Fantasy Picks/Pans: Phoenix
While the spoiler made its return two weeks ago at Martinsville, the new aerodynamic hardware will have a greater impact in the desert at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. Drivers, though, will not fully feel the difference of the new spoiler, extended rear quarter panels and rear window blade until next week's race at Texas Motor Speedway. This means teams' current notes at Phoenix should still hold true -- as should past drivers' performances there.
Despite running very well at Phoenix the last few years,
Here are some other driver options to help you in your fantasy standings Saturday night.
Considered a dark horse to win in most circles, Jeff Burton has been very consistent this season, after a less than stellar 2009. Leading late two weeks ago at Martinsville before a cut tire ruined his run, Burton appears ready to break into winning territory. Burton has shown more aggression this season and could display that tenacity at Phoenix, a track where he drove his car nearly sideways through the corners while chasing down eventual winner Jimmie Johnson last fall. If bad luck evades Burton, expect a good showing from the No. 31 Caterpillar team Saturday.
The No. 48 team's biggest rival is the pilot of the Blue Deuce. Busch has led more than twice as many laps this season as Johnson, but has two less wins to show for his efforts. Winning the 2005 Subway Fresh Fit 600 as a driver for Roush Racing, Busch appears as much, if not more, determined than the rest of the Sprint Cup field to crush Johnson's title hopes. And sometimes that drive is enough to take a team to the front. Busch, by the way, is the only driver in the top 12 in points to score a win so far this year besides Johnson.
This is your best fantasy bet if you need a lower-budget driver for your lineup. Truex did a great job of going absolutely unnoticed his last two years in the No. 8 Chevy, but his move to
The No. 5 Chevy was the class of the field at last spring's Phoenix race, as Mark Martin scored his first of five wins 2009. Off to the same slow start this year as he was at this time last year, Martin may be another driver ready to bust through with his maiden 2010 victory. Martin's track record at Phoenix is impressive: only one finish outside the top 20 in 26 career starts -- and that was at the debut race there in 1988!
Junior is becoming a popular pick to take the checkers among analysts lately, as his winless drought has stretched to almost two years and his performance in the No. 88 seems to be turning around (he is 10th in the points). Placing Earnhardt on your fantasy slate may be more than a trendy idea for the next three weeks, as he historically runs well and has won at Phoenix, Texas and Talladega. Seeing his chemistry with crew chief
Greg Biffle is the only remaining driver to score top 10s in all six races this year and he sits a quiet 2nd in points, 14 markers behind Johnson. The Biff and the No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford team do not seemed poised for victory yet, but their consistent runs at a variety of tracks are sharpening their iron for later in the season when the battle for the Chase intensifies. Biffle has never won at Phoenix, but has seen his results generally improve over his eight year Cup career. Pencil-in Biffle as another moderately-priced driver, who will likely provide a good bang for your fantasy buck.
Busch is fightin' mad and spittin' nails after missing an almost sure win at Martinsville because of pit strategy, and watching Johnson claim the crown at Bristol (a track Busch used to own). Expect to see the Miller Lite Dodge up front early, often, and (when it matters most) late in Saturday night's race.