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 26, 2009 9:42 pm UTC 2 Comments
Looking back at last week, my Bristol picks last week were all over the place. Mark Martin (finally!) led the fab five with a 6th-place run; Kurt Busch had the other respectable run, with an 11th. Kevin Harvick (30th) and Matt Kenseth (33rd), however, picked last weekend to finally have bad Bristol runs (jerks!), and Aric Almirola (35th) was a poor sleeper pick.
You know, it’s kind of pointless to try and pick sleepers, especially in a one-and-done game such as this. It’s fun to keep trying, though. That’s why I go for at least one every week. Isn’t it boring to just read about dominant drivers all the time?
The fun part about Martinsville (er, this weekend’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 – as much of a mouthful as the track’s fabled hot dogs) for me is that four of the picks are flat-out easy, leaving me to put all my energy into picking a sleeper. I went through the stats, looking at the records of guys like Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray, Bobby Labonte, David Ragan, and (provided he qualifies this weekend) Tony Raines. But one driver stuck out a little more than the rest to me, and I thought that him winning would be a better feel-good story than anyone else, so what the heck.
A.J. Allmendinger: Like I’ve said, picking sleepers is a crapshoot, so I offer the affable Allmendinger for no other substantiative reason than his 15th place finish here with this team last year. He’s also a solid 16th in owners’ points and has been driving with plenty of confidence this year. He also needs to keep running well to attract enough sponsors to parlay that car into a full-season drive.
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson’s average finish in his previous 13 Martinsville starts is 3.38. End of story.
Denny Hamlin: If you take the hometown boy’s career stats at Martinsville (7 starts, 1 win, 6 top-10s), and compare them to the field going back to the fall 2004 race, Hamlin is 10th best – despite competing in neither the fall 2004 or spring 2005 race. Simply put, Denny scores points for the hometown crowd.
Kyle Busch: Bristol’s win marked the first time that Rowdy won a second time at any given track in Sprint Cup. That strange nugget is part of the reason why I like him here at Martinsville: first, the momentum from winning at one (albeit very different) short track can certainly carry over to the next weekend; second, I think he’ll continue to conquer new tracks at a blistering pace this year.
Jeff Gordon: In 32 starts at the famed hairpins of Virginia, Gordon has never failed to finish. Not once. His average finish is a brilliant 6.9, with more wins (7) than finishes OUTSIDE of the top 10 (6).
If you’re picking before qualifying, keep in mind that Aric Almirola, Scott Speed, and Paul Menard are not locked into the show. Also remember that neither Regan Smith nor Brad Keselowski is competing this weekend; they will both make their returns at Texas next weekend. And finally, Travis Kvapil now finds himself unemployed with the closing of his Yates Racing team, so he’s another driver not to pick.