Race Weekend Central

Fantasy picks: Lawyers, puns and money

It’s been a crazy week off the track in NASCAR. First, Jimmie Johnson, with the help of Rick Hendrick’s lawyers, gained 25 points and moved up to 11th without even running a race. Then, Bruton Smith says he’s going to tear up Bristol and make it like the old configuration. He’s apparently not making enough money, noting the lack of fans Sunday at one of the NASCAR’s most popular tracks. They want the old track back. Of course, they wouldn’t mind having the old ticket prices and the old gas prices back too. Those are certainly factors in the fans staying away as well.

One old occurrence that did take place Sunday afternoon was the No. 2 showing up in Victory Lane at Bristol. Brad Keselowski, who also won at Bristol last year, has taken over the Penske No. 2 car. So that win along with the successes of previous No. 2 drivers Kurt Busch and Rusty Wallace at Bristol means I’m picking Keselowski to win the fall race there, no matter what the track configuration might be.
As for this week, here’s a look at the picks for the 3 PM Sunday race on FOX at the two-mile track in California.

Top 5 Picks

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson has five victories at the two-mile oval, and it’s hard not to pick him at his home track. Add in the high the team should be on with their penalty reduction earlier this week and you’ve got the recipe for a visit to victory lane.

Matt Kenseth – He’s got three wins here, plus he’s run well this season. It would be surprising if he doesn’t battle for the lead.

Greg Biffle – Well, I suppose you have to give the points leader some respect sometime. He’s got one win at California and four top 5s in 17 starts.

Tony Stewart – He’s got one win and five top 5s and Hendrick information to help him, too. Plus he maintains that he’s got a secret weapon in Steve Addington.

Kevin Harvick – No more sentimental picks at the end now. I need a win and Harvick won this race last year. So why not two in a row?

Coulda, woulda, shoulda – Jeff Gordon. He’s got three wins here and has had a car capable of winning in these early races. But he seems to be a bit snakebit this year, so I couldn’t put his name on my top five drivers.

ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP

Here’s a review of last week’s picks at Bristol and how they finished.

Kyle Busch – 32nd. An early wreck ended any chance he had of winning. He still got back out and ran 423 laps to finish 31st.

Matt Kenseth – 2nd. Just as easily could have won. He pushed Keselowski late in the race, but couldn’t make the winning pass, quick re-start or not.

Kevin Harvick – 11th. He also got caught in an accident quick work by his crew helped keep the No. 29 team on the lead lap despite several trips to pit road. As a result, they turned what could have been a disastrous day into a solid 11th-place finish.

Jimmie Johnson – 9th. He didn’t lead any laps, but did hang around the top 10 all day.

Kasey Kahne – 37th. The team is good, the driver is good and the car is good. So far though, the luck is all bad.

Season Stats

20 Picks
0 wins
5 top 5s
3 top 10s

Grade for this week: B- (a Kenseth win would have given me a boost)

One Last Thing: Have you noticed that last year’s points runnerup Carl Edwards has yet to lead a lap this season? On the flip side, Brian Vickers ran his first race of the year Sunday at Bristol in the No. 55 Toyota, leading a career-high 125 laps. Ironically, Vickers’ previous record was 121 laps led at Pocono in 2005, a race where he finished runner-up to Edwards.

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