Bryan Davis Keith and Mike Neff · Thursday April 2, 2009
Everything’s bigger in Texas, they say, and the Texas Motor Speedway certainly is considerably larger than the short tracks the Cup circuit has tackled these last few weeks. With the pending return to an intermediate oval, expect speeds to go up and the margin for error in race setups to go down. But with the help of Frontstretch’s Fantasy Insiders, you’ll adjust in time to be firing the six-shooters in your fantasy leagues come Sunday.
By the Numbers
Best Finish at Texas Motor Speedway (since 2005, active drivers)
Matt Kenseth, 7.1
Jimmie Johnson, 9.6
Denny Hamlin, 11.6
Kevin Harvick, 11.8
Clint Bowyer, 12.2
2008 Samsung 500 Top 5 Finishers
Carl Edwards, 123 laps led
Jimmie Johnson, 65 laps led
Kyle Busch, 50 laps led
Ryan Newman, 0 laps led
Denny Hamlin, 0 laps led
The touch phones
Jeff Gordon is leading the point standings heading into Texas this weekend. He has led laps in every race this season except Bristol while scoring four top 5s, five top 10s, and six top 13 finishes. The last time the series was on a mile and a half track, Gordon was second at Atlanta. He also finished second at Fontana and sixth at Las Vegas, giving him a solid record so far on NASCAR’s “cookie cutter” intermediates. Gordon’s momentum has been building steadily, and he should be visiting Victory Lane sooner rather than later. Considering Texas is one of the two remaining tracks where Gordon has yet to win in the Cup Series, that gives the team even more incentive to break that 47-race winless drought that’s been haunting them for over a year. Mike
Jimmie Johnson is already in the win column for 2009, and there’s few places better for him to carry momentum than Texas Motor Speedway. Since 2005, no driver has more top 10 finishes at TMS than Johnson. Plus, Johnson led laps and was a top 10 car at Atlanta earlier this year, a track similar to Texas both in being a high-speed intermediate oval and having abrasive asphalt. Most importantly, Johnson’s win at Martinsville (and the way he won it) speaks volumes about how hungry this team still is… even after three years on top of the pile. They’ll be contenders on Sunday. Bryan
The flip phones
Kurt Busch has not capitalized on his strong start, finishing 11th and 18th the last two weeks after three top 10 finishes in the first four races of the season. However, those two races were on short tracks, and it appears that the new Dodge engine is at its best on larger ovals. Coming off of his victory at Atlanta, heading back to a very fast intermediate track should see Busch back up towards the front of the pack with a chance to visit Victory Lane. Mike
Any given Sunday, it’s a risky move to start Jamie McMurray. But Texas is the safest track on the circuit to take such a risk. Even over his last two seasons of struggles with Roush Fenway, McMurray has finished in the top 15 in all four races at the 1.5-mile oval, coming home with an average finish of 7.8. Plus, a quick look back to the last race run at Fort Worth shows McMurray led 56 laps en route to finishing third. Coming off a top 10 at Martinsville that saw the No. 26 carry the RFR banner, expect McMurray to make it two solid weekends in a row. Bryan
The big, clunky, old school phones
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I recommended starting A.J. Allmendinger as a lower-tier fantasy driver last weekend, and I’m going to do so again this weekend. And why not? The ‘Dinger’s No. 44 team has been one of the most consistent and surprising in the garage all season. And if the third year driver was able to score a top 10 at Martinsville last week, Texas Motor Speedway should be a walk in the park for the same wheelman who was able to keep up with Brian Vickers in some intermediate oval races with Team Red Bull last year. Don’t let his lack of past solid finishes fool you — Allmendinger is another fantasy steal this go ‘round. Bryan
Bobby Labonte was very strong at Las Vegas five weeks back, but he followed it up with a poor showing at Atlanta to kill some of his 2009 momentum. Still, keep in mind that finish was Labonte’s only showing outside of the top 22 this year, as he was 16th at Martinsville this weekend to keep up a fairly consistent start. While his average finish at Texas is just 21.5, that stat can be deceiving — it’s been dragged downward in the last few years running Petty Enterprises equipment. Labonte seems to be rejuvenated in the Hall of Fame cars he’s wheeling this year, and that renewed enthusiasm will most likely carry him back towards the front and lead to a strong finish at his “hometown” track. Mike
Texas is a very fast track that has aged and is offering multiple racing grooves, which makes it easier for drivers to adjust their line to how their car is driving. The teams that have started the year strong on mile and a half tracks should again rise to the top this weekend. After some poor showings by Roush the past two races, fantasy players can expect them to rebound in a big way (Ford leads all manufacturers with nine wins at TMS.) The Gibbs teams and the Hendrick teams will also be worth watching this weekend. As long as cars can keep their engines together, Sunday should offer a very fast, exciting race.
Results from our experts in the Frontstretch Games
Game of Tomorrow
Hat Dance Dynasty
NASCAR Knockout (Average Finish)
Bryan 483 2005
Mike 476 1974
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