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Shaped like a paperclip, Martinsville Speedway is among the oldest and most unique tracks on the circuit. Junior has a sweet record there, too.
Enjoy the latest daily photographs from around the sports world.
While there has been no shortage of opinions about what happened in the final 11 laps of last weekend's race at Auto Club Speedway, there is no disputing the fact that Denny Hamlin sustained an L1 compression fracture when his No. 11 Toyota slammed into the inside wall during the last lap battle between he and Joey Logano.
If you were unlucky enough to have a few of the drivers affected by the rash of tire issues in your lineup at Bristol, you could certainly use a good showing this weekend when the Cup Series visits Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that a bounce-back performance will be easy to come by.
In Happy Hour, veteran Mark Martin surged to the top of the charts. He does have three finishes of sixth or better in his last five starts at ACS, but in his last two starts he has finished 12th and 20th. More importantly, Martin has made a habit of delivering fantastic practice times but only solid results recently.
Speed is often rewarded at Auto Club Speedway. It's a sweeping oval track with a wide racing surface that allows the leaders to break away with little resistance. With so much room to operate, drivers rarely need to get out of the throttle. However, turning all those RPMs over extended green flag runs can lead to engine problems.
Engine issues have slowed Kyle Busch this season, but nothing seems to be slowing him down this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. He was already on the short list of favorites thanks to a series-leading five wins at the track since 2007, but after winning the pole Friday and shining in Saturday's practices, Busch surged to the top spot in the final set of driver rankings.
A good weekend keeps getting better for Kyle Busch as he followed up his record-breaking pole run Friday by topping the charts in the opening practice session Saturday at Bristol. He already has five career victories at the track and owns a series-leading 8.4 average finish in the last 10 races.
The banking near the outside wall at Bristol Motor Speedway was ground down about 2 degrees in an effort to eliminate the top groove and thus to restore some of the old-style of physical racing to Thunder Valley.
The 2013 Sprint Cup season is only two races old, but a couple of quick observations can already be made as the series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. For starters, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski still look to be the class of the field as both have opened the year with back-to-back top-five finishes.
With qualifying cancelled for Las Vegas, fantasy owners may want to put more emphasis on practice times this week.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is labeled as a cookie-cutter track due to its 1.5-mile length. However, the site features a slightly different set of banking characteristics than most other intermediate courses, particularly the steeper corner banking. The racing surface at LVMS was redesigned in time for the 2007 season, offering a total of six Cup races in which to analyze as the track hosts just one event per year.
When Mark Martin finally decides to call it quits as a driver, he may want to retire to Phoenix. After all, he has made the track his home over the course of his career to the tune of a 9.1 average finish in 32 starts. The veteran is back at it this weekend, and after Martin grabbed the pole Friday, he followed it up by topping the charts in the opening practice session Saturday.
One driver that has made himself at home at Phoenix recently is Denny Hamlin. The defending winner of this weekend's race ranks third in the series with a 10.3 average finish at the track.
The reconfiguration projection at Phoenix International Raceway included a repave and several modifications to enhance the quality of racing in time for the 2011 Chase race. The front straightaway was widened and the famed dogleg reconfigured to allow side-by-side racing. While the corners are still similarly shallow to the old setup, variable banking was installed to open things up a bit.
The good news for fantasy NASCAR enthusiasts is that the 2013 season officially gets underway this Sunday with the 55th running of the Daytona 500. The bad news is that the Daytona 500 is one of the four toughest races of the year for fantasy owners thanks to the big, multi-car wrecks that inevitably occur as a result of the restrictor plates bunching up the field.
The practice schedule for the Daytona 500 is unlike any other race. Instead of two or three sessions the weekend of the race, there are seven separate sessions spread out over Speed weeks. As a result, nearly every team has a different agenda, practicing in certain sessions and sitting out others all together.
USA TODAY Sports Fantasy Racing Challenge is here for you to show off your fantasy skills and knowledge. It's free to play and there are cash prizes throughout the game for the top fantasy teams.
Is this the year Kasey Kahne puts it all together to have a strong fantasy season? Where does your favorite driver rank in KFFL's 2013 fantasy NASCAR draft rankings?
Regardless of the sport, there is no better feeling for a fantasy owner than landing a sleeper pick that turns out to be a stud. Of course, landing a sleeper in fantasy NASCAR leagues is easier said than done thanks to the limited number of quality rides available these days. Read on to get a leg up on your competition.
After all the hype throughout the offseason, the Generation-6 race car will finally get to run the full distance of a points race this weekend in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Thankfully, fantasy owners will get a little preview of the new machine throughout the Budweiser Speedweeks.
Brian Polking touches on some fantasy NASCAR bust drivers to steer clear of.
Eric McClung takes a spin around NASCAR in this late offseason silly season review release.
Playing in a roto fantasy NASCAR league? Looking for players to target and avoid? Look no further!
Fantasy NASCAR has been revolutionized by the advent of loop data. Looking to gain that extra edge on your competition? Read on to find out what you have been missing!
NASCAR's rookie classes haven't been promising in recent years, but the 2013 class offers reason for moderate excitement.
The Car of Tomorrow is the ride of yesteryear, and Gen-6 is its replacement. Find out which fantasy NASCAR drivers should benefit and be hampered by the latest equipment switch.
Brian Polking examines the curse of being runner-up and whether you should look to avoid it in fantasy NASCAR.
Brian Polking discusses his choices for KFFL's 2012 Fantasy NASCAR Awards.
There are 400 miles left of racing in the 2012 Cup Series season. A champion is going to be crowned, and everyone else will have a couple of months off to figure out how to be the one celebrating at the end of the 2013 season. The same goes for fantasy players. Whether you are trying to hang on to win your league or making one last push to take the top spot, it all comes to an end Sunday at Homestead.
Veteran Mark Martin ranked third on the charts, while Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five. Gordon has the best numbers of the three at Homestead with 10 top-10 finishes, including six top-five finishes, in 13 starts at the track. However, Busch is the most interesting option from a fantasy perspective. He has been terrible at Homestead, managing just one top-15 finish in seven starts.
It took several makeovers to get the racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway just right. After a failed attempt to produce 1.5-mile version of the rectangular Indianapolis Motor Speedway, track officials would finally settle on a more traditional oval design with progressive corner banking and flat straightaways.
The action could be exciting this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. The flat, one-mile track is notorious for its difficult passing conditions. If Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson were willing to bump and bang on the high banks of Texas going in excess of 200 mph, they certainly won't shy away from contact at a track where the bump-and-run is often the only way to complete a pass.
A good weekend keeps getting better for Kyle Busch. After winning the pole for Sunday's Cup race at Phoenix in record-setting fashion Friday, he topped the charts in the first of two Saturday practice sessions. The former Phoenix winner has been the best non-Chaser during the playoffs, scoring the fifth-most points of any driver and recording the second-most top-five finishes.
Last year Phoenix International Raceway underwent a repave and several modifications to enhance the quality of racing in time for its late season Chase race. The front straightaway was widened and the famed dogleg reconfigured to allow side-by-side racing. While the corners are still similarly shallow to the old setup, variable banking was installed to open things up.
With three races remaining in the Chase, it appears that either Jimmie Johnson or Brad Keselowski will win the 2012 championship. Keselowski sits just two points back of Johnson as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, and the two could be poised to deliver an epic battle similar to the one Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards engaged in just last season.
Since the Chase began, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson have been chasing each other in the standings and on the track. The two championship front-runners continued the trend in the opening practice session at Texas Saturday, ranking first and second on the charts.
Texas Motor Speedway is one of three 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. The two others, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, share the same length and corner banking. The wear of the racing surface on each track is unique, which causes the speeds to vary somewhat.
It still looks like Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson are going to have to falter a bit to truly open the door for anyone else, and with the series heading to Martinsville Speedway this weekend for the final short track race of 2012, it is unlikely Johnson is going to be the one opening the door.
Earlier this week, Brian Vickers got a chance to celebrate when Michael Waltrip Racing announced that he will drive a part-time schedule in the No. 55 Toyota again in 2013. The way Vickers' weekend at Martinsville is going so far, he could have another reason to celebrate on Sunday. After qualifying second on Friday, he topped the charts in the opening practice session Saturday.
Shaped like a paperclip, Martinsville Speedway is among the oldest and most unique tracks on the circuit. The flat straightaways and sharp turns led to extreme braking conditions, as drivers come screaming into the corners. Patience and timing are the keys to making passes at Martinsville. Drivers who can set someone up and out-brake their rivals going through the turns will find it easiest to get to the front.
The second half of the Chase kicks off this weekend at Kansas Speedway, and the 1.5-mile track has had a history of being decided by fuel mileage. The fastest car doesn't always win the race, and that has been especially true at Kansas. A fast car doesn't do much good without the right strategy to back it up, and the championship hopefuls better have both this weekend.
Plenty of attention has been given to the high speeds being produced on the repaved surface at Kansas Speedway this weekend, but despite the changes, it was a familiar name topping the charts in the first race-trim practice at the 1.5-mile track Saturday afternoon. Two-time Kansas winner Greg Biffle was the only driver to top 186 mph in the session, and his record on the track's old surface was phenomenal.
Even though Kansas Speedway is one of the newer venues in NASCAR track officials believed it was time repave the racing surface due to the wear and tear caused by the sizzling hot summers and freezing cold winters common to the nation's heartland. In addition to laying down new asphalt, variable banking was added to the turns and frontstretch.
Although the 1.5-mile ovals have earned the rather dubious honor of being called cookie-cutter tracks, they nonetheless make up a majority of the schedule. As a result, any driver, or fantasy owner for that matter, that hopes to win a championship has to perform at the 1.5-mile tracks.
The first session went to pole-sitter Greg Biffle. His 17.1 average finish at Charlotte is a bit misleading because he has been much better at the track lately. Biffle has a 9.3 average finish in his last four starts at the track, and he finished fourth at the track earlier this year. Not to mention that Biffle has led the second-most laps of any driver in the last 10 races at 1.5-mile tracks. He could definitely be a top-five fantasy option this weekend.
Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of three 1.5-mile quad-oval tracks that feature 24 degrees of corner banking. Fantasy owners can review results from the other two cookie-cutter venues, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, the former coming just six races ago. This trio is the most similar set of tracks on the circuit, hosting a total of five races with the final one coming at Texas in early November.
The trip to Talladega could also be the deciding factor in the title hopes of many fantasy owners. It is one of the few tracks where every driver a fantasy roster can have trouble on the same afternoon. For owners currently leading their leagues, this weekend's race is the biggest obstacle left on the schedule. For anyone trying to gain ground, Talladega presents a golden opportunity to make up a ton of points in a single race.
Practice speeds at Talladega Superspeedway can be a terrible predictor of which drivers will finish near the front on Sunday. After all, most drivers are on the track just to get a feel for the car in the draft, and some teams don't even run in both practices. More importantly, any race at Talladega is always going to be decided by which drivers avoid the big wrecks that inevitably occur.
The Chase event at Talladega Superspeedway is the fourth and final restrictor plate race on the schedule. The only other plate track, Daytona International Speedway, holds the season opener and Independence Day race. 'Dega is the more intense of the two and is the lone wild card race in the postseason. The remaining six races are spent at four 1.5-mile tracks and a pair of flat tracks.
With NASCAR's postseason in full swing, you may be interested to know that more than 80 percent of playoff races have been won by drivers that made the Chase. More importantly, the Chase drivers have dominated the top spots in general. It makes sense. After all, the drivers that make the Chase are the ones that have been the best for most of the year.
Jimmie Johnson's lead stands a good chance of growing when the series visits Dover International Speedway this weekend. He finished second the track last fall and delivered a dominating victory earlier this year. Johnson has actually won four of the last seven races at the "Monster Mile" and is a seven-time winner overall. It's early, but the No. 48 bunch is sitting in great position to make another championship run.
In 2007, Martin Truex Jr. won his first-ever Cup Series race. The victory came in dominating fashion at Dover, and to date, it remains his only win at the Cup level. Off to a slow start in the Chase in what has been the best year of his career, this weekend's trip to Dover could be just what the doctor ordered for both his championship hopes and his winless drought.
Featuring a high-banked concrete racing surface with wide corners and narrow straightaways, 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 at the bottom, is a challenge.
The next test comes this weekend when the series visits New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Passing isn't easy at the flat, 1.0-mile oval, and pit strategy and fuel mileage always seem to play a big role in deciding the outcome. Keep in mind, the driver leading on the final lap of the last two Chase races at New Hampshire has run out fuel.
Although his weekend at New Hampshire didn't get off to a great start, it appears Denny Hamlin could be heading for a big finish. He will start 32nd after his crew forget to put the correct air pressures in for qualifying, but in the first practice Saturday, Hamlin jumped to the top of the charts. Hamlin leads all active drivers with an 8.5 average finish, and he has finished third or better in three of his last four starts at New Hampshire.
This week will mark the second and final stop of the 2012 season to the Magic Mile known as New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The schedule contains three other low-banked courses of one mile or fewer in length: Martinsville Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Richmond International Raceway.
While Sunday's race at Chicagoland is just the first race of the Chase, it could be very indicative of what to expect for the next 10 races. After all, the track is one of five 1.5-mile ovals on the playoff schedule. Last year, Tony Stewart opened the Chase with a win at Chicagoland and went on to win three of the five races at 1.5-mile tracks on his way to the title.
After topping the charts in the opening practice at Chicagoland Friday, Martin Truex Jr. looks like he could make another run at a win this weekend. Whether he seals the deal or not Sunday, Truex's history at 1.5-mile tracks says he should be an excellent addition to fantasy rosters.
Since Chicagoland lacks a true straightaway, drivers cannot simply cruise near the wall at any point on the track. It may have some quirks but reviewing the results from other intermediate tracks, particularly Kansas, makes for a good review while owners are evaluating picks for the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
With the Chase set to begin next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, there are 11 drivers that are about to get to his the reset button on their season and start fresh. Granted, the point leader is never going to be thrilled, but for every other title contender, having their deficit to the leader erased has to be a wonderful feeling.
It seems safe to say that Denny Hamlin is peaking at the right time. He followed up his first-career Cup win at Bristol with his first-career win at Atlanta, giving him back-to-back wins heading into Saturday night's regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway where Hamlin just happens to be a two-time winner.
With just four top-10s in 25 starts in 2012, it hasn't exactly been a banner year for Jeff Burton. It is no secret to fantasy owners that the once reliable veteran has been declining rapidly in recent years, but at least for one lap at Richmond during Friday's first practice, he was the best car on the track.
Among the most popular venues with both drivers and fans, Richmond International Raceway, is a short, flat track with tight quarters that can lead to aggressive driving. The track allows for side-by-side racing and numerous passing opportunities. Like most flat tracks, brakes are among the most important pieces of equipment to monitor at Richmond.
I am a big believer in momentum. Whether it comes from finding a chassis that just runs well everywhere or from a boost in a driver's confidence that stems from one good run, random drivers just seem to go on hot streaks every now and then and outperform there career averages by a wide margin. Marcos Ambrose is in the middle of one of those runs right now, and fantasy owners need to jump on the bandwagon.
Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth don't exactly have similar driving styles, but they both have had a ton of success at 1.5-mile tracks. That being said, a victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway has eluded both of them. That could change this weekend after Biffle and Kenseth topped the charts in the opening practice session for Sunday's race.
As the Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend for some Sunday night action under the lights at one of the fastest tracks on the schedule, Kyle Busch finds himself clinging to the final wild card spot. It has been more of a curse than a blessing up to this point, and considering he has already had his share of bad luck this year, Busch has to be a little worried.
On the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, there are three 1.5 mile tracks with 24 degrees of corner banking. Texas Motor Speedway was the first stop in April and will host a second event deep in the Chase. Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted its first race in May and also gets a postseason date. Starting last year, Atlanta Motor Speedway was reduced to just this single date. For fantasy managers, the data from these tracks translate pretty well and make for excellent comparisons as the season continues to unfold.
Nobody knew exactly what to expect when the Cup Series visited the reconfigured Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, and Casey Mears made sure the surprises began early. Driving for the small-budget Germain Racing team, he topped the charts in the opening practice session.
A one lane track means that roughing up another driver and using the chrome horn might be the only way to pass Saturday night. When you throw 43 cars on a half-mile track and add in plenty of bumping of banging, angry drivers and caution flags are bound to be the result. From a fans perspective, a return of the old Bristol should make for a very entertaining night.
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Back in 2007, Bristol Motor Speedway added new variable banking. This allowed cars to run one of several lines but also reduced the physical racing that made the track so beloved. Now the track owners are looking to turn back the clock. After the March event earlier this season the banking near the outside wall was ground down about two degrees in an effort to eliminate the top groove and restore the old style of racing.
Consistency is also what the drivers and crew chiefs are looking for as the Cup Series heads back to Michigan International Speedway this weekend.
He has been flying under the radar the last few months, but Greg Biffle is having one heck of a season. He wasn't the only strong fantasy option near the top of the leaderboard in the opening practice, though.
Michigan International Speedway is a long, wide track which allows the action to spread out. This produces long green flag runs and some tough decisions to make in the late stages of the race. If there are a limited number of pit stops, the track position gained in qualifying may play an important role in the outcome.
A trip to Watkins Glen could also open the door for road course aces like Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya. The two have combined to win the last two races at the track, and both have finished in the top 10 in their last four trips to The Glen.
The Cup Series' second trip to a road course didn't get off to a smooth start thanks to Mother Nature. The first practice session at Watkins Glen International was rained out Friday, but NASCAR did manage to sneak in Happy Hour. Once the cars were finally on the track, it was Kurt Busch emerging as the somewhat surprise name atop the leaderboard.
Watkins Glen International in the second and final road course track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. The first, Sonoma Raceway, is a more technical track and requires more finesse to get around. The straightaways at The Glen allow for more speed and passing zones. While success at one road course doesn't automatically mean success at the other, reviewing the results from Sonoma is certainly useful.
Pocono Raceway is one of the few independently-owned tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule and hosts two events per season. Known as the Tricky Triangle, Pocono's three distinct turns are all banked differently and inspired by other race tracks: the defunct Trenton Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and The Milwaukee Mile. Finding a setup that will play well in all three turns can be a quite a challenge.
Jimmie Johnson is picking up right where he left off. One week after kissing the bricks at Indianapolis for the fourth time in his career, the five-time champ topped the charts in the opening practice at Pocono Raceway Friday. Johnson is a two-time winner at the triangle-shaped track, and he has 15 top-10s in 21 total starts.
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