Fantasy NASCAR preview: AAA 400
With high-banked concrete racing surface with wide corners and narrow straightaways, Dover International Speedway has earned its nickname, The Monster Mile. It is considered by drivers to be among the most difficult tracks to race on; finding a setup that will allow the car to handle well in multiple grooves, not just at the bottom, is a challenge. The wide turns allow drivers to stay in the throttle the entire time. The speeds are quite fast for a race track that is only one-mile long, which makes the physical demands on turning the car that much more difficult.
Location: Dover, Del.
Drivers to keep an eye on
In three of his last four starts at Dover, Bowyer has held an average running position of 11th or better. His percentage of laps running in the top 15 exceeded 93 percent in two of those events. Despite those sound runs, Bowyer has just one top-10 since 2008 at the site. Coming off his first win of 2010 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Bowyer is riding a season-high streak of four top-10s. Bowyer's strong performance over the last several races puts him on the short list of must-start drivers given his overlooked history at this track.
If not for running out of fuel in the closing moments of the Chase opener at Loudon, Burton would have cruised to a top-five finish. Late-race gaffes have crept up on the veteran driver on numerous occasions this season. Still, his overall performance in 2010 and at Dover makes him too good to overlook. In 2008, Burton finished in the top 10 in both races at The Monster Mile and ran over 80 percent of his laps in the top 15 in each start. Last year, performance issues at RCR left him 16th in both Dover events. With things back on track in 2010, Burton finished as the runner-up back in May with an average running position of seventh with 83.8 percent of his laps spent in the top-15. Don't let last year's slide fool you; Burton is among the best options for this weekend.
If Kenseth's long run of mediocre driving is ever going to come to an end this season, Dover would surely be the place that happens. Over the last five races at the site, Kenseth has finished no lower than fourth and has led at least one lap on four occasions. In fact, if you go back to the inception of loop data in 2005, Kenseth has recorded an average running position above 10th only once in 11 starts (September 2005). Over the last 15 races of this season, he has only one top-five and two other top-10s. Frustrated owners are starting to look elsewhere, making Kenseth something of a value if he can continue his sizzling pace at Dover.
In terms of statistics, Dover is Newman's best track thanks to three wins and an average finish of 10.5 in 17 career starts. While he hasn't won at the site since 2004, Newman has finished 14th or better in five straight starts here and has held an average running position of 10th or better eight times since 2005. Despite missing the Chase, Newman has been a solid finisher in recent weeks. Since August, he owns six finishes of 12th or better in seven starts. A win might be too much to ask, but Newman should deliver another solid run at a track he has been very successful at.
Back in May, Reutimann set career highs across the board at Dover. He finished fifth with an average running position of eighth and spent 99.5 percent of the race running in the top 15. Prior to that, Reutimann's best finish at the site was just 17th. A year ago, the Double Zero qualified on the pole and fifth, respectively, in the two Dover races. Another such effort could be the springboard for Reutimann to challenge for his second win of the season and play spoiler to the Chase field.
Temper your expectations
It hasn't been wise to pick against Harvick seemingly anywhere this season, but we like him at the other Chase venues much more. In May, Harvick qualified 30th but rallied to finish in seventh. His average running position was 12th, and he recorded 59.5 percent of his laps in the top 15. However, Harvick has notched a better average running position just twice since 2005. Owners in allocation formats that have been looking to reserve Harvick somewhere during NASCAR's postseason; Dover appears to be the place to do it at.
Over the last three years, the younger Busch brother has been a feast-or-famine driver at Dover. Twice in those five starts, Busch has won, led over 130 laps and spent all 400 laps running inside the top 15. During the three outings sandwiched in the middle, he finished outside of the top 20 each time and didn't lead a lap. The May winner at The Monster Mile certainly has all the talent in the world to pull off the sweep but is a risky option given his all-or-nothing resume.
Since 2005, Martin has seven top-five finishes at Dover and has held an average running position of 10th or better a total of seven times in 11 starts. In the event Martin was running anywhere near as good as he did a year ago, he would make a fine selection. However, if six straight finishes of 19th or worse this season doesn't keep you away, here are some other numbers that should. This past May, Martin qualified third but finished 15th. His 49.8 percent of laps in the top 15 was his second-worst performance in that area since the statistic was created.
Would the real Kahne please stand up? Prior to 2009, Kahne had just one top-10 finish in 10 career starts at Dover with four DNFs due to crash. Last year, however, he would finish in the top 10 in each event at The Monster Mile. In May of this season, Kahne led the first 24 laps of the race from the outside pole but was a non-factor afterwards. He held an average running position of 20th and spent just 17.5 percent of the race in the top 15 despite the excellent starting position. It's unclear which Kahne will appear this weekend. He's a far more consistent driver on intermediate tracks, which the Chase schedule is loaded with. Save Kahne for another week.
In the May race at Dover, Logano finished 10th with 92 percent of his laps spent running in the top 15. Pretty impressive considering it was just his third career Cup Series run at the site. In the 15 starts since, he's added just five more top-10 results while finishing outside the top-20 on six occasions. When it comes to middle-tier drivers, there are safer options that have been more consistent over the course of the season and own a stronger background at Dover.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also 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. Follow @EricMcClung
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