Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview: NRA 500

by Eric McClung on April 11, 2013 @ 14:11:33 PDT

 


Texas Motor Speedway is one of three 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. The two others, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, share the same length and corner banking. The wear of the racing surface on each track is unique, which causes the speeds to vary somewhat. Still, the similar configurations of these sites makes for great comparisons when assembling your lineup for each of the five races these venues will host.

Test sessions: Thursday, April 11, at 2 p.m. EDT, 4:30 p.m. EDT
Practice sessions:
Friday, April 12, at 12:30 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. EDT
Qualifying:
Friday, April 12, at 6:40 p.m. EDT
Race:
Saturday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m. EDT
Location:
Fort Worth, Texas
Shape:
Quad-oval
Length:
1.5 mile
Laps:
334
Turns 1-4:
24 degrees
Quad-oval:
18 degrees
Frontstretch:
5 degrees
Backstretch:
5 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Kasey Kahne | No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

NASCAR driver Ryan Newman
Newman: not a nice choice

Even though he won the spring race from the pole at TMS back in 2006, it took Kahne several years to find consistency on The Great American Speedway. Over the last three starts, he's recorded an average running position of 12th or better, scoring third- and seventh-place results prior to last fall's 25th. Kahne could have made that a top-10 as well, but had a tire go down late in the race after contact with teammate Jeff Gordon.

Kahne is among the top cookie-cutter drivers and owns a streak of four straight top-10s this season, including a win, a runner-up performance and last week's fourth-place finish at Martinsville Speedway.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 Filtrete Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

You have to go back to the spring of 2008 to find the last time Biffle failed to lasso a top-10 finish in Texas. This impressive streak includes a victory in this event last year and half a dozen total top-fives to go with the nine top-10s. During that time, the Biff has been an excellent qualifier on this track, starting on the first two rows five times, while not seeing his average running position drop below 12th.

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

Since sweeping the 2008 Texas races in dominating fashion, Edwards has remained a stout performer at the site. During last year's disappointing season he still had respectable showings here, finishing eighth and 15th. In 2011, Edwards was much closer to his 2008 levels, spending every lap in the pair of races running in the top 15, finishing third and second. If he looks good during the extra testing sessions, Edwards warrants heavy consideration.

Clint Bowyer | No. 15 Gander Mountain Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Over the last 10 starts at Texas, Bowyer has delivered seven top-10s and five results of seventh or better. He has finished sixth or better in three of the six races held thus far and is coming off a runner-up performance last week at Martinsville. Aside from a poor showing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and solid run spoiled by an engine failure at Auto Club Speedway, Bowyer has shown his 2012 breakout as the focal point of MWR was no fluke.

Matt Kenseth | No. 20 Dollar General Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Bad luck is the only thing keeping Kenseth from leading in the points right now. He led 86 laps in the Daytona 500 prior to blowing an engine. Three races later, Kenseth led 85 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway, but was taken out while running second to leader Jeff Gordon, who blew a tire and triggered the crash. Last week, Kenseth paced Martinsville for 96 laps, but lost the handling and couldn't make up the positions after having to pit, settling for a 14th-place finish.

At Texas, Kenseth has been automatic thanks to five straight top-fives. In fact, since the fall of 2005 he's tallied seven podium finishes, 11 top-fives and 13 top-10s in 15 starts.

Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Week in and week out, Harvick underperforms. He's now held an average running position of ninth or better in six straight races, yet has just one top-10 to show for it. While those efforts have all resulted in finishes of 14th or better, Harvick is running too well to be sitting at just 14th in points. If the team can avoid being burned again by their late-race pit calls, Harvick could add his fifth top-10 at Texas over the last seven appearances.

Kurt Busch | No. 78 Furniture Row/Serta Chevrolet | Furniture Row Racing

Split between two teams, Busch had decent runs in each Texas race last year. In the spring, he scored a 13th-place finish with Phoenix Racing driving the No. 51 prior to returning in the fall with his current team and finishing eighth. Busch had already scored a pair of top-fives this season prior to going up in flames at Martinsville. While loop data suggests strategy worked out extremely well in several of these runs, Busch is worth a gamble in deeper formats.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

In last year's spring visit to Texas, Truex qualified on the pole and led 69 laps en route to a sixth-place finish and a career-best average running position of fourth. He would start on the third row for the fall trip, run seventh and finish 13th. Treux hasn't looked as sharp this season, but should be monitored during testing and practice.

Temper your expectations

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Once upon a time, Newman was a master of putting his car on the pole on cookie-cutter tracks similar to Texas, earning the nickname Rocket Man. Those days are gone and so is Newman's performance. Newman has fallen outside the top 10 in nine consecutive Texas races. Since loop data was introduced in 2005, when Newman swept the Texas poles, his average running position of 20.9 ranks just 22nd among all drivers.

Brian Vickers | No. 11 FedEx Office/March of Dimes Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Vickers will be the sub for Denny Hamlin starting this week at Texas as the latter recovers from a back injury sustained in a crash at Fontana. While this is the No. 11 that swept the Lone Star State in 2010, Vickers has managed only two top-15 finishes in 14 career starts at this venue. Outside a bottom-tier selection, Vickers can be passed over.

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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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