by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.March 4, 2010 2:05 am UTC 2 Comments
Three races into the season, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Kobalt Tools 500. Jimmie Johnson, sponsored by Kobalt Tools in his Cup efforts, will attempt to win his third consecutive race this weekend… and with the old formalities down, let me tell everybody that it’s my midterm week here at school, and combined with reading too many sarcastic IndyCar blogs in preparation for that season, I’m going to be a little more bitingly sarcastic than usual. Strap in, folks.
Speaking of winning, guess who picked the winner last week? That’s right. I called him an easy pick, but sometimes it’s worth it to take the easy money (and the gift win)… especially when the rest of your picks were relative duds. Jeff Burton wound up 11th, Kyle Busch was 15th, and Denny Hamlin finished 19th, while my dark horse, Bobby Labonte, was 51 laps down in 38th.
I would love to pick Johnson again this weekend, but my conscience tells me to be a little more interesting. Fair enough. How about Jeff Gordon? 23 top-fives in 35 Atlanta starts, with four wins, and a dominant car last weekend in Vegas suggest that the DuPont team may be a force both this weekend and beyond.
(For the record, if Johnson wins this week, I will attempt to write some revisionist history by suggesting I picked the 48 this week and the 24 last week, all in the name of sounding smart. This is what happens when you write a fantasy racing column for too long and want to finally sound smart.)
As for a dark horse, how about A.J. Allmendinger? Last weekend was a struggle for sure, but the ‘Dinger heads to the best track on which he has started more than two races. He’s been consistent, if nothing else, with all four of his finishes between 14th and 20th. And while that’s not “race-winning dark horse” material, it does seem like a gimme for a solid, reasonable finish, and I’ll take what I can get. Perhaps we simply have varying definitions of “dark horse.”
Three more for all you skeptics:
Jimmie Johnson. There. I said it. It’s 1 AM and I’m very tired. Next.
In what is sure to raise a cheer from the majority of people who read this column, my next pick is none other than Dale Earnhardt Jr., the second best active driver at Atlanta (behind his superhuman teammate, of course). Yes, he hasn’t been the same driver the past two weekends as he was at Daytona, but come on, the curse of the last Hendrick car can’t apply every weekend. Even Casey Mears won in a fourth Hendrick vehicle, and Casey Mears hasn’t accomplished half of what Dale Jr. has.
For my final pick, I’m going to go with Joey Logano. This has nothing to do with his Atlanta track record in Cup, which is pretty abysmal. It has everything to do, however, with the fact that eighth in points is the highest he’s ever been in Cup. Sliced Bread is finally starting to really get things together with the No. 20 team, and he could do what David Ragan almost did in 2008 by making the Chase in his sophomore year.