Fed Ex 400
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Four hundred (hopefully) exciting miles are set to be ran on Sunday in this year’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at “The Monster Mile” in Dover, Delaware. This race track is one-mile long, meaning we’ll see at least 400 laps. Unless NASCAR.com’s Live Leaderboard is down once again this weekend, I think average practice speeds are going to be very integral in making our picks. If a driver doesn’t show up on the ten-lap average charts this weekend, I would highly recommend staying away from them. Starting position is pretty important at Dover as well.
During The Last Race At Dover: Kurt Busch out-ran Mr. “Five Time” Jimmie Johnson and grabbed his second–and ultimately last–win of the 2011 NASCAR season. It was Busch’s first career Sprint Cup win at the track. Carl Edwards, who led for over 1/4th of the race, finished 3rd with Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth rounding out the top 5.
Practice Schedule: For those that also play Yahoo! Auto Racing, we’re lucky this week. Both practice sessions of the weekend are on Friday afternoon (starting at 11:45 am and 2:45 pm) and then qualifying is set to start around noon on Saturday. The green flag on the 2012 FedEx 400 should wave around 1:15 pm on Sunday. I wish we could see the cars on track after qualifying, but that’s not happening.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The FedEx 400:
1. Kyle Busch – I’m looking back at Bristol from earlier this year, but that’s pretty much pointless with Kyle Busch because he was caught up in the early wreck and finished 32nd. However, I remember that the #18 was real fast that weekend, and this team has a very large amount of momentum on their side. Over the last month of Sprint Cup Series action, Busch hasn’t finished worse than 4th, and he’s now on a streak of six-straight finishes of 11th or better in the series. At Dover, Rowdy hasn’t been incredible, but he does have two career victories at the track and has notched nine top 10s in fourteen career starts. His average finish of 13.3 is ninth-best in the series, and Busch owns the best average finish (4.3) over the last two years at this track. His average driver rating over that span (112.8) is third-best. Right now I think we’ll see a bow once the checkered flag waves on Sunday.
2. Jimmie Johnson – I’m still baffled as to how Five Time didn’t lead any laps last weekend, as well as how this team made a mistake (just kidding…kind of). I’m expecting a solid top 5 out of Johnson this weekend in Dover, though, and that shouldn’t really be a surprise. Over the last three years here, Johnson has led an incredible 1,349 laps and his least amount led in one single event was 157. Seriously. Over that span, Jimmie has posted three wins and his worst finish has been 16th, and that only happened because he got a speeding penalty on pit road and had to do a pass-through penalty. Barring any mistake by driver or team this weekend, consider the #48 a lock for a top 5 in Dover on Sunday.
3. Greg Biffle – It’s hard to rank a driver that hasn’t been too great on the short tracks in 2012 this high, but then again it’s real hard to go against a guy that has just one finish worse than 13th this entire season. It also doesn’t hurt that Biffle has had a car capable of winning in each of the last two Sprint Cup races, and he did grab the pole at Bristol earlier this year. Statistically, Dover is actually the third-best track on the circuit for The Biff. From 2006 to 2009–a total of eight events–he never finished worse than 8th, and Greg won the fall event here in 2008. As far as Yahoo! goes, if you have five or less starts with Biffle, I probably wouldn’t start him this weekend, simply because he’s a more solid choice on the intermediates. He does finish inside the top 10 more often than not at The Monster Mile.
4. Matt Kenseth – Yep, all of the Roush-Fenway Fords should be pretty good this weekend. Kenseth has the fourth-best average driver rating over the last two years at Dover and won this event last season after starting 24th. What’s even more impressive is the fact that Matt has recorded seven top 5s in the last eight races at The Monster Mile. His career average finish of 12.2 here is fourth-best in the series and that makes this track Kenseth’s fifth-best on the circuit. Remember, the #17 put up a solid fight to Brad Keselowski in Bristol earlier this year and ended up finishing 2nd. He also finished 4th at Martinsville, the other short track.
5. Kasey Kahne – I’d like to say this this win is going to spark the #5 team and they will go on a run, but let’s be honest: this team has been HOT! Over the last six Sprint Cup series races, Kahne hasn’t finished worse than 8th. Somehow I haven’t heard much about this in the media, as I’m sure there aren’t many other teams that have been that consistent and good over the last month and a half. At Dover specifically, Kahne has been somewhat terrible to say the least. His average finish over sixteen starts here has been 22.6, and Kasey has just one top 5 finish. In six of the last nine races here, Kahne has finished 20th or worse. So how can I rank him 5th? One, the aforementioned momentum, as well as the fact that Kahne finished 4th here last fall after starting 9th. He was also running solidly in the top 10 in this event last season before experiencing engine problems (Yahoo! chart here). Kasey should have no worries about engine problems this weekend.
6. Martin Truex, Jr. – Truex’s sole Sprint Cup win came at this track in a dominating effort in 2007, but surprisingly that has been his only top 5 here in twelve career starts. There are many things that I like this weekend, though, that make me think Martin can notch a second top 5 this weekend, or at least something close. First, he finished 3rd at Bristol earlier this year, and also ended up 5th in that crazy finish at Martinsville. Over the last two years (four races), Truex has led at least one lap in every single race and has won two poles. He also has posted two finishes solidly inside the top 12 over that span and has the ninth-best average driver rating of anyone in the series. We’re now one-third into the 2012 NASCAR season and it’s looking more and more like Truex and the #56 team are the real deal. Can he finally snap the winless streak? Guess we’ll find out soon enough…
7. Carl Edwards – If the #99 looks real good in practice on Friday, expect Concrete Carl to jump up my in my final rankings. He’s been great here over the last two years to say the least. In those four races, Edwards owns an average finish of 5.8 and has the second-best average driver rating in the series (113.8). He’s also one of only two drivers to post top 10 finishes in all of those events. What’s even more impressive is that Carl hasn’t ended up worse than 18th in fifteen career starts here and has recorded single-digit efforts in ten of the last eleven races here. The only one that ruins that streak is his 11th-place effort in 2009, which obviously isn’t terrible. Edwards led 117 and 116 in the two Dover races in the 2011 season. Hopefully this team breaks out soon because I’m sitting on all nine starts with Edwards in Yahoo!
8. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – I don’t know about you, but Junior’s 2012 campaign has been incredible in my mind. This team has been so consistent it almost makes me feel bad about bad-talking NASCAR’s favorite driver over the last few years. He still needs to win a race, though. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening this weekend. In twenty-four career starts at The Monster Mile, Earnhardt has grabbed one victory, but he also has an average finish of just 18.1 and usually only gets a top 10 in one out of four races here. Since joining Hendrick Motorsports, Junior hasn’t been able to finish better than 12th at Dover, but I’m expecting that to change this Sunday. It’s just too hard to go against this team, who has seven top 10s in the last eight Sprint Cup Series races. The #88 ended up in 15th at Bristol earlier this season.
9. A.J. Allmendinger – I’m predicting that this guy will be a hot topic in the fantasy community this week and weekend. Allmendinger has been real good here at Dover over the last two-and-a-half years, but his engine failure in this race last season kind of puts a black eye on his record. However, before that happened, A.J. look well on his way to a top 5 finish and possibly even a win. What I like even more about the Double Deuce this weekend is Dover is that Kurt Busch won in this car last season in the fall event. When you take away his engine failure last year, Allmendinger hasn’t finished worse than 14th at Dover since early 2009 and owns three top 10s over that span of time.
10. Clint Bowyer – With his 13th-place finish in Charlotte last weekend, Bowyer now hasn’t finished worse than there in the last four Sprint Cup Series races, and I don’t expect that to change this weekend. Dover is Clint’s 8th-best track on the circuit, and he ran top 10 in both races here last season while driving for Richard Childress Racing. When you look at Bristol back in March, Bowyer finished 4th in what turned out to be an awesome day for Michael Waltrip Racing. His average finish here of 14.3 is tenth-best in the series and Clint has just two finishes outside of the top 20 in twelve career starts. He’s never posted a top 5 at The Monster Mile, though, and I really don’t see that happening as of now.
11. Brad Keselowski – Remember last weekend in Charlotte when I said to expect a career-best finish out of Keselowski and he followed through with a top 5 finish? That good of a result might not happen again in Dover on Sunday, but I’m expecting another career-best out of BK. In four career starts here, Brad has averaged a finish of 18.3 with a best of 13th, which came in this event last season after he started 9th. What I really like about the Blue Deuce this weekend, though, is that Penske won here last season with Kurt Busch as well as the fact that Keselowski pretty much dominated and won in Bristol earlier this season. He’s slowing become a threat on a week-to-week basis right now. Watch Brad Keselowski in practice on Friday.
12. Denny Hamlin – Denny has had a couple of good runs here at Dover, but there are a lot better picks than him so there’s really no need take him this weekend. He also finished two laps down at Bristol earlier this year so there’s another thing going against the #11 team this week. In twelve career starts here at The Monster Mile, Hamlin owns an average finish of 20.7 (surprised?). He has just four top 10 finishes and has never ended up better than 4th. In the last nine Dover events, Denny has managed two top 10s but in the other seven races he was outside of the top 15 at the checkered flag–including four-straight finishes of 36th or worse from 2007 to 2009. He now has two 2nd-place finishes in a row, though, and four top 5s in the last five Sprint Cup races. If the #11 looks solid in practice, you may want to pick Hamlin based on momentum and weekend speed alone.
13. Ryan Newman - The Rocketman finished 12th at Bristol earlier this year and I think we can expect a similar finish out of the #39 team this weekend in Dover. When it comes to average finish, Newman owns the third-best record at this track (11.5) and he has visited victory lane three different times here. Also, in twenty career starts, Ryan has posted eleven top 10s at The Monster Mile. He finished in the 20s in both events last season, but before that, Newman had a streak of six-straight finishes of 14th or better at Dover. This is actually his best track on the circuit, statistically. However, Newman has no momentum whatsoever: over the last month-and-a-half of Sprint Cup Series action, he hasn’t cracked the top 10 once and his best finish was last week in Charlotte, where Newman came home 14th. He’s going to have to look real good in practice on Friday for The Rocketman to make my fantasy team this weekend.
14. Marcos Ambrose – Sleeper alert! Barring another mechanical failure, I think we’re looking at solid run at Dover out of Marcos Ambrose this weekend. In the two races at The Monster Mile in 2011, Marcos finished 3rd and 9th despite coming into the season with a best finish of 14th at this track. Four of his seven starts at this track have ended with Ambrose in 20th or worse, so make sure you know the risk if you pick him this weekend. Remember, as I said before, Allmendinger was really good here in Petty equipment. I just hope they overcome these mechanical issues soon.
15. Jeff Gordon – Well, how about that–a top 10 from Jeff Gordon. And that was after he looked terrible in practice! I think there’s two routes this team can take this weekend: slip once again or continue the momentum and go on a run. The latter is going to happen sooner or later and fantasy racers always have to be open to sometimes taking a risk and hoping that it is the “sooner”. Over the last two years, Gordon has finished 11th or 12th in three of the four Dover races, and he also has four career victories to his name at The Monster Mile. What I don’t like it that Jeff hasn’t posted a top 5 here since early 2008. My gut is saying stay away from Gordon this week, but then again I know he’s going to have a real good run sometime. If he looks great in practice, I’d take a shot (finally) with the #24 on Sunday.
Those To Avoid Entering The FedEx 400:
Tony Stewart - You should avoid this team simply on the basis of them being so hit or miss this season. It’s crazy to think that Smoke has two victories in the 2012 season but only five top 10s in the twelve races. When you look at his recent finishes at Dover, it gets even more depressing. Stewart’s average driver rating over the last four races here is an abysmal 68.3 and he has an average finish of 21st over that span. He has just four top 10s in the last fourteen races at The Monster Mile. Smoke finished 14th earlier this year in Bristol.
Juan Montoya – On a side-note quick, do you know what’s really impressive? The fact that the Earnhardt-Ganassi Chevrolets can qualify so terribly week-in and week-out yet both of them drive up through the field and get a somewhat respectable finish. I don’t how this keeps happening, but I can remember at least three occurrences, and I’m almost sure there has been more. With that being said, I’d still stay away from Montoya in Dover this weekend. In ten starts here, he has recorded an average finish of 22.9 and has only finished on the lead lap in two of the events. JPM has finished 22nd or worse in three of the last four races here, but I’m expecting a better effort than that on Sunday. However, there are just too many other good picks this weekend. Montoya did finish in the top 10 at Bristol earlier this year, though.