Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Shelby American

by Eric McClung on February 24, 2010 @ 00:00:00 PDT

 


This is the first and only race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on the Sprint Cup series schedule but is the first of 10 races to be held on 1.5-mile tracks. This race will showcase each team's intermediate package and carry a lot of momentum into next week's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which is banked 24 degrees in the corners like the majority of intermediate tracks. LVMS is banked 20 degrees in the corners, so some of what the teams learn this week will be very important going forward. The racing surface at LVMS was redesigned for the 2007 season, offering only three Cup races to analyze.

Location: Las Vegas
Shape: D shaped-oval
Length: 1.5 miles
Laps: 267
Turns 1-4: 20 degrees
Front stretch: 9 degrees
Back stretch: 9 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

The younger Busch brother is a Las Vegas native and has won the last two poles at his home track. He is also the defending winner of this race, giving him five straight finishes of 11th or better at LVMS. Even though he won the pole and the race last year, Busch started from the rear of the field after an engine change. Despite finishing 11th in 2008, Rowdy's average running position was sixth, and he spent 94 percent of the race inside the top 15. Busch has led over 50 laps in two straight races at LVMS and has led at least one lap in four straight. Home cooking has been very good for Busch thus far, making him a great addition to any fantasy recipe this week.

Jeff Burton | No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

No stranger to success at Las Vegas both before and after the redesign, Burton won the races held in 1999 and 2000 in addition to top-five finishes in the last two. Since 2007, Burton has led at least four laps in all three races. His average running position in that span has been no worse than ninth, and he has spent more than 83 percent of those races inside the top-15. Given how strong Burton finished 2009, and how it has carried over into 2010, it may be time to double down on Burton.

Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

Brian Vickers, Red Bull Racing
A sneaky-good pick

A glance at Vickers' history at Las Vegas may leave you wondering why he's on this list. Vickers failed to qualify for the 2007 race and came from the back of the field in 2008 to finish 24th. However, Red Bull Racing made big strides at intermediate tracks last season, especially early in the schedule. Vickers finished a career-best eighth at LVMS last year followed by a career-best fifth-place result the following week at Atlanta. Vickers may not garner much attention at this track, but his steady improvement makes him a great sneaky play.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 56 NAPA Gold Filters Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Coming off a sixth-place finish in the Daytona 500, Truex was a major disappointment last week at Fontana suffering an engine problem that limited him to 64 laps. Truex is a good rebound candidate given how well he closed last season on intermediate tracks. While he only finished 32nd at LVMS last year, Truex had an average finish of 13.6 at the three other 1.5-mile tracks that are banked less than 24 degrees (Chicagoland Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway). In other Vegas finishes since the redesign, Truex finished 12th in 2007 and 15th in 2008 but is a good gamble to improve on those results this week.

David Reutimann | No. 00 Tums Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

In just his second career start at Las Vegas, Reutimann started and finished in the fourth position. Perhaps even more impressive was how good Reutimann performed at the 1.5-mile tracks in general, finishing worse than 16th only once in 10 races. The double zero may not be a threat to win this race but is a safe bet for a good finish and someone to strongly consider when rounding out your roster.

Temper your expectations

Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

With his rough start to 2010, seeing two DNFs due to crash over the last five races at Las Vegas is a scary sight when evaluating Kahne this week. Kahne finished sixth in 2008 and 11th last year, but his average running position in those races was 19th and 18th, respectively. Currently struggling, a history of wrecks and overrated performances makes Kahne a very dicey start.

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

Kurt Busch, Penske Championship Racing
What happens in Vegas....

Despite never starting worse than 10th in nine career starts at Las Vegas, the older Busch has not done much with it. Since the track was redesigned in 2007, Busch has not finished in the top-20, although his average running position has ranged from 15th to 19th in the span. Last year, Busch's finishes at the lower-banked 1.5-mile tracks improved as the season went on, but his spotty history at Vegas will make you put your money elsewhere.

Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Target Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

In three career starts at Las Vegas, Montoya's best finish has been 19th. Last year, Montoya spent 96 laps in the top 15 - by far his best effort to date. He was having a decent run but a collision during a restart in the first third of the race caused a tire rub and forced him to spend extra time on pit road. A look back at 2009 shows Montoya had the majority of his success on 1.5-mile tracks in the middle of the season, so hold your cards a little longer.

Bobby Labonte | No. 71 Taxslayer.com Chevrolet | TRG Motorsports

Some may look at Labonte's fifth-place finish at Las Vegas last year and think they have a sleeper on their hands. However, Labonte had finishes worse than 30th in six of the 10 races held on 1.5-mile tracks and has finished outside of the top-20 in both races thus far in 2010. Since the track was redesigned, Labonte had finishes of 13th and 17th, but that with during his tenure with Petty Enterprises, which ran better equipment than his current ride.

Brad Keselowski | No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

After finishing 38th at Las Vegas last year, Keselowski was not much better at most of his starts at intermediate tracks as the season went on. Although most of those results came in lesser equipment than he's driving now, nothing thus far with Penske has suggested Keselowski anything but a sucker bet this week.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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