August 31, 2011

Laboring Into Atlanta


Kasey Kahne's best chance at the Chase
 would be another win at Atlanta. (Getty 2006)
 As one of our sister tracks (or is it brother?  I'm never quite sure how that works), there are probably plenty of good things to say about Atlanta Motor Speedway.

There are storylines about how they sadly got one of their race weekend's taken away, but a Labor Day night race might be one of the most appealing of any to host.

And, that brings us to this week's topic: Labor Day.

August 30, 2011

Smoke's Got That Fire

Tony Stewart gets ready to race some
 local media at F1 Boston. (NHMS/Stallsmith)
They say where there's smoke, there's fire.

After racing against Tony "Smoke" Stewart in go-karts last week at F1 Boston, I can confirm that Stewart still has the racing fire in the belly.

Admittedly, it was hard to determine if it was "Smoke" I was seeing or just the cloud of dust he left behind.  Either way, save a few hearty souls, not many of the attendees had what it took to keep up with the former Sprint Cup Champion.

Stewart has admittedly been struggling in holding onto the final spot of the Chase.  This past weekend wasn't any better, as he ended up finishing three laps down at the World's Fastest Half-Mile in Bristol, Tenn.  Two days earlier, however, he was all smiles in his visit to Boston.

August 24, 2011

Bracing for Bristol

Kyle Busch has made Bristol his own,
including a win this past spring. (Getty)
Other than NHMS, where would you most like to watch a race?

Daytona?  Talladega?

When I posed the same question on the website's poll in April, Bristol was the runaway winner with 41% of the votes.

There's just something about Bristol that makes it unlike any other track.

August 23, 2011

Five-Time Favorite

Jimmie Johnson has won five consecutive Sprint Cup
trophies.  Why should this year be any different? (Getty 2010)
As we get into the later parts of the summer and the kids start heading back to school, there are a few inevitabilities to accept as we approach the New England fall:

-The weather will get colder.

-The leaves will change colors.

-Jimmie Johnson will be the favorite to win the Sprint Cup when the SYLVANIA 300 races at NHMS.

Sorry to scare you with the reference to the autumn weather that isn't too far away.  If it makes you feel better, here at the speedway, I haven't had more than three days off in a row since March.  You've probably got more sun and enjoyed more beach time than I have, so complaints of colder weather will fall on deaf ears.

August 17, 2011

Purely Michigan

Carl Edwards and is dominant at
Michigan International Speedway. (Getty)
I've started to cut down some of the intros to the Fantasy NASCAR Preview.  In large part because it takes a while to dig through the stats and it's usually a busy day. But, I'm hesitant to eliminate it all together.
I figure that you as a reader want some sort of basis and background on the race, not just the bare bones of the fantasy options.

This week's discussion is obvious.  It's purely about Michigan!

I've never even been to Michigan, outside of a trip through the Detroit aiport on a Northwest flight.  That's right: Northwest!  It was so long ago that the airline still existed (it's now merged into Delta) and flew out of Manchester.  I was on the way to Tampa with the family for a vacation on Sanibel Island, and, as airlines connections rarely makes sense, we were routed through...Detroit.

From my understanding, visiting the Detroit airport and saying you saw Michigan would be like visiting a bath house in and saying you saw Europe.

This weekend's Michigan race is simply called the Pure Michigan 400.

Now, I'm still not sure if they simply couldn't find a sponsor or it's a tourism promotion being run by the state government or an associated tourism branch.

If it's the sponsorship, I'd recommend Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips (again).  Not only did they already sponsor the first Michigan race, they also sponsored the race this past weekend at Watkins Glen.  Clearly, they're a heluva good supporter of NASCAR (wish I could somehow play off like the pun was unintentional) and could probably toss a little more money Michigan's way for just one more race.  After all, they have several flavors of sour cream dips, why not start hosting a race for each!?

If it's the tourism promotion, this is a great campaign.  There's something majestic about Michigan.  The vision of a tough winter and the thick-skinned mentality that goes with it, yet a gorgeous summer of playing on the lake and the soft-hearted mentality that goes with that.  That's pure Michigan and the simplistic name of the race induces that thought when you hear it.

...Ok, dream time is over!  (Can you tell that I haven't been out on the New Hampshire lakes as much as I would have liked this summer!?)

Time for what you tuned in for: the race preview.

*In case you're new to this segment, check out my first fantasy post on how the system works.
Strategy: I already covered this track earlier this year and the most noticeable characteristic is that, true to its Michigan roots, the Fords (Roush Fenway Racing) tend to do very well here on a regular basis. The track itself is a large two-mile loop and flat out speed is paramount.  On a track of this size and dimension, there's time to make up for poor track position, what you can't hide is a slow car.

A-List

Start

#17 Matt Kenseth - Kenseth really flies under the radar for a guy that sits just 28 points back of the points lead in fifth place.  It's likely most owners have allocations to spare on Kenseth.  Based on his 9.5 average finish and 11 top-fives in 24 starts at Michigan, now's a good time to use one.

#24 Jeff Gordon - Gordon puts up similar numbers to Kenseth with 18 top-fives in 37 starts and an average finish of 11.6.  He also has five poles here over the course of his career, so he could help garner some bonus points if he rolls out quickly.

#99 Carl Edwards - Edwards' average finish of 6.2 is unreal and 110.8 driver rating is the best in the field.  The only question for owners are the amount of remaining starts left for the points leader (tied with Kyle Busch).  However, that's not usually worth the concern in the A-List, there are great options every week.

Park

#18 Kyle Busch - The other points leader has had little success at Michigan with just four top-10s in 13 starts.  He can win anywhere, but he's not a good option.

B-List

Start

#4 Kasey Kahne - For a guy I didn't think would be worth starting every week, Kahne's been a regular go to for me.  He goes feast or famine on this track.  His six top-fives match his six top-10s in 15 career starts, but in the B-List, the risk can be worth the reward.

#20 Joey Logano - Logano continued his second-half surge with a fifth place at the Glen.  He has three top-10s in five starts at Michigan, and, with the way he's been racing lately, he should be in the mix.

#83 Brian Vickers - There's something about Vickers when he comes to Michigan!  He's struggled mightily this season, but backed up my claim earlier in the year that he should get the start here.  His finish of 10th was the fifth consecutive time he's finished in the top-10 on this track and he's qualified on the pole three straight times before a fourth in June (bonus points, baby!).

#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Junior's strange season continues.  He's not racing well and hasn't looked close to snapping his winless streak, but he's now back in ninth in the standings (he'd dropped down to 10th) and holds a temporarily safe 36-point lead over 11th-place Clint Bowyer.  The only thing we know for certain is that the last time he won a race was Michigan in 2008, and he has the best driver rating of anyone in the B-List, so he races well here in general.

Park

#2 Brad Keselowski - In four career starts at Michigan, Keselowski's best finish is 24th.  That's right; I said, "Best!"  He's been racing really well, but it's not worth the risk.

#39 Ryan Newman - The issue with Newman is that he's far and away the best B-List driver, so it's easy to use up his starts.  Despite two wins, he has just five top-10s in 20 starts at Michigan.  His 73.4 driver rating is abysmal and it's best to save him for another week.

C-List

Start

#6 David Ragan - Ragan drives a Roush Fenway Ford so that instantly raises his stock.  He started 20th and finished 20th earlier this year and has been free-falling well out of contention for a Chase wild card.  However, he's been the best C-List driver at this track and presents good upside based on his team's success.

#27 Paul Menard - Menard only has one career top-10 in 10 starts at Michigan, but that came this past June.  He's been racing relatively well (if you throw out last week's road course wreck) and will be pushing hard, as his win a few weeks back gives him a chance at the wild card if he can gain some ground.

Park

#78 Regan Smith - Earlier this year he started fifth and finished (running) in 33rd.  He's never finished higher than 21st in five starts at Michigan.

My Preliminary Roster
A - KENSETH (9), Edwards (4)
B - EARNHARDT JR. (2), VICKERS (8), Kahne (3), Logano (5)
C - MENARD (5), Ragan (3)
*Number in parenthesis are allocations remaining.

-JS

August 16, 2011

All's Well That Ends Fair

This restart pile up caused significant controversy
 and, ultimately, ended the race. (NHMS/HHP)
The result of Sunday's MoveThatBlock.com INDY 225 was literally a no-win situation for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

In the waning moments of the race, a caution flew for moisture on the track and, as the Indy cars counted down the laps behind the pace car, INDYCAR faced a tough decision: let down the fans with a caution under finish (no green-white-checkered in this series, or throw the green flag and hope the tires held their ground on the slick track.

The ultimate decision and ensuing mayhem has stirred up plenty of controversy.

August 3, 2011

Insurance in Name Only

Jeff Gordon is no stranger to Pocono's
Victory Lane.  June's win was his fifth trip. (Getty)
As I pointed out yesterday, the NASCAR's new wild-card set up promises to offer one of the most exciting midseasons in NASCAR history.

This weekend's race at Pocono Raceway is titled the Good Sam RV Insurance 500.  Ironic, when you consider the amount of questions out there surrounding the last several spots in the Chase.
This year, there is very little insurance for most of the drivers!

This week's post is a little easier than most for me, as it's the first time I've had the same track since I began the fantasy previews in April.

August 2, 2011

Boys, Have at It!

A two-thousandth of a second loss for
Clint Bowyer (33) could keep him out of the Chase. (Getty)
With just six races left before the Sprint Cup Chase begins, the list of contenders seem to be shuffling weekly.

The addition of two wild-cards has added a new element and allowed for many more drivers to have a shot at chasing the championship.  While most experts predicted added drama, we're only now beginning to see how crazy the final weeks of the Race to the Chase are going to get.

And to that, I say: boys, have at it!