Fantasy NASCAR preview: NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America
by C.J. Radune
on October 14, 2009 @ 00:00:00
Lowe's Motor Speedway hosts more miles of racing, 1,100 miles in two races, than any other in the Sprint Cup Series. As a result, engine wear is a chief concern. Aggressive setups often don't play well on this track and a more neutral set up is more favorable. If a car is too tight, it can result in too much push, forcing drivers out of the throttle and causing the car to lose momentum in the straightaways. Since the turns are long, downforce is important to allow drivers to use the gas to keep their speed up. Passing occurs all over the fast track. Drivers have the option of out driving their opponent into the corner or getting a run coming out of the corner and passing them in the straightaway. Turn 4 sees the most incidents as the track gets very narrow at that point.
David Reutimann won a rain plagued Coca-Cola 600 after numerous attempts to get the race in. Tony Stewart also took the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race this season, but in the past, Lowe's Motor Speedway has been the house of Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson won five straight races at the track and Jeff Gordon took another bring the team's total to six wins out of the last 12 regular season races at the track. Look for those drivers and others to work their strategy through the cooler night to put themselves on top with a fast car as the laps wind down.
Location: Concord, N.C.
Drivers to keep an eye on
Vickers has scored two top-fives and three top-10s in the last five regular season Lowe's Motor Speedway events. In May's Coca-Cola 600, Vickers was one of the few drivers who led the race consistently and still finished in the top five. Most of the contenders were caught out by pit strategy when the rains came and didn't leave. Vickers was not only fast but was in a top spot when the race was ended as well. When all was said and done, Vickers led 33 of the 227 laps completed. There is no reason to think that Vickers would be any slower this weekend, and fantasy owners should feel confident slotting him into their starting roster.
Assuming Busch can overcome last weekend's illness before the NASCAR Banking 500, he should be a solid option for fantasy players. He only started the Pepsi 500 before handing over the wheel to David Gilliland after suffering flu-like symptoms. At Lowe's, Busch is a force to be reckoned with. His average finish in the last five points races there is 9.2. That average could be even better had he not finished 30th in the 2007 Coca-Cola 600. Despite that blemish, his average is still extremely strong. Busch has certainly overcome his early career inconsistency at the track and is now a contender whenever the series rolls into town. Busch is a driver fantasy owners want on their side this weekend.
Labonte has only scored one top-five finish this season. That result was back in March, too. He came close to another top-10 in the Coca-Cola 600 where he finished 12th in May, though. Lowe's Motor Speedway has been a good hunting ground for Labonte in the past. In 21 career starts at the track, his average finish is a very impressive 8.8. While the majority of those finishes came with teams other than Hall of Fame-Yates Racing, Labonte is still the same driver behind the wheel. Despite his lackluster season so far, Labonte is still a great driver at Lowe's and should be a solid third or fourth driver in most fantasy lineups.
Hamlin had a very disappointing Pepsi 500. He led 21 laps, but was wrecked on a restart. He finished that day 37th. Lowe's Motor Speedway could offer Hamlin a good opportunity to rebound, though. His record at the track is strong, and he spent 216 of the 227 laps run in May's Coca-Cola 600 in the top 15. Three top-10 results there contribute to his career average finish of 15.6 in eight tries. While Hamlin may be struggling a bit in the Chase, he still turns in some very strong performances, and the NASCAR Banking 500 could be another one of those strong runs. Hamlin should be a safe bet this weekend as the series returns to Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Hornish ran very strongly at Auto Club Speedway last weekend. He finished the race 12th, which was a good result for the Ohio native. Earlier this year Hornish won the Sprint Showdown leading 15 of the 40 laps. In three career regular season races at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Hornish has an average finish of 17.0 but has not finished worse than 22nd. He demonstrates speed and prowess in the showcase events at the track but still performs decently in the points races, as well. Look for Hornish to turn in another solid performance in the NASCAR Banking 500 this weekend.
Temper your expectations
Harvick's season has certainly seen a turnaround from his struggles earlier this year. Still, he and the team are searching for more consistency. Though Harvick has been on the upswing lately, the NASCAR Banking 500 may not be a race to rely on him. His average finish in the last five Lowe's races is 24.4. He has failed to finish four races there out of his 17 career tries. Not since 2003 has Harvick finished in the top 10 in a Lowe's Motor Speedway points race. Fantasy owners may be tempted to choose him on the basis of his recent performances, but Lowe's may prove to be a hurdle.
Busch was caught out by the rain that plagued the Coca-Cola 600. He spent 188 laps running in the top 15, before he decided to pit, dropping him down the order as the rains came. Busch's average finish from the last five points races at Lowe's Motor Speedway is 22.2. He scored one top-five in those races but couldn't manage to finish in the top 15 in any other. Busch has struggled at the track but looked decent prior to the rain earlier this year at the track. As a result, fantasy owners should look to Busch with a bit of caution. His statistics at the track aren't great and could be a risky play this weekend.
Bowyer has only recorded one top-five finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway in his seven career starts. His average finish in that time is 20.9, and his qualifying efforts haven't been that much stronger, either. Bowyer is currently 15th in NASCAR Sprint Cup points. He just hasn't performed well at Lowe's in the past. Outside of the lone top-five, Bowyer only has one other top-10 Lowe's result, and that was in the 2007 Nextel Open. It could be difficult for Bowyer to score another top-10 result this weekend and fantasy owners should view him as a weak choice in the NASCAR Banking 500.
Kenseth's record at Lowe's Motor Speedway is a good one but has been punctuated by accidents. In the last five tries at the track, his average finish is 20.8. That average includes two top-10s and two DNFs. Kenseth's lack of consistency is a big factor in making him a driver that fantasy owners may wish to avoid this week. His tendency to be involved in accidents at Lowe's is not a new problem, either. Over his 20-race career at the track, he has failed to finish six times. Fantasy owners should seek a more steady option for this weekend's NASCAR Banking 500.
While Newman finished second in the rain shortened Coca-Cola 600, he was assisted by the race's truncation. He started first but ran a good portion of the race lower in the field. His pit strategy moved him up the order at the perfect time, just before the race was red flagged. Newman's average finish in the last five regular season Lowe's Motor Speedway races is just 22.2. He hasn't lived up to expectations at the fast 1.5-mile track. While Newman has finished out of the top 10 in the last two races, the NASCAR Banking 500 may make that streak three. Newman's past record at the Lowe's track makes him a weak fantasy option. Owners should look elsewhere this weekend.
About C.J. Radune
Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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