Fantasy NASCAR preview: Goody's 500
by C.J. Radune
on March 21, 2009 @ 01:00:01
Martinsville Speedway is relatively flat, especially when contrasted to the steep inclines of Bristol Motor Speedway that were on display last weekend. The shallow banking, combined with its long straights, make it difficult to pass. With passing at a premium, good track position is a must for racers. If a driver attempts a pass, it will usually be to the inside; because of this, cars hook the bottom in hopes of holding off potential passers. A successful pass will almost certainly require a driver to either out-brake the lead car or nudge the car out of way, and often both. Brakes are also important for slowing out of the relatively long straightaways into the sharp turns. All told, there isn't a track on the Sprint Cup circuit where brakes are more important.
Location: Martinsville, Va.
Drivers to keep an eye on
Stewart's average finish in the last five Martinsville Speedway races is 11th. He has picked up two wins at the track in his 20 career starts, and he is generally a very good and aggressive short-track driver. It seems that having a new team hasn't really slowed him down, either. Stewart has had a strong start to this season and sits seventh in points. He hasn't experienced some of the problems the other teams have this year, and he has already bagged three top-10s from the first five races. Stewart has proven that he can be selected with confidence, and Martinsville might be a good place to do that.
Harvick is 12th in NASCAR Sprint Cup points and has picked up two top-fives in the first five races of the season. Harvick is another driver who loves the short tracks. His aggressive style hasn't earned him any wins at Martinsville yet, but he has earned six top-10s in his 15 career starts at the track. His average finish in the last five Martinsville races is just 15.8, but Harvick could overcome that average this weekend. He didn't have a great day at Bristol Motor Speedway, but could be a solid selection for the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500.
McMurray's record at Martinsville is pretty good compared to other tracks. His average finish in 12 career starts is 16.9 with one top-five and seven top-10 finishes. He led 37 laps in last year's TUMS QuikPak 500 before troubles forced him down the order. He ultimately finished the race 38th, but did earn two top-10 finishes in his last five races there. His average Martinsville start is also pretty good (12th) in that time. McMurray could definitely be a driver to watch this weekend. He hasn't had the best start to the season but it hasn't been bad, either. He will be looking to rebound from his rough ride in Bristol last weekend. Still, McMurray could end up being a Martinsville contender judging by his speed there last year.
Newman had a great run at Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend in the Food City 500. He led 25 laps and scored his first top-10 finish for his new team in 2009. That finish brought him up to 27th in points, securing a top-35 spot prior to the switch to current year owner's points. Newman was on a tear at Martinsville from the end of 2003 to 2005. In that span he scored four top-fives and five top-10s in five starts. Since then his results have been more sporadic, but his average finish in the last five tries is still respectable at 14.8. Newman, like his boss, could be signaling that he is ready to challenge for wins with the new team. View Newman as a stout choice at Martinsville this weekend.
Montoya has become quite a decent short-track racer. He finished ninth in the Food City 500 last weekend, which was his first top-10 at the track. At Martinsville he has even done better, though. His average finish from four career starts at the track is 12.8 with one top-10 result to boot. Montoya seems to be taking advantage of the Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing merger, but he hasn't fully translated it to finishing success yet. His top-10 at last weekend's short track might just keep Montoya in the rhythm he needs for another this weekend. Keep an eye out to see the No. 42 Target Chevrolet near the top-10, if not in it solidly.
Temper your expectations
Edwards probably isn't a driver that you would want to avoid but Martinsville may not turn out to be his best week. He has a respectable record at the track with an average finish of 17.3 from nine career starts. He has only managed to take home one top-five and two top-10s in that time, though. That top-five came in his last race at the track, however. Roush Fenway Racing still has a bit of work to do in order to close the gap to some Chevrolet competitors. Expect a solid race from Edwards, and be pleasantly surprised if he steals a top-five. That still might be asking too much.
Kenseth endured a very rough Food City 500. His highest running position of the day was 23rd, and he only finished 33rd. Unfortunately, Martinsville hasn't been a spectacular place for Kenseth, either. His average finish from 18 career starts at the track is 16th. He only has two top-fives and six top-10s in his trophy case from Martinsville, too. Like his teammate Carl Edwards, Kenseth will have some work to do coming into the weekend. While it isn't inconceivable that he would finish in the top-10, he will definitely have to work hard for it.
Biffle suffered two horrible finishes back-to-back in the Kobalt Tools 500 (34th) and the Food City 500 (39th). Both were DNFs for different reasons. The prior two races were pretty good for the "Biff". He scored a top-five in the Auto Club 500 and a top-10 in the Shelby 427. His qualifying has been solid, too, with three top-five starts in his last four races. Martinsville probably isn't the track he would like to see right now on the schedule. He has never finished in the top five there and has only earned one top-10. Given Biffle's recent race struggles it would be difficult to believe he could haul himself to just his second top-five in 13 tries at the track.
Truex finished 10th in the TUMS QuikPak 500 at Martinsville Speedway last season. That was his first top-10 at the track and just the second time he finished on the lead lap there in six career tries. Truex has struggled a bit so far in 2009. He has shown some flashes of speed but has yet to put in consistently strong finishes. Just one top-10 this season ranks him only 20th in overall points. His average finish in the last five Martinsville races is 23rd. For these reasons, you may want to steer clear of Truex until he shows more consistency.
Reutimann had a strong car at Bristol last weekend but that may not translate to the flat surface of Martinsville. Reutimann's average Martinsville finish is 28.3 in four career starts. He has only managed to finish on the lead lap there once (2007 Subway 500). Michael Waltrip Racing has made significant strides in the 2009 season so far, but they still aren't consistent front-runners. Most fantasy owners should expect some consistent top-10s before jumping on the Reutimann bandwagon. That may not be far off but Martinsville might be too early.
About C.J. Radune
Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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