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NASCAR Barometer: Roaring Back

C.J. Radune

C.J. Radune

Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the 2012 Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

The second race in the 2010 Sprint Cup Chase was the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. Jimmie Johnson started from pole with an impressive partner alongside in A.J. Allmendinger who has really stepped up his performances over the past month.

When the green flag waved it was Johnson who took the lead, but Allmendinger worked his way forward in the early going and ended up at the head of the field after a few laps. Allmendinger encountered troubles with a deflating tire, and from there the race become Johnson’s to lose.

The race only had four caution flag periods, and Johnson never put a wheel wrong as he charged to his first win in the 2010 Chase. He is now second in the standings, breathing down Denny Hamlin’s neck, looking for a fifth title.

UPGRADE


Jimmie Johnson –
It would seem as though Johnson fully rebounded in Dover. After finishing 25th in the first race of the Chase he secured pole position at Dover and ran at the front throughout the running, leading the most laps and winning the race. He was 92 points behind Denny Hamlin after last week, but revived his hopes of a fifth championship with Sunday’s victory and is now 35 points behind in second position. Johnson earned an average finish of 6.6 in his four career starts at Kansas Speedway. He’s taken home a win, two top-fives and a top-10 in that span, making him a very logical fantasy option for next weekend’s Price Chopper 400.

Denny Hamlin –
Hamlin had a very fast car throughout much of the AAA 400 Sunday afternoon. He came into Sunday’s race on the heels of a first-place and second-place finish in the last two races. Though the weekend started a little rough for him after criticizing Richard Childress Racing, Hamlin did what he needed to do when it counted, finishing ninth. He was safe at the top of the Chase standings before the race and made sure that he remained there after Dover. His average Kansas finish is 19.0, but bagged his first top-five at the track in last season’s Price Chopper 400. Hamlin is making sure that he is a solid favorite for both fantasy rosters as well as the Sprint Cup.

Jeff Burton –
Burton turned in a solid result Sunday by finishing second in the AAA 400. He was ninth in the chase standings before Sunday, but picked up two positions with his strong run, his second top-five in four races. Burton’s average finish in Kansas is 19.8 in four starts with a top-five and another top-10 in that time. He and his team have been steady this season, but dropped a number of potential wins early in the season with small mistakes that let them down. The team has obviously moved past the mistakes, and now wants to become a strong contender for the championship this season.

Joey Logano –
Logano showed up his two Chase competitor teammates by finishing third Sunday afternoon. His finish at Dover was Logano’s best since a fourth-place result in the Air Guard 400 at Richmond International Raceway two races ago. That means that two of Logano’s three top-five finishes have come in the last three events. The team might have turned a corner on a tough 2010. It was a rough sophomore year for Logano, but it appears as though in the closing races that he is showing he is ready to have a very strong 2011. He is learning from his teammates and becoming even steadier behind the wheel. Logano hasn’t finished better than 28th at Kansas in his two starts at the track, but could be in store for more next weekend.

A.J. Allmendinger –
After starting on the front row and being one of the fastest cars in the early running, Allmendinger started to lose a tire and had to pit early for a change. He worked his way back onto the lead lap after taking the wave around under caution and pitting off sequence after being two laps down. Ultimately he ended the day impressively in 10th position, having led a number of laps. His two starts at Kansas Speedway have given him an average finish of 13.0, but with two of his top-10 finishes so far this season coming in the last six races, Allmendinger might be the hottest non-Chase driver on the circuit. He should be a solid fantasy option for a third or fourth driver until his finishes begin to change for the worse.

DOWNGRADE


Clint Bowyer
– Leaving New Hampshire Motor Speedway on a high after winning the first of the Chase races and vaulting up the point standings was an artificial high for Bowyer. During the week NASCAR revealed that they were assessing Bowyer’s car for violations and docked team 150 points and suspended the crew chief along with assessing a heavy fine. Bowyer’s luck didn’t improve much Sunday after he was caught speeding on pit road, and finished the day 25th. If everything was going Bowyer’s way last week, this week was completely the opposite. You can’t afford any slip-ups in the 10-race Chase and unfortunately Bowyer now has a lot to overcome in the final eight-race run to the finish.

Matt Kenseth –
Kenseth’s title hopes suffered a serious dent after a tire exploded, ripping apart his fender and destroying his race. He came home 18th at the end of the afternoon, but was one lap down and lost ground to a number of Chase competitors. He was already 11th in the standings, but Sunday’s problems only compound that disappointing position. Kenseth’s average finish in four career starts at Kansas Speedway is 21.4 with a top-five result two years ago in the Camping World RV 400. He should have been a solid fantasy option at Dover, but is not likely to rank as high on the list next weekend at Kansas.

Martin Truex Jr.
– After having a car fast enough to race with the Dover leaders, Truex was forced to pit with a loose wheel, and then ended up breaking the axle. As a result of the incident his afternoon was essentially over, and he crossed the finish line 34th. Truex’s average finish in Kansas is 27.0 in four tries. It has taken Truex since the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race to begin scoring some top-10 finishes again, but the consistency the team needs to be a regular contender is not there. The team does still show speed, but both Truex and Reutimann will be focusing on 2011 and correcting the small troubles that have plagued the team this year.

David Reutimann
– Reutimann was tapped in the rear by Ryan Newman, sending him into the wall with plenty of damage to ruin his day with a 35th-place result. He had a good chance at scoring a decent finish on Sunday after leading the first practice and qualifying 17th, but after the contact couldn’t get it done. Reutimann’s three career races at Kansas Speedway have netted him an average finish of 19.3 with a best finish of eighth coming in last year’s Price Chopper 400. He was 20th in points prior to the AAA 400, and will want to make up ground in the closing races. This team can turn in strong results, and has this year, but will be focusing on honing their game to make a serious run at the Chase next season.

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