Fantasy NASCAR preview: Aaron's 499
by C.J. Radune
on April 22, 2009 @ 00:00:00
Talladega Superspeedway is the only other restrictor plate track on the Sprint Cup schedule besides Daytona International Speedway. How effectively the drivers use the draft off other cars to their advantage is the key to winning. Handling is not as important at Talladega as at Daytona due to the wider track width. Tire strategy can come into play as some teams will make two-tire stops in order to get better track position if they can't race their was through the draft. Cars will tend to run in large packs, creating lanes of cars three and four wide creating the likelihood for contact. It is important for any car to be able to run several different lines, as it is hard to tell which lane is going to move the fastest at any given time. The best way to pass is to get in the fastest lane or use the draft to get a run on the cars ahead. Turn 2 is the most likely place for the "Big One," as it is very sharp with a steep drop off of banking.
Location: Talladega, Ala.
Drivers to keep an eye on
With his new team running consistently, Stewart finds himself fourth in Cup points. He scored top-five finishes in each of the last three races, quite a feat for a new team. The news may even get better heading to Talladega Superspeedway. Stewart won the last race at the track - the AMP Energy 500 in 2008. He has also led 123 laps combined in the last three races. His average finish in the last five Talladega starts is 19.4, though that includes two accidents. Prior to the last five races, he scored three straight second-place finishes and one other top-10. In 20 races at Talladega, he has finished outside the top 10 eight times but four of those finishes were caused by accidents.
Ragan's lone top-10 finish in 2009 was at the other superspeedway on the schedule, Daytona International Speedway. Since then he hasn't enjoyed much success in the No. 6 car. That could change as the series visits another superspeedway, a place where Ragan has shined in the past. Ragan's average finish at the track is 14.5 in four career starts. His last two visits have turned up top-five finishes. This week may be one of the best chances to use Ragan on your roster. He performs well in the draft and has looked likely to win a restrictor plate race on more than a few occasions.
Busch is having an excellent season so far. He ranks third in points and already has a win under his belt in 2009. On top of his great performances this year, he is also quite a stout racer in the draft. He pushed his ex-teammate Ryan Newman to the win in the 2008 Daytona 500. For a string of seven Talladega races between the 2004 EA Sports 500 and the 2007 UAW-Ford 500, Busch finished in the top 10. He holds six top-fives and 11 top-10s in 16 starts at the track. Look for Busch to continue to run strong, and maybe he'll even find Victory Lane at the end of the day.
Harvick is another classic superspeedway driver. He won the Daytona 500 in 2007, the Budweiser Shootout in 2009 and finished second in the Daytona 500 earlier this season. Harvick hasn't scored a top-10 finish since the Kobalt Tools 500 four races ago, but Richard Childress Racing drivers have always been strong on superspeedways regardless of their performance on other tracks. Even though Harvick has been struggling in 2009 he is always a threat on both the short tracks and the superspeedways. Harvick earned three top-fives and seven top-10s in his 16 career Talladega starts and could add to that total this weekend.
While Mayfield doesn't hold a spot in the top 35 in Sprint Cup owners' points, he proved that his Toyota can run solidly at the superspeedways as he finished his Gatorade Duel qualifying race ninth earlier this season. Still, be careful relying on Mayfield. Make sure you have a backup ready to be slotted in if he doesn't qualify. If he should make the field though, he could be in line for a solid outing. He is typically a solid top-15 driver at any superspeedway, as long as he avoids trouble. Having Mayfield in your lineup may allow you to get some decent points while saving a start from one of your top drivers for later in the season.
Temper your expectations
Martin has never been a fan of the superspeedways. He has always been very critical of the way the restricted engines cause the field to run in big packs, making it quite dangerous should an accident occur. Ironically though, Martin has had some great superspeedway results, even with the restrictor-plate rules. He has won at Talladega twice so far, though those finishes came in the 90s. His average finish in his last 10 races at the track is just 25.4. It is common knowledge that he doesn't like the racing at tracks like Talladega. Knowing his distaste it may be wise not to rely on him too heavily.
Biffle has just scored consecutive top-five finishes. He is now 14th in Sprint Cup points, edging ever closer to a spot in the Chase positions. While Biffle is showing what he can deliver on the normal run of tracks, the superspeedways tend to be something different for the Washingtonian. His average finish at the track is just 25.2. He just hasn't been able to make the big payday on the superspeedways. Fantasy owners will probably want to save Biffle for a track that suits him and his car a little bit better like Auto Club Speedway or Michigan International Speedway if possible. While still a solid driver, he just may not be in his element this weekend.
Similar to teammate Greg Biffle, Edwards has just turned in back-to-back top-10 finishes. Edwards typically isn't a driver anyone would ever bench, but Talladega Superspeedway may not be where you get the most value for your money out of him. His average finish in the last five Talladega races is 26.8, but he has earned one top-five and three top-10s at the Alabama track. The latest came back in 2006, though. While Edwards may not be the best value, you shouldn't feel too bad if you have to rely on him. Benching him this week is mainly to save him for a track where he has a better record later in the season.
With one top-five and two top-10s so far, Kahne now sits 10th in points. His consistency has been very good this season, posting just one finish outside of the top 20. That lone finish outside of the top 20 was at Daytona International Speedway, which isn't a good omen heading to Talladega. Kahne's average finish in the last five Talladega races is 17.8, and he even scored a second-place finish in that period. Still, his last two results at the track have been outside of the top 20. Kahne probably isn't the most reliable superspeedway driver to have on your roster this weekend.
Busch is a driver that no fantasy owner should ever bench. While he isn't on the tear that he was last season, he still is seventh in points with two wins to his credit. He has won at the track, the 2008 Aaron's 499, but excluding that win his average finish is just 29.3. While Busch isn't a driver you bench, it might be wise to lower your expectations for this week's race; compensate with another driver who is a bit more consistent on the superspeedways. If this weekend's race is like the majority of other Talladega races, we may see some surprises in the results, and therefore it is always wise to hedge your bets.
About C.J. Radune
Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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