Fantasy NASCAR preview: Lenox Industrial Tools 301
There are several factors to look at before you set your fantasy lineup for New Hampshire Motor Speedway. First, the track was redesigned in 2002, so skip over any results prior to that. The apron was paved and added to the track as part of the new progressive banking. Second, check out the results from the other flat track races held so far this season: Martinsville Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Richmond International Raceway. While these tracks all have their own unique elements, the braking skills required to succeed on flat tracks is key to performing well across the board. Finally, check the forecast. Over the last two years, rain has played a factor in all four races held at Loudon. Two of the races were called early due to rain, while qualifying was rained out for the other two. For this weekend, things look clear for qualifying on Friday, but on Sunday there is a call for isolated thunderstorms early and rain later on.
Location: Loudon, N.H.
Drivers to keep an eye on
Since 2005, no driver has scored more Cup points at New Hampshire than Stewart. In those 10 races, Stewart has six top-10 finishes, including five top-fives. His average running position has been 10th or better eight times, which includes running sixth and eighth last year. Over the last five starts at the site, Stewart has done a great job of getting to the front, leading 39 or more laps on four occasions. For owners in allocation formats with extra Stewart starts in their pocket, he has top-10 finishes in four of his last five starts this season, including two top-fives.
Back in 2008, Bowyer held average running positions of eighth and 10th at New Hampshire. Bowyer took a step back a bit last year with average running positions of 15th and 14th. Despite running relatively well, Bowyer has been unable to always record the type of finish he deserved, with only one top-10 in those four races. In addition to those underrated performances, Bowyer has been strong on flat tracks this season. He finished seventh at Martinsville, ninth at Phoenix and 12th at Richmond. Returning to the site he dominated back in the fall of 2007 could be exactly what Bowyer needs to get back into Chase contention.
Speaking of drivers who have been strong on flat tracks this season, Newman is one of only two drivers with two top-five finishes on the three flat track races thus far, including a win at Phoenix. Newman finished fourth at Martinsville and eighth at Richmond. Newman is a two-time winner at New Hampshire, but had his best recent run at the site during last year's fall race. Newman finished seventh and spent 99 percent of the race running in the top 15. He may not have the most consistent history at Loudon in recent years, which will likely undervalue him in most formats, but he's been getting it done on all the other flat tracks.
From 2007-08, Truex was among the best drivers at New Hampshire. In those four races, he compiled an average finish of 4.8 with three top-fives and finished no worse than seventh. In last year's summer race, Truex appeared ready to add another top-five until things went awry. On Lap 175, Truex restarted in the fifth position, but got spun around to end his day with a DNF and a 37th-place finish. In the fall, Truex was decent finishing 19th with an average running position of 14th. Look for Truex to get back to his successful ways at Loudon based on two of his strong runs on flat tracks this season; he finished fifth at Martinsville and seventh at Richmond.
Over the last three races at Loudon, Montoya has become progressively better in both his finishes and average running position. It culminated in last year's fall race, starting from the pole Montoya finished third with an average running position of fourth. Starting position is often a big factor at Loudon and that appears to be one of the biggest reasons Montoya has done better each time out. Keep JPM in mind if he locks down a good starting spot. So far this season on flat tracks, Montoya had issues at Martinsville, but finished fifth at Phoenix and sixth at Richmond.
Temper your expectations
The last two years at Loudon has been a struggle for Kenseth. His best finish at the site in that span is only 18th with two other finishes outside the top 20. Over the last nine races this season, Kenseth has just one top-five finish and two top-10s. Those frustrations are likely one big reason Kenseth is now on his third crew chief of the year. Jimmy Fennig, who won a championship in 2004 when Kurt Busch was with Roush Fenway, will take over atop the box starting this week. Given Kenseth's lack of success at Loudon and the possibility the two may need a race or two to get their communication down, take a pass this week.
In his first two starts at Loudon since 2006, Martin was impressive at the site last year. He finished 14th in the summer race, despite an average running position of ninth. Martin came back to win the fall race with an average running position of eighth and 68 laps led. This season, Martin had a good run at Martinsville, but only finished 21st. He over performed at Phoenix with a fourth-place finish but an average running position of only 16th. Richmond was also a struggle, finishing 25th with an average running position of 18th. Martin has recently commented that his team has struggled with the spoiler - stay away until they show some signs of having figured it out.
Over his career, Edwards has struggled at Loudon. In 11 starts, Edwards has an average finish of 13.8 with two top-fives, which are also his only top-10s at the site. Last year, he started fifth in both races at New Hampshire, but finished 19th and 17th with average running positions of 15th and 10th. Edwards has qualified 19th or worse in four straight and in six of the last seven. If he couldn't get it done from the third row last year, it seems unlikely he'll do much more from further back.
Logano won this race last year by catching the rain after an otherwise poor performance. His average running position was only 21st and he spent just 13.9 percent of the race running in the top 15. In two other Cup starts at his home track, Logano has finishes of 32nd and 21st with average running positions of 38th and 25th. There are some signs of hope, though. In last year's Nationwide race at Loudon, Logano started from the pole and finished second. Earlier this season, Logano was the runner-up at Martinsville, finished 10th at Phoenix and 16th at Richmond. Still, Logano is a risky pick given his struggles in the Cup at Loudon and the rainout win could cause him to become overvalued.
In the last two years, Sadler has two top-10 finishes at Loudon but don't assume you've found a sleeper. In the 2008 summer race, Sadler finished fifth with an average running position of 24th. In last year's fall race, Sadler finished eighth with an average running position of 20th. Also, keep in mind that Sadler has failed to do anything on flat tracks this season; his best finish is 24th at Martinsville. Some managers who only look at finishes could be fooled into starting Sadler - don't be one of them.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also 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. Follow @EricMcClung
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