Tuesday, May 3, 2011

DARLINGTON - Data & Lineup

"The Lady in Black" is certainly one of the most interesting and unique tracks on the circuit. For fantasy purposes, it's hard to compare it to anything else. So we'll be focusing on 2008-2010, as those are the races run since the re-pave of the track.

J. Gordon - 4th
Hamlin - 7th
Kenseth - 10th
Ku. Busch - 10th

Burton - 10th
Keselowski - 10th
Martin - 11th
McMurray - 12th

Truex Jr. - 13th
Earnhardt Jr. - 16th
Montoya - 16th
Newman - 17th

Ragan - 19th
Smith - 22nd
Labonte - 23rd
Menard - 27th

% of LAPS INSIDE the TOP 15:
J. Gordon - 87%
Ky. Busch - 83%
Ku. Busch - 71%
Harvick - 65%

Burton - 81%
Truex Jr. - 72%
McMurray - 68%
Keselowski - 67%

Newman - 64%
Martin - 62%
Reutimann - 58%
Earnhardt Jr. - 51%

Ragan - 34%
Smith - 22%
Labonte - 16%
Menard - 6%

J. Gordon - 120
Ky. Busch - 108
Hamlin - 102
Biffle - 101

Truex Jr. - 100
McMurray - 96
Burton - 96
Martin - 89

Keselowski - 86
Earnhardt Jr. - 86
Newman - 83
Kahne - 82

Ragan - 75
Smith - 62
Labonte - 59
Menard - 53

For our team, we will consider the Loop Data above, also factoring in performances on the 1.5 mile tracks so far, as performance at the 1.5s and Darlington performance do have some similarities. We'll also factor in momentum coming off of Richmond.

KYLE BUSCH (7 Starts Remaining) - Coming off a great performance at Richmond, where he obviously out drove the field, passing cars all night long, it's hard to ignore him coming into Darlington. Darlington is very hard to pass on, but if there is one guy who can get it done, it's going to be Kyle. Like him or not, the kid can drive. It doesn't hurt that he's qualified well at the intermediates this year, and could be in line for a good starting position Saturday night. Kyle's had decent performances at Vegas before blowing up and at Texas before issues struck.

GREG BIFFLE (9 Starts Remaining) - Biffle barely eeks into my starting lineup over a host of other drivers that arguably should make the team this week. Biffle's loop data is a little deceiving as he's had mechanical failures that drop his average finish and % in the Top 15 numbers. Biffle had a Top 5 car in Las Vegas before massive pit errors with the fueling dropped him to 28th, but Biffle turned it around with a 4th at Texas. He's qualified 9th and 4th at the two 1.5s so far, and has an average qualifying position of 10th over the last 3 races here.

Biffle barely makes the team over his team mate, Matt Kenseth. Kenseth is ranks right behind Biffle in the loop data, but Kenseth does have a dominating win at Texas and an 11th at Vegas. He's also got a pole at Vegas and a 4th at Texas to boot. But his qualifying average at Darlington is 21st, and although he's picked it up this year in qualifying, I still don't trust him (for example, he qualified 33rd this past weekend at Richmond). With track position so important here, I don't want to feel "forced" into starting Kyle Busch if Kenseth is on my team and starts 20 positions deeper in the field, I feel Biffle gives me more flexibility.

How come Jeff Gordon isn't on my team? Simple, his 1.5s so far have been terrible, and even though his previous stats here are impressive, its hard to look past the fact that this team is struggling as of late. Carl Edwards is another who just misses out on the team this week. No doubt Carl has been the man on 1.5s, but with Kenseth and Biffle on par, or even a touch better here at Darlington, I'll save Carl for the more conventional 1.5s.

Jimmie Johnson was penciled in for a possible start here, but after the struggles at Richmond, including an argument between Johnson/Knaus on the radio, I'm holding off still on starting Johnson. We know he'll be strong down the stretch, and this isn't one of Johnson's dominate tracks as is, so I'm saving him for greener pastures. I'm not on board with Denny Hamlin yet either after his 2nd place in Richmond, the night race at Texas where he was a complete non-factor after winning the race in 2010 was very telling.

RYAN NEWMAN (7 Starts Remaining) - Newman has the potential to make you big points against other players in your league. His stats here are skewed on some bad luck, but his performance here has been outstanding. 5th at Vegas and 14th at Texas to boot. A lot of people will leave him off the team, worried of the continuing Montoya feud, but at a track where there are so many variables, including smacking the wall by yourself, you can't factor that in. Newman is a great qualifier as well which will be critical here.

DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (7 Starts Remaining) - Remember those outstanding stats above for Jeff Gordon? That came with Steve Letarte on the pit box. Juniors record here isn't bad, and he's got an 8th and 9th place finish at the 1.5s this year. If Junior doesn't show up in the "funk" he was in at Richmond, he'll be a B-List contender.

MARTIN TRUEX Jr. (8 Starts Remaining) - No denying that this one of Martin's best tracks. His stats here are great, and he's got a 6th place at Vegas and a Top-15 run at Texas until he got wrecked on a restart. Truex struggles in the day races to keep up with the track, but he's proved at Texas and Richmond that the night time consistency really plays into their favor.

JEFF BURTON (6 Starts Remaining) - Slowly, Burton is getting things turned around. He's got his contract and sponsor re-signed, and he was a Top 10 contender at Texas. Burton's stats here are steady and he could be a good insurance policy if the 2 juniors above crap out in practice or qualifying.

Clint Bowyer's name doesn't even reach the radar in any of the loop data, yikes! Even though Bowyer was strong at Texas, there is no way you can risk blowing a Bowyer start on a track he's awful at. Team mates Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya could have arguments on making your team. McMurray has good overall stats here, but has been out to lunch at the 2 intermediate tracks this year. Montoya is in the same boat as Edwards is, great 1.5 stats but his performance here at Darlington is mid pack. Montoya will have value at the road courses and standard 1.5s, so I'm saving him.

Kasey Kahne won the truck race here a few weeks back, and is coming off a good weekend at Richmond, but much like McMurray, the Red Bull 1.5 program has been terrible so far. Marcos Ambrose is another driver with great 1.5 stats so far this year, but his numbers here at Darlington leave much to be desired. I think Truex is your safer sleeper pick this week.

DAVID RAGAN (7 Starts Remaining) - Ragan is on a roll, and I am all about striking while the iron is hot. His 1.5 performance hasn't been bad this year and he leads all C-List drivers in every category. He's a must on your team.

REGAN SMITH (6 Starts Remaining) - With qualifying so important here, I'm putting Regan on my team this week. Although I expect to start the 6 car, Regan's stats here aren't bad. Regan has had troubles at both intermediate tracks so far this year, which worries me a bit. But he's mostly on the team in case of emergency on the 6, and the hopes for qualifying points.

Paul Menard has hit a bit of a rough patch, and his numbers here at Darlington are terrible, this is another good week to sit Menard until the standard 1.5 tracks come back later this month. Bobby Labonte just misses the team this week, although he should be good for a Top 20-25 finish, as he's been decent here even in sub par equipment. I'm not jumping on the Dave Blaney band wagon just yet, but he'll get some glances this weekend to see how his performance stacks up.

Same schedule this weekend, with lockdown Thursday night, practices and qualifying on Friday, and the race n Saturday night. Good luck!


  1. Good stuff, thank you very much!

  2. I enjoy reading your site. I will be starting Jimmie Johson this week. He has a great average and his argument with Chad is like someone spilling beer at a frat party. NO BIG DEAL...Later in the year i can run 99 - 18 ect...The a list is stocked.

  3. Locking down with:

    24 over 17

    39,9 over 88,31

    6 over 78

    Struggling with 9 over 88, your thoughts?