3M Performance 400 fantasy NASCAR preview

by Cory J. Bonini and C.J. Radune on August 14, 2008 @ 14:41:21 PDT


Michigan International Speedway is a D-shaped superspeedway that measures 2.0 miles in total length. The wide racing surface with moderate banking (18 degrees), sweeping corners and long straightaways make this track one of the fastest on the NASCAR circuit.

Three drivers didn't finish the 3M Performance 400 event last year at Michigan International Speedway. Penske Racing's Kurt Busch won the race, Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s Martin Truex Jr. came in second and Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top three. In this year's LifeLock 400 in June, Hendrick's Dale Earnhardt captured his only win of the year after starting in third place.

Location: Brooklyn, Mich.

Shape: D-shaped

Length: 2.0 miles

Laps: 203

Banking: 18 degrees

Table: Do not bench

Leading the pack

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

Sitting in 18th place on the year, Busch's disappointing season includes three top-fives and a win at the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 in June. At the LifeLock 400, Busch finished in 21st place. In his 15 career runs at the track, he has an average finish of 19.1. The winner of last year's 3M Performance 400, Busch has a fairly strong record at Michigan International Speedway otherwise. Since the GFS Marketplace 400 in 2003, Busch's average finish at the track, sans a 40th-place DNF, is 12.9. Despite inconsistency, Busch makes for a strong play this week for fantasy owners.

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

Ranked eighth, Kahne has averaged a 10th-place finish in his last five races. He has two wins on the year, three top-fives and an impressive 11 top-10s in 22 starts. Kahne placed second at this year's LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway. He owns a 13.8 average finish at the track in nine career starts, in which he boasts one win and five top-five finishes. Kahne should be in your starting lineup this week. With second-place, fifth-place, first-place, fourth-place and second-place finishes in tow, it's hard to argue against starting him. 

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

Biffle currently sits in 10th place in the Sprint Cup standings. While he hasn't won any races this year, Biffle has tallied nine top-10 finishes and six top-fives. At the LifeLock 400 in June, Biffle qualified for a seventh-place start but couldn't capitalize on it and finished 20th. In 11 starts at the track, Biffle's average finish is 14th; he has recorded two wins (most recently at the Batman Begins 400 in 2005 after a victory in the 2004 GFS Marketplace 400) along with four top-fives and six top-10 finishes. He hasn't, however, finished better than 19th in his last three runs at Michigan International Speedway. Despite a strong start to his career at the track, Biffle should be considered a low-end option for fantasy owners this week.

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

Truex is coming off a strong showing with a fifth-place finish at the Centurion Boats at The Glen. He is currently 16th in the Cup standings after posting seven top-10 finishes but no wins. In five runs at Michigan International Speedway, Truex has a 13.4 average finish. In his two races prior to this year's 17th-place finish at the LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway, the promising DEI driver scored a pair of second-place finishes in 2007. Truex makes for an intriguing start this week in fantasy circles.

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

The 17th-place Vickers has more DNFs (four) this year than top-five finishes (three), but he remains a reasonable choice at Michigan International Speedway this week. The reason why, you may ask? Despite several average-to-poor showings in recent weeks, Vickers placed fourth at the June LifeLock 400 at this track. He has raced nine times at Michigan's Brooklyn track, and his last two runs were both top-10 finishes. His average finish, however, is just 18.4, after two running 41st-place finishes since 2004. Consider Vickers as an upside choice as a midrange driver, but be wary of his inconsistent history.

Drivers to keep an eye on

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

The exiting Hendrick driver is ranked 24th this season. He has tallied one top-five and four top-10 finishes but failed to finish three races. At June's LifeLock 400, Mears finished in 30th place after starting the race 25th. His history at the track is shaky, at best, having never won and claiming a 19.6 average finish. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so if you are a gambling owner Mears could be worth a questionable play. In general, avoid him until he shows consistency.

Mark Martin | No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.

The veteran has not won a race this year, but he has two top-five and seven top-10s with only one DNF in 16 starts. At the LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Martin finished 25th after starting 15th. He has 37 starts at Michigan, but outside of his fifth-place finish in the 2006 GFS Marketplace 400, he hasn't finished higher than 17th in his last six races. He registered a DNF after an oil leak ended his race at the 2007 version of this race. However, Martin demonstrated promise at the track in the Nationwide Series; he has an average finish of seventh, including top-five results in 2004 and 2006. His Sprint Cup results are discouraging, but his Nationwide record at Michigan could make him a moderately productive gamble as a deep pool selection this week.

Sam Hornish Jr. | No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge | Penske Racing

The last time Hornish finished in the top 20 was nine races ago in the June 1 Best Buy 400. He raced to a 22nd-place finish in his only Sprint Cup visit to Michigan International Speedway, last year's LifeLock 400, after qualifying 35th. At Michigan's sister track in California he endured a DNF after starting an impressive seventh. It is no secret that Hornish has been struggling, but Michigan is a track that he knows prior to his arrival in NASCAR. He figured out how to navigate the track's style in California by qualifying in the top 10 but finished 25th in last year's Carfax 250 as part of the Nationwide Series. Look for Hornish to apply what he learned in California to turn around his current run of disappointing form.

Ryan Newman | No. 12 Alltel Dodge | Penske Racing

Newman hasn't finished higher than 13th in the last three races, but he qualified in the top 10 twice. His engine failed in the LifeLock 400 relegating him to 42nd position, but at Auto Club Speedway he finished 10th in the Auto Club 500 Feb. 24. Newman should be able to qualify well at Michigan. His average start is 11.2 in 14 starts at the track. Even with his engine failure in his last visit to the track, his average finish in those 14 career starts is 18.4. If the team can give him a reliable car Newman should make a good qualifying appearance, which he will be hoping to turn into his seventh top-10 finish this season.

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

Ragan has been an impressive commodity this season. His last visit to Michigan International Speedway gave him one of his seven top-10 finishes so far this year. He qualified for 13th in that race, the LifeLock 400, and finished eighth. On the sister track of Auto Club Speedway he drove home a 14th-place result, finishing 10 places higher than his starting position of 24th. He currently sits 14th in Cup points and continues to turn in some impressive results on the season. With Roush Fenway Racing's dominance at MIS, Ragan should be in store for another strong run and quite possibly his eighth top-10 of the season.

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About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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