.
14. Jamie McMurray – Sleeper alert! Jamie McMurray has made two starts here at Chicago since joining Earnhardt-Ganassi in 2010. In his first race with them (in 2010), he won the pole and led 72 laps before ending up 5th. Last year, Jamie Mac qualified 14th and was running there or better all race until his engine gave up around lap 160 (Yahoo! chart here). Want some more data to consider McMurray this week? He finished 8th at Las Vegas earlier this year and ended up 14th and 15th at Kansas and Kentucky, respectively. I’m not saying he’s going to win, but I think Jamie could end up in the top 15 on Sunday, and could be a valuable “start saver” in Yahoo!. Pay attention to the #1 car in practice this weekend.
15. Sam Hornish, Jr. – Penske Racing ran really well here last year (Keselowski in 5th and Kurt Busch in 6th), and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to go against Hornish–especially in the Yahoo! format. He has now finished 12th or better in three of the last four Sprint Cup races, and two of those three were at Michigan and Atlanta (other intermediate tracks). Assuming he doesn’t wreck or anything, Hornish should challenge for another top 15 on Sunday. He started 5th and finished 24th here at Chicago in 2010 while driving Penske’s second-class #77 car.
Those To Avoid Entering The Geico 400:
Carl Edwards - It’s feast or famine here at Chicago for Cousin Carl, and with the way his season is going I think it’s going to be the latter this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, he could still get a top 10, but he’s a bit too risky for me to pick. In seven career starts here, Edwards has three top 5 finishes to go along with three finishes of 20th or worse. With his 17th-place finish at Richmond last weekend, Carl now has just three top 10s in the last fourteen (!) Sprint Cup races.
Kyle Busch – I’m still convinced that Rowdy threw in the towel for the season last month in Michigan when he decided to run the Nationwide race in Montreal as opposed to practicing in his Cup car. As I mentioned earlier, Kyle had a dominating win here in 2008, but hasn’t done much at Chicago since. He started 9th and led two laps but ended up 22nd here last season and finished 17th and 33rd in the previous two years here.
September 5, 2012
Well, this is it–in a way. We’re at the final race in the 2012 regular season, and it will be decided on Saturday night who will be the second wildcard entrant, either Jeff Gordon or Kyle Busch. I consider Kasey Kahne locked in to the first wildcard spot because of his two wins, and although it is mathematically possible that he won’t make it, it would take a lot of crazy things to happen. Both Busch and Gordon are capable of winning at this track, and it should be an awesome race to watch this weekend.
During The Last Race At Richmond…Kyle Busch had just a “decent” race despite winning, as he only led 32 laps. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. followed the #18 to the line with Tony Stewart–who led 118 laps that night–coming home in 3rd. Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 5. Carl Edwards, who led a race-high 206 laps, ended up 10th after a mid-race penalty that put him a lap down.
Practice Schedule…Well we have another schedule this weekend that I severely dislike, as NASCAR is cramming all practices and qualifying into one day–Friday. The first session is set to begin at noon followed by Happy Hour at 2:30 pm. Then, the starting lineup will be set at 5:30 pm. The green flag for the Federated Auto Parts 400 should wave around 7:45 pm. All times are Eastern. For those that play Yahoo! Auto Racing, that means rosters will lock before we see the cars on the track (early Friday morning).
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The Federated Auto Parts 400:
1. Denny Hamlin – Denny made a statement (both literally and figuratively) after his win in Atlanta last weekend: this is the team to beat. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see this team head into the Chase on a three-race win streak and 15 bonus points in their pocket. This is one of Hamlin’s best tracks on the circuit, with an average finish of 7.3 in thirteen career starts and two trips to victory lane. He’s led 1,188 laps at Richmond, which is second only to Jeff Gordon’s 1,413–in 26 more starts, I might add. Hamlin has won two of the last six overall races here and in the last five September events he has finished 6th, 3rd, 1st, 1st, and 9th. In short, the #11 should be on many, many rosters this weekend.
2. Kyle Busch – It’s Richmond and it’s Kyle Busch, that’s really all I have to say. Even when he doesn’t have the strongest, dominating car, he still gets the finish (like back in April when he won). Rowdy has fifteen career starts at this track and has just two finishes outside of the top 6. Yes, he’s that good. He’s completed every single lap ran in those races and has led 891 pf then, which is 6th-best among active drivers. It’s worth noting that four of those drivers with more laps led than Kyle have also had at least eight more starts. Over the last five events here, Busch has an average driver rating of 125.4 and an average finish of 2.2. There’s no doubt in my mind that the #18 Toyota will be in the hunt for the win on Saturday night, no matter where it starts: Busch has finished 1st or 2nd after starting 20th or worse three separate times at this track.
3. Jeff Gordon – Gordon’s track record at this track was great from 2007 to 2009–as in he never finished worse than 9th in six races–but since then there have been a few stumbles for the four-time champion. He started 6th in the spring race here this season but had trouble early in the race and ended up 23rd. That was during the time that anything and everything was going wrong for this team, though, so you could just throw that finish out. In this race last year, Jeff had one of the best long-run cars at the end of the race, but a late race caution assisted him in ending up a disappointing 3rd. He could have won the race if that yellow didn’t wave. Gordon is on the outside looking in for the wildcard spot after failing to win at Atlanta last weekend. He’ll need to grab the checkered flag on Saturday night to get in the Chase (in my opinion), and he’s going against Kyle Busch at Kyle’s best track. Personally, this Saturday I’d love to see a situation similar to Tony Stewart vs. Carl Edwards at Homestead in 2011, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if that happened.
4. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Richmond is actually Junior’s fifth-best track on the circuit. In twenty-six career starts here, Junebug has collected three wins among nine top 5s and has averaged a finish of 13.9. He ran 2nd here back in April and I’m fulling expecting this team to run in the top 5 again on Saturday night. It says a lot about a team if you can struggle as much as the #88 crew did last weekend in Atlanta and still get a solid top 10 finish. Over the last seven Richmond events, Earnhardt’s only top 10 was his 2nd-place effort that I mentioned earlier, but don’t let that keep you from picking him: this team is better than ever and does better-than-expected pretty much every week. I’d consider Junior a lock for a top 10 this weekend.
5. Carl Edwards – Really the only Roush driver to figure this place out is Carl Edwards. He hasn’t finished worse than 10th in the last five races at Richmond and owns an average finish of 14.8 in sixteen career starts. His best finish came at this event last season where he led 113 laps before ending up 2nd to Kevin Harvick. As I said earlier, Edwards had one of the best cars here back in April, but on a restart he went too soon and had to make a pass-through penalty under green. This put Carl a lap down but he eventually rebounded with a 10th-place finish. Still, he had the second-best driver rating during that race (126.4), right behind Kyle Busch. Edwards knows that he must win this weekend to get in the Chase, and something must happen to one of the other drivers on the bubble. Personally, I think it’s a little too late for the #99 team, but we shall see.
6. Jimmie Johnson – One top 5 finish in the last seven races is the reason I didn’t rank the five time champion there going into the weekend. If he continues this little streak he’s on this season, though, he may deserve to be up there. For the last six races, Johnson has finished inside the top 3 in every other race, and if that continues, he will finish there on Saturday night as well. Overall, however, this isn’t really that great of a track for Jimmie (like a kind of mentioned in the first sentence). In twenty-one career starts here, he does have three victories, but an average finish of only 16.7 and just five top 5s. Johnson finished 6th here back in April and I think a top 10 should be expected out of him this weekend as well, but I’m not going to say whether or not he has a shot at the top 5 until after practice. It is worth noting, however, that Jimmie has completed just 94.0% of the laps ran here.
7. Clint Bowyer – This is one of Bowyer’s best tracks and he actually has third-best average finish here in the series (10.2) right behind Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Clint won here in 2008 but that has been his only top 5 in thirteen career starts at this 0.75-mile race track. He does have eleven finishes of 12th or better, though, so he’s a pretty safe pick. Bowyer had a bad qualifying effort here back in April and started 23rd. Still, the #15 was good and he rebounded to finish 7th by the end of the night. He had a rough weekend in Atlanta last week but Bowyer does have five top 10s in the last seven Sprint Cup series races and should get another one this weekend in Richmond.
8. Brad Keselowski – Well, BK notched another top 5 last weekend in Atlanta, and that now makes four of them in the last five Sprint Cup races. I don’t think he’ll get up there this weekend in Richmond, but he’s proven me wrong before so we’ll have to see how the Blue Deuce looks in practice on Friday. In six career starts here, Keselowski has an average finish of just 20.7 and one top 10, which was a 9th-place effort in this race last season. However, you should know by now that you can really throw Brad’s history out the window. He should be good on Saturday night, and he doesn’t qualify too bad here either (10.8 average start), which hasn’t been this team’s strong suit thus far in 2012.
9. Kevin Harvick – Has the crew chief change helped Kevin Harvick? He had an awesome car last weekend in Atlanta, and this is actually one of his best tracks on the circuit, so it will be interesting to see how the #29 looks on Friday. He could really go either way this weekend, in my opinion. In twenty-three career starts here at Richmond, Harvick has an average finish of 11.8 and has collected two victories, the most recent coming in this race last season. He started 3rd here back in April but finished a disappointing 19th after the team couldn’t quite get a grip on the car’s setup as the race went on. Happy has finished 12th or better in fourteen of the last sixteen Richmond races if that makes you feel better about picking him this week.
10. Kasey Kahne – I’m still a little bitter about Kasey Kahne’s performance last weekend in Atlanta, so I’m approaching him a little cautiously this weekend for Richmond. As I said before, Kasey brought home a solid 5th-place finish here back in April, but that is only his second top 5 in the last four-and-a-half years at this track (nine races). His career average finish of 18.4 is nothing to ride home about, either. However, Kahne did win from the pole here back in 2005 and should be good for a top 10 finish on Saturday night. Still, I’d watch the #5 closely in practice on Friday before going “all in” with him.
11. Tony Stewart – Well, Atlanta is over, and that now makes four straight finishes of 19th or worse for Smoke. I don’t know what–if anything–is going on with this team, and it makes it a little hard ranking him this weekend. Stewart has a pretty good record here at Richmond (twenty-seven starts, 10.6 average finish, eighteen top 10s, and three wins). As I said earlier, the #14 ended up 3rd here back in April and could very easily do that again on Saturday night. On the other hand, Stewart could also run like he did back in 2010, where he finished 23rd and 16th in the two Richmond races. In Yahoo!, I think there are too many other options in the A group to take Stewart this week, especially considering we don’t get to see any practice before locking down our rosters. In other leagues, however, it may be worth picking Smoke, but we’ll have to see how the car looks first.
12. Mark Martin – Well, this race is only 400 miles so I’m a little less concerned about Mark Martin blowing his engine. He’ll still run the hell out of his car in practice, though, so I guess it’s a good thing that there are only two sessions. Richmond has actually been Mark’s fifth-best track on the circuit throughout his very long career. In fifty-three career starts (you read that right), he averages a finish of 12.1 and has recorded twenty-nine top 10s. Martin started on the pole back in April and should challenge for it again this weekend. He ended up 8th that night, by the way, and has three straight finishes of 14th or better at this track. The MWR organization should have a very good night on Saturday if Truex can get things going right here this weekend.
13. Juan Montoya – This is a super risky pick this weekend, but if you’re in a league like Yahoo! sometimes you need to reach deep and hope for the best. Richmond actually hasn’t been too bad of a track for JPM over the last couple years. In the last five events here, he has an average driver rating of 96.0, which is eighth-best in the series. He also has an average finish of 13.8 over that span and just one result lower than 15th. Montoya ended up 12th here in April and could be valuable for some qualifying bonus points (he’s started in the top 10 in three of the last four Richmond races). Like I said, it’s a risky pick, but sometimes you need to do that in fantasy racing.
14. Ryan Newman – The Rocketman has finished 15th or better in six of the last seven races at Richmond, but I wouldn’t expect much better out of him this weekend. This team had a really nice run going into Bristol but after mid-30s finishes in both Thunder Valley and Atlanta, they are on the outside looking in on the Chase and I’m back to being “down” on them. The #39 has just seemed off all year, and even Newman’s good runs in July and August weren’t exactly strong. Statistically, however, this is Ryan’s second-best track on the circuit. He has an average finish of 11.8 in twenty-one career starts and finishes inside the top 10 more often than not.
15. Paul Menard – The date is set for the appeal of Slugger Labbe’s suspension, and that is next Monday (September 10th). That means he will be on top of the pit box this weekend at Richmond, and that should be a good thing for the #27 team. This team rattled off another quietly good finish at Atlanta last Sunday, and this could be a great week to use Menard once again–and he probably won’t be a popular pick. Richmond has never been good to the RCR driver to say the least; in eleven career starts here, Menard has an average finish of 27.5, and that will shy people away from picking him. However, Paul ended up 13th here in April and now has three straight top 10s and only one finish worse than 14th in the last nine Sprint Cup races. Momentum-wise, he’s good to go, so we’ll have to see how the #27 looks in practice on Friday.
Those To Avoid Entering The Federated Auto Parts 400:
Martin Truex, Jr. - It’s hard to go against the #56 team this season, but if there’s one place that you need to do so, it is Richmond. For whatever reason, Martin simply hasn’t figured this place out yet. He has a couple good finishes (5th in 2008 and 7th in 2010), but when you only have two out of thirteen starts, that’s not good. In the first race at Richmond earlier this year, Truex finished 25th despite starting 8th. It was one of those few races in 2012 that he simply ran bad at, and it would honestly be a surprise if he ended up in the top 10 this weekend. When it comes to those in the top 12, Truex is the one to stay away from.
Greg Biffle - The Biff isn’t quite as bad as Truex at Richmond, but if you’re in an allocation league (such as Yahoo!), there’s really no reason for the #16 to be anywhere near your roster this weekend. Biffle had five straight top 10s at Richmond from 2004 to 2006, but since the Car of Tomorrow was introduced in 2007, he hasn’t finished better than 13th in eleven races. He consistently puts up teens finishes (like his 18th-place effort earlier this year), but that’s not what you need out of someone like Biffle. His career average finish at this track is 16.7.