The Frontstretch: Fantasy Picks 'N' Pans: Citizens Bank 400 by Cami Starr and Mike Neff -- Wednesday June 13, 2007

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Fantasy Picks 'N' Pans: Citizens Bank 400

Cami Starr and Mike Neff · Wednesday June 13, 2007


Unless you're a Jeff Gordon fan, the fact that last week's race was cut short by rain most likely dampened your spirits. While you may have been shortchanged out of seeing a full 400 miles of racing, the impact of the rain may or may not have been a bad thing for your fantasy race team. Anytime a race is cut short, there is always the chance that the final standings will look like the field was inverted, with the good guys in the back and a bunch of lucky drivers – with would be meteorologists for crewmen – up front. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but the current forecast shows a chance for isolated thunderstorms and hot temps for Michigan this Sunday, leaving the possibility once again for your team to be basking in the glow of victory or drowning in a puddle filled with disappointment.

Which drivers will help you escape another weather weekend of doom in the Irish Hills of Michigan? Let's find out in this week's Picks ‘N’ Pans:

Cami's Race Rewind:

Kasey Kahne continued his streak of wins from the pole with his victory in the rain-shortened 3M Performance 400 at Michigan last season. Kahne arguably had one of the strongest cars of the race, fighting back from going a lap down on lap 46 after pitting for an overheating problem caused by a hot dog wrapper to regain the lead on lap 117. While time on pit road could have easily cost him the win, it was a strong stop by the No. 9 team that helped seal the victory. Kahne edged out Carl Edwards by mere feet during the final stop of the day, putting him in prime position when the rains came and forced NASCAR to call the race on lap 129. Edwards, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Greg Biffle and Reed Sorenson rounded out the Top 5.

Mike's Keys to the Race:

Michigan is the sister track to California. It is a wide, two-mile oval with multiple racing grooves that allow drivers to pick a line that will allow their car to work when they are experiencing different handling characteristics. It also allows drivers the opportunity to pass in different grooves and, thanks to that, offers some great racing. Even though the track is two miles in length, it is considered an intermediate track and the teams to look for this week are the ones that normally run well on those tracks. Obviously, Hendrick Motorsports is a lead candidate since they are the dominant team this year, and Jimmie Johnson should be right at the top of that list. The other team to consider is Roush-Fenway Racing. Michigan has been their own personal playground in the past, and Matt Kenseth won at Fontana earlier this year for the only non-Chevrolet win of the season. Dodges have also had reasonable success at this facility, winning four of the last ten races at the track (the other six events have been won by Fords).

Mike's Picks:

Crank ‘Em Up:

Carl Edwards has been on a winless streak in Cup that is starting to get as much coverage as Paris Hilton. However, the team is running better as of late and the promise of a win seems to be looking more and more realistic every week. Edwards was sixth at Las Vegas and seventh at Atlanta earlier this year. With the success that Roush-Fenway has had at Michigan in years past, expect Edwards to be near the front this weekend.

Tony Stewart is heading into his favorite season of the year: summer. When the temperature climbs and the tracks get slick, Stewart begins to come to the front. In 2005, Stewart started his torrid summer run to the title with a second place finish at Michigan. Look for him to do something similar this weekend.

Sit ‘Em Down:

Elliott Sadler drives for Ray Evernham, which means sitting him on a regular basis this year is a good idea. Even though Dodge has won at Michigan as recently as last year in this race with Kasey Kahne, the Evernham teams are out in left field right now when it comes to being competitive. On top of that, Sadler's average finish at Michigan is 22.9, and he only has three Top 10 finishes in 16 career starts. Don't expect the No. 19 to get out of the doldrums this weekend.

Reed Sorenson has the best average finish of any active driver in the Cup series at Michigan. He has raced there twice, finishing fifth and eighth and averaging a 6th place finish. For once, though, it is time to go against the averages and sit Sorenson this weekend. Aside from a fuel-strategy boosted fourth place finish at Charlotte, Sorenson hasn't been better than 15th since Atlanta and has four finishes of 40th or worse this year.

Roll The Dice:

Ryan Newman is starting to look like he can do more than just qualify, as strong runs at Dover and Pocono are setting the groundwork for a run towards the Chase this year. Newman has also won at Michigan in the past, helping boost a career average finish there of 14.8. Factor in Dodge’s recent success at this track, and this could be the weekend for the first Dodge victory of the year. If it happens, it’ll likely be Newman taking the checkered flag.

Cami's Picks:

Crank ‘Em Up:

When it comes to long, possible fuel mileage races, Matt Kenseth's name often comes to mind. For one reason or another, these types of tracks suit Kenseth's style, and it shows in his record at MIS; he is a two-time winner with ten Top 10 finishes in his career here. In fact, Kenseth has never finished outside the Top 15 in the 15 races he's run there. Plus, he's coming off a win at Michigan's sister track at Fontana earlier this season. All of these are good signs to put Kenseth on your team this week.

Don't let Jimmie Johnson's 42nd place finish at Dover scare you off. Following a week of bad luck, Johnson more often than not goes on a hot streak. Following his last poor finish at Texas when he finished 38th, he rattled off four straight Top 5 finishes. Johnson isn't a slouch at Michigan, either; while he's yet to visit Victory Lane there, he does have four Top 10 finishes and was third at Fontana earlier this season. Look for Johnson to rebound this weekend.

Sit ‘Em Down:

It wasn't that long ago that people were commenting on how it seemed Jamie McMurray had finally turned things around. But racing is a finicky business, and it's seemed that McMurray's tide has reversed. It's been five weeks since he's seen the Top 10 and he has three finishes of 24th or worse in that span. Looking at McMurray’s stats at Michigan, this isn't a place he's likely to get healthy. With just one Top 5 finish in eight starts, he has an average finish of 20.5 and was a disappointing 37th at Fontana in February.

J.J. Yeley did come away with a strong second place run at Charlotte a few weeks ago, but has yet to do anything with the momentum he should have gotten from that race. He suffered one of his worst finishes of the year the next week at Dover (37th) and went back to his mediocre ways last week at Pocono (17th). Yeley did manage a 13th-place finish at Fontana earlier in the year, but at Michigan, he's never finished higher than 37th.

Roll the Dice:

Greg Biffle's up and down 2007 season should take an upswing this weekend as the series heads to Michigan. It's no secret that Biffle has been struggling this year, and it’s true he hasn't had enough time to gel with new crew chief Greg Erwin; but look for him to overcome those woes this weekend. In only eight starts at MIS, Biffle has two wins and five straight Top 10 finishes. Barring some mechanical failure, if Biffle can't pull out a good run at Michigan, there really is something wrong.

Trash Talk:

Cami:): I think we should put a big asterisk next to the results from last week. I’m positive the two guys I sat down would have fallen far out of the Top 10 if the race would have gone the distance.
Mike: I’m pretty sure my crank driver would have done better than 42nd as well. But that’s the joy of dealing with NASCAR and their burning desire to get home over the weekend.
Cami:Yeah, if my two Sit ‘Em drivers would have just wrecked each other, Jimmie might have finished 39th.
Mike: Yeah, or if Johnson had a few other drivers drop out and got awarded nine Lucky Dogs, he’d have ended up 10th.
Cami:Well, if anyone could pull off a litter of Lucky Dogs… it’s Jimmie.
Mike: I know. I’m hoping he can do the same thing for you this week that he did for me last week…he cost me big time.
Cami:You’re so kind. But Johnson’s always good after he has a bad week. I’m banking that happens…or I’ll drop him like a bad habit. Speaking of bad habits…what are you smoking that made you sit Sorenson?
Mike: He’s raced at Michigan twice and had a good race both times, but I don’t see him continuing the string. We’ll see. I may eat my words, but I just don’t feel it for him right now.
Cami:Yeah, two Top 10 finishes is hard to overlook and say park him. But we’ll see what happens. Who knows, it might rain again and help you both out.
Mike: You never know. I see you jumped all over Kenseth after he won at California; I can’t blame you for that pick. I think he may get his second win of the year this weekend.
Cami: He’s too good to pass up, as he has a knack at these big tracks. But I still left you some decent drivers to pick from. Edwards and Stewart are good…as much as I tried to, I couldn’t come up with anything to knock you for making those picks.
Mike: Well thank you for that. So I’ll just knock you for yours; I’m surprised you’re sitting your boy MACMurray. A Roush Fenway ride at Michigan is pretty hard to turn down.
Cami:Jamie isn’t “my boy”. He was running well a few weeks back, but has really taken a tumble lately.
Cami:True. I guess we’ll just have to see how it pans out.


Season Averages:

Crank ‘Em Up- 13.0
Sit ‘Em Down- 22.3
Roll The Dice- 18.9

Crank ‘Em Up- 13.0
Sit ‘Em Down- 24.3
Roll The Dice- 18.5

Editor’s Note : Is Crank ‘Em Up and Sit ‘Em Down just not enough for your fantasy appetite? Our own Matt McLaughlin runs down past performances of all drivers in the Top 20 in points at Michigan. Click here for more info.

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