Fantasy NASCAR preview: Dickies 500
by C.J. Radune
on November 4, 2009 @ 00:00:00
Texas Motor Speedway is an extremely fast track. Cars run soft springs to maximize speed and grip. The track, coupled with the car settings, can be hard on tires. If a ride blows a tire, a hard hit into the wall is usually the cards. As a result pit strategy to keep four fresh tires on the car could easily come into play. Like a lot of high-speed tracks, engine performance is also a big factor with engine attrition and fuel strategy coming into play. Passing on the track can be difficult, so despite the tire concerns, teams will gamble and employ two-tire stops or have their drivers stay out late in the race.
Texas Motor Speedway races have been won by a variety of teams, but Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing have combined to win four of the last five events. Jeff Gordon won April's Samsung 500, while Carl Edwards won the prior two races at the track.
Location: Forth Worth, Texas
Drivers to keep an eye on
As usual, Busch is not a driver fantasy players should bet against. His record at Texas Motor Speedway is a good one with three top-fives and four top-10s in nine career starts. In the last five races there he averaged a 13.6 finish while scoring three of his four top-10s at the track. Busch's ability to turn raw speed into a solid finish has certainly taken a turn for the better in the past few seasons at Texas Motor Speedway, and that should pique fantasy owner's interests. Busch should be a solid selection for the Dickies 500.
Last weekend Burton snapped a top-10 drought that dated all the way back to the June Pocono 500. The result was badly needed for Burton as well as Richard Childress Racing. His average finish at Texas Motor Speedway is 7.0 in the last five races. That is a stout record, and Burton may be in a prime position to capitalize on that run this weekend. Richard Childress Racing's fortunes have started to turn as the season has wound down, and that newfound confidence could be parlayed into another solid Texas finish from Burton. He is a driver fantasy owners should seriously consider this weekend.
Reutimann demonstrated his prowess on 1.5-mile ovals this year by winning the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600. He signaled that he may be a driver to beat on these types of tracks, and especially Texas Motor Speedway, back in April when he qualified on pole for the Samsung 500. He led 11 laps and finished 11th in that race. The prior race at Texas, last season's Dickies 500, resulted in a 10th-place result. Reutimann's average finish at the track (26.3) doesn't look good after four career starts because he suffered two mechanical DNFs in his first two Texas. Fantasy owners shouldn't let that statistic scare them away, though. Reutimann has been solid on this track and similar ones this season.
Four top-10s in 33 starts so far this season is not what Truex and Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing were hoping for as they looked into 2009. Reality is tough to accept sometimes, and all they can do is work to change it. They should have a good chance this weekend in the Dickies 500. Truex bagged one top-five and three top-10s in the last five Texas races. His finishing average in that time is 15.8 including one DNF, in which he was classified 36th. Results like that are solid for an individual track and Truex could leverage that to his advantage this weekend. Keep an eye on Truex; he could turn out to be a solid third driver on your fantasy roster.
McMurray must be over the moon with his win in last weekend's AMP Energy 500. Not only did he win at Talladega Superspeedway, but that was his first top-five finish of the season. Additionally, Roush Fenway Racing is typically strong at tracks like Texas Motor Speedway. Teammate Carl Edwards won the 2008 Dickies 500 and two Roush Fenway cars finished in the top five in April's Samsung 500. McMurray can leverage his teammates' setups as well as the confidence gained from last weekend's win to get his sixth top-10 of the season, and that would be his third in as many races. McMurray could be a solid fantasy option for the Dickies 500.
Temper your expectations
Through 33 starts this season, Ragan has only secured two top-10 finishes. His last top-10 was in the Pepsi 500, but the first dates back to the opening race of the season. Ragan has not lived up to expectations after taking the wheel of the No. 6 UPS Ford. Last April, Ragan had a strong car at Texas Motor Speedway. He started the day from fourth position and even led a lap. In the end, he blew his engine and was classified 37th. His average finish in five starts at the track is 27.4, and that is definitely not up to par with his Roush Fenway Racing teammates. Fantasy owners should take caution when thinking about Ragan this weekend.
Kahne's up and down Chase effort took another upturn in last weekend's AMP Energy 500. He finished second on the day, his seventh top-five of the season and second in the Chase. His average finish at Texas Motor Speedway is 21.2 in the past five races, and he hasn't scored a top-10 finish there since he won the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 in 2006. Having won at the track in the past, Kahne knows how to get the job done in Texas, but he has been inconsistent both at the track and on the season. Fantasy owners should look for drivers with a higher probability of having a top finish, and Kahne's record makes that very difficult to predict.
Newman's average finish in his last five starts at Texas Motor Speedway is 16.8. In that span he has taken home two top-five finishes, but couldn't break his way into the top-10 the other three. That recent record pales in comparison to his early days at the track when he scored two poles and a win in his first five visits to Texas. Newman's results have visibly declined at the track in the past few years, which should give fantasy owners pause as they consider him for the Dickies 500. His consistency has vanished and that makes him a much riskier play at this track than a few seasons ago.
Logano earned his third top-five finish of the season in last weekend's AMP Energy 500. That finish was his second top-five result in just three races; perhaps Logano is on to something. Nevertheless, Texas Motor Speedway has not been kind to him, and his average finish in two career starts there is a very uninspiring 35.0. He started 10th in April's Samsung 500, but the rookie racer finished running in 30th place. While Logano may be turning the heat up as he closes out the season, his past results at Texas Motor Speedway leave a lot to be desired. His recent streak may not be enough to overcome his past struggles at the track.
Ambrose is in the process of turning in a very solid season, and currently holds down 18th position in NASCAR Sprint Cup points. One dark spot on the season for Ambrose was his last outing at Texas Motor Speedway in April's Samsung 500. He finished that race 41st. His only other Sprint Cup effort at the track resulted in a 21st-place showing, making his average finish 31.0 in two career starts. Ambrose hasn't been the strongest driver on the 1.5-mile speedways this season. He finished 22nd in the NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway and 23rd in the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Given the similarities between those two tracks and Texas Motor Speedway, one has to be concerned about Ambrose's potential this weekend.
About C.J. Radune
Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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