Goody's Cool Orange 500 Fantasy NASCAR Preview

by C.J. Radune on March 27, 2008 @ 09:04:33 PDT

 


Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville Speedway is relatively flat. This, combined with its paperclip shape, make it difficult to pass. With passing at a premium, track position is a must. After the first caution, all of the lead-lap cars will be single file when they restart, which means if you are not in the top half of the field, you are almost half a lap down when the green flag drops. A successful pass will almost certainly require a driver to either out-brake the lead car or nudge it out of way, and often both occur. Brakes are also important for slowing out of the relatively long straight-aways into the sharp turns. All told, there isn't a track on the Sprint Cup circuit where brakes are more important. Teams might have their hands full trying to make the new car design handle well enough to pass and maintain track position.

Location: Martinsville, Va.

Length: 0.53 miles

Shape: Oval

Banking: 12 degrees

Leading the Pack

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

The NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader is hoping to put a disappointing finish at Bristol Motor Speedway behind him. Busch's performances at Martinsville have been solid, and he should be considered a strong contender in the Goody's Cool Orange 500. He has only qualified in the top 10 at Martinsville once before, finishing strong by posting three top-fives and four top-10s in six career starts. In last year's Subway 500, he led 106 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish. While the race at Bristol has shown that competitors have caught up with Gibbs Racing at short tracks, the JGR cars were still in contention to win until various problems plagued their final results. Fantasy owners should look for Busch to finish inside the top 10 this weekend, regardless of where he qualifies.

Jeff Gordon | No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Martinsville Speedway may be the track where Hendrick begins to turn their season into one of their dominant seasons of the past. Gordon has been one of the most successful drivers at Martinsville amassing seven poles, seven wins, 18 top-fives and 24 top-10s - with no DNFs - in 30 career starts. Gordon's numbers are impressive to say the least, and he hasn't finished outside of the top 10 at the track since October of 2002. Gordon is dominant here, and fantasy owners should look to him as a starting option in every format for this weekend's race.

Greg Biffle | No 16 Jackson Hewitt Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Three straight top-five finishes have catapulted Biffle into second in the Sprint Cup points standings. It will be interesting to see if his good form continues on a track where he has struggled in the past. Biffle's average finish at Martinsville Speedway is 24th with just one top-10; his lone top-10 came in last year's Subway 500. Biffle has a lot of upside this week with a string of top-fives, and his best ever result at Martinsville coming in his latest visit to the track. Biffle would be a solid choice in most fantasy lineups this week.

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 DeWalt Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

While Kenseth has yet to live up to the favorite tag some labeled him with heading into 2008, he has had a respectable season so far. He has three top-10s through the first five races, which isn't anything to be disappointed with. When you are Kenseth, though, you expect to win. He will try this weekend at Martinsville Speedway where he has never won before. He has had good results at the track including two top-fives and five top-10s in 16 starts. Kenseth will be looking to become the second Roush Fenway driver to win this season, and fantasy owners should expect a solid result from him this weekend.

Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Second place in last week's Food City 500 was Harvick's best finish of the season, and he currently holds the third spot in the Cup points standings. He has only finished outside of the top 10 once this year, which came in the Daytona 500. Harvick has been the model of consistency this year, and his form appears set to continue straight through Martinsville Speedway; he has five top-10s at the track in 13 starts. If Harvick can keep up it going this week, there is a good chance that he will put up another top-10 result in this weekend's race.

Drivers to Keep an Eye On

Jeff Burton | No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Last week's Food City 500 winner is another driver to watch in the Goody's Cool Orange 500. From Sept. 27, 1998 to April 14, 2002, Burton did not finish outside of the top-10 at Martinsville Speedway. In 27 career starts, he has one win, nine top-fives and 13 top-10s. Childress Racing has figured out how to make the new car work to the driver's preference and that knowledge should pay dividends at Martinsville where it is difficult to pass. Look for Burton to have another solid result this weekend.

Tony Stewart | No. 20 Home Depot Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Stewart currently sits in seventh place in the Sprint Cup points standings. While he has yet to record his first victory of the season, Martinsville may be the place where he is able to get it. Stewart has three poles, two wins, six top-fives and 10 top-10s in 18 starts at the track. Stewart's fast and aggressive driving style can pay dividends at tracks like Martinsville, but those traits can also get him into trouble. Stewart should be at the front of the pack this weekend, after another solid performance two weeks ago at Bristol Motor Speedway ended on a sour note.

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

Hamlin's five starts at Martinsville Speedway have been quite productive. Outside of one DNF due to an accident, he has never finished outside of the top 10. He has scored one pole, two top-fives and four top-10s in those starts. Hamlin's luck has bitten him on numerous occasions so far in 2008, but if he is to overcome that luck Martinsville would be the place he can do it. He ran well at the last short track (Bristol Motor Speedway) leading 98 laps en route to a sixth-place finish in the Food City 500. Fantasy owners should expect another top-10 result from Hamlin in the Goody's Cool Orange 500.

Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

If there is one driver that could be better than Gordon at Martinsville Speedway it is Johnson. Johnson hasn't been the dominant force of years past thus far in 2008, but he heads to Martinsville where he has won three consecutive races. His two finishes prior to his three straight wins at the track were both thirds. In 12 starts at the track, his average finish is 6.2. In total, he has one pole, four wins, eight top-fives and 11 top-10s here; he has also led 871 laps in those 12 starts. If Johnson and Hendrick are going to return to their winning ways, this weekend is as good as any.

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Claritin Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Aside from two wins this season, Edwards hasn't had great results. Martinsville Speedway also hasn't been the easiest track on Edwards. He has no top-fives or top-10s in seven starts. To continue to be a factor in the points this season, Edwards will need to show consistency while continuing to win races. Look for Edwards to be hanging around the top 10 at Martinsville; his speed makes him a factor even though his past results at the track haven't been remarkable.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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