Fantasy NASCAR preview: Autism Speaks 400
by C.J. Radune
on May 27, 2009 @ 01:00:00
Dover International Speedway is a unique track, perhaps most similar to Darlington Raceway, due to the relatively short length and high banking. Like Darlington, the track owns an ominous nickname, "The Monster Mile." In 1995, the surface of the track received a "Monster Makeover," and Dover became NASCAR's first concrete-paved speedway. The car setup focuses on the long, sweeping turns, as drivers do not want their car too loose entering the turns. A pass will often take over half the track to complete. The unique track surface and configuration, combined with the high banking, leaves drivers little room for error. One-car spins often result in multi-car pileups.
Location: Dover, Del.
Drivers to keep an eye on
Biffle has an excellent handle on finishing well at Dover International Speedway. He has six straight top-10 finishes at the track and the last three were all top-fives. His average finish in the last five Dover races is an incredible 3.4. Biffle doesn't seem to have any black marks on his recent record at this track. He won the last Dover race in 2008. The rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 ended with Biffle in 20th position, but he did score a top 10 in the Southern 500. Look for strong results from Biffle this weekend.
Edwards played the rain game correctly in the Coca-Cola 600 and finished fourth to score his second top-five finish of the season. The last five Dover races have been spectacular for Edwards; they include a win and four other top-five finishes. His average finish in those five races is 2.2. Edwards has underachieved so far this season after his second-place finish in the Sprint Cup standings last year. He will want to leverage last weekend's top-five and his recent success at Dover to a strong showing this weekend. Edwards should be a solid fantasy choice for the Autism Speaks 400.
Martin has definitely found his stride with the No. 5 team. He didn't finish particularly well in the Coca-Cola 600, but that can be excused after not playing the weather card perfectly. Dover could be a very strong track for the 50 year-old. His average finish in his last five starts at the track is 10.4. That average includes two top-fives and one other top-10 result, though. In fact, he has a top-10 finish in eight of his last 10 races at the track. Martin would just sneak into the Chase if it started today; he should be able to consolidate that position with a strong showing this weekend.
Burton didn't have the strongest Coca-Cola 600 - he only spent five laps in the top 15 and finished the day 25th. Dover International Speedway is a good track for Burton, though. His average finish in his last five Dover starts is 7.4. That average includes a win in the 2006 Dover 400 and three other top-10 finishes. Burton hasn't been terribly consistent so far in 2009, but Dover could provide him with the opportunity to score his third top-five of the year. Fantasy owners should understand that Burton's struggles may continue in the Autism Speaks 400, but he has an excellent record on the concrete mile and that should make him worthy of a roster spot this weekend.
Truex is enduring a difficult 2009 so far. Earnhardt-Ganassi started as a three-car operation but is down to just Truex and his teammate Juan Pablo Montoya. With just two top-10s to his credit so far, Truex is in need of some strong results to lift him and the team. He has a decent Dover record, but it isn't stellar. In six career starts at the track his average finish is 11.3. He won the Autism Speaks 400 in 2007 and scored two other top-10s at the track. Don't fret too much if he doesn't qualify well, either. He has improved almost nine spots, on average, from his qualifying position in his career at the track.
Temper your expectations
Stewart has been having a tremendous year as a first-time car owner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He even won his first race in the Sprint All-Star challenge. Unfortunately, in the past few years Stewart hasn't been too successful at Dover International Speedway. His average finish at the track in 14 career starts is 15.9. If you just count the last five races at the track, his average is 26.8. One reason for the poor finishes: Stewart has three accidents in that time. Outside of one top-10 finish in the last five starts at the track, Stewart has struggled in the last five years. While Stewart remains a driver not to sit, make sure you have other options for the Autism Speaks 400.
Kahne scored just his third 2009 top-10 finish in the Coca-Cola 600. It has been a tough year for the No. 9 driver. Unfortunately, the signs aren't any better heading to Dover. In 10 career starts at the Dover mile, Kahne has just one top-10 to his credit; that came back in 2004 in the Neighborhood Excellence 400. His average career finish is 25.9. Dover just has not been the track for Kahne, and his finishing statistics demonstrate it. While Kahne may have started to find his legs for 2009, don't expect too much fantasy production from him this weekend.
Montoya's stated goal for the remainder of the season is to finish in the top 15 each race to stay within the Chase pecking order. He has done that with very few exceptions in 2009. He ran strongly at Lowe's Motor Speedway without having finished too well there in the past. At Dover he has just one top-10 finish. The other three starts were subpar. His average finish at the track is just 23.0. While Montoya may be the leader of the Earnhardt-Ganassi lineup, his statistics don't indicate he will be the best bet at Dover. Fantasy owners have plenty of other options where the statistics are in their favor.
Hamlin's finishes in 2009 have been spotty. He has yet to find Victory Lane, but he ranks fifth in Cup points. Dover hasn't exactly been a strong track for Hamlin, though. His average finish at the track rests at 23.8 in six career starts. He scored a top-five and another top-10 finish there in 2006 and 2007, but has seriously faltered since. Hamlin hasn't finished higher than 38th at the track since the 2007 Autism Speaks 400. History isn't on Hamlin's side this weekend, though he always has the potential to surprise.
Harvick had a rough Coca-Cola 600, finished 41st in the race. Harvick will have to overcome a career average finish of 20.1 in 14 starts in order to do bounce back this weekend, though. He finished sixth in his last visit to the mile-long track, but that was his first top-15 in five starts and just his fourth at the track all-time. Harvick has been suffering a tough 2009, and that rough time may take yet another week to turn around. The history fantasy owners should be looking for just aren't on Harvick's side this weekend.
About C.J. Radune
Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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