Fantasy NASCAR preview: Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey's milk and milkshakes

by Eric McClung on May 12, 2010 @ 17:20:00 PDT

 


A high-banked concrete racing surface with wide corners and narrow straightways, Dover International Speedway has earned its nickname, The Monster Mile. It is considered by drivers to be among the most difficult tracks to race on. Finding a setup that will allow the car to handle well in multiple grooves, not just the bottom, is a challenge. The wide turns allow drivers to stay in the throttle the entire time. The speeds are quite fast for a race track that is only one mile long, which makes the physical demand on turning the car that much more difficult.

Location: Dover, Del.
Shape: Oval
Length: 1.0 mile
Laps: 400
Turns: 24 degrees
Frontstretch: 9 degrees
Backstretch: 9 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

After starting the season off with six top-10 finishes in the first seven races, Kenseth has no such results in four straight starts. However, Kenseth should be able to turn things around at Dover, a site he won at back in the spring of 2006. In the seven starts at the site since that victory, Kenseth has six top-10 finishes, including four straight finishes ranging from second to fourth. Last year at Dover, Kenseth held average running positions of ninth and 10th while spending over 72 percent of his laps in the top 15. Dating back to 2005, Kenseth has never had an average running position worse than 14th at Dover. His slump offers a great chance to be ahead of the curve; capitalize on Kenseth's slight decline in ownership levels now.

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

Penske Championship Racing driver Kurt Busch
The older Busch bro a good pick

Last year at Dover, the older Busch brother finished fifth in both races, marking the first time in his career he has done so. In the spring race, Busch held an average running position of ninth while spending 82.8 percent of the race running in the top 15. He was even better in the fall race: His average running position improved to fourth while all his laps were in the top 15. Busch also lead 99 of 400 laps. After a boom-or-bust start to this season, the Blue Deuce has three top-10 finishes over the last four races. Now running with consistency, Busch gets the go-head in the Blue Hen State for any fantasy format.

Jeff Burton | No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Coming off consecutive top-10 finishes for the first time this season, Burton is a prime selection for Dover, where he won in the fall of 2006. Burton finished 16th in both Dover races last year, but RCR is a much improved team since those events. In 2008, Burton had two top-10 finishes at Dover and has run well there for much of his career. Since 2002, Burton has compiled an average finish of 10.5 at the site over 16 starts. A wreck may have cost Burton a win at Talladega Superspeedway while a gaffe by his award-winning pit crew kept him from contending last week at Darlington Raceway. Dover could be a place where it finally all comes together.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Over the last six races, Newman has finished 11th or better in five starts. A three-time winner at Dover, Newman should be primed to challenge for No. 4. Last year, Newman finished in the top 10 in both races at the Monster Mile. Always running strong there, Newman has never held an average running position worse than 13th at Dover. Over the last 10 races at the site, Newman has spent over 82 percent of his laps running in the top 15 on eight occasions. Start him with confidence, Newman is a rock-solid option on the concrete banks of Dover.

Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Target Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

After career-best finishes at Richmond International Raceway and Darlington, places he has historically struggled at, it appears time to stop doubting Montoya. Prior to finishing fourth at Dover last year, Montoya had only one top-10 result at the site and three finishes of 30th or worse. Starting position was a big strength for Montoya last year at Dover, qualifying third and second in the spring and fall, respectively. It paid off in the second race when he finished fourth. After making the Chase last year as a top-10 machine, Montoya has four finishes of sixth or better over the last five races this season.

Temper your expectations

Kyle Busch | No. 18 Snickers Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Over the last seven races, Busch has six top-10 finishes and a win. Exercise caution when considering him this week. After winning at Dover in the spring of 2008, Busch's team has struggled to get a quality ride at the track. In the following race that fall, Busch suffered a DNF due to an engine problem. Last year in the spring race, Busch had handling issues and eventually hit pit road early with a vibration that took him out of contention, finishing 23. In the fall race, Busch hit the wall, re-entering the race after going back to the garage for repairs, finishing 31st. Given how strong the Gibbs cars are running, Busch is not a bad option, but his mixed history at Dover could leave you hungry.

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin
Should you stick with Hamlin?

With three wins over the last six races, Hamlin will likely find himself on a lot of fantasy rosters. Even with his string of recent success, consider Hamlin's last top 10 at Dover came during the spring race of 2007. In the five starts since, Hamlin has suffered two DNFs due to crashes and no top-20 finishes. His best finish was a 22nd-place result in the fall of last year. Hamlin's average running position of 18th in that race was his best in that time. It's hard not to run Hamlin given his recent success, but Hamlin's spotty history at Dover keeps him from being an ideal selection.

Clint Bowyer | No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

In his last three starts at Dover, Bowyer has finishes ranging from eighth to 15th. In eight career starts, Bowyer has three top-10 finishes. He is without a top five. Plus, Bowyer has only one such finish this season - the opening Daytona 500. Last week, Bowyer suffered a broken brake line and his two teammates have experienced brake issues in earlier races. While there hasn't been anything to suggest there's a fundamental problem with RCR equipment, Bowyer's teammates, points leader Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, have been running better than him this season and are more attractive fantasy helpers.

Tony Stewart | No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Last year was the first time since 2004 that Stewart finished in the top 10 in both races at Dover. The rest of his recent history isn't bad, either. Stewart swept the 2000 races at Dover and has finished 11th or better in four of the last five races there. While those recent results are good, Stewart has been invisible for much of the season. Over the last six races this season, Stewart has zero top-15 finishes and has five results of 23rd of worse. With his teammate Ryan Newman running so well, it's likely Stewart will turn this around. Just wait for some more consistency before you trust Smoke to take care of business.

David Reutimann | No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

With his first string of three straight top-15 finishes since the start of the season, Reutimann appears to finally be running up to expectations. During the span of five races in the middle of these stretches, Reutimann suffered three DNFs due to various equipment failures. Still, Dover may not be the race to get the double zero back in your lineup. Despite winning the pole in last year's spring race and starting fifth in the fall, Reutimann's best finish at Dover from 2009 was only 18th. Spinning out to avoid a wreck and running out of gas were the causes for each disappointing finish, but Dover is not the type of track Reutimann excels on. The upcoming race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 30), where Reutimann won last year, is the perfect time to trust him again.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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