Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR

Can Harvick Make It Three Wins In A Row?

[tweetmeme source= “ifantasyrace”]NASCAR is leaving fantasy racers in the dark once again this week, and while I’m not a fan of this practice schedule they have been running, there is nothing I can do about it. I still calculated average speeds and everything as normal, though, and you can click here to view my practice breakdown. David Ragan won the first pole of his career a few hours ago. Click here for the entire starting lineup for Saturday night.

Denny Hamlin won both of the races at Texas in 2010. He led only 43 laps in those two races combined, but the only lap that really counts is the last one. Click here for the full results of the spring race last year. I didn’t start publishing my practice breakdowns until late last year, so I only have the average speeds from the fall race at this track from 2010. Click here to see how important average speeds are at this track. Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, and Greg Biffle were the only drivers to record top ten finishes in both races at Texas Motor Speedway in 2010.

Top Fifteen For The Samsung Mobile 500:

1. Matt Kenseth – Starts 4th – Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 14.3 (two wins)
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Change from my preview: +1 spot. — Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Kenseth won here in 2002 and I think he has a great chance at visiting victory lane again on Saturday night. He’s started in the top five here three times and has posted finishes of 5th, 2nd, and 3rd. In the Las Vegas race in Martch Kenseth had trouble early but fought back for an 11th-place finish and followed that up with a 4th-place finish at Fontana. The Roush-Fenway Fords look great this weekend again, and I think the win will come down to one of those four (yes, I said four). Kenseth had the best ten-lap average in “Happy Hour”–whatever that is worth–and has finished outside of the top twelve at Texas just once in his past eleven starts.

2. Jimmie Johnson – Starts 6th – Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 11.7 (one win)
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Change from my preview: +2 spots. — Risk Factor: Low Risk**
“Five Time” has finished runner-up in the last three spring races at Texas, and while he hasn’t found that type of success in the fall races, he does have a career average finish of 10.1 at this track. In first practice, Johnson had the best ten-lap average, and this 6th-place starting spot is just his second time during this season starting in the top ten. “The Champ” finished 2nd a couple weeks ago at Fontana, and I see no reason why he won’t challenge for the win this weekend.

3. Carl Edwards – Starts 2nd – Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 12.5
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Change from my preview: +8 spots Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
If you read my preview, you know that I said expect Cousin Carl to move up my rankings if he looked good in practice. Well, as you can tell, he jumped eight spots. Edwards only ran 47 laps in the two practice sessions combined, and that low of a number usually means one thing at these intermediate tracks: he has a great car. He hasn’t finished better than 10th at this track since 2008, but he is the only three-time winner here and could get a fourth win this weekend. Carl won in Las Vegas and finished 6th at Fontana.

4. Kevin Harvick – Starts 29th – Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 12.0 (one win)
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Change from my preview: -3 spots. — Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Don’t be discouraged by Harvick’s sub-par qualifying effort; he just doesn’t qualify very well. Expect the #29 Chevrolet to make his way to the front, though. He was 11th in average speed in first practice, and that’s the practice I’m leaning toward being the more telling of the two. Harvick hasn’t finished worse than 7th in his past three starts here and has just one finish outside of the top 11 here in his past seven starts here. It’s hard to go against a driver that has won the past two races on the schedule.

5. Tony Stewart – Starts 26th – Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 19.0
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Change from my preview: no change. — Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
Stewart-Haas Racing has been the best team at Texas over the past two years, and it seems like they have hit on something on the intermediates this year. I expected a better start out of “Smoke,” but it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. Stewart had a down year at Texas in 2010 but his career average finish here is 13.2 and he won here in 2006. Tony has finished 13th and 2nd at the two intermediate races this year.

6. Kyle Busch – Starts 11th – Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 8.2
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Change from my preview: +3 spots. — Risk Factor: High Risk**
The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas will be on “High Risk” alert at the intermediate tracks until I am satisfied that they have their engine woes solved. Rowdy said they have fixed it, but he’s no engine expert, so take that’s for what it’s worth. Kyle blew up at Las Vegas (he had a fast car, though) and finished 3rd in Fontana. Busch has finished in the top 6 in four of the last seven races at Texas, but he has had his share of bad runs here, too. He had a great car here in the fall before his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

7. Denny Hamlin – Starts 1st – Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 16.7
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Change from my preview: -4 spots. — Risk Factor: High Risk**
I might be the only one that has Hamlin ranked this low, but I’m not liking the way he is running this year. It seems like every week something happens that takes the #11 Toyota out of contention. At the intermediate races this season, Hamlin has finishes of 39th and 7th. As I said before, the Gibbs cars will be on “High Risk” because of their engine problems this season. Denny has finished1st or 2nd in his past three starts here and has an average career finish of 8.8 at this track.

8. Greg Biffle – Starts 9th – Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 11.8
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Change from my preview: -3 spots. — Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
“The Biff” won’t dominate on Saturday night but I think he can have a good run. He’s on a streak of five top 10s at this track and as long as he doesn’t have any incredibly bad luck, he should extend that to six. Biffle is always a good pick when it comes to intermediates, but his best finish at these tracks in 2011 thus far has been 11th (at Fontana). Expect a top ten or a mid-twenties finish out of The Biff this weekend.

9. Kurt Busch – Starts 10th – Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 14.7 (one win)
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Change from my preview: -3 spots. — Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
Kurt started off this season great but has been sub-par of late. He’s coming to a great track for him, though, so he should turn things around. He wound up 8th in ten-lap average during “Happy Hour” and has an average finish of 13.8 in his sixteen career starts at Texas Motor Speedway. He won here in 2009 but I think a finish between 9th and 11th is more likely for the “Double Deuce” this weekend.

10. David Ragan – Starts 1st – Yahoo! Fantasy C Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 14.8
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Change from my preview: +5 spots. — Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
Ragan was the only C-list driver to crack the top fifteen in my preview, and I really think he can get a second straight top ten this weekend. He grabbed the first pole of his career on Friday and he was quick in average speed–if that’s worth anything. Ragan finished 8th here in the fall and has finished worse than 17th just once in his past five starts here. Don’t overlook David Ragan when he gets a little momentum.

11. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Starts 28th – Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 12.5
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Change from my preview: -3 spots. — Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
As you probably know, Junebug got his first Sprint Cup win at this track, and while he has only one top 10 in his past eight starts here, I really like picking Junior when he is on a hot streak. He nearly won in Martinsville and with a little strategy on Saturday night, he might finally break his winless streak. Earnhardt finished 8th in the spring race at Texas in 2010.

12. Clint Bowyer – Starts 3rd – Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 15.3
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Change from my preview: +1 spot. — Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Bowyer is better at Texas in the fall race, so you may want to wait on picking him. His average finish at this track is right around 14th, though, and he has four top 10s in his past six starts at Texas. He starts up front, and while I don’t think he will stay up there, I could be wrong. Bowyer was 4th in ten-lap average during “Happy Hour.

13. Kasey Kahne – Starts 13th – Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 22.0
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Change from my preview: wasn’t ranked. — Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
At the intermediate tracks this year, Kahne has finishes of 9th and 14th, and I think he will finish right around there this weekend. He has won at this track–in 2006–but he has just one top ten since then. Kahne will either challenge for a top ten or finish in the twenties, so proceed with caution, but the intermediate tracks is where Red Bull Racing excels. Kahne finished 13th last fall at Texas after taking over for Reed Sorenson in Brian Vickers’ car.

14. Juan Montoya – Starts 14th – Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 9.7
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Change from my preview: wasn’t ranked. — Risk Factor: High Risk**
JPM is either very good at Texas or very bad, so proceed with caution if picking him this week. He’s recorded two top tens here but also four finishes of 25th or worse. He has top tens in both intermediate races this year, though, and looked pretty good in first practice (6th in average speed). Montoya loves to run the high line, so if you pick him, just pray he doesn’t hit the wall.

15. Paul Menard– Starts 19th – Yahoo! Fantasy C Group
Average finish of this ranking in 2011 = 14.8
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Change from my preview: wasn’t ranked. — Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
Menard was the only driver to rank in the top five in both ten-lap average charts, whatever that is worth. He could challenge for a top ten this week, but I’m going to be safe and put him 15th. His history isn’t stellar here (23.6 average finish) but Paul finished 10th here last fall. Menard came down to Earth after the race at Martinsville, but I expect him to rebound on Saturday night.

“Surprise” Picks For The Samsung Mobile 500:

Trevor Bayne – He made his first career start here last season and finished 17th. He seems to have a pretty good car this week and starts 18th. I don’t think he’ll have a surprise top ten, but a top fifteen is possible out of Bayne. He finished 20th at Las Vegas earlier this year.

Marcos Ambrose – I don’t think he’ll have another top five this weekend like he did at Las Vegas, but Ambrose is beginning to prove himself as a good racer at the intermediates. He was 5th in ten-lap average in “Happy Hour” and he finished 12th and 17th at Texas in 2010.

A.J. Allmendinger – The ‘Dinger was 11th in ten-lap average in “Happy Hour” and has finished between 10th and 14th in his past three starts at Texas Motor Speedway. He finished 14th at Fontana a couple weeks ago.

Stay Away From These Drivers For The Samsung Mobile 500:

Jeff Gordon – Not only has Gordon looked terrible all weekend, but he’s really not good at this track. He won here in 2009 but he finished in the 30’s in both races last year. He’s either terrible here or really good, and I think he will have a bad race this week. He’s been sub-par at the intermediates in 2011 thus far.

Mark Martin – Martin said his car is “really good” in race trim, but he’s been saying that every week. It’s time for everyone to stop picking Mark until he gets some consistency. He will finish in the top 20 but fantasy racers don’t want top 20s. His finishes at the intermediate tracks this year have been 20th and 18th.

Regan Smith – He starts up front again but don’t expect him to stay there. He’s made six starts at this track and has never finished better than 21st. Smith has finished 27th and 39th at the intermediates in 2011, after starting 4th and 12th in those races. Don’t buy into the qualifying hype.

My (Tentative) Fantasy NASCAR Picks:

OnPitRow.comFavoriteCarl Edwards DarkhorseDavid Ragan
Yahoo!: A-List:
Greg BiffleB-List: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Ryan Newman, C-List: David Ragan
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live:
Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Ragan
Racing4Glory.com “The Showdown”:
TBD

If you couldn’t tell, I didn’t put a ton of effort into this post this week. There’s simply nothing to go off of, and your guess is as good as mine as to who will run good on Saturday night. I really don’t like the races with no practice after qualifying, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m just going to make my rosters and sit down and enjoy the race tomorrow night. If you haven’t already, be sure to join NASCAR Nation and chat with the members there. If you want my opinion, or have any questions for me, just send me a tweet. See ‘ya next week when the series visits Talladega.