Fantasy NASCAR preview: Sylvania 300

by Eric McClung on September 15, 2010 @ 14:15:00 PDT

 


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 race results from the other flat tracks 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 as rain has affected qualifying and race day in recent years.

Location: Loudon, N.H.
Shape: Oval
Length: 1.058 miles
Laps: 301
Turns 1-4: 2 to 7 degrees (variable)
Frontstretch: 1 degree
Backstretch: 1 degree

Drivers to keep an eye on

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

Penske Championship Racing driver Kurt Busch
This Busch can win in New Hampshire

Since 2008, the older Busch brother has a win amidst a streak of five consecutive finishes of sixth or better at Loudon. During that time, Busch has led at least seven laps in four of those starts. Over the last four races at New Hampshire, Busch has run at least 95.3 percent of his laps in the top 15 in each race, including a near-perfect number of top-15 laps in June (99.7). His average running position over the last four races at the site have been sixth or better each time out. Despite not finding much success on other flat tracks this season, Busch is a fine pick to hoist the gigantic lobster for the fourth time in his career at Loudon.

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

His four wins at New Hampshire are the most among active drivers but Burton hasn't been to Victory Lane at the site since 2000, prior to the redesign. Burton has seen some good runs since but has just one top-10 finish in his last six starts at Loudon. Back in June, though, Burton led 89 laps and held an average running position of fifth but settled for 12th after making contact with Kyle Busch late in the race. If not for a late caution, Burton would have likely won this race. At Martinsville, another flat track earlier this year, Burton finished 20th but he held an average running position of third and led 140 laps. His recent lackluster finishes at Loudon mask Burton's true value.

Clint Bowyer | No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Over the last four starts at New Hampshire, Bowyer has held an average running position no worse than 15th, including running 10th during the June race. In addition to finishing seventh in that race, Bowyer added top-10s at Martinsville and Phoenix earlier in the season. Just last week he clinched his spot in the Chase with a top-10 result at another flat track, Richmond, with 33 laps led. Among the most consistent drivers on this type of track all year, expect Bowyer to keep running well at one of his better tracks.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Flat tracks have been kind this season to Newman. Earlier in the season, he won at Phoenix right and had a fourth-place finish at Martinsville. Newman finished 11th a week ago at Richmond and was eighth there back in May. At Loudon, Newman has finished seventh and sixth his last two times out. In each race he held an average running position of 10th with 99.0 percent or more of his laps run in the top-15. With a great resume on flat tracks built over the course of the season, Newman is fine middle-tier selection this week and among the top options when looking at non-Chase drivers.

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

In the last four races at Loudon, Montoya has become progressively better and more consistent. Last year's Chase event and this season's spring season have been particularly impressive. After leading 105 laps, Montoya finished third a year ago in the second Loudon race with an average running position of fourth and 99.0 percent of his laps running in the top-15. He ended this season's June race in 34th but only because of an accident; he held a sixth-place average running position, ran 93.0 percent of laps in the top-15 and led 36 laps. Riding a season-best streak of five straight top-10 finishes, including finishing seventh at Richmond last week, JPM could be a major spoiler during NASCAR's postseason despite missing the cut.

Temper your expectations

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle
History says stay away from Biffle

A week after a poor finish at Richmond, Biffle is still looking like a bad play on flat tracks. He finished 10th at Martinsville, but Biffle was 22nd at Phoenix earlier this year as well as in the first Richmond event. He won the 2008 Chase race at Loudon but hasn't done much at the site since. In his last three Loudon starts, Biffle's average running position has ranged from 16th or 21st with no more than 45.8 percent of laps run in the top-15. Without a strong showing this year on flat tracks, there's little upside with starting Biffle.

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Over his career, Edwards has struggled at Loudon. In 12 starts, Edwards has an average finish of 14.8 with only two top-10s. Last year, Edwards started fifth in both races at New Hampshire, but he finished 19th and 17th with average running positions of 15th and 10th. In June, he was even worse, finishing 25th with an average running position of 22nd. It doesn't matter how good Edwards has looked over the last several weeks, Loudon is not a very good location to start him.

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

In June, Kahne led 110 laps at New Hampshire but an engine failure caused him to finish 36th. In last year's Chase opener, Kahne also suffered an engine failure at Loudon. There's a chance he'll run well again, but Kahne does not own a top-10 finish on a flat track yet this season. Owners in allocation formats will want to keep Kahne reserved for the upcoming intermediate tracks during the Chase schedule, the sites he really excels at.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

The most popular driver in the sport has been pretty good at Loudon in recent years. Over the last eight starts at the site, Earnhardt's average running position has been no worse than 13th. In June, he recorded an eight-place finish but has really struggled since then. In the nine starts since, Earnhardt has only one top-10 and is coming off a season-worst finish of 34th at Richmond. Despite the solid runs at New Hampshire, there is just way too much risk here.

Joey Logano | No. 20 The Home Depot Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Logano won last year's June race by catching the rain despite 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 the Chase race at Loudon, he would finish 21st with an average running position of 25th and only 2.0 percent of his laps in the top-15. This year, Logano finished ninth at Loudon and is coming off a fourth-place result at Richmond. In between he had just two top-10s in eight races. Perhaps running another race on a flat track will keep that momentum going but consistency has been lacking from his team all season. Consider Logano a risky boom-or-bust selection that will become overvalued due to last year's rain-shortened win.

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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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