Edwards, Newman solid picks as NASCAR rolls into Dover
After battling Mother Nature last weekend at Charlotte, this weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers take on another beast -- the Monster Mile at Dover. Dover's lightning-quick concrete surface provides plenty of fast-paced action, but one slip and this high-banked monster can eat you up and end your day early. When looking at building your team for this weekend, pay close attention to how your potential picks qualify. Since 2003, the winner has started outside the top 20 just once and inside the top 10 eight times. You'll also want to pay attention to the back of the field. Because of Dover's one-mile layout, drivers starting at the back can quickly go a lap down and be forced to spend the rest of the day trying to make up lost ground.
So which drivers will help you tame the beast and come out victorious in your fantasy league? Read on to find out this week's favorites, sleepers and longshots.
Carl Edwards: If there is a driver out there in need of a good finish, it's Edwards. Sitting back in 11th in the standings, Edwards has scored just two top-5 finishes in the first 12 races of the season. Compare that to at this point last year when he had three wins to his credit. Dover could be just the place for Edwards to get his ducks in a row and make a push up the standings. With a nearly flawless average finish of 2.2 in the past five races at Dover, Edwards has proven he can tame the Monster Mile.
By the numbers: In each of the past five races at Dover, Edwards has finished third or better; including a win in 2007, and he has led at least 18 laps in each race.
Greg Biffle: So far in 2009, Biffle's results have been streaky. Three finishes of 28th or worse were followed up by three straight finishes of 7th or better. He finished in the top 10 at Darlington two weeks ago and could build upon that this weekend at Dover where his numbers are second only to Edwards' in the past five races. Biffle conquered the beast last fall to earn his 14th career victory, and he has a good shot at capturing number 15 this weekend.
By the numbers: Biffle not only finishes well at Dover, he makes it easy on himself by qualifying well. In the past five races, Biffle has translated his 6.6 average starting position into a 3.4 average finish.
Ryan Newman: Newman has been a popular fixture in this section of the column lately, but it's with good reason. He's the hottest driver on the circuit, bringing four straight finishes of fourth or better into this weekend's event at Dover. Newman is a three-time Dover winner, sweeping both races in 2003 and scoring a win in the Fall 2004 race; plus he's won the pole four times. Until the Rocketman comes back down to earth, keep him on your team as long as you can and reap the benefits of his resurgence with his new team.
By the numbers: In 14 Dover starts, Newman has failed to finish only once, and has an average finish of 10.5.
Martin Truex Jr.: Coming back to the site of your first win is always a special event for a NASCAR driver, especially if it's your only win. Dover is no exception for Truex. Like Carl Edwards, Truex is in need of a good finish to help turn his season around. Before last week's race at Charlotte, Truex had led at least 22 laps in each of the past three race; but managed to score a top 10 in only one (Darlington, 6th). One of the intangibles to look at when building your team is a driver's affection for a particular track, one that is special to them that they want to run particularly well at. For Truex, that's his 'home track' of Dover and for that reason combined with his good runs there, he is a solid pick for a mid-range driver to fill out your roster.
By the numbers: In six starts at Dover, Truex has finished all but three of the 2,400 laps run. He has finished in the top 10 50 percent of the time and has never finished lower than 22nd.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: This pick comes from a mix of looking at the stats and reading the latest NASCAR news headlines. In case you've slept through the past few days, you've probably heard the news that Dale Jr. is getting a new crew chief. Team manager Brian Whitesell, who won two races in a seven-race stint as interim crew chief for Jeff Gordon, will lead the team this weekend at Dover; while Lance McGrew will take over at Pocono. Doesn't that scenario just seem ripe for a story Monday morning chronicling Junior's success at Dover after the utter failure of Charlotte? For that reason and a few stats listed below, keep an eye on the No. 88 this weekend -- he could surprise you.
By the numbers: Junior is no slouch at Dover. In 18 starts, he has a win (2001) and seven top-10 finishes, and has failed to finish just once.
Tony Stewart: How can I say that second-hottest driver in the series right now is a longshot for this weekend? It's not that hard when you take a look at Stewart's track record at Dover. Tony tamed the Monster for the sweep in 2000, but in the last four years he has been on the short end of the battle. Granted Tony is racing with renewed enthusiasm this year and his team is bound to win, and soon, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it happening this weekend at Dover. There are plenty of tracks coming up on the schedule where Stewart will be a better play. Bench your star this week; it will pay off later.
By the numbers: Since 2005, Stewart has just one top-10 finish at Dover and has crashed out of three of the past five races run there.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin, like Stewart, is another driver that is best used at a track other than Dover (can you say Pocono next week?). In the past three races, Hamlin has put in mediocre finishes after looking like he was close to winning just a few weeks before at tracks like Bristol and Martinsville. That's not to say that Hamlin isn't capable of running well at Dover, his short track success this year proves that; but if you really feel like gambling, visit the casino next to the track and keep Hamlin on reserve for another week.
By the numbers: In his first three races at Dover, Hamlin scored two top 10s and an 11th-place finish. But the wheels have fallen off since then and in the past three races his finishes have been a pair of 38th place finishes and a 43rd in between.
Next up: It's time for the first of two trips to the lovely Pocono mountains for the Pocono 500.
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