The Frontstretch: Fantasy Insider: Gettin' Lucky In Kentucky by Vito Pugliese -- Thursday June 27, 2013

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Fantasy Insider: Gettin' Lucky In Kentucky

Vito Pugliese · Thursday June 27, 2013

 

The Sprint Cup series moves from the road course to Kentucky Speedway Saturday night, and while it would be easy to think what might happen in the Bluegrass State may be a bit more predictable, that just may not be the case. There have been just two races at Kentucky and both of those races came in the previous iteration of the Car of Tomorrow.

So for one, we didn’t have much history to go on to begin with, and now with the new Gen-6 car, everything has changed. At least at other tracks, you can look back at records before the Car of Tomorrow; here, there is no such luck. And while there is luck involved in picking the top finishers of these races, we’ll try to draw at least some conclusions from what we know about Kentucky.

LOOKING FOR SOME ACES

One of the drivers that is in desperate need of a victory this season is defending champion Brad Keselowski. His season is not in dire straits (yes I did like that band, too) at the moment, he is certainly peering over the other side of the fence where the grass is not greener, or maybe bluer, in this case. He is ninth in the standings, just nine points out of 11th place, and does not have the coveted victory that would give him a wild card spot in the Chase if he falls out of the top 10.

But the good news for Keselowski is that Kentucky has been shown favor on him. While he’s in a Ford this year, as opposed to last year’s championship winning run with Dodge, he does have a win and another top 10 finish in two races at Kentucky Speedway. He knows what a good car feels like here, and he’s my pick to experience the feel of winning in Victory Lane this week.

Brad Keselowski is still in the top 10 in points — but is also 20 points out of 15th. Being the defending champion of the race and a commitment to collaboration between Penske and Roush Fenway teams should pay off Saturday night.

Another driver to look for at Kentucky, that maybe we’ve all but forgotten about in terms of being any kind of contender, is Denny Hamlin. He showed some class at Michigan two weeks ago by having the No. 11 he drives now, painted in the same scheme that Jason Leffler had when he first drove it at Joe Gibbs Racing, so maybe some good things are about to come Hamlin’s way. Having missed four races this season due to a back injury, he’s mired in 25th in the points, still 83 behind 20th place Jeff Burton. Hamlin would need two wins and to reach the 20th spot to make the Chase — and time is running out

Hamlin has finished third and 11th in the two Kentucky races and has led 63 laps. If this ultimate underdog story can gain any legs, it has to start with a win at Kentucky and he and his team knows it.

I only bring up Tony Stewart here because this is one of the two tracks on the current Sprint Cup schedule that he has not won at. He does have a 12th-place finish at Kentucky and before finishing 28th at Sonoma, had a string of top 10 finishes. You know he’d like to cross Kentucky off his list of tracks to win at, so if you’re on driver limits and have not used Smoke much this year, this could be a place to pick him.

MIDDLE OF ROAD

OK, sure, some of you might not like the next name I’m going to bring up, but he’s a legitimate threat to win at Kentucky and that’s Kyle Busch. Sure, he had some fun poking fans on Twitter after last week’s race, but he may be ready to have more fun on the track this week. Busch has one of the two wins at Kentucky and his other finish was a 10th. Busch also has started first and second in the two Kentucky races and when it comes to those dreadful words “clean air” a good starting position may be helpful here. Busch has also led 243 laps in the two Kentucky races.

Since his last win at Texas in April, Busch has five finishes of 24th or worse, including a 35th Sunday in Sonoma. His 2011 win from the pole at Kentucky holds promise for him this weekend.

Another guy to look at in this group this week is Carl Edwards, who is probably not Busch’s best friend after bumping him out of the way at Sonoma last week. Edwards has a fifth and a 20th at Kentucky. He’s also been very consistent this year with nine top 10 finishes, including six in the top five.

A driver who has quietly put himself in Chase contention and has had some success at Kentucky is Joey Logano. The driver of the No. 22 Ford is just 14 points out of 10th place and he has seven top 10 finishes this season. He’s not been great at Kentucky, with his best finish being 14th, but with teammate Keselowski’s help, he may find the right setup to contend this weekend.

After winning for the first time in six years Sunday, Martin Truex, Jr. and the No. 56 team are primed to go on a tear, rack up some wins, and solidify his current 10th place in the standings.

After winning for the first time since 2007 last week at Sonoma, I wouldn’t be shocked if Martin Truex, Jr. wins two straight. He too has seven top 10 finishes this year and his best finish at Kentucky is an eighth. A win, of course, lifts a whole team’s spirits, and that could propel him to the front again this week.

DARK HORSES

There are some options here this week if you need a less expensive, or lower rated, driver to fill out your roster and hopefully give you a good finish.

A.J. Allmendinger earned his first NASCAR win the Nationwide Series at Elklhart Lake last week, while this weekend in the Cup Series he’s in the No. 47 this week, replacing Bobby Labonte, who will see his 704 consecutive start streak come to an end. Allmendinger, who has been on a limited Sprint Cup schedule, does have a ninth place finish at Kentucky in his two starts, so there is some hope.

Also, Austin Dillon is in the No. 51 Phoenix Racing car this week. So, if you are on pick limits, he may not be a bad option. Dillon is on a limited Sprint Cup schedule this year, so when he’s entered, he is always an option.

Also, don’t forget about the two rookies in Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Danica Patrick. Stenhouse is probably the most reliable pick here, but if you don’t need to save him for the Chase races, then go ahead and pick him here. Patrick surprised with a 13th at Michigan two weeks ago, then disappointed with a 29th at Sonoma. So, it’s possible she could pull off a good finish Saturday night, if you need her to fill out your roster.

REARVIEW MIRROR

OK, tell me I wasn’t the only one burned with Juan Pablo Montoya running second only to run out of gas on the last lap and finish 34th. Those are 32 points lost in an instant. Sharing Juan’s post-race sentiments, couldn’t they figure out their gas mileage a little better?

Well, at any rate, the overall leader out of the 63 teams in the two Frontstretch Fantasy leagues on Yahoo! is Underbirfd at 3,966 points followed by SiLo Sounds Racing at 3,957, RWO Motoring at 3,950, Bomb Squad at 3,924, KwaK Racing at 3,923 and cdakost at 3,906.

The weekly top score went to Mark Martin MotorSports with 346 total points. The winning combination was Jeff Gordon in second, Kurt Busch in fourth, Marcos Ambrose in seventh and Casey Mears in 16th.

Mark Martin MotorSports is also the summer segment leader with 658 points, followed by Bomb Squad with 631.

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