The Frontstretch: Fantasy Picks N Pans: Atlanta by Cami Starr and Mike Neff -- Wednesday March 14, 2007

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Fantasy Picks N Pans: Atlanta

Cami Starr and Mike Neff · Wednesday March 14, 2007


St. Patrick's Day is still a few days away, but many fantasy racing team owners are already hoping for a little bit of extra luck heading into this weekend's race at Atlanta. Following the March Madness that was last week's race at Las Vegas, some teams took big hits when Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer had rough days. Others celebrated with strong finishes by Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth. So what drivers will have luck on their side and be seeing green this weekend and which ones will find an empty pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Let's find out in this week's Fantasy Picks N Pans:

Cami's Race Rewind:

Not even a rainout on Sunday could spoil Kasey Kahne's weekend at Atlanta last year. After capturing the pole on Friday, Kahne took his Dodge to victory lane for his second career win on Monday. Kahne took the lead with 75 laps to go and held off Mark Martin after a late rate caution bunched up the field with 20 laps to go. Carl Edwards saw his bid for the Atlanta three-peat end early in the day when he made contact with Dave Blaney on pit road; he would end the day in 40th place. Following Martin to the line was Dale Earnhardt Jr. who fought his way back the front after being out of the Top 30 with 100 laps to go. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart rounded out the Top 5, while Kyle Petty surprised many with an eighth place run. Greg Biffle led the most laps, 128, before ending the day 16th.

Mike's Keys to the Race:

Atlanta is the fastest track on the circuit and it provides a ton of options for the drivers to make their cars work. Whether it is high or low, people can make their cars run anywhere on the track. It is another high-speed, downforce track, so once again, look for teams that run well on the intermediate tracks to perform well here too. The teams that were near the front in Vegas will most likely be in the front again at Atlanta. The Hendrick teams, Roush, and RCR will almost certainly be on the point again.

Mike's Picks:

Crank ‘em up:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has run well at Atlanta in the past. He very well could have won the Chase in 2004 had he not had a mishap at the end of the Atlanta race that dropped him from a potential top three finish to 33rd. Junior generally runs well at Atlanta and his new love of the high line tends to treat him well there too. The No. 8 team also ran well at Vegas last weekend, which showed that they still have a handle on the intermediate tracks.

Jimmie Johnson smoked them at Las Vegas last weekend. The Hendrick teams are running quite well on the 1.5 mile tracks. Johnson's team has continuously shown that they can overcome adversity early in the race to finish well as always. He's run well at Atlanta in the past and, with the way they are running right now, should be up front again this time around.

Sit ‘em down:

David Ragan started off the year with some great finishes by being consistent and staying out of big trouble. With the ability that teams have at Atlanta to run tried and true setups that have worked in the past with a proven race package, there won't be near the attrition that has benefited Ragan early in the year. The spin at Vegas reminded us all that he is a rookie. He'll probably be near the back of the pack again this weekend.

David Gilliland has still not achieved the consistency that he had hoped to by this point in his career and the season. He is a talented driver, and has run better than anticipated, but is still in his full first year. And Yates has still not shown any potential to be running up front, so it would be another good week to leave the #38 on the bench.

Roll the Dice:

Martin Truex Jr. is the best DEI car in the point standings coming into Atlanta. The No. 1 team has shown that they are starting to get a better handle on running Cup cars and the overall turn around on intermediate tracks by DEI is definitely treating Truex well. Look for Truex to run up front at Atlanta and leave the track in the top 15 or better in points.

Cami's Picks:

Crank ‘em up:

Can Jeff Gordon finally tie Dale Earnhardt Sr. in number of wins this weekend? I'm not betting the farm on a win, but I think he has a great chance to come close. Gordon has finished second the last two weeks and led the most laps last weekend at Vegas. It's been 20 races since Gordon went to victory lane and this team is hungry. He has four past wins at Atlanta and has finished in the Top 10 in seven of the last nine races there. I look for them to run well again this weekend.

Speaking of winless droughts, it's been 40 races since we've seen Carl Edwards do his trademark back flip in victory lane. 2007 has been tough for the Missouri native, but he came back strong with a sixth place finish in Las Vegas last weekend. In five starts at Atlanta, he has 2 back flips (wins) and a total of four Top 10 finishes. He should get a strong finish at Atlanta this weekend, which will help catapult him towards the Top 12.

Sit ‘em down:

Kurt Busch just can't seem to catch a break this season. He had a Top 10 finish at California, but that is sandwiched by a 41st place finish at Daytona and a 26th place finish last weekend at Las Vegas. Busch was running in the Top 10 before he got busted for speeding on pit road and then engine problems set in. You can bet the No. 2 team is looking at the engines closely this week leading up to Atlanta. But last week's engine woes aside, AMS isn't a track where the older Busch has ever run particularly well. He managed to score one victory there in 2002, but in four of the last five races he has finished 32nd or worse.

So far this year David Stremme has surprised quite a few people and currently finds himself 11th in the standings. But you get the feeling that sooner or later some of that good luck is going to go away. This weekend at Atlanta just might be that time. In the two Atlanta races last year, Stremme finished 33rd and 39th, which doesn't give someone a lot of confidence to give him a shot this weekend.

Roll the Dice:

Tony Stewart is slowly making his way back up through the point standings after a last place finish in the season opener at Daytona. Smoke has posted two straight Top 10s to get back to 13th in the standings and is primed to make a move into the Top 10 this weekend at Atlanta. Stewart got off to a rough start at AMS in his career, but in recent years he has shown he has what it takes to get it done here. In the past 11 Atlanta races, Stewart has scored two wins and ten Top 10 finishes. I'd look for him to add number 11 to that this Sunday.

Trash Talk:

Mike: Carl Edwards at Atlanta, way to take a real chance on that one. Although the way he’s been running this year, that may be a little bit of a stretch.
Cami: Well, we’ll talk about your BOLD choices of the David’s in the sit em picks in a moment. But Carl had some crappy luck at California, and came back to run well at Vegas. I think he’s gonna keep it up for two weeks in a row.
Mike: That’s true, he did have some crappy luck. Gordon is looking like he might finally be back to his old self, but we’ll wait and see. I think the baby is still weighing on his mind though.
Cami: As long as he finishes second like he has been when I pick him, he can think of the baby all he wants. So.. about these bold predicitions you made. Sit Gilliand and Ragan, that’s not a real news flash. Plus toss in using Johnson.
Cami: Dale Jr. could be an interesting pick. Hopefully they got all the bad parts out of the engine room after Fontana.
Mike: They say they figured out the engine woes, and it looked like it last weekend. I think Junior is going to be a real threat this weekend. As far as the Davids, if you let me pick first, you can’t blame me for taking that route.
Cami: Well I’m trying to be nice after I picked the winner last week. Too bad Robby Gordon was on the track though. Maybe Casey Mears will finally run well now that I’m not going to jinx him anymore.
Cami: I was screaming at the TV when Robby knocked poor Casey out.
Mike: I’m sure the Mears fans are going to send you lots of presents for that.
Cami: If they do, I might have to start thinking about taking bribes for making certain picks each week.
Mike: I see you’re finally jumping onto the Penske bashing bandwagon. I think those guys have really lost the handle on the intermediate tracks and I don’t look for Busch to be anywhere near the front again.
Cami: I’m not bashing. I wish I would have thought of Newman for last week. Kurt’s been running good, but his record at Atlanta stinks.
Mike: I’m also not going to give you too much grief about rolling the dice with Stewart. He’s a stud at Atlanta and, since he’s not in the top 10, that’s a smart pick. Thank you for jinxing Sadler for me last week. I needed a good run with my Roll the Dice driver.
Cami: Yeah, I noticed you broke the unwritten rule about not using duplicate picks. (You know my address to send me my present). But I’m hoping three weeks of being jinxed is enough.
Mike: Well, I couldn’t help it, Sadler looked like he should run well, and he did. I guess we’ll see how this week pans out.


Season Averages:

Crank ‘em up- 17.7
Sit ‘em down- 24.3
Roll the Dice- 29.7

Crank ‘em up- 24.3
Sit ‘em down- 16.3
Roll the Dice- 31.7

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