Gillette Young Guns Fantasy Challenge: Toyota/Save Mart 350

by Whitney Bates and C.J. Radune on June 18, 2008 @ 06:09:22 PDT

 


Young Guns

Clint Bowyer | No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

TRACK HISTORY: Bowyer, who has been racing in the Sprint Cup Series since 2005, only has two starts at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. However, his lack of experience at the track hasn't kept him from doing well. In his first race, in 2006, Bowyer started 28th and finished 16th. In 2007, he drastically improved in his second career start at Infineon by finishing fourth.

FANTASY TIP: Even though Bowyer doesn't have a lot of experience at Infineon, his top-five finish in last season's race proves that he has what it takes to do well on a road course. Outside of picking up his first career Cup win at New Hampshire International Speedway last season, his results had not registered a better result than 24th. Despite his 31.5 average finish in his last four starts this season, Gillette Young Guns fantasy players should consider Bowyer this week.

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

TRACK HISTORY: In six starts at Infineon Raceway, Busch has an average starting position of 5.2 and an average finish of 16.3. Beyond his average starting and finishing positions, he has racked up three top-five finishes and, in 2006, he snagged the pole position. Busch has led 60 total laps at Infineon.

FANTASY TIP: As the Gillette Young Guns driver who has led the most laps at Infineon, Busch is among the better options for this week. Aside from picking up two wins at New Hampshire International Speedway in 2004, Busch has managed just one other top-10 result and hasn't finished better than 19th in his last five starts. Changing race teams and manufacturers prior to the 2006 season has not deterred Busch from continuing to finish strong at Infineon. Fantasy players could see the Penske Racing Dodge do well in the Toyota/SaveMart 350 this Sunday.

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Office Depot Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

TRACK HISTORY: In only three starts at Infineon Raceway, Edwards has led 12 total laps, and he has one top-10 finish (sixth) - in the 2006 race. Overall, Edwards has an average starting position of 19.3 and an average finish of 20.7. With his mediocre starting and finishing positions, Edwards has proven that Infineon is not one of his best tracks.

FANTASY TIP: Edwards is currently fourth in the Sprint Cup Series standings, and he excels at intermediate courses, which is where the Series heads the following week. He has only one top-10 finish in seven starts at New Hampshire International Speedway, but Edwards' 13.7 average finish is very respectable. His results at Infineon do not make him an ideal pick for this week's race, and fantasy players should consider saving him for the June 29 race at New Hampshire.

Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports

TRACK HISTORY: Kahne's best finish at Infineon Raceway came last year, when he started eighth and finished 23rd. Overall, Infineon and road courses in general are not Kahne's strongest tracks. In four starts, his average starting position is 17.5 and his average finish is 31.5. Infineon is also one of only four tracks where Kahne has never led a lap.

FANTASY TIP: Kahne has picked up wins in two of his last four starts - they came in the Coca-Cola 600 May 25 and the Pocono 500 June 8. Kahne fared much better at New Hampshire International Speedway earlier in his career (four top-10s in five starts), but he has failed to register a lap led since 2005 or a top-10 since '06. Kahne is much better on intermediate tracks, and fantasy players should consider sitting Kahne until the Cup Series returns to a more favorable track type.

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Kinko's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

TRACK HISTORY: Hamlin only has two starts at Infineon Raceway. In 2006, he started 40th and ended 12th. In 2007, he started 36th and finished 10th. Hamlin has fared well in his career at road courses, where he has three top-10s in four career starts.

FANTASY TIP: Hamlin has never won at Infineon, but in his two races at the track he has finished well. However, New Hampshire International Speedway has been better suited for Hamlin. In four career starts, he has three top-10s, including a win in his first visit there last season. He has led at least one lap in three of his four starts. Given his ability to finish well on road courses with minimal experience, Gillette Young Guns fantasy players could consider Hamlin a worthy selection in either of the next two weeks.

Ryan Newman | No. 12 Alltel Dodge | Penske Racing

TRACK HISTORY: Newman has six starts at Infineon Raceway and has led 11 total laps at the track. His average starting position is 12.7 and his average finish is 9.8. He has two top-five and four top-10 finishes, and his best finish came last season, when he finished second in the June 2006 running of the Dodge/Save Mart 350.

FANTASY TIP: Overall, Newman has great consistency at Infineon, with an average finish inside the top 10. Newman is also a successful road-course driver, posting three top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 12 road-course starts. However, Newman has been solid at New Hampshire International Speedway, where he has two wins and nine top-10 finishes in 12 career starts. He has led at least one lap in 11 of his 12 starts and his coming off back-to-back top-10s in 2007. Gillette Young Guns Fantasy players should consider Newman a strong play in each of his next two starts.

Driver Pool A

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

TRACK HISTORY: Biffle has had two top-five finishes in his last two starts at Infineon Raceway. In his last five races at the track his average start is only 20.8, but his finishes are much better with an average of 14.6. He has led only eight laps at the track, but his only finish lower than 14th was due to his car running out of gas.

FANTASY TIP: Biffle is a solid drive at the Infineon road course. He is putting together consistent top finishes on the ovals, and while that doesn't always compare to performance on a road course, Biffle might be one driver that can translate his momentum to Infineon.

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

TRACK HISTORY: In his last five starts at Infineon Raceway Burton has one top-five and two other top-10 finishes. His average finish in the last five starts is 17.4. Burton is a driver that can race strongly on ovals as well as on road courses. His average start in the last five races at Infineon is 12th.

FANTASY TIP: Burton solidified his standing in the top five in Cup points early in the season and has not relented since. He is having one of the best seasons of his career, and with his history at Infineon he won't be forced to suffer through a road course race. Burton has the skill to turn a trip to Infineon into yet another top-10 finish.

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

TRACK HISTORY: Except for his first start at Infineon Raceway, Busch has been decent at the track. His three starts at the track have produced one top-10 finish and an 11th-place result. His average finish in his three career starts is 19.7. If you eliminate his first start when he finished 40th, his average finish in two starts at the track is 9.5.

FANTASY TIP: Busch has shown that he can win no matter what vehicle or circuit he is racing in 2008. Some drivers' abilities can transcend the nuances and difficulties of road courses; Busch is one of those drivers. Aggressive driving can pay off at Infineon, and we know Busch has that aggression. Look for Busch to secure another top-10 in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

TRACK HISTORY: Having raced with the Corvette team in the American Le Mans Series at Infineon, Earnhardt is no stranger to road racing. He hasn't been too successful in a Cup car at Infineon, but he hasn't been horrible either. Two 11th-place finishes are his best results at the track in his last six starts there. His average finish in those starts is 22.2.

FANTASY TIP: Earnhardt has said that he is searching for consistent finishes in 2008, which is remarkable considering he has seven top-fives and 11 top-10s in 15 starts this year. He might struggle a bit on the road course considering his statistics at the track, so he might be a good driver to rest for the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Jeff Gordon | No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

TRACK HISTORY: Gordon has been a great road racer in his career. In his last six starts at Infineon Raceway he has two wins, one other top-five finish and a top-10. Gordon's average finish in that time is 13.5 with an average start of 11th. This is a skewed figure when you throw in his 33rd- and 37th-place finishes. When those are thrown out, he has a 2.75 average finish.

FANTASY TIP: Without having a road course ringer to choose in this group, Gordon might be the best option. He has proven that he has the skills to win while turning both directions and has the pedigree of a true road racer as well. His results so far in 2007 have been somewhat spotty, but he should be near the front at Infineon.

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

TRACK HISTORY: Harvick's best finish in his last six starts at Infineon Raceway was in the 2007 Toyota/Save Mart 350, when he finished second. He had one other top-five result in the last six starts, the 2003 Dodge/Save Mart 350. His average finish in those starts is 15.3, and he has completed all but one lap in that time as well.

FANTASY TIP: Harvick can be strong on road courses but has not had much consistency. His ability to finish all of the laps is a benefit to selecting him for your Gillette Young Guns roster, but erratic finishes make him a gamble. It might be best to choose someone else based on past statistics this weekend.

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

TRACK HISTORY: Infineon Raceway is one track where Johnson has not dominated. In his last six starts at the track he has one top-five and one other top-10. His average finish in that time is 20th. He has led only three laps at Infineon - all coming in his last two starts there - and his star doesn't shine as brightly as it does at other tracks.

FANTASY TIP: Times to pass on Johnson don't come along very often. His superior driving ability makes it difficult not to choose him even with his poor statistics at the track. Still, it may be best to look at other drivers for this weekend's Toyota/Save Mart 350.

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

TRACK HISTORY: Kenseth's last six starts at Infineon Raceway have resulted in an average finish of 22.5. His average starting position is decent at 12.5, but he has not turned those into successful races.

FANTASY TIP: Based on his past statistics, Kenseth is another driver you may want to avoid in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. He hasn't scored any top-fives or top-10s in his last six visits to the track.

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

TRACK HISTORY: Stewart is an oval guy who can give the road course ringers a run for their money. He won the 2005 Dodge/Save Mart 350, finished second in the 2002 edition and sixth in the 2007 Toyota/Save Mart 350. His average finish in the last six starts at the track is 10.7 with an average start of 8.7.

FANTASY TIP: Aggressive driving can pay dividends at road courses, and that is true at Infineon Raceway. Stewart by nature is extremely aggressive and his success at Infineon proves that being aggressive can pay off. Stewart would be a solid choice for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, and there is no reason he couldn't be in the running for a top-10 result.

Driver Pool B

Bobby Labonte | No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge | Petty Enterprises

TRACK HISTORY: The last six races at Infineon Raceway have not been good for Labonte. Except for a ninth-place finish in the 2003 Dodge/Save Mart 350 he has not had any good results. In fact, he finished 33rd or worse in three of those six starts.

FANTASY TIP: Labonte's new contract, along with new majority owners of Petty Enterprises, was officially announced prior to the LifeLock 400. New management may be just what Labonte and the team need to turn their program around and start finishing in the top 10. Still, Labonte is a driver you may want to avoid in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

David Gilliland | No. 38 FreeCreditReport.com Ford | Yates Racing

TRACK HISTORY: In his two career starts at Infineon Raceway Gilliland has not finished better than 25th. His average start in those two races is 33rd and his average finish is 28.5. The two results are simply bad, but he does have plenty of room for improvement.

FANTASY TIP: Gilliland has not impressed at Infineon, and he also hasn't shown any signs of surprising anyone with a top finish this season. He does not come from a road-racing background, which, coupled with poor past statistics at Infineon, means that it may be best to choose a driver in this group who has more experience and better finishes on road courses.

Casey Mears | No. 5 Kellogg's/Carquest Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

TRACK HISTORY: Mears' last five starts at Infineon have resulted in just one top-10 result. The remaining four starts all resulted in finishes of 20th or worse. His average finish in that span is 20th, and his average start is a terrible 34th.

FANTASY TIP: Mears probably is not the driver you will want to pin your hopes on for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. His statistics at Infineon are disappointing. He has actually shown consistency at the track, but that has only equaled average results. Gillette Young Guns fantasy players may want to choose another driver from this group.

Paul Menard | No. 15 Johns Manville/Menards Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.

TRACK HISTORY: Menard has never started at Infineon Raceway. The only Cup Series road course he has started on is Watkins Glen International. In his five starts there, he has a best finish of 19th, with an average finish of 26.2. His average starting position is terrible (38.4), with three starts of 42nd or worse and no starting position better than 31st.

FANTASY TIP: Menard is definitely an unknown on the undulating track of Infineon, but his history on road courses leaves a lot to be desired. With drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya in this group, no Gillette Young Guns fantasy player should rely on Menard in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge | Chip Ganassi Racing

TRACK HISTORY: Montoya won the 2007 Toyota/Save Mart 350 in his first and only start at Infineon Raceway. Something that makes that feat more impressive is that Montoya started that race in the 32nd position. There is no questioning Montoya's ability on a road course, and he is the class of the field on such tracks.

FANTASY TIP: Montoya cut his teeth racing street and road circuits. This led to his climb through many divisions in Indy Cars and Formula One. Arguably, Montoya could be considered the best road-course driver in the Sprint Cup circuit. Montoya should be a lock for every Gillette Young Guns roster.

David Ragan | No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

TRACK HISTORY: Ragan has just one start at Infineon Raceway, and it was a 29th-place finish in the 2007 Toyota/Save Mart 350. His qualifying effort was not good either, with a 37th-place start. Ragan has similar start (22nd) and finish (32nd) statistics in his only other visit to a road course, at Watkins Glen International last year.

FANTASY TIP: Given Ragan's inexperience on road courses and his somewhat developmental season in 2008, he may not be the best choice for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. However, Ragan has improved his results on many tracks in his sophomore season, and this week might be no different. Still, fantasy players should give way to some of the better options in this group.

Elliott Sadler | No. 19 Stanley Tools Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports

TRACK HISTORY: Infineon Raceway has been good for Sadler in the past. In his six career starts at the track Sadler has earned four top-10 finishes. His average finish in those starts is 11th. Sadler's Infineon statistics at the track have been better than most other drivers in this group.

FANTASY TIP: Infineon could be the track you want to choose Sadler. His 2008 results have not been what he was hoping for, but he may be able to pick up his third top-10 finish of the season at Infineon. His statistics are good at the road course, and Sadler has been more competitive, with two of his three top-10s this season coming in his last four races.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.

TRACK HISTORY: Truex has only two starts at Infineon Raceway, and neither of his finishes has been impressive. His best result was 15th in the 2006 Dodge/Save Mart 350. On the other road course, Watkins Glen International, Truex has one top-10 finish in two starts.

FANTASY TIP: Regardless of Truex's statistics at Infineon, he can run very well on the road-course circuits. He might be more of a gamble than someone like Elliott Sadler, but the gamble could pay off since Truex has been finishing well on occasion this season.

Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

TRACK HISTORY: Vickers' average finish in three starts at Infineon Raceway is 23.3. He has not qualified well at the track either, and his average starting position is 33rd. In four starts at Watkins Glen International, Vickers has one top-10 finish.

FANTASY TIP: Vickers has been a contender for a win in three of the past four races. His statistics aren't remarkable at Infineon, but he has shown improvement as a driver, and the team has risen to the occasion by giving Vickers cars that have the potential to win races. It might be worthwhile to ride Vickers' momentum of back-to-back top-fives into Infineon.

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About Whitney Bates

Bates has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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