Fantasy NASCAR race preview: AdvoCare 500
On the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, there are three 1.5 mile tracks with 24 degrees of corner banking. Texas Motor Speedway was the first stop in April and will host a second event deep in the Chase. Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted its first race in May and also gets a postseason date. Starting last year, Atlanta Motor Speedway was reduced to just this single date. For fantasy managers, the data from these tracks translate pretty well and make for excellent comparisons as the season continues to unfold.
Practice sessions: Friday, August 31, at 2:30 pm ET, Saturday, September 1, at 2:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm ET
Drivers to keep an eye on
Over the last 10 starts at Atlanta, Truex has not always finished as well as he actually ran. In that span, Truex only registered a pair of top-10 finishes despite holding an average running position of 10th or better five times while never running worse than 15th. This type of bad luck had been a staple of Truex's career until this season's coming out party. Now fifth in points, Truex has finished 11th or better in seven straight starts.
A year ago, after qualifying on the outside pole, Bowyer was challenging for two straight top-10s at Atlanta until getting bumped into the wall late in the race. He's only finished worse than 16th four times all season and has been eighth or better in four straight starts. Bowyer continues to prove himself as one of the safest, most consistent drivers around.
Among all drivers, Stewart's career average running position of 10.8 at Atlanta ranks third to Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Despite owning three wins this season, Stewart has also finished outside of the top 20 eight times. Gambling on Smoke is worth it, however. He's been particularly excellent the last two years in the dirty south, absolutely dominating this race in 2010 and scoring a third-place result last year.
The 1.5-mile cookie cutter tracks are spots where Kahne can really shine. Of his 14 career wins, half have come at Atlanta, Charlotte and Texas. Last year Kahne captured the pole at AMS but suffered an engine failure. The No. 5 is running very well right now, scoring the most points over the last six races of the season. In fact, he's finished inside the top 15 in nine straight starts and 16 of his last 18.
To call Busch an underachiever at Atlanta is putting it nicely. After winning in 2008, he's only managed two top-10s in six starts even though Busch has qualified fifth or better in four straight. Busch has also managed to lead 19th or more laps in three of the last four. Rowdy is a driver that carries quite a bit of risk but could very well pay off big.
In last year's AMS win, Gordon led 146 of 325 laps and held a career best average running position of fourth. It's been a rocky road this season, but Gordon finished fourth at Texas and seventh at Charlotte along the way. Gordon is coming off a strong run at Bristol and desperately needs a second win to have a shot at making the postseason.
Over the last couple of years Ambrose has made big strides on 1.5-mile cookie cutters. In 2010 he finished 11th and 10th, respectively, at Atlanta. Last year at Charlotte, Ambrose scored results of sixth and fifth. Ambrose happens to be on fire right now, qualifying and finishing 10th or better in four straight starts.
Coming off a top-10 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Menard has now finished inside the top 15 in five straight starts. While he hasn't run as well on 1.5-mile cookie cutters over his career, he looks like a safe bet for another top-15, at least. Depending on your format, Menard could come at a nice value.
Temper your expectations
Despite poor qualifying results, Harvick has two top-fives and four top-10s in the last five races at Atlanta. This season, however, he's been very mediocre for a top-tier driver with only one top-10 over his last nine races. For the price involved, there are plenty of better options than Harvick this week.
While Busch managed to finish 13th earlier this season at Texas, he's not worth starting, even though he owns an excellent resume on 1.5-mile cookie cutters. Since 2007, he's won twice at Atlanta with eight finishes of 11th or better. It's now been seven races since Busch finished on the lead lap, so even a top-15 finish looks bleak.
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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