May 22, 2009

Elliott to make 800th start

Bill Elliott will make his 800th Cup start this weekend when he rolls off the grid in the Coca-Cola 600.

Our View: Experience counts in this race and no one in the field has more than the Georgia native.

Persistent back pain could shorten Gordon's career

If last week's procedure to alleviate his back pain is not successful, Jeff Gordon may retire from NASCAR sooner than he hoped, according to

Our View: Gordon has talked about retirement off and on for several years now, so it would seem that any further problem could push him over the edge.

Hendrick has confidence in 2 Juniors

Rick Hendrick has expressed confidence over the pairing of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Tony Eury Jr., according to

Our View: The first question is "based on what?" (Obviously something we can't see.) Regardless of whether Hendrick is confident, none of that will matter if Earnhardt continues to make catastrophic mistakes in the pits.

IRL: Castroneves free at last

Friday was a good day for Helio Castroneves. In addition to topping the practice chart, it was announced that federal prosecutors dropped the final charge against him in his tax evasion case, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Our View: Stress free, Castroneves can now turn 100% of his attention to winning the Indy 500.

Dominating the front of the pack

A driver's finishing position on a track is certainly important—and in the long run, that is the only way most fantasy games pay points—but it is not always the best indicator of who has been strongest. When handicapping a race, we often find it helpful to look at the number of laps drivers have spent in the top 10.

There are two reasons why this is important. The most obvious of these is that driving in the first quarter of the field means a racer and his car has raw power, but equally important is the fact the further forward a car is in the pack, the less likely the driver is to get into trouble. Top-10 drivers are far less likely to make silly mistakes that could cause your fantasy selection to end the day in the garage.

During the last five years, one driver stands head and shoulders above the competition, and he will come as no surprise to anyone who's played the game for more than a year. Jimmie Johnson remains the master of this track, with five victories and 14 top-15s in 16 starts and his time spent in the top-10 reflects this. Johnson has been that far up on the grid in 79 percent of the laps he's run, boasting 2,588 of a possible 3,275 circuits.

The next driver on the list might be a bigger surprise, however. Despite finishing 25th or worse in five of the last 10 races held at Lowe's, Kyle Busch has managed to log 1,850 laps with the leader, which equals 56.5 percent of the time. More important still, most of these laps came in the last three Lowe's races and he converted those strong runs into three consecutive top-fives.

Kasey Kahne is the only other driver to spend more than half of his time among the top-10 during the last five years. He's run with the leaders 50.8 percent of the time (1,665 laps) and has been even more productive than Busch or Johnson in recent events. In his last six starts on this track, Kahne has won three times and finished second on another occasion. With the new Dodge engine in his car this week, he should be considered a threat once more.

Top-10 Laps, last five years

DriverTop-10 LapsPossible Laps%
Jimmie Johnson 2,5883,27579.0%
Kyle Busch1,8503,27556.5%
Kasey Kahne 1,6653,27550.8%
Mark Martin 1,6343,27549.9%
Dale Earnhardt Jr.1,6343,27549.9%
Greg Biffle 1,6253,27549.6%
Jeff Burton 1,5533,27547.4%
David Ragan5931,47140.3%
Ryan Newman 1,2743,27538.9%
Kurt Busch 1,2273,27537.5%
Jeff Gordon 1,1723,27535.8%
Clint Bowyer7262,20532.9%
Denny Hamlin8352,54132.9%
Matt Kenseth 1,0603,27532.4%
Tony Stewart 1,0433,27531.8%
Brian Vickers 9142,93831.1%
Elliott Sadler 8663,27526.4%
Carl Edwards 8163,27524.9%
Casey Mears 7893,27524.1%
Joe Nemechek 5772,53822.7%
Scott Riggs7263,27522.2%
Jamie McMurray 6823,27520.8%
David Reutimann2831,40720.1%
Bobby Labonte 6203,27518.9%
Michael Waltrip 5102,87517.7%
Kevin Harvick 4593,27514.0%
Dave Blaney 4443,27513.6%
Martin Truex Jr.3492,60513.4%
Reed Sorenson2272,20510.3%
David Gilliland1741,8059.6%
Tony Raines 2122,5398.3%
Sam Hornish Jr.567347.6%
David Stremme801,8074.4%
Robby Gordon 1413,2754.3%
Bill Elliott431,4712.9%
Mike Bliss 311,0702.9%
A.J. Allmendinger81,4710.5%
Juan Montoya51,4710.3%
Paul Menard11,4710.1%
Todd Bodine03340.0%

F1: Ecclestone sees end in sight

"I think everybody is more or less happy with the budget cap," Bernie Ecclestone said in a report at, "although just how much? They will go with it higher, maybe it will be lower. It’s just a case of sorting it out. I am confident all the teams will still be racing next year.”

Our View: It appears that teams are willing to participate, so long as the two-tier technical requirements are scrapped. Any kind of salary cap should provide closer competition, which will make fantasy races more interesting.

IRL: Indy 500 Final Practice

The final practice for the Indy 500 is in the books and only two drivers topped the 223 mph mark. Helio Castroneves posted a single fast lap of 223.920, which was nearly one mile per hour faster than the third quickest driver Mario Moraes. The only racer in the same zip code was Will Power, who clocked in at 223.560.

Practice Times

1Helio Castroneves223.920
2Will Power223.560
3Mario Moraes222.951
4Dan Wheldon222.386
5Ryan Briscoe222.374
6Dario Franchitti222.357
7Scott Dixon222.017
8Graham Rahal221.771
9Townsend Bell221.434
10Davey Hamilton221.371
11Tony Kanaan221.104
12Paul Tracy220.979
13Vitor Meira220.607
14Raphael Matos220.348
15Marco Andretti220.205
16A.J. Foyt IV220.119
17Scott Sharp219.977
18Tomas Scheckter219.887
19Alex Tagliani219.833
20Hideki Mutoh219.627
21Ed Carpenter219.602
22Mike Conway219.560
23Danica Patrick219.328
24Oriol Servia219.317
25Alex Lloyd219.262
26Justin Wilson218.919
27Ryan Hunter-Reay218.593
28Robert Doornbos218.164
29E.J. Viso217.788
30Milka Duno217.599
31Sarah Fisher217.315
32John Andretti217.296
33Nelson Philippe216.631

Schrader 13th at Cresco

Ken Schrader finished 13th in an USMTS Modified race at Cresco Speedway in Iowa in a race won by Zack VanderBeek. He was competing in his third consecutive race with that series after finishing 13th at Oskaloosa and 12th in Marshalltown.

Our View: At least he was consistent.