Fantasy NASCAR preview: Amp Energy 500
by C.J. Radune
on October 28, 2009 @ 00:00:00
Talladega Superspeedway is one of the two restrictor plate tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule. How effectively the drivers draft off other cars to create downforce for their own cars is the key to winning on the fast and wide track. Handling is not as important at Talladega as at Daytona International Speedway (the other restrictor plate track) due to the wider layout, and tire strategy could become a factor. Cars race in large packs creating lanes of cars three- and four-wide. It is important for drivers to be able to be fast in several different lines around the track since it is hard to tell which lane is going to move the fastest. The best way to pass is to get in the fastest lane and use the draft to get a run.
Brad Keselowski won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race in the Aaron's 499 in April, the last time the series stopped at Talladega. The race ended in spectacular fashion as Carl Edwards attempted to block Keselowski in the run to the finish. Drivers will commonly throw blocks in other competitor's ways and that can often end up ruining a number of driver's days.Location: Talladega, Ala.
Length: 2.66 miles
Turns 1-2: 33 degrees
Turns 3-4: 33 degrees
Front stretch: 16.5 degrees
Back stretch: 2 degrees
Drivers to keep an eye on
Busch has proven himself to be a very competent superspeedway racer. His average finish at Talladega Superspeedway in the last five starts is 15.2. Since the big one can happen to anyone, though, if you take the last five finishes where he didn't crash at the crash, the average jumps to 8.0. Just one DNF in his last 10 Talladega races is another strong statistic. He has taken home eight top-10 finishes in the last 10 Talladega races, and barring any problems on Sunday, Busch should be a solid choice for fantasy rosters. Penske Championship Racing's superspeedway program is solid, and Busch is the leading driver on the team.
Having scored just two top-10s so far this season, Ragan could use something to smile about before the season ends. The nugget of joy he seeks could come his way this weekend at Talladega. In his last race there, the Aaron's 499 in April, he nearly finished in the top 10, but ended 12th after qualifying 10th. He led two laps in that race, and has led laps in three of the five career starts he has at the track. His career average Talladega finish is 14.0, and he has only recorded one DNF in that span. Ragan should be a solid option for a top-15 finish if not even a top-10 result this weekend.
Logano has visibly progressed this season and has even delivered his first win. In his first NASCAR Sprint Cup start at Talladega Superspeedway he scored a top-10 finish. That is no easy task for a rookie. To make it even sweeter, he led four laps. Logano, though a rookie, has proven that he can hang in the pack with the big dogs on restrictor-plate tracks. His three superspeedway starts so far this season have all been solid, except for his unfortunate DNF because of an accident in the Daytona 500. He finished ninth in the Aaron's 499 earlier this year.
Vickers has been a strong contender on the superspeedways since Toyota improved its engine package a few seasons ago. While Vickers has always been a stout superspeedway driver, the enhanced Toyota power has also been a big help. While the other manufacturers have closed the gap, Vickers' prowess as a driver has still shone through. He finished eighth in the series' last visit to Talladega and scored another top-10 in July's race at Daytona International Speedway. Vickers' average finish in the last five Talladega races is 16.6, but that includes a DNF. In his last seven races, he has five top-10s at the track. He won the 2006 UAW-Ford 500 at the track.
Mears has been a solid performer in the past few races. He has consistently finished inside the top 20 in the past six races, and recorded his fourth top-10 of the season in the NASCAR Banking 500 two weekends ago. In the recent past, Mears' Talladega results have been on the upswing as well. His last five finishes there average a result of 16.4. Like most drivers though, at least one of those five was a DNF. In 13 career Talladega starts, Mears has earned four top-10 finishes. His recent form and the upturn in Talladega finishes should bring Mears to the forefront of options for a No. 3 or No. 4 driver on fantasy rosters this weekend.
Temper your expectations
Two top-10 finishes in the last five races is not the success that Edwards is used to. He has clearly not been up to his normal form this season, though it is far from a slump. Unfortunately, as Edwards continues his search for a win this season, the series is now stopping at Talladega Superspeedway. This is a track where Edwards has struggled. His last five finishes there average 29.8. Trouble has a tendency of finding Edwards at Talladega and that could be a product of the Roush Fenway Racing package keeping him mixed in the pack throughout the race, putting him in danger when any crashes occur.
Harvick was once a surefire pick for nearly any superspeedway competition. The Richard Childress Racing superspeedway package was among the best in the series at one point. Lately though, the competition has caught up to them. Harvick's average finish in his last five Talladega Superspeedway starts is 21.6 with just one top-10 recorded. Harvick has turned in some good results recently though, including a top-10 in last weekend's TUMS Fast Relief 500, but hasn't scored a top finish on a superspeedway since the season-opening Daytona 500. Harvick could still pull one out of the bag in the Amp Energy 500, but it is a risk for fantasy players.
Biffle is another driver used to winning that hasn't found Victory Lane yet in 2009. He scored a top-10 in the Aaron's 499, but has never been known as a truly gifted superspeedway racer. His average Talladega finish in his last five starts is just 20.2. In his career at Talladega Superspeedway he has only recorded one top-10 finish in 13 tries. Roush Fenway Racing has improved their superspeedway race package, but not enough to keep their drivers from avoiding trouble. Having to hang inside the pack at Talladega is not a play that fantasy owners, or their drivers, should be too excited about. For that reason, Biffle is a driver most people will wish to avoid this weekend at Talladega.
Talladega Superspeedway has not been a great place for Kahne to visit in the past. His average finish in the last five Talladega starts is 24.6. In his 11 career starts at the track he has recorded just one top-five finish. His DNF count at the track isn't that much different from most other drivers at two, but hides other facts. It seems Kahne gets caught up in wrecks, but then laps the track to pick up positions from others who were too damaged to continue. Six of his 11 career starts at the track have ended with him being laps down to the leader at the finish. Regardless of what his DNF count is, trouble finds Kahne at Talladega. Fantasy owners should take caution with him this weekend.
In five career starts at Talladega Superspeedway Reutimann's best finish is 20th. His average finish at the track is 27.4, and he has also only finished on the lead lap once in those five races. Those statistics are very worrying for fantasy owners. He has scored some consistently good results leading up to the Amp Energy 500, but fantasy players must recognize that Reutimann has only finished 40 percent of the races he has started at Talladega.
About C.J. Radune
Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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