As hard as NASCAR may try to make a home in Fontana, Calif., stock car racing always has and always will be right at home in Concord, N.C., as the Sprint Cup Series returns to Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the third time this season. The third consecutive intermediate race in the Chase, the 1.5-miler still poses a threat to even those teams riding a wave of momentum as they come back to the east coast. A treacherous, high-speed race held under the lights, the Beast of the Southeast always proves unpredictable come fall, and this Saturday will be no exception. As Dale Earnhardt Jr. says, “it’s always something at Charlotte,” and the Frontstretch Fantasy Insider can offer the protective advice you need to sneak your fantasy rosters through 500 miles unscathed.
By the Numbers
Best Average Finish at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (since 2005, active drivers)
Joey Logano, 1 start, 9.0
Jimmie Johnson, 9 starts, 9.8
Carl Edwards, 9 starts, 10.0
Kasey Kahne, 9 starts, 10.2
Jeff Burton, 9 starts, 11.7
Johnson may not have won at Lowe’s since 2005, but to dismiss the No. 48 when the Cup Series visits is nothing short of foolhardy. Johnson has three poles and five wins to his credit at LMS, not to mention he’s led double digit laps in 14 of the last 15 races at the track. Furthermore, if one takes away his blown motor at the Coca-Cola 600 last year, Johnson hasn’t finished outside the top 15 here since 2002. Fantasy bank has never been so easy to pick. – Bryan
Edwards has run nine races at Charlotte during his career. Eight of those races have been top-15 finishes, with four top fives and seven top 10s to boot. Yes, Edwards has been off this year, but showed signs of life at Fontana with a sixth-place run. Now, as he heads to a track where he always has success, it could very easily be the site of his first win in ’09. An average finish of 10th is third on the list of active drivers with more than one start at the track, and the AFLAC Ford had a strong run here last year until being sidelined with mechanical problems. If Edwards wants to end the season in the top half of the Chase, he needs to have a strong finish – and a win would go a long way in that direction. – Mike
Kahne has seemingly had a knack for Lowe’s since the fall race in 2004, where his Mopar Dodge put the entire field to shame until a blown tire ended his night after leading 207 laps. Kahne already has three victories to his credit at LMS, including holding the distinction of being the driver that broke Johnson’s streak of four consecutive wins here. Kahne has four consecutive top 10s to his credit at Lowe’s, including a runner-up in this race one year ago. Expect the No. 9 to be a factor on Saturday night. – Bryan
Tony Stewart won on a mile-and-a-half track two weeks ago at Kansas, showcasing his strength on intermediates. He had an off-weekend last weekend but still finished fifth, keeping his title hopes alive as we head to yet another 1.5-miler. Stewart won the fall race at Charlotte six years ago, but has not scored a top-five finish at the track in a points-paying race since. He did, however, win the All-Star Race this past spring and is riding a wave of momentum that has propelled him back up to fourth in the points. Stewart is also receiving engineering support from Hendrick Motorsports, who know a thing or two about getting around Charlotte. Look for the driver/owner to put in another quality run, continuing to keep the pressure on Jimmie Johnson this weekend. – Mike
Even during a disastrous 2008 campaign that saw him wad up car after car, Sam Hornish Jr. still had Lowe’s Motor Speedway halfway figured out, notching a 17.5 finishing average in two points races as well as racing his way into the All-Star Race. Now fast forward to 2009, where Hornish is perhaps the most improved driver anywhere in NASCAR, and the same holds true. Hornish finished 16th at Lowe’s in the spring, and has posted top 20s in the last two intermediate races. The No. 77 will be a solid choice to fill out your roster. – Bryan
Bobby Labonte is running for Yates Racing again this weekend in the No. 96 car, trying to finish the season strong as he auditions for 2010. He has said that Charlotte is one of his two or three favorite tracks, and his career stats there easily back that up: the 2000 series champ has the same average finish at Charlotte as Johnson at 9.1. The lower echelon drivers can always be a stretch, but to put you at ease with Labonte, he’s not finished lower than 18th at Charlotte since 1999. Expect to see another quality finish from him this weekend. – Mike
The Last Word
The race this weekend in Charlotte is going to be interesting. Weather is looking like it is going to be very cold, which is going to make the high-speed track faster than usual. Handling is also not going to be as much of a premium as it has been in the past, meaning the teams with the most horsepower are likely to have an edge. Also take a look at who’s run the strongest over the past two weeks when setting your roster; they’ve got a good shot to repeat those performances with Charlotte being another intermediate oval. And as we’ve reiterated over the last four weeks, the Chasers are in the Chase because they’re good – so expect to see a large group of them in the top 10 at the end of the day.
Results of our Experts in the Frontstretch Fantasy Games
Game of Tomorrow
Bryan – 8365
Mike – 7828
Bryan – 6026
Mike – 6195
Bryan – 15517
Mike – 13466
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 – 362 10218
Mike – 398 9963
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