Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fantasy NASCAR: Kobalt Tools 500

[Editor's Note: SportsJudge's Chris Carmona continues his Fantasy NASCAR coverage with this weekend's Kobalt Tools 500. Be sure to check back each Saturday afternoon at 1pm for more in-depth race previews and Fantasy NASCAR picks.]

This week the Series heads to Atlanta and I have very fond memories of this track. Back in 2001, I was lucky enough to be at one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history.

As you can see, this win was even more special because it came just three races after Dale Earnhardt's tragic death.

Fast forward to this weekend and it is the 100th NASCAR race at this facility and every one has been almost as exciting. The thing with Atlanta Motor Speedway is that it is only 1.5 miles long, but it is the fastest track on the circuit. Cars will easily reach an excess of 190 MPH on this short track, a few miles slower than those speeds on the Super Speedways, Daytona and Talladega.

Last year's spring race winner was Kyle Busch while Carl Edwards picked up the victory in the fall race. In the past 24 races at this track only once has the driver won the race from the pole. That doesn't sit well for Sunday's pole sitter, Mark Martin. On the other hand, over the last 10 races, the average starting position of the winner has been 5th and over the entire 100 race history here, the average starting position of the winner has been 8th.

Says a lot about the track. This isn't a restrictor plate race which means the cars won't be bunched up together so the guys in front won't be jostling for position with mediocre drivers. So how is it all going to shake out?

1- Jimmie Johnson: He starts 7th and is currently 19th in points. He won both races in 2007 and in the past 10 races here he has eight top-10 finishes. Johnson has been the most dominate driver on this track, completing 97% of the laps run here, more than any other driver as well. Johnson has gotten off to a quiet start this year but he will help remind others that he is defending three-time series champion this weekend.

2- Kyle Busch:
Did you not see him last weekend? Has his status as last year's most dominate driver gone to the wayside because of his fall in last year's Chase? Busch won last year and his confidence is building per lap. The most exciting driver on the track starts 9th and unlike last week he won't have to go to the back of the field and win from there because of engine problems.

3- Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
Hendrick Racing has got their engine problems taken care of and Dale will be up front competing the enter way. In 10 races at Atlanta he has 1 win and five top-5 finishes. He has racked up the third most points by any driver at this track over the past 10 races as well.

4- Kevin Harvick: Did you think that I could leave him out of the top 5 after watching that video? This track will always be sentimental for Harvick because of that win. He hasn't fared too well in the last 10 visits to this track but in his last three races here he has finished 15, 7, and 13 so things are getting better. He starts in 10th on Sunday and is 11th in the standings.

5- Carl Edwards: Speaking of drivers getting off to a quiet start, has everyone forgotten about Carl Edwards? He had a poor qualifying session but has a good history at this track. In is nine race history at this track he has seven top-10 finishes and three victories. You can even disregard his engine failure last year in which he was the most dominate car of the day but hit some bad luck with 50 laps to go.

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