May 29, 2013

FANTASY: The Concrete Truth

FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks Race Preview


Not even the Madagascar 3 wig could slow Jimmie Johnson
from winning his seventh Dover race last June. (Getty)
This weekend's race at Dover International Speedway marks the halfway mark of NASCAR's Race for the Chase regular season.  It will be the 13th race of the 26 that determine the final list of Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders.

At this point, it's getting very late to start trying to piece together a fragmented season.  If not now, then when?  The Monster Mile is a concrete track that will deliver the concrete truth to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers: if they're not in contention by the time you leave, you probably won't be relevant this season.

Here's a look at the expectations for the weekend as you build a Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing roster:

The Track


The one-mile distance of Dover International Speedway is about the only thing it has in common with New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  It is surfaced with concrete, whereas NHMS, like most tracks, is paved with asphalt.  The Monster Mile also has high banking up to 24 degrees in the corners, whereas the Magic Mile in N.H. is considered a flat track.  If there is something else in common, it's that there's a noticeable chasm between those that succeed and fail at this track.  You're either very good or you're not good at all on the concrete.

X-Factor


The track size compared to its banking will have an effect on the race.  It's certainly not on the same level of craziness as Bristol Motor Speedway, but it's similar in that its banking can generate some car speeds that might not be suited for a tighter track like this one.  To put it simply: it's likely that a few of the drivers will play bumper cars at some point during the day.

Fantasy Strategy


You'll need to ignore the X-Factor this week.  The odds of a driver getting swept up in an unlucky wreck are far less than a restictor plate race or a short track like Bristol, so you'll need to roll with the big names.  So long as they can run up front like the usually do, the best drivers should be able to avoid the mid-pack shenanigans that might be seen on a late restart.

A-List


Start


  • #20 Matt Kenseth - He's led at least 100 laps in four of the last five races this season and has eight top-fives in the last Dover 10 races.  It's hard to argue with that.
  • #24 Jeff Gordon - The Rainbow Warrior isn't as dominant at Dover as he once was, but his 12.0 average finish at the track still ranks third in the field.
  • #48 Jimmie Johnson - In 22 races at Dover, Johnson has won seven times and has led 2,318 laps. That's an average of 105 laps per race.


Park


  • #2 Brad Keselowski - The Blue Deuce hasn't been the same since NASCAR penalized the team after the race at Texas Motor Speedway.  He won the Dover Chase race last fall, but considering that was his only top-10 in six Dover starts, his recent struggles could continue.


B-List


Start


  • #39 Ryan Newman - It certainly hasn't been the best season for Newman so far, as he's only led 11 laps.  However, he has six top-10s in 12 starts, including the last two races, and he has three career wins at Dover.
  • #55 Mark Martin - The reliable part-timer has 24 top-fives in 53 Dover starts.  That's only three races short of 50 percent.
  • #78 Kurt Busch - An average 18.4 average finish at Dover doesn't jump off the page, but Busch has been racing really well lately and he has four top-fives in the last 10 races at the Monster Mile.
  • #99 Carl Edwards - It's odd that the guy who's earned the nickname "Concrete Carl" has just one win at Dover.  That said, his 8.3 average finish at the track tops the field, so he definitely does consistently well in Delaware.


Park


  • #27 Paul Menard - With one top-10 in 11 Dover starts, it would be wise to stay away from the driver currently sitting eighth in the standings.
  • #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - He has just one top-10 in his last 10 Dover races, so it's a good week to look elsewhere.


C-List


Start


  • #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - In his only Dover race, Stenhouse finished 12th last fall and is one of the only C-list options this week.
  • #51 Regan Smith - It seems like Smith is pretty much going to be a regular in the Phoneix Racing No. 51.  That's good news for fantasy owners, as it gives them another option other than Stenhouse each week.


Park


  • #83 David Reutimann - He's the only C-list driver with a top-five in the last five years, but he's in a lesser ride this season and shouldn't be considered.


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Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily in rank order.

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