Fantasy NASCAR preview: Samsung 500

by C.J. Radune on March 27, 2009 @ 00:00:00 PDT

 


Texas Motor Speedway is an extremely fast track. It is similar in configuration to other tracks on the circuit like Lowe's Motor Speedway and even Atlanta Motor Speedway. Cars typically run soft springs to maximize speed and grip, which can be hard on tires. If a car does blow a tire, a hard hit into the wall is usually the result. The tires may prove to be an issue in the Samsung 500 since we've seen tire problems at other tracks earlier this season. The blown tires are most common in Turn 4. Like a lot of high-speed tracks, engine performance is a big factor, with engine attrition and fuel strategy coming into play. Passing on the track is very difficult, so despite the tire concerns, teams will often employ two-tire stops or have their drivers stay out late in the race, sometimes even both.

Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Shape: Quad-oval
Length: 1.5 miles
Laps: 334
Turns 1-4: 24 degrees
Front stretch: 5 degrees
Back stretch: 5 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

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

Texas Motor Speedway has been the stomping ground of Roush Fenway Racing in the past. Kenseth picked up two top-fives and four top-10s in the last five races there. His average finish in that span is 6.8. Kenseth obviously has a great resume at this track and should be considered a serious contender each visit. He is coming off of some rough finishes in 2009, though. After winning the first two races of the season, Kenseth's form has taken a serious dip with an average finish of 27.8 in his last four races. With a return to Texas, though, look for Kenseth to get the train back on the tracks.

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

Earnhardt scored his second top-10 finish of the season last weekend at Martinsville Speedway despite a faulty shifter. He also performed very well at Texas early in his career. He won the DirecTV 500 at the track in 2000, his first Sprint Cup race at Texas. He has had 12 Texas starts since that win and his career average finish at the track is 14.4. Additionally, he qualifies well here. Earnhardt has two poles to his credit and his average career start is 8.3. Earnhardt may have turned the corner with his good results last weekend; look to see if he can continue to build on that in Texas.

Martin Truex Jr.| No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

Truex has earned just one top-10 finish so far in 2009. Texas, however, could be a good thing for him. His average finish from seven career starts at the track is 13th. In those seven starts, Truex has nabbed one top-five and four top-10s. His lone DNF, and only finished worse than 15th, was caused by an engine troubles. Truex could be a very strong play at Texas regardless of his current season form. He has looked dangerous at times this season, but he needs to string together a complete race for a strong result. Texas may provide him with that opportunity.

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

While not blowing away the competition in 2009, Harvick has been able to maintain a top-10 position in the season's point standings. In the six races so far in 2009 Harvick has picked up two top-fives. Harvick's average Texas finish from the last five races is 12th with one top-five and three top-10s in that span. In fact, his career record at the track holds two top-fives and five top-10s, demonstrating that he has been improving in Texas recently. Harvick has been a pretty safe play in most races thus far, and the Samsung 500 should be no different.

Mark Martin | No. 5 Cheez-It/CARQUEST Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

The Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway was the second race in a row that Martin scored a top-10 finish. After two engine failures to start his new career with Hendrick Motorsports, Martin seems to have things figured out. He scored two poles and two top-10s in the last three races. Martin is certainly achieving the form we saw last year and his respectable resume at Texas we should see more of the same. Martin's average finish in the last seven Texas races is 12.9; he also has eight top-10s in 16 races at the track. Martin and the team seem to now be on the same page, and he could better that finishing average in the Samsung 500 this weekend.

Temper your expectations

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

Reutimann has been a pleasant surprise in 2009 so far. His finishes have been consistent and generally well within the top 20. Having earned just one top-five this season, he still holds down 11th in Sprint Cup points. Texas is more of a grab-bag for the driver, though. His first two starts at the track ended in engine failures. In last year's Dickies 500, though, he finished 10th. Those three career starts average to a 31.3 finish. While some may take the top-10 last season as a good omen, we should probably remain a bit more cautious. We need to see more evidence that Reutimann can perform on the intermediate 1.5-mile tracks before recommending him.

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

Vickers turned in two poor results back to back at Martinsville and Bristol Motor Speedway. Those results immediately followed a string of three straight top-10s. Unfortunately, Texas hasn't been the kindest to Vickers. His resume at the track isn't horrible, but he also hasn't picked up any top-10 results, either. His best moment at the track was a pole he won in the 2006 Dickies 500. He finished that race in 27th, though. From nine career Texas starts, Vickers' average finish is a meager 22.9. Vickers has been one you typically want to have in your side this season, but Texas might be a spot to give him a rest.

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

Two strong showings in a row are good evidence that Newman has settled into life at Stewart-Haas Racing. At Bristol and Martinsville, he scored back-to-back top-10 results. Newman has scored some very strong results at Texas, however, his finishes mainly been poor. His average finish in the last five Texas races is 20.6 but includes two top-fives. That statistic tells the story of Newman's hit-or-miss nature at Texas. Based on that, it might be best to avoid Newman if possible this weekend.

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

Montoya is currently 14th in points, which is pretty good for the ex-Formula 1 star. He has only scored one top-10 in 2009 so far, but does have four top-15 results to his credit. Montoya's short record at Texas is not a great one. He failed to finish last year's Dickies 500 due to an accident, and his best finish in four tries was eighth in his first race there, the 2007 Samsung 500. Montoya, while showing definite improvement from 2008, is still not the consistent performer fantasy owners should be looking for. He has scored some steady top-15s this year, but he may struggle to continue that streak in Texas.

Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Dodge | Richard Petty Motorsports

Kahne knows how to get the job done on intermediate tracks like Texas Motor Speedway, just not necessarily this specific track. He has been putting together a good season thus far and is currently ninth in points. He won the 2006 Samsung/Radio Shack 500 from pole but has only picked up one Texas top-10 since then. Kahne's average Texas finish in the last five races is 24th. That average is not a strong reason to slot the driver into an open spot on your fantasy roster. Be cautious with Kahne this weekend, and if he can continue to show the strength he has shown so far in 2009, then you might be confident to choose him when the series returns.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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