The Frontstretch: Frontstretch Fantasy Insider: Plucking The Sweetest Fantasy Grapes in Infineon by Bryan Davis Keith and Mike Neff -- Thursday June 18, 2009

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Frontstretch Fantasy Insider: Plucking The Sweetest Fantasy Grapes in Infineon

Bryan Davis Keith and Mike Neff · Thursday June 18, 2009

 

For the first time this season, the stars of the Sprint Cup Series leave the ovals behind for the twisty confines of a road course. The more technical of the two courses tackled by the Cup circuit, Infineon Raceway is full of tight quarters and few passing zones, making track position…and staying on the pavement…the keys to the weekend. Perhaps more than any other form of racing in NASCAR, there are those adept at road racing and those that are not, making it critical for you to take a close look at your fantasy roster. But don’t fear Infineon… embrace it, as the Frontstretch Fantasy Insider will identify the best out there at turning left…and right into Victory Lane.

By the Numbers

Best Average Finish at Infineon Raceway (since 2005, active drivers)
Juan Pablo Montoya, 2 starts, 3.5
Clint Bowyer, 3 starts, 8.0
Greg Biffle, 4 starts, 8.5
Ryan Newman, 4 starts, 9.5
Jeff Gordon, 4 starts, 11.0

2008 Toyota Save Mart 350k Top 5 Finishers
Kyle Busch, 78 laps led
David Gilliland, 0 laps led
Jeff Gordon, 0 laps led
Clint Bowyer, 0 laps led
Casey Mears, 0 laps led

Chateau Lafites

The Cup Series’ annual trip to the Napa Valley is synonymous with one of California’s native sons…*Jeff Gordon.* Five poles, five wins, and only two finishes outside the top 10 at the track since 1995 means that Gordon is fantasy money in the bank. Bryan

Kyle Busch has not exactly been setting the world on fire lately. He’s had strong runs in all three of NASCAR’s major series, but his luck has turned south in almost all of them. However, road racing generally allows people to make their own luck, and Busch did so at both road courses last year. Not known as a great road racer, Busch won at Watkins Glen and Infineon to pull the 2008 season sweep. Thanks to a 40th place finish the first time he ever raced there, Busch’s average finish at Infineon is 15th — but his other three finishes are 11th, eighth, and first. Expect to see Busch make his luck turn around this weekend with a strong run. Mike

Mouton Cadets

One may not think it, but even as his career has gone through the doldrums the last few years, Ryan Newman has proven to be exceptionally good at road racing out West. Since his rookie year in 2002, Newman has never in his career finished outside the top 20 at Infineon, with five top 10 finishes in seven starts. Plus, Infineon is also the only track on the Cup circuit where Newman has scored lead lap finishes in each race he’s competed in. Past history has shown that even coming off disastrous weekends like the No. 39 team endured at MIS, Infineon almost always allows the Rocket to mount a turnaround. Bryan

Juan Pablo Montoya visited Victory Lane at Infineon two years ago driving a car that was not as consistent as the one he currently races — making him a solid pick for your fantasy roster this week.

Juan Pablo Montoya may very well be the surprise of the season so far. Carrying the banner for an organization that is shrinking before our eyes, Montoya sits on he precipice of qualifying for the Chase. He has already tied his career high for top 10 finishes in a season… and we are not even halfway through yet. Montoya also won his first pole of his career this year, showcasing he knows how to qualify up front — and that’s where you should expect him to be this Sunday. Montoya also won at Infineon two years ago in a car that wasn’t running consistently as well as his car is now. In far better equipment this time around, expect to see Montoya put on quite a run this weekend and most likely score a lot of points for fantasy owners. Mike

Boone’s Farms

Robby Gordon is always a risky pick in fantasy racing, no matter what track. He’s rash and ultra-aggressive whenever he races, and that makes him a high risk/reward driver… even on a road course. But Gordon has extra motivation this season even outside of Infineon, giving additional incentive to a road race that is all but a home game for him…and a race his No. 7 team has a legitimate shot at winning. Gordon has a cushion between 36th place for the moment…but he’s also 34th in owner points, about as low as his team has ever been since they first cracked the top 35. Gordon’s brash, but he’s also an apt owner…and he’ll be ready to take a top 10 as a victory this weekend. Bryan

Marcos Ambrose doesn’t like to be known as a road course specialist, but he is a very good road course racer. In his Cup debut at Infineon last year, he qualified seventh; unfortunately, he suffered a transmission failure while running in the top 5 and came home 42nd. His second Cup road course race, at Watkins Glen, turned out much better with a third place finish in the underfunded No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers. Ambrose has also shown his road racing skills in the Nationwide Series, too. He won at Montreal last year, and finished in the top 10 in every road course race that he has run in the series except one. Ambrose has been having a very respectable season for his first full year in Cup, and now that he’s had nearly a full season’s worth of races under his belt, is becoming more of a threat to run competitively. Expect to see him finish at the front of the pack this weekend. Mike

Last Word

Road course races are an opportunity for fantasy players to score some points for their team by using some inexpensive drivers that don’t normally score a lot of points on a Cup weekend. Drivers like Robby Gordon and David Gilliland run well on road courses, and can be added to a roster for little salary cap hit. There are also road course ringers to choose from, too, but players should be leery of using these specialists because history is not on their side. A road course ringer has never won a Cup race in a part-time ride, and it is a real gamble to use someone who doesn’t run in the series full-time. Your fantasy dollars are more wisely spent on full-time drivers who have a past history of decent road course finishes.

Results of our experts in the Frontstretch Games

Game of Tomorrow

Bryan – 3845
Mike – 3481

Hat Dance Dynasty

Bryan – 3060
Mike – 2939

Frontstretch Fourplay

Bryan – 7625
Mike – 6847

In order to help the readers track how well our experts are doing, we’ll keep track of the cumulative points scored by all three drivers every week, as well as the total for the season.

Driver totals

Brian 383 5278
Mike 267 5006

Contact Bryan Davis Keith
Contact Mike Neff

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Fred S.
06/18/2009 11:54 AM
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You said a road course ringer has never won a cup race. Would the wins by Dan Gurney at Riverside in a Woods brothers car not count???Can’t remember how many races he drove in and how many he won.

Mike Neff
06/18/2009 12:05 PM
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I stand corrected Fred. Gurney won at Riverside five times, driving for the Wood Brothers and Holman-Moody. I should have put the qualifier on that said in the modern era. Thanks for pointing out my error and for reading the Fantasy Insider.

Fred S.
06/18/2009 12:24 PM
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More info on Gurney. He won 4 races @ Riverside with Wood brothers 1 with Holman-Moody, had 8 top 10’s and 8 poles. The 1967 Riverside race was won by Parnelli Jones.