Fantasy NASCAR preview: Lenox Industrial Tools 301

by C.J. Radune on June 24, 2009 @ 01:00:00 PDT

 


New Hampshire Motor Speedway has been described as "Martinsville on Steroids." Both tracks have long straights with tight turns requiring heavy braking. The speeds at New Hampshire are much higher than Martinsville and many accidents have occurred due to stuck throttles. With the limited banking in the turns, teams will have to fine-tune their suspension and splitter settings to get the car to turn effectively. Like Martinsville, passing is difficult, and the way to pass is to get inside someone on the straightaway and out-brake them at the turn. Lapped cars become a factor late in the race, as well, so track position is extremely important. Using tire strategy in the pits to gain track position is an option since New Hampshire tends to not be too hard on tires.

Location: Loudon, N.H.
Shape: Oval
Length: 1.06 miles
Laps: 301
Turns 1-4: 2 degrees/7 degrees (variable)
Front stretch: 1 degree
Back stretch: 1 degree

Drivers to keep an eye on

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Hamlin scored two top-10 finishes in the last two races, quite good results following back-to-back finishes of 38th and 36th. Those last four results are demonstrative of Hamlin's struggle to find consistency in 2009. At New Hampshire though, Hamlin has only finished outside of the top 10 once in his six career attempts. His career average finish at the track stands at 7.2, and he took home a win in the 2007 Lenox Industrial Tools 300.

Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Pennzoil/Shell Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Harvick's struggles continued through the Toyota/Save Mart 350 last weekend. He finished 29th in that outing. As the Chase continues to slip away, Harvick could start his comeback this weekend. He finished 10th in his last visit to the track, which matches his average finish from the last five tries there. Harvick has scored a win at the track, three top-fives and nine top-10s in 16 career starts. Those statistics are very good and certainly make Harvick a driver to consider this weekend. He should be a good choice for the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 despite his recent struggles.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard/AMP Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Those who touted Earnhardt's new crew chief and ensuing results might be reconsidering their praise. Although he wasn't expected to perform well in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, his results since the change aren't markedly different from before. There could be a bit more progress, but it hasn't been a night-and-day difference. Still, the hope is there to return to Victory Lane in 2009, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway could be a good opportunity. He scored a top-five in the 2008 Sylvania 300 and owns five top-fives and eight top-10s in 17 starts. His average finish in the last five New Hampshire starts is 12.4; a good bogey to achieve with the team changes.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 1 TomTom Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

Truex has steadily struggled throughout 2009, though he has sprinkled a few decent runs on the circuit this year. He resides 22nd in the points and hasn't finished in the top 10 since the Southern 500. Almost mercifully, Truex now comes to a track where he is on a hot streak. His average finish in his last five New Hampshire starts is 8.2 with four straight top-10 finishes. In total, he earned three top-fives and four top-10s from six career starts at New Hampshire. While Truex has struggled through 2009, the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 may be his opportunity to shine. It probably won't be the turnaround that sees him make the Chase, but it could be a bright spot in an otherwise gray year.

Jeff Burton | No. 31 Lenox Industrial Tools Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Burton's average finish in the last five New Hampshire races is 9.6. He scored four wins in 28 career starts at the track, the last coming in the 2000 Dura Lube 300, and has six top-10 finishes since then. He led all 300 laps on his way to that win in 2000 after starting second. Even though Burton hasn't been dominant at New Hampshire, he has been incredibly consistent. He rarely finishes outside of the top 15 when the series visits New Hampshire and fantasy owners could rely on that consistency this weekend. The main negative with choosing Burton this weekend would be his lackluster results leading up to this particular race.

Temper your expectations

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

Edwards' strong run of top-10 finishes finally came to an end at Infineon Raceway. He spent the five races prior to Infineon finishing in the top 10. One might think that a return to ovals could bring some of that spark back. He finished third in last year's Sylvania 300, but his average finish at the track in the last five starts is just 12.4. Edwards has scored two top-five finishes in his nine career New Hampshire starts. Those statistics aren't bad, but there may be better choices of starting drivers this weekend. Take some caution before relying on Edwards fully.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

The younger Busch suffered a grotesque outing at Infineon Raceway. He spent a good portion of the race facing the wrong direction. That run capped off a four race streak without a top-10 finish. Busch has been fast at New Hampshire in the past, but he also tends to be quite fragile in New England. He started from pole in last year's Sylvania 300, but finished 34th. He doesn't have an official DNF at the track in eight career starts, but half of those finishes have been 25th or worse. Busch could come up big in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301, but he also comes with the risk of another poor finish like last weekend. Unfortunately, Busch is a flip of a coin this weekend.

Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

Vickers has started the past two races from pole. Unfortunately he only converted one of those starts into a top-10 result. His average finish in his last five New Hampshire tries stands at 23.2; that average includes his sole top-five finish at the track. Vickers is working hard to move into Chase contention, but sits 17th in points. The speed is starting to come, but not over a race distance. Since Vickers has been fast in qualifying fantasy owners should definitely keep track of him, but until he starts converting those starts into finishes he may remain a second-tier choice for most races.

Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Target Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

Montoya worked his way into a Chase position with his strong road course run. In four career New Hampshire starts Montoya's average finish is 22.8. He simply has not done the job in New Hampshire. While Montoya is putting together his best season since winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2007, there are some tracks he still hasn't mastered. Oval racing is a very different animal than the road courses and some have certainly posed a bigger challenge to the Colombian than others. Be wary of what Montoya can deliver in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, he should be very pleased to score a top-15.

Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Dodge | Richard Petty Motorsports

Kahne may have righted his 2009 season with the win in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway last weekend. He led 37 of the 113 laps and withstood challenges from the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose, some of the best road racers in the series. Kahne's average finish in his last five starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is only 20.4, though. His best finish in that timeframe was 11th in last year's Sylvania 300. Kahne's best finishes at the track came early in his career and have gone downhill since. While Kahne may bring some momentum of his win to Loudon, it is still a statistically difficult choice for fantasy players to start him this weekend.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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