NASCAR Challenge Forecast

Fantasy NASCAR returns on Valentine’s Day, and is there a better way to spend the most romantic of holidays than sitting in front of your television watching the preeminent NASCAR race? We didn’t think so. And just think of how happy your loved one will be when you tell them you’re on your way to making a tidy sum of money after the drivers you selected in the NASCAR Challenge have taken the top spots! And who knows, maybe that will lead to an even bigger reward later that evening. To help you accomplish that, here is our forecast for the initial fantasy NASCAR contest of the season.(Note: Fantasy NASCAR contest covers three races – Daytona on Feb. 14, Fontana on Feb. 21 and Las Vegas on Feb. 28).Driver 1
- Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony StewartGordon has 33 Sprint Cup wins to his name since 2000, but just one of those has come in the last two seasons. He does have six career wins at various Daytona International Speedway events, which is five more than Johnson and three more than Stewart. Johnson, the reigning four-time Sprint Cup champion, finished 31st in the Daytona 500 last year, which was his fifth-worst finish of the season. Stewart finished eighth in that race and had the lead for 15 laps while Gordon had a third-place finish and led 14 laps. As for Fontana (California), Gordon has three career wins and two poles at the track, Johnson has been in the winner’s circle four times with one pole, but Stewart has never won a race or held a pole position there. Stewart hasn’t had better luck in Las Vegas, either, coming up blank on that racetrack as well. However, Johnson has three career victories at the track, and Gordon has one.Driver 2
- Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Mark MartinMartin is on the pole for the Daytona 500, qualifying for that position with speeds over 191 miles per hour. He started second in last year’s race only to finish 16th, but Martin’s 2009 season was highly successful overall, as he placed second to Jimmie Johnson in the final Sprint Cup standings. Martin has never won a race at Daytona, but he does have victories in Fontana and Las Vegas. Kyle Busch has won a race at Daytona International Speedway, as well as one at Fontana and two in Las Vegas, including last season, in a race he also took the pole position in. Kurt Busch started second in that race but finished 23rd, and though he’s never won at the tracks in Daytona or Las Vegas, he does have a win in Fontana, a place where he also has started in the pole position a career-high three times.Driver 3
- Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Kasey KahneBiffle had 16 top-10 finishes last season, and two of those came in the season’s first three races, as he placed fourth at Fontana and seventh in Las Vegas. For his career, he has one victory at the Auto Club Speedway in California, and one at Daytona. And though he’s never won in Vegas, he has taken the pole position there once in his career. Hamlin has not won at any of these tracks in his career, and his only pole at any of the upcoming locations was in Fontana. He finished sixth there in the race last season, but that was sandwiched between two finishes outside the top-20 in Daytona and Vegas. Kahne didn’t finish in the top-10 at any of these events last season, but for his career he has one win and one pole in Fontana, and two poles in Las Vegas.Driver 4
- Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo MontoyaEdwards was on the pole for the Budweiser Shootout, and led 41 laps, but crashed and finished 17th, 10 places behind where he finished last season in the same race. Edwards doesn’t have any career wins in Daytona, but he has one each at Fontana and Las Vegas. Kenseth has been much more successful at these tracks, with three wins at the Auto Club Speedway, two in Las Vegas, and one in Daytona, which was last season when he found himself taking a victory lap in both the Daytona 500 and in the next race at Fontana. He won those races despite never having claimed the pole position at any of the three tracks. Montoya’s resume is shorter, so as you might expect, he doesn’t have the history of the others in this group, and has just one career win. That said, he did finish eighth last season in the final Sprint Cup standings.Driver 5
- Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan NewmanThe most popular racer in the sport, Earnhardt was a major disappointment last season and failed to win a race, but his Hendrick Motorsports team took steps to try and correct that for the 2010 season, and Junior has made that paid off, at least in the short term, as he qualified to start in the No. 2 position in the front row for the Daytona 500. He did claim his first top-10 last season at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one of just five such finishes for him on the year. Bowyer started off well at these tracks last season, placing fourth in the Daytona 500 and second in Las Vegas, and a quarter of his 16 top-10 finishes came in the season’s first six races. Newman, on the other hand, had a miserable start to his year, and finished no better than 25th in any of the three races to start the year.Driver 6
- Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Brian VickersHarvick has already gotten off to a solid start this season, winning the Budweiser Shootout after starting in the second position. He won the same event in 2009, and went on to take second place in the Daytona 500. Young Mr. Logano will be in just his second Daytona 500, and it was a rough one for him last year, as he wound up in 43rd place after starting ninth. He progressively got better, even in the next two races, with a finish of 26th in Fontana and 13th in Las Vegas. Vickers, whose six poles in 2009 was the second-most among Sprint Cup drivers, improved on his 39th-place finish at Daytona last year in the next two races as well, taking the pole and finishing 10th in California, followed by an eighth-place finish in Vegas.Driver 7
- Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann, Martin Truex Jr. Truex has won four pole positions during his career, and one of those came last season at the Daytona 500, though he promptly 11th, followed by two finishes outside of the top-25 in Fontana and Las Vegas. Reutimann finished in the top-15 at each of these races last season, including a fourth-place finish at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one of the five times he was in the top-five. Ambrose didn’t have quite the same success last season at these tracks, finishing inside the top-20 only once despite starting in the fifth position in Vegas.Driver 8
- Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Casey MearsBefore the final two races of the season in which he placed second, Burton’s best finish in 2009 was third place in Las Vegas, a track where the veteran has won twice in his career. McMurray finished ninth in that race, one of his five top-10 finishes for the season. He did start in the third position in Fontana, which was his best starting spot all year. Mears is the only driver in this group who did not have a top-five to his name in 2009, and his four top-10 finishes were the lowest as well.Driver 9
- A.J. Allmendinger, Sam Hornish Jr., Elliott SadlerSadler is the only driver in this group with a victory at any of the three tracks this fantasy NASCAR contest covers – one win in Fontana – but his racing career has been longer, so that is to be expected. Sadler finished fifth in last season’s Daytona 500, and it was the only top-five of his entire season. Curiously, Allmendinger had just a single top-five finish in 2009 as well, and that was also at the Daytona 500, as he finished third. Hornish had two top-fives for the year, but none of them came on these tracks, as he didn’t even finish in the top-15 at these tracks.Driver 10
- Brad Keselowski, Bobby Labonte, David RaganLabonte is 20 years older than either Keselowski or Ragan, and he’s got 20 more wins than Keselowski and Ragan combined, but interestingly, he’s never taken the checkered flag at Daytona, California or Las Vegas. He did have his only top-five of last season in Vegas, however, whereas Keselowski finished 38th and Ragan finished 42nd. Ragan did have some success at the Daytona 500, coming in sixth, which wound up as his highest finish of the year.Driver 11
- Robby Gordon, Reed Sorenson, Michael WaltripBoth Sorenson and Waltrip had their best finishes of the 2009 season at the Daytona 500. Waltrip’s seventh-place finish was one of his two top-10′s, while Sorenson came in ninth place for his only top-10 of the year. Gordon had one top-five finish, but they didn’t come at any of these tracks. He finished 34th at Daytona, 30th in California and 15th in Vegas.Driver 12
- Paul Menard, Joe Nemechek, David StremmeNone of these racers had even one top-10 finish in the 2009 Sprint Cup season, and looking at their respective starts to the season, you could see why. Menard didn’t finish better than 35th at Daytona, California or Las Vegas. Nemechek’s best finish at the tracks was 41st, though Stremme at least had a top-15 at Fontana and top-20 in Vegas. On the bright side, Menard’s only career pole position came at Daytona International, and the veteran Nemechek also has taken one pole there, as well as one in Fontana.

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