Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Back in DEI’s glory days Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a good pick for Phoenix. Last year with the exception of a top ten finish in the first Phoenix race he really struggled in the Phoenix, New Hampshire and Richmond races. In the six races at these venues he had a 16.8 avg finish and a 19.7 average running position. I think a mid pack performance is about the best you can expect out of him this week.
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Clint Bowyer – I’m lowering my expectations on Bowyer because of his equipment. On the new track configuration he finished 10th last fall but I think that’s pretty misleading as to how good he was. For the first 200 laps he was a 20 to 25th place driver. That’s what his Yahoo race chart says to me. His average running position was 20th and he only raced in the top 15 for 14.4% percent of the race.
Paul Menard – In the last third of the race last fall Menard was a solid 10th place driver. For the first two thirds of the race be was an 18th to mid 20′s driver. At Richmond which is a similar track he’s never had success. In his ten races there he’s finished 26th or lower nine times. I think he’ll clearly be a mid pack driver in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.
Mark Martin – Martin is a former winner at Phoenix but things have certainly changed since then. Now he’s in a Michael Waltrip Racing chassis and I find that those cars are perhaps the most inconsistent among fully funded teams. Last fall Martin started 4th and finished 16th.
Martin Truex Jr. – David Reutimann was the only MWR driver who had success last year at Phoenix and he’s not around anymore (finished 7th). I bet Truex hopes his notes around somewhere in the shop. Truex didn’t fare nearly as well as his former teammate. He finished 20th. Last fall he started good but during the race he got progressively worse (Yahoo! race chart) as the laps counted down.
Juan Pablo Montoya – Last fall Montoya finished 15th and had a 17th place average running position in the Kobalt Tools 500. In the Subway Fresh Fit 500 I would expect similar results as the most likely scenario. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing says they worked on improving their performance across the board over the off season but we’ll find out Sunday. The talent is there but the equipment was clearly off last year.
Jamie McMurray – McMurray raced consistently in the top ten in the first half the race at Phoenix last fall. In the second half of the race he was a mid teens to twenties driver. A finish around the mid teens should be expected. This week at FantasyRacingCheatSheet.com I would recommend people evaluate drivers based on how they performed in the fall Phoenix race last year and their Richmond performances. Last year McMurray averaged 28 points per race in these races.