The Frontstretch: Fantasy Insider: Charlotte's Jimmie's House, But Don't Forget About Men Like Menard by Mike Ravesi -- Thursday October 14, 2010

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Welcome back once again to what is quickly morphing from the Fantasy Insider to Jimmie Johnson and friends: Take V. It’s another year, another Chase, and another point standing list with Johnson on top. Sure, we’re only four races in, but his name on top of the Sprint Cup ladder spells big trouble for all his fellow competitors. Let’s face it, boys and girls, these guys have got NASCAR’s gimmicky little playoff system figured out.

But as we focus on your own championship Chase, the frustration comes with the awkward reality you can’t put Jimmie on your roster more than once. It means you’ll need a few other wheelmen to round out your squad, and that’s what I am here for. So without further ado, here’s your fantasy breakdown for Charlotte as we look to put you in the same near-invincible position we find our reigning four-time champ each year:

Studs:

Like any other sport, the champ is the champ until someone knocks them off. And until someone gives me a good reason to not put Jimmie Johnson on my team, I will continue to do so for the rest of the year no matter what his numbers on that particular track are. For the record, they’re pretty awesome at Charlotte: Six wins, 13 top-10s in 18 starts and 1,370 laps led. Think he might be a good choice?

Jimmie Johnson may be a no-brainer, but look for Matt Kenseth to pull off a stellar run for your fantasy team at a track he’s won at in the past.

His partner this week in the stud section is Matt Kenseth. Sure, he’s coming off a blown engine out West, but Kenseth is just too good of a driver to not win a race this year, and after posting a top 10 here in May, I think this track may be the week for him. He’s got a win and six top 5s to boot in Charlotte, a strong contender to win this race last Fall despite missing the Chase. My only hangup with the 2003 Cup Series champ is he has no momentum right now. Owning two finishes outside the top 20 all year heading into the Chase, four races later he has another two performances worse than 20th. But that’s where the bold prediction comes in: I say he shakes off a bad Chase and wins for the first time in 2010.

Who will carry you:

This week’s combo of cheap dates include Paul Menard, Sam Hornish, Jr., and Jamie McMurray. Menard has made huge strides this year and has shown he does belong in NASCAR’s top series. Along with an eighth here in May, he posted a top 5 at Atlanta and top 20s at Vegas and Chicago, all 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks. And who can forget that near-victory in the closing laps at Kansas two weeks back?

Things look good for McMurray this Saturday night, as he’s fighting for the 13th spot in points at a track where he has a win, four top 5s, and seven top 10s with an average finish of 17th over sixteen career starts. He also finished second to Kurt Busch here in May, meaning he’s a near-lock for a top 15 or better this weekend.

Hornish has run in the top 20 at Charlotte in three of the last four events, and also posted a top 20 at the 1.5-mile track in Texas this year. He’s got top 15s in half of the Chase races, building momentum, and it looks like a third top 20 in the last five events is well within the realm of possibility.

Juan Pablo Montoya wrecked in the Charlotte race last Fall, all but ending their championship chances in 2009. Considering they didn’t even make the Chase this season, you can only imagine how much worse it could get for the No. 42 team on Saturday night.

Who will bury you:

Juan Pablo Montoya is the man to stay away from this weekend. He’s 16th in points, so he’s pricey, and that’s too much risk for a driver who has just one finish higher than 28th in his career here. Four of his last five starts at CMS have resulted in finishes of worse than 30th, including a wreck last Fall that all but ended any chance to topple the indomitable Johnson.

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Well, Biffle’s blown engine last weekend really soured my picks overall. Johnson did get his top 5, with the ‘Dinger and McMurray posting top 20s, albeit just squeezing in to that category. And Menard, while disappointing, did give you some value for the pick, coming home 22nd. At least that’s more than Kyle Busch got you, anyways! Let’s hope this week brings us all some better results.

Alright, time to go set your rosters, including your Game of Tomorrow fantasy racing team right now before you forget any of the priceless information I have bestowed upon you, my wonderful readers. And don’t forget to check back next Thursday as we will preview the race from one of the fan favorite tracks, Martinsville Speedway, the 32nd date on the 36-event Cup schedule this year.

Contact Mike Ravesi

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