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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Martin’

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Proved Me Wrong

Posted by chadmusselman on November 21, 2011

Back in January of this year I asked the question, “Will 2011 be Dale Earnhardt Jr’s year?”  I emphatically said “No”, and that Earnhardt has already peaked and should hope the rest of his career doesn’t end up like Kyle Petty’s.  I also said the changes Hendrick was putting in place to get Earnhardt back into the chase would hurt the rest of the team.  Boy was I wrong about Earnhardt.

The 2011 season has easily been the best for Earnhardt since 2008.  He showed that he can still run with the elite drivers, staying in the top ten in points almost all season and making the chase.  Sure, he didn’t make much noise in the chase, but that’s not the point.  The point is that he made it and finished 7th in points, by far better than I ever thought.  Earnhardt didn’t get that elusive win, but he did finish in the top five 4 times and in the top ten 12 times.  That’s the most since the 2008 season.  His 14.6 place average finish in 2011 is also his best since the 2008 season.

To add to the success on the track for Earnhardt, he signed a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2017 season.  Rick Hendrick was talking about the contract extension at the beginning of the season, at which time I said he should be looking to let the current contract expire and dump Earnhardt.  Well, if this season is any indicator of what’s to come, Rick Hendrick once again made the right decision by finalizing Jr’s contract in early September.

One member of the Hendrick stable that could have been negatively affected by the changes that Hendrick instituted was Mark Martin.  In the pit crew and team shuffle, Earnhardt got Jeff Gordon’s 2010 team, Jeff Gordon got Mark Martin’s 2010 team, and Mark Martin got Earnhardt’s 2010 team.  Mark Martin easily had one of his worst seasons in recent years.  Martin finished 22nd in points (worst since 2008), has only 2 top five and 10 top ten finishes.  You would have to go back to the mid to late 1980’s to find a season that Mark Martin had fewer top five and top ten finishes.  His 18.2 place average finish was his worst since 2003.  Not a good season for Martin no matter how you look at it.

Maybe this helps answer part of the question, is it the driver, the car, or the pit crew that wins championships?  This shows that Earnhardt was probably working with an inferior team for a couple years before getting Jeff Gordon’s old team.  Mark Martin may be getting older, but he’s still a quality driver and the drop-off from 2010 to 2011 was significant.  I guess we know who Rick Hendrick can let go at the end of the season.  I wouldn’t want Kasey Kahne to inherit a team with that bad of a record.

Earnhardt has to be very happy about 2011, looking forward to making more strides in 2012 and getting his first win since the 2008 season.  Dale, I promise you one thing; I won’t write anything stating 2012 will be a bad season for you and that you’re washed up.  You definitely proved this year that you don’t have to get by on your popularity and you are a true contender for the championship.


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Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for 2011 Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at Watkins Glen International

Posted by chadmusselman on August 8, 2011

With only five races left until the chase NASCAR moves to Watkins Glen for their second road course of the season.  Look for the usual “ringers” to be brought in for the teams outside the top 30 in the standings trying to get a few more points to stay in the top 35 and keep their guaranteed starting spot each week.  Historically the ringers haven’t fared too well at the road tracks.  There are plenty of NASCAR regulars that can win the race, and they tend to not give the other guys much room on the track, or much respect.  There are bound to be quite a few spin-outs this weekend when people get tired of looking at the same set of tail-lights in front of them.  So who should you select for your Fantasy NASCAR team?  Let’s take a look.

This Week’s Recommendations:

Chaser: Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart is one of the best road races in NASCAR, and probably one of the best among any racing series.  He has absolutely dominated the competition at Watkins Glen collecting five wins along with 7 top five and 10 top ten finishes in 12 career races.  Stewart’s 5 wins are most among active drivers at the track.  His average finish is 5.4.  How insane is that?  I don’t know how you couldn’t have Tony the tiger on your team this week.  He will be showing his stripes and earning you a lot of points.

Alternate Chaser: Kyle Busch
Don’t like Stewart for some reason?  That’s alright; Kyle Busch can be the chaser for you.  He has only raced here six times, but finished in the top ten in five of those races with one win and two top five finishes.  The only race here that Busch didn’t finish in the top ten was his first one when he finished 33rd.  Since then his worst finish was 9th in 2006.  You may not like Kyle, but he is a good driver and will move people out of his way if that’s what it takes to get to the front of the field and win.

Juan Montoya
Montoya’s career at Watkins Glen mirrors Kyle Busch’s.  In his first race at the track he finished 39th, but since then his worst finish was 6th and managed to win a race as well.  We all know Montoya’s story and the fact that he’s a great road racer.  He should be a must have for your team this week and it’s almost guaranteed that he’ll get you big points.

Mark Martin
While sorting through the stats I was surprised to see how well Mark Martin has done at The Glen over his career.  In 21 races Martin has amassed 3 wins, 12 top five and 16 top ten finishes with an average finishing position of 8.3.  Martin has a good record at pretty much every track on the circuit, but he really does well at Watkins Glen.  He should be able to finish in the top ten or fifteen at worst and get a lot of points for your Fantasy NASCAR team.

Dark Horse: Marcos Ambrose
The aussie has only raced here three times, but he has finished in the top five all three times (3rd, 2nd, 3rd).  Ambrose is obviously a great road racer and yes, he does qualify as a dark horse since he’s currently 23rd in points.  This could be the easiest dark-horse that I have chosen all year.

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Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for 2011 Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono Raceway

Posted by chadmusselman on August 1, 2011

Pocono is hosting its second race of the season this weekend for the Good Sam RV Insurance 500.  We all know Pocono Raceway is the huge triangle-shaped track.  The chasers do well here with seven of them in the top ten for best average finish and seven of them having a win here.  What chaser will you choose?

This Week’s Recommendations:

Chaser: Denny Hamlin
Hamlin has the best average finish at the track along with 4 wins, 7 top five, and 8 top ten finishes in 11 races.  No one is better at the track than him.  There is no reason Hamlin shouldn’t be on your team.

Alternate Chaser: Jeff Gordon
Gordon’s 10.3 place average finish at Pocono is 3rd best among active drivers, and his five wins are tied with Bill Elliott.  In 37 career races Gordon has 26 to ten and 17 top five finishes to go with those wins.  He is also the hottest driver on the circuit averaging a 6.2 place finish over the last five races.

Mark Martin
Martin is the non-chaser with the best average finish at Pocono (11.2) and should be on your team this week.  He hasn’t won here yet, but does have 19 top five and 33 top ten finishes in 49 career races.  Martin finished 18th here in the first race and should do better this go-around.

Ryan Newman
1 win, 6 top five, and 8 top ten finishes in 19 career races doesn’t sound too impressive, but a 13.1 place average finish is pretty good.  Even when Newman doesn’t finish in the top ten he’s usually lingering and within the top 15, only finishing outside the top 15 five times.  It’s not a sure bet that Newman will win the race, or even finish in the top ten, but he should be able to get you some good points this week with at least a top 15 finish. 

Dark Horse: Juan Montoya
Montoya has fared very well in Pocono over the past few years.  Since 2009 he has finished in the top ten 4 times in 5 races.  In that span Montoya is averaging an 8.2 place finish.  He finished 7th here in the race earlier in the season.  Put him on your team and collect some points.

Posted in Driver Recommendations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for 2011 Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Posted by chadmusselman on July 18, 2011

On July 31st NASCAR will once again be at the most storied race track in the world.  Sorry Daytona fans, but it’s true.  No other track has more history and nostalgia than the 2.5 mile rectangle of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  No other track has as many seats as Indy either.  350,000 people sitting around the track is pretty impressive.  It was even more impressive ten to fifteen years ago with it could seat 500,000 crazy fans.  The chasers have been hot lately and now they own the top seven spots in the standings, and 10 of the top 12.  Oh, and don’t look now, but after the race in Loudon Jimmie Johnson has moved up 3 spots to 2nd in the standings.  He’s the five time champion for a reason.  If you don’t think he can do it a 6th consecutive year, you need to think again.

This Week’s Recommendations:

Chaser: Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon was the first to win a NASCAR race in Indy, but will he be the one to win this year?  Of course he will.  Gordon leads all drivers with 4 wins in Indy, with the last one being in 2004.  Along with those wins Gordon also has 9 top five and 13 top ten finishes in 17 career races.  All of those great runs give him an average finish of 9.5 at the track.  Gordon is showing a lot of fight this season, and looks like he could get his 5th championship to match Johnson’s.  If I had a younger team mate I mentored that ended up with more championships than me, I know I’d be motivated to get one or two more to keep up.

Alternate Chaser: Tony Stewart
Some fans would argue that Stewart is the best driver at Indy, and they may be right.  His 8.3 average finish is the best, and he does have two wins, 6 top five and 8 top ten finishes in 12 career races.  Stewart can always win any race on any week, but Indy is very special to him.  This is his home town track, and he raced here in the Indy Car series, so he always gives it his all when he’s back home in front his friends.  This is also the part of the season that Stewart begins to warm up and win some races.  He doesn’t have one yet this season, but that could change in Indy.

Joey Logano
Logano has only raced at the speedway twice, but held his own with a 9th and 12th place finish.  He has also been very hot over the past five races this season.  In that span Logano is averaging a 9th place finish, good enough for 2nd best.  I was ready to write the youngster off and say he can’t cut it as a top tier driver, but he’s come back strong over the past several weeks and is showing that he can finish in the top ten each week.  Almost 26% of you owned Logano last week, and he rewarded you with quite a few points.  It’s time the other 74% of you woke up and realized what you’re missing.

Kasey Kahne
Kahne’s season has been very similar to Joey Logano’s.  He got off to a slow start, but over the past several weeks has battled, gotten some respectable finishes, and now finds himself up to 14th in points.  Kahne is probably too far out to make the chase, but it wouldn’t be impossible to do if he keeps this good run going.  He has only raced in Indy 7 times, but had top ten finishes in four of those races.  Kahne is on the upswing and would be a good driver to have on your team and collect points that everyone else is missing out on.

Dark Horse: Mark Martin
You may not believe that Martin qualifies as a dark horse, but he does sitting 20th in points.  Martin started the year strong, but has struggled lately finishing in the top ten only once in the last eight races.  With all of those bad numbers recently, why should he be on your team?  Well, because he does well in Indy.  In the 17 races there Martin has 10 top ten and 6 top five finishes.  He’s also averaging a 13.2 finish at the track which is also pretty good.  If Martin is going to come out of his slump it should be in Indy.

Posted in Driver Recommendations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway

Posted by chadmusselman on June 5, 2011

I’m writing the recommendations for this race more than a week in advance since I’ll be out of the country when it gets posted.  That means I won’t be able to reference any of the results from the Kansas race and have to go on historical numbers from previous races at the Pocono Raceway.

With that said, it looks like last year’s chasers do pretty well here.  Seven of them are in the top ten of best average finish at Pocono, and seven of them have won at least one race and six of them have won two or more races here.  It could be a tough time for the non-chasers to get into the top ten.

This Week’s Recommendations:

Chaser: Tony Stewart
Stewart averages an 11.5 place finish at Pocono and has won here twice in 24 career races.  Along with the wins Stewart has 9 top five and 18 top ten finishes.  Want to hear a crazy stat?  Tony Stewart has finished in the top ten at Pocono in 10 of the last 11 races.  How could you not have him on your team?  Stewart is one of the least owned chasers for your fantasy teams.  Pick him up for Pocono and collect the points that others are missing out on.

Alternate Chaser: Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin owns the best average finish at Pocono at 8.2.  He also has 4 wins, 7 top five and 8 top ten finishes at the track in only 10 career races.  The only times he didn’t finish in the top 10 he finished 38th and 23rd, so if he can stay out of other people’s mess, then it’s almost a guarantee that Hamlin will be in the top ten, and probably batting for the win.

Juan Montoya
Montoya has cooled off in recent weeks, but is still a pretty good driver, and the weird triangle shape of Pocono suites his skills as a road race nicely.  Over the past four races here Montoya has finished in the top ten in three of them.  It seems that this season he has really started to figure out what it takes to contend every week and salvage the best finish that he can.

Mark Martin
Martin has raced at Pocono an amazing 48 times!  Even more amazing is that he hasn’t won a race here yet, although he has 19 top five and 33 top ten finishes.  Six of those top five finishes were 2nd place.  He’s been close here so often, it’s hard to believe that he’ll finish his career without a win at the track.  Anything is possible, so wouldn’t it be cool to see the old man finally win at Pocono?

Dark Horse: Regan Smith
Why choose Regan Smith as the dark horse this week?  Well, why not?  He’s stuck down in 29th in points, but has shown some signs of life with a win and two other top ten finishes.  This could be a critical year for him and he needs to get a couple more top ten finishes to show that he can be a driver that can stick around in the series.

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Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for 2011 STP 400 at Kansas Speedway

Posted by chadmusselman on May 30, 2011

Sunday night the Coca-Cola 600 provided another exciting finish.  It looked like Dale Earnhardt Jr. was going to get the monkey off his back, but didn’t have enough fuel in the tank to cross the line under power, allowing Kevin Harvick to sneak in for the win.  Kansas is another of the 1.5 mile tracks and if it can produce a finish half as exciting as Charlotte we’ll be in for a treat.  I have to admit, I won’t be able to watch the race though since I’ll be in the Caribbean and Bahamas on vacation. 

This Week’s Recommendations:

Chaser: Greg Biffle
“The Biff” has perked up lately averaging a 12.4 place finish over the last five races of the season and moving up to 11th in the point standings.  He’s hitting his stride at the right time going to a track that he dominates.  Biffle has the best average finish at Kansas Speedway among active drivers (8.1) with 2 wins and 6 top five finishes in 9 career races.  Biffle is the reigning champion at the track and looks to be strong again this weekend.  His last 4 finishes at the track were 2 wins and 2 third place finishes.  Last week only 0.5% of the players owned Biffle.  Pick him up and get tons of points everyone else will miss out on.

Alternate Chaser: Jeff Gordon
Gordon has been hot and cold this season and finds himself down to 16th in the standings; very unusual for him.  He hasn’t had a top ten finish since Talladega in the 8th race of the season.  Gordon is past due for some luck.  He has run well races with a strong car, but always seems to get caught up in a bad situation.  Not at Kansas.  Jeff has 2 wins, 7 top five and 8 top ten finishes in the 10 races that have been held in Kansas.  His average finish of 8.5 is pretty unbelievable as well.  Only 4.4% of the fantasy players owned Jeff Gordon last week.  Pick him up for the Kansas race.  You’ll be glad you did.

A.J. Allmendinger
Allmendinger has only raced at Kansas three times, but does have 2 top ten finishes with a 12th place average finish.  He’s holding his own this season climbing three spots to 13th in points after the Coca-Cola 600.  Allmendinger isn’t flashy and doesn’t get a lot of people talking about him, but he has shown this season that he can be a dependable driver that will hang around the top 15 in a race and be in contention for a top ten finish, which is a pretty good points day.

Mark Martin
From 2002 to 2004 Mark Martin finished 20th, 20th, & 25th at Kansas.  After that it seems he figured the track out as he collected one win, three top ten finishes and had an average finish of 9.2.  Martin had a rough race in the Coca-Cola 600 finishing 34th, but don’t let that get you down.  Martin has finished 20th or worse two other times this season.  In the race following that bad performance he finished in the top ten each time.  From that logic, it looks like Martin is due for a good run in Kansas.

Dark Horse: Marcos Ambrose
Ambrose is 17th in points and has been on the up-swing the past couple of weeks with a 3rd place finish at Dover and 6th place finish at Charlotte.  Momentum and confidence are on his side and those two things should help carry him to a top 15 finish in Kansas.  In his three races at the track Marcos’ best finish was 14th back in 2009.  He can do it.

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Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for 2011 FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway

Posted by chadmusselman on May 9, 2011

Wow, what a finish to last week’s race!  We don’t get to see the fisticuffs very often anymore so when it happens you have to savor it.  Both Harvick and Kyle Busch can be aggressive on the track, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Harvick knock Kyle out.  Too bad Kyle didn’t want to stand toe to toe with Harvick.  (Can’t say I blame him though.)  Check out some video of the confrontation below.  We’ll see what NASCAR has to say to them and if it deters them from wrecking each other this week.  Dover is only a 1 mile track, so they should be around each other quite a bit as the race goes on.

This Week’s Recommendations:

Chaser: Jimmie Johnson
Why put Jimmie Johnson on your team you ask?  Everyone else will have him too?  Well, Johnson has more wins at Dover (6) than anyone and he’s done it in only 18 career races.  Johnson is averaging a 9.7 place finish and has 12 top ten finishes at the track.  Sure, everyone else may have him on their team, but he’s probably going to win the race and get you more points than any other driver.  That’s why he should be on your Fantasy NASCAR team this week.

Alternate Chaser: Carl Edwards
Still don’t want to pick Jimmie Johnson?  Maybe Carl Edwards is your guy then.  He’s the only driver with a better average finish at Dover than Johnson (7.7).  Edwards has also finished in the top ten 9 times in 13 career races.  He only has one career win at the track, but Edwards definitely can rack up the points for you.  If you’re not going to have Johnson as your chaser this week, then you better have Edwards on your team.

Ryan Newman
At one point in the season Newman had 4 consecutive top ten finishes, and then had 4 outside the top ten.  Last week he finished 5th.  Is this the start to another string of top ten finishes for Newman?  I think so.  He has been pretty awesome at Dover over his career.  In 18 races Newman has collected 11 top ten and 5 top five finishes with 3 wins.  Add the fact that he has finished in the top ten here in 3 of the last 4 races and you have a pretty good case to put Newman on your Fantasy NASCAR team this week.

Mark Martin
This week’s race will be the 50th race for Martin in Dover.  In the previous 49 races he has 30 top ten and 22 top five finishes with 4 wins.  And don’t think that the success was way back in the day for him.  Martin has finished in the top ten at the track in 3 of the last 5 races.  Also, his 12.5 average finish is 7th best among active drivers.  We all know Mark Martin is a good driver.  If he’s on your fantasy team, keep him there.  If he’s not on it, pick him up this week and keep him there.

Dark Horse: Joey Logano
It was slim pickings for the dark horse this week.  Logano is way down in 25th place and only has one top ten finish all season.  It’s been a bad year for the kid.  This is hope though (at least for this week).  Logano finished in the top ten at Dover in both races last year.  In the spring race he finished 10th and took home 3rd in the fall race.  Hopefully him knowing that he’s had success here in the past will energize Logano this week and propel him to contend for a top ten spot.

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Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for 2011 Crown Royal 500 at Richmond International Raceway

Posted by chadmusselman on April 23, 2011

After a week off for Easter the boys roll into Richmond at the ¾ mile D-Shaped oval.  It’s race number 9 of the season and it’s starting to become clear which drivers will be contending to make the chase and win the championship and which ones will be left in the dust. 

Richmond is a track that the chasers from last year have done well at.  Ten of last year’s chasers have won a race here.  Last year’s chasers have also been on fire in the past five races this season.  Of the ten drivers that have the best average finish in the last five races nine of them were in the chase last year.  If that trend plays out, it looks like the chasers could dominate in Richmond.

This Week’s Recommendations:

Chaser: Kyle Busch
No one has performed at Richmond like Kyle Busch.  In 12 career races Busch has 10 top five finishes and 2 wins!  His worst finish here was 20th back in 2007.  Busch is almost a lock to finish in the top five and contend for the victory.  He didn’t have very good finishes on the larger tracks in Texas and Talladega, but now that they’re going back to a short ¾ of a mile track Busch should be on top of his game and contending for a win like he did in Martinsville and Bristol.

Alternate Chaser: Kevin Harvick
Over the past five races of the season Harvick has averaged a 6.6 place finish and moved from 15th in points to 4th.  He’s on quite a run.  Add in the fact that he’s averaging an 11.9 place finish in Richmond (7th best among active drivers) and he becomes a really good pick to have on your Fantasy NASCAR team.  For his 20 race career at the track Harvick has one win, with 5 top five and 13 top ten finishes.  You know he’s a solid driver and already has two wins this season.  Why couldn’t he collect his third win in Richmond?

Ryan Newman
Newman has cooled off lately finishing out of the top ten three consecutive weeks, but Richmond could be where he starts up another hot streak.  He averages an 11.4 place finish here and does have one win.  Newman has also finished in the top ten in three of the last four races at the track, so odds are pretty good he’ll be contending for another top ten finish.  If you had him on your team the past couple weeks, don’t give up on him yet.  Keep him on for this week and see what he can do.

Mark Martin
It seems like the same guys get recommended each week, but if they’re the ones going to get you the points, then you have to stick with them.  Mark Martin is definitely one of those guys.  He does well at almost every track and Richmond is no exception.  He’s raced here 50 times and finished in the top ten 27 times with one win.  Martin is a little further down in the point standings than he’d like to be, but he’s a good driver and should be able to inch closer to that top ten.

Dark Horse: Marcos Ambrose
Ambrose has only raced at the Richmond International Raceway four times in his Sprint Cup Career, but last season he did very well; finishing 9th and 5th.  He also has an 11th place finish at the track as well, making his average finish a respectable 11.8.   Ambrose is a dark horse for a reason, but if you’re looking to put a driver on your Fantasy NASCAR team that not many others will have, he could be your guy.

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Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for 2011 Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway

Posted by chadmusselman on April 4, 2011

The Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, TX is the venue for the 7th race of the season.  When this track was originally built in 1996 it had a two-track/dual banking system; one with 24 degree banking for NASCAR and an inner track with 8 degrees of banking for Indy Cars.  That has since been removed and the track is more traditional with one consistent banking.  This is also a track where the 2010 chasers perform well.  Seven of the chasers are in the top ten for best average finish and nine of them have won at least one race here.

This Week’s Recommendations:

Chaser: Matt Kenseth
Kenseth has the second best average finish at Texas (9.5) among active drivers, and he has the third best average finish over the past 5 races this season.  Put those two factors together and you get my top pick for winning the race this weekend.  Kenseth has a win with 8 top five and 11 top ten finishes at the track in 17 career races.  Take Denny and Jimmie off your Fantasy NASCAR team this week and insert Kenseth.

Alternate Chaser: Kevin Harvick
Wow, has Harvick come on strong at the end of the last couple races or what!  With those two wins he is the hottest driver on the circuit, averaging a 5.8 place finish in the last five races.  He’s also done very well at the Texas Motor Speedway averaging a 12.4 place finish with one win, 7 top five and 12 top ten finishes in 20 races.  If you want a hot driver on your team, Harvick is your guy; there’s no one hotter.

Mark Martin
Martin has the longest active streak of top ten finishes in Texas with four.  He has finished 6th, 4th, 6th, & 3rd in those races.  After last week’s strong run Martin has climbed back into the top ten in the standings.  This should be another good run for Martin and help him continue his climb up the standings.  He knows how to drive and may not always be able to win every race, but definitely is capable of finishing in the top ten in every race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is up to 8th in the point standings?  Is it 2006 again?  I’ll give Earhnardt credit; he’s having a pretty good season so far.  He’s been up in the lead pack most of the time contending for the top 5 and winning the race.  Texas Motor Speedway is also a track that he’s won at before so this could be the weekend that he breaks his long winless streak.  Earnhardt has also finished in the top five 3 times and top ten 8 times in 17 career races.

Dark Horse: Martin Truex Jr.
Truex finds himself down to 17th in points after a bad race in Martinsville.  He has done OK at Texas though with 5 top ten finishes in 11 career races.  Truex was a chaser in 2007, so he is capable of going on a good run and collecting top ten finishes.  If you want someone different on your team that others won’t have, Martin Truex Jr. could be your guy.

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Fantasy NASCAR Recommendations for 2011 Goody’s Relief 500 at Martinsville

Posted by chadmusselman on March 28, 2011

The 6th race of the season will be in Martinsville, Virginia.  This is the race where the 2011 standings start to matter and the top 35 are guaranteed a starting position, and the others who want to race have to earn their way in by qualifying.  This is also the week that I have to look at the 2011 standings to make my recommendations.  The Dark Horse pick now must be outside of the top 15 in the 2011 standings and not have made the chase last season.

Want to talk about domination at a track?  The last 9 races have been won by only two drivers.  Want to guess who they are?  …. It’s Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.  Johnson has won 5 and Hamlin has won 4.  Pretty impressive.

This Week’s Recommendations:

Chaser: Denny Hamlin
To put it in poker terms, Denny Hamlin has been sick at Martinsville over the past couple years.  He has won the last three races here and four of the last six.  The only time he’s finished outside of the top ten was back in 2006 when he finished 37th.  Hamlin has a remarkable record at Martinsville.  In eleven career races he has accumulated four wins, eight top five and ten top ten finishes.  His average finish of 6.1 is second best to only Jimmie Johnson.  As much as Jimmie Johnson was a no brainer last week, Denny is a no brainer this week.

Alternate Chaser: Jimmie Johnson
If you thought Hamlin’s numbers were gaudy check out Jimmie Johnson’s.  18 career races with 17 top ten and 15 top five finishes.  He has also won 6 races at the track and owns the best average finish among active drivers (5.3).  The only time Johnson has finished outside of the top ten was in his first race at the track back in 2002.  Hamlin should be the only driver that can challenge him for the win.  If you don’t put one of them on your fantasy NASCAR team this weekend, you’re nuts.

Mark Martin
Martin has finished in the top ten in three of the last four races in Martinsville.  This will be his 47th race at the track, so there is no other driver that knows the track better.  Martin finds himself 13th in points currently and will be working to get his way back into the top ten and look to stay there.  That push should start this coming weekend.  He is a good driver and is always a contender for a top ten or top five finish.

Ryan Newman
Like Mart Martin, Ryan Newman has three top ten finishes in the last four races here.  He’s also been hot in 2011 averaging a 9.4 place finish in the first five races.  Although Newman doesn’t have a win yet in Martinsville, he has collected six top five finishes and finished 2nd once.  It looks like this could be the year that Newman puts it together and starts winning races again.  He should be a contender every week and be able to make the chase again this season.

Dark Horse: Joey Logano
I’m going out on a limb picking Logano as the dark horse this week.  He’s in one of the bottom 10 drivers in average finish position (25.4) and is in 29th place in the standings.  The good news is that Logano has had some success at Martinsville.   Last year he had finishes of 2nd and 6th, and is averaging a 13th place finish at the track in his 4 career races.  This could be the race that Logano starts to dig himself out of the cellar.  If he doesn’t, it could be a very long season.

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