Sunday's Samsung Mobile 500 race at Texas Motor Speedway will mark the first time the CoT race cars have run with the new spoiler on a 1.5 mile track. While teams have been bracing for the possible effects in aerodynamics that the spoiler will bring, could the new hardware change who takes the checkers? While the cars will race better, do not expect the results to dramatically change. And that can only mean one thing...
The safest bet to win at almost any track on the Sprint Cup circuit is Jimmie Johnson. The No. 48 team's success may have caused you to burn the number of times you could pick the four-time defending champ on your roster. Obviously the highest-valued driver in most leagues, Johnson may also push your fantasy budget to the max this week, when statistically better drivers are available for more moderate prices. Here are some other suitable picks.
Matt Kenseth: As I discussed in my Monday Fronstretch.com column, Kenseth and the No. 17 team are showing remarkable consistency right now, though they have not run up front enough to unseat Johnson. Working in Kenseth's favor, however, is his strength at Texas. He claimed victory there in 2002 and has rarely had a poor showing. Kenseth is also the face of Roush Fenway Racing's improved 1.5/2 mile track program this season. The No. 17 has scored an average finish of 4.6 at California, Las Vegas and Atlanta this year. With six top 10s in seven races in 2010, expect the Crown Royal Ford to be more than competitive come Sunday.
By the numbers: Kenseth has 10 top 10s in 15 career Texas races, with his worst finish (12th) coming during the fall 2005 race.
Kyle Busch: Don't look now, but Busch and the No. 18 team are starting to find their groove. After stumbling out of the blocks at the start of this season, Busch has scored his first two top 10s in his last two races and was set for a win last week in Phoenix, before getting burned by late race pit strategy. The spoiler's return at Texas may endear itself to Kyle Busch's driving style, as it should increase drag and allow for more side-by-side racing -- and we all know that Kyle Busch likes to mix things up in traffic. Busch also has a knack for winning benchmark races, as he won the first CoT race at Bristol in March 2007 and claimed Toyota's first Sprint Cup victory in March 2008. He has gone winless since Bristol last August, so Sunday may be the day that Busch breaks out of his slump.
By the numbers: Busch led 232 laps last fall at Texas, before fading to 11th. He has three top 5s and one other top 10 in 10 career Texas races.
Mark Martin: All of the buzz that is now surrounding the No. 5 team should do little to deter Mark Martin from scoring a good finish at Texas, though he has had some up and down results over the years. Winner of the second race in Fort Worth in 1998, Martin has scored 10 top 10s in 18 career races. Martin's GoDaddy.com Chevy has run well at the cookie-cutter tracks this year, finishing 4th at both California and Las Vegas and running solidly at Atlanta, before getting derailed by a deflated tire and an end-of-race crash. Martin has a talent for staying out of trouble and on lead lap -- two traits that can lead to success at Texas.
By the numbers: Martin has a worst finish of 12th in the last four Texas races, including runs of 6th and 4th there last year.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer's attractiveness as a fantasy pick this weekend has more to do with his 2010 momentum than his Texas track record. Bowyer and teammate Kevin Harvick both spent much of last week's Phoenix race in the top 5, before a set of pit stops and a hectic restart pushed both of them back in the finishing order. Bowyer has five top 10s in seven races this year and sits 6th in points, but still has not gotten to the front. Bowyer's 23rd place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track very similar to Texas, is one reason to bet against him this weekend, though the driver of the No. 33 Cheerios Chevy has two top 10s in the last three Texas races. If you don't want to pick Bowyer for your fantasy slate, go with Richard Childress Racing teammates Harvick or two-time Texas winner Jeff Burton.
By the numbers: Bowyer led 36 laps, en route to a career-best 4th-place finish at Texas in the fall 2008 race. He also has finished on the lead lap in each Sprint Cup race he has competed in at Texas, with an average finish of 12.8.
JeffGordon: Jared Turner's recent column, talked about Jeff Gordon's inability to finish races well lately, as evidenced by his losing both the Martinsville and Phoenix races on the final restarts and crew chief Steve Letarte's poor tire decision late in the Las Vegas race he dominated several weeks ago. Gordon has never struggled more at a track in his career than he has at Texas, but he is the defending winner of Sunday's race. Nonetheless, he has top 10s in five of the last seven Texas races and could sneak into Victory Lane if the cards...and the driver...play out right in the closing laps.
By the numbers: Gordon has led laps in the last three races, has the 6th most points in the last five races, and has a 15.1 average career finish despite three DNFs at Texas.
Carl Edwards: Edwards has won three times at Texas Motor Speedway, including an edge-of-the-seat, fuel mileage squeaker in the fall 2008 race. Edwards' ability to save fuel and mesh with crew chief Bob Osborne's strategy gives the Aflac Ford an edge in the Samsung Mobile 500. The only problem Edwards could face in Lone Star State is the fact that he has only one other top 10 outside of his Texas wins, meaning that a misstep in the setup of the No. 99 could lead to a mediocre result.
By the numbers: Edwards has the 7th most points in the last five Texas races. He came from a 30th starting spot to win the fall 2005 race there.
After the winner shoots the guns in the Texas Winner's Circle, the Sprint Cup Series heads for Talladega Superspeedway, a track where picking drivers for your fantasy team is like picking which raindrops will hit your windshield in a thunderstorm. Nonetheless, turn here next week to see which drivers have a statistical edge and could make an impact in your fantasy league.
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