The Frontstretch: Fantasy Insider: Johnson's Numbers Great, Gordon's Staggering At Paperclip by Mike Ravesi -- Wednesday October 20, 2010

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NASCAR heads to Virginia this weekend for some old school racing at Martinsville Speedway, home to the second coolest trophy in auto racing. I gushed about the old Bass Pro Shops 500 winner trophy, but I’ve got to admit the grandfather clock at Martinsville is a close second in my book. Speaking of clocks, time is running out for the field of Chasers to catch Jimmie Johnson, with only four drivers left having any real chance at catching him. Are you in the same position for your fantasy team? Read on to see who you want leading your roster, who you want filling in the gaps, and who you’ll wanna avoid at all costs heading into the homestretch of the season.

Studs:

Once again, I am betting on Jimmie Johnson. This week, however, I’ll throw out some numbers for y’all. He finished 35th in his first race at Martinsville back in 2002, and has since ripped off 16 straight top 10s with six wins and a career finishing average of fifth. As far as his teammate Jeff Gordon goes, I can’t find another driver at any level of racing that has the kind of numbers Gordon has here. In 35 career starts, he’s got 29 top 10s. Of the six finishes outside the top 10, one is a 12th and two are 11th-place runs. He is currently on an 11-race top 5 streak here with a pair of wins in that time span. Finally, he hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since 2002. I can’t think of any better sure thing in racing then Gordon for a top 10 at Martinsville.

One thing is for sure this weekend at Martinsville: if you start either Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson on your fantasy team, you’ve got a great shot at a win.

Who Will Carry You:

After spending a ton of cash or points, however your league is run, you’ll need to spend wisely for the rest of your team. This week’s good buys are Marcos Ambrose, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jamie McMurray. This place has always been good to McMurray. Back in 2008, he came in here sitting outside the top 35 and had to qualify on time. He started fifth, finished eighth and used that as a springboard to four straight top-20 finishes and a spot in the top 25 in points. He has nine career top 10s and an average finishing spot of 17th at the track. And he‘s having a dream season this year, so don’t be shocked to see him in the top 10 when all is said and done.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is 19th in points, making him cheap, and he has run well at Martinsville. His average finish of 14th, combined with eight career top 5s and four top 10s in the last six races makes a pretty sure bet for at least a top 15.

Our third and final bargain driver is Ambrose. He has the same average finish as McMurray, but he sits 26th in points, making him a great investment. However, with any investment there is risk involved. And while McMurray has posted his average finish over several years, Ambrose has just three starts here, which isn’t enough history to make him as sure of a steal. Still, he’s probably going to finish in the top 20 as he runs well at all the short tracks.

Who Will Bury You:

While it doesn’t shock me that Kasey Kahne is behind teammate A.J. Allmendinger in points, it does shock me he’s only two spots ahead of his other teammate Paul Menard. Kahne has been up and down all season and has finished worse than 28th in five of the last seven races. At Martinsville, he hasn’t finished in the top 10 since 2006 and has done so just twice in 13 career races here. Stay away from him this weekend, especially since he’s transitioning to a new ride over at Red Bull Racing.

So there you have it, folks; plenty of info to go out and set a winning lineup for this weekend. And you’d better pile up the points this Sunday, as the following week I’ll get the old dart board out to make the weekend’s picks for Talladega, the biggest crapshoot in sports. So for now, move your mouse on up to the top of the page and click on our fantasy racing Game of Tomorrow to set your lineup. Then, go out and enjoy your weekend knowing you’ve got a sure thing for Martinsville. We’ll see you back here next Thursday!

Contact Mike Ravesi

Thursday on the Frontstretch:
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