The good news? NASCAR’s Labor Day race weekend has returned to its home… the South. The bad news? We’re racing at Atlanta, not Darlington. That said, buckle your seat belts because the field is going to fly on Sunday night. One of the fastest tracks on the circuit, the gritty asphalt of AMS will be throwing a wrench at every team this weekend as it is the first Cup race the track has held under the lights, paving the way to the Chase for some and some early testing for 2010 for others. But while the teams search for a setup and the drivers for the right groove, the Frontstretch Fantasy Insider will have your team hooked up and wide open when the green flag drops. Two-thirds of the way through the fantasy season, read on to find the right tweaks to turn your roster from good to great heading into the final stretch run.
By the Numbers
Best Average Finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway (since 2005, active drivers)
Jimmie Johnson, 9 starts, 5.8
Matt Kenseth, 9 starts, 9.3
Jeff Gordon, 9 starts, 9.6
Tony Stewart, 9 starts, 10.1
Dale Earnhardt Jr., 9 starts, 10.9
Edwards is trying hard to get the momentum going in the right direction with the Chase looming on the horizon. Coming off of a Nationwide victory in Canada after a disappointing 16th at Bristol, he hopes to use that boost to get back to the form in Cup that saw him finish third at Watkins Glen and fourth at Michigan in August. He’s certainly at the right place to keep it up, as Atlanta has been a very good track for him. Cousin Carl scored his first Cup victory there in 2005, notching two others there over the last four years. Placing third in the spring race, he has the third highest average finish among active drivers at the track. Don’t be surprised to see Edwards finally break into the win column Sunday night and continue to build the Uncle Mo wave towards the Chase. – Mike
There is only one active driver out there who has nine consecutive lead lap finishes at AMS, and that’s… of course it’s Johnson. And it’s not like he’s been puttering around in 15th at the Georgia speedplant, either. With two wins under his belt, an average finish of 5.8, a worst finish of 16th at the track since 2005, and well over 300 laps led, is there any reason not to start the No. 48 on Sunday? – Bryan
Earnhardt Jr. certainly has mixed feelings for Atlanta. He has visited victory lane there, but it also was the scene of the crash that very well cost him a championship back in 2004. Earnhardt has been slowly making progress since the switch to crew chief Lance McGrew, although he hasn’t had the finishes to necessarily reflect that. But even when he has been running poorly over the last couple of years, the veteran has found speed around Atlanta’s fast racetrack. Look for Earnhardt to make a strong top-five run this weekend and possibly even break into the win column. – Mike
Brian Vickers and the No. 83 team have this race circled 50 times in red ink. Yes, we all know that the race to the Chase is coming down to the wire, but that race is even more imposing on Team Red Bull. This team is well aware that their bread and butter is the longer intermediate ovals, meaning they’ve got to score maximum points this weekend before they head to Richmond with a short-track package that has proven lacking time and time again. There won’t be a team on track with more riding on Sunday’s race, and the way they’ve run on intermediates in 2009, that means victory lane may well be in the forecast for this bunch. – Bryan
AJ Allmendinger has been struggling through a less than stellar year with only one top five and three top-10 finishes. However, Atlanta is a very good track for him, so this ought to be a week he can log a better than average finish. Allmendinger has never finished higher than 14th at Atlanta, but he’s also never finished lower than 17th – that is a pretty tight box for three career starts at a track. Allmendinger also seems to have some of his better races on intermediate tracks. While he most likely won’t threaten for the win, look for a solid points-paying run from him this weekend. – Mike
Reed Sorenson hasn’t run well at his home track in recent races, but that’s not to say he doesn’t know how to handle AMS… he’s had three top 10s in his last eight starts. And there’s two reasons that the No. 43 may be worth a roster-filling gamble. One, the No. 43 car has run considerably better over the summer, even if the results don’t necessarily show it. Two, the last time Sorenson had three double-digit finishes in a row at Atlanta… he followed it up with a top-10 performance. – Bryan
The Last Word
One of the circuit’s fastest tracks, Atlanta has aged rather nicely and still puts on a heck of a show. Even with the weathering of the asphalt, the banking gives drivers multiple racing grooves to utilize as they make their cars handle more efficiently. Expect the usual cast of drivers who run well on intermediates to shine once again Sunday, but also keep an eye out for the grizzled veterans who know the ins and outs of night racing in Cup.
Results of our Experts in the Frontstretch Fantasy Games
Game of Tomorrow
Bryan – 6413
Mike – 6200
Bryan – 4802
Mike – 4848
Bryan – 12399
Mike – 11533
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.
Bryan – 276 8361
Mike – 388 8234
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