Well, we did a little better last week at Fontana than Daytona. All my normal picks finished in the top 23, with my studs running in the top 13 and two of my underdogs 12th and 17th. Plus, Jamie McMurray won the pole while Brian Vickers logged bonus points for leading the race. My dud of the week also came home 32nd, leaving the only driver to mess me up my extra underdog (Martin Truex Jr. in 39th, although he was challenging for a top-10 spot when the motor blew). Don’t worry, fans; I won’t make any extra underdog picks like that again.
This week, NASCAR heads to Sin City where the younger Busch brother dominates and a pair of young drivers without a lot of history but definite momentum are going to lead your team to victory (assuming you avoid having one of last year’s Chase contenders on your roster.) So read on to find the hidden fantasy gems this week for the running of the Shelby American at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Kyle Busch – You’ll want this hometown hero on your roster Sunday – no questions asked. In the last five years, he’s won two poles and finished no worse than 11th in Vegas, completing every lap along the way. And did I mention he’s got three top-three finishes and doubles as the defending race champ? Definitely a stud for your team.
Jeff Burton – Another driver on your short list this weekend is Burton, who has a long history of success out west. NASCAR has been coming to Vegas since 1998, and if you throw out the 2001 race where he finished 39th, the veteran has finished no worse than 17th in his other 12 starts at the Speedway. He’s also posted a pair of wins and has finished on the lead lap of every race, with the exception of that 2001 anomaly where he wrecked. Add in the hot streak his team’s on right now (seven straight races of 11th or better), and this one’s a no brainer – especially if Burton’s still a cheap buy for your team.
Who Will Carry You
Joey Logano – After two finishes outside the top 25 to open 2009, Logano finally broke through at Vegas with a 13th-place run. This year, he’s started the season much better, with a 20th at Daytona and a fifth at Fontana leaving him ninth in the season standings. Armed with a year under his belt and momentum on his side, look for him to crack the top 10 and possibly post a second consecutive top five this Sunday.
Scott Speed – Having covered Speed last year in the Bubble Breakdown, I must say I am impressed with his progression in 2010. Finishes of 19th and 11th give him momentum going into the weekend, and last year he ran 21st at Vegas, one of his few good performances during an awful rookie season. For a guy whose value is still pretty cheap in most leagues, he’s well worth the risk as I see another top 20 in store this Sunday.
McMurray – McMurray has followed his Daytona victory reasonably well with a pole and 17th-place run last weekend, and I see him continuing with solid finishes not only at Vegas but several other tracks in the near future. In the last six races in Sin City, Jamie has finished in the top 25 in each, with a best finish of fourth in 2004 and a ninth last year. He has also completed all but one lap of competition in those six races, making him a sure bet to finish the 400-miler. Grab him now before his value climbs any further!
Who Will Bury You
Ryan Newman – While Newman’s value is dropping like a stone, you don’t want him on your roster this week even if you can get him free. Newman has had some bad luck, posting an average finish of 35th in 2010, and his career average at Vegas is only 22nd. Definitely not worth the price you are going to pay to have him this weekend.
Juan Pablo Montoya – Another guy struggling to figure out Las Vegas Motor Speedway is Mr. Montoya. He has yet to post a top-15 run there, and his average finish at this event is only 24th. In leagues where drivers are assigned a number of points and you can’t exceed a maximum point total, a guy like Speed running 24th is OK; a guy like Montoya is not.
With no burning questions submitted this week, I thought maybe a recap and some quick advice would be in order. So far in 2010, my 11 picks have posted six top-20 finishes, and five of those drivers have earned bonus points for your race team. Of the three duds, two have finished outside the top 32 and the third only mustered a 14th-place run. Not too bad to start the year!
If, for whatever reason, you can’t get one of this week’s studs in your league, take a good, long look at Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth. Gordon has finished top six in four of the last five trips to Vegas, and Kenseth has never finished worse than 20th until last year’s blown engine relegated him to 43rd. If you remember, teammate David Ragan‘s engine also went during that race, leaving him 42nd and ruining the day at a track where that organization tends to excel. Don’t expect that faulty batch of parts to pop up two years in a row….
So, there you have it! Now go set your lineups with confidence, and we’ll see you back here in a week when we prepare your team for Atlanta Motor Speedway.