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NASCAR Barometer: Running a Little Too Hot

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.

NASCAR's longest night started in heavy humidity, heat and sunlight. The heat was the biggest story of the first quarter of the race as drivers battled to stay hydrated and cool. Greg Biffle struggled the most with a malfunctioning cool box, berating his crew over the radio in frustration.

The early laps were fairly competitive after Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger led the field to the green flag. Carl Edwards eventually made his way to the front as everyone just worked to survive the early miles. Both Edwards and Kyle Busch took turns dominating at various points in the night.

Jamie McMurray was the first casualty of the distance. He led after a caution and looked strong until his engine gave out in a plume of smoke. After the race crossed half distance, the competitors started falling victim to contact and mistakes. Even the mighty Hendrick Motorsports fell victim to the distance when Jimmie Johnson's engine expired, setting up a green-white-checkered showdown that would leave everyone wondering who had enough gas to make it to the end.

As the final green flag flew Kasey Kahne dropped from second with no fuel, causing a stack up that sent cars piling into one another. It looked like Earnhardt Jr.'s race to win, with a charging Denny Hamlin, when both cars ran out of fuel in the final corner. That allowed Kevin Harvick to come from nowhere to take his third victory of the season.

UPGRADE

Greg Biffle
Including the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race, Biffle racked up four top-10 finishes in six races before entering the Coca-Cola 600. He suffered through problems with his cooling box through more than the first quarter of Sunday night's race, which is not easy in the Charlotte heat. He was also in the lead at the end before being forced to pit for fuel due to a green-white-checkered finish. He ultimately finished Sunday night's race a disappointing 13th. With two wins in the last five Kansas races, Biffle should be your fantasy favorite in the STP 400. He scored two other top-5s in that span and earned an average finish of 4.0, tops among current drivers.

A.J. Allmendinger
Starting from the front row Sunday evening was deserved for the flashes of promise that Allmendinger and Richard Petty Motorsports have shown this year. The team ran well in last weekend's All-Star event and backed it up with another run in the 600. Allmendinger led a share of laps and ran at the front through the beginning, holding on at the end as well. The finish was his first top-5 of the season and comes with plenty of newfound confidence. With just two top-10 finishes this season before the 600 the No. 43 hasn't realized its full potential. Allmendinger appeared quick at times this season, and should be quick in Kansas as well. His average finish in three starts at the track is 12.0 with two top-10 tallies.

Kevin Harvick
After his first two wins of 2011 Harvick's performances took a small dip. He only scored two top-10 finishes in the five races since those wins, but roared back in Charlotte. He finished ninth in the All-Star event and won the 600 a week later. Harvick put himself in position to finish strongly Sunday night, and luck went his way as those in front ran out of fuel. The team appears to be back in the swing of things and expects a good performance in Kansas, as well. Harvick netted a top-5 and three top-10s in the last five races at Kansas Speedway. His average finish in that time is 10.8, and should be a confident choice for fantasy players this week.

Clint Bowyer
Outside of an accident in the Showtime Southern 500, Bowyer has been on a roll. He finished six of the last seven races in the top-10, including two top-5s, and was eighth in points before the start of the Coca Cola 600. His night in Charlotte wasn't a good one as the team had to make a camber adjustment, no small feat, on pit road to help cure a terrible car. He salvaged a 15th and valuable points by enduring the distance Sunday night. A top-5 and two top-10s help push Bowyer's average Kansas finish in the last five events to 11.8. Richard Childress Racing is often very quick in Kansas, which makes Bowyer a driver you should definitely consider adding to your lineup this week.

David Ragan
The last two weeks have been impressive for Ragan. He won the Sprint Showdown and then came home second in Sunday's marathon race. The finish was Ragan's second top-5 of the season, and you can see the top results coming more frequently after a slow start the season. Ragan has a decent record at Kansas Speedway as well. In his four starts at the track, he has an average finish of 18.8 with one top-10. He finished on the lead lap three of those tries, and has not recorded a DNF. With the momentum from Sunday's strong finish he could be a promising pick for the STP 400. If you are looking for a third driver, Ragan might be a decent selection.

DOWNGRADE

Ryan Newman
Poor performances have been the trademark of Newman the last seven races. While he scored a top-5 in the Southern 500, he hasn't been the picture of speed and consistency every other week. He ended the Coca-Cola 600 caught in a wreck after a disappointing first half of the race. Newman needs to get his season back on track if the team intends to remain in contention for a spot in the Chase for the Championship, but it will first have to overcome Kansas, where Newman's results haven't been impressive. Newman's last five Kansas races only averaged a finish of 22.8. He finished on the lead lap two of those tries and scored one top-10 finish. He's a risky play in Kansas.

David Reutimann
The 2011 season has not been good to Reutimann. His best finish came in the non-points All-Star Race where he finished third. It was always expected that Reutimann could be strong at Charlotte, and he was, finishing ninth after running well all night. While Reutimann was strong at Charlotte the last two weeks, he may be up against it next week in Kansas. In the last four races at the track, Reutimann has only averaged a finish of 23.2. He didn't record a DNF in that time, but still only managed to finish on the lead lap once when he finished in the top 10. Reutimann is not a driver to put into your fantasy lineup at Kansas, and maybe not until the series returns to Charlotte.

Joey Logano
With just one top-10 finish this season prior to Sunday night, Logano is not living up to the hype. You can still see the talent, and there is no doubt he'll climb back up the charts again soon. The disappointing results may have ended with his third-place run Sunday, but there is still a long way to go before he matches the feats of teammates Hamlin and Busch. Only three finishes in the 11 races this season before Sunday's 600 doesn't cut it. Logano's three starts at Kansas Speedway have not earned him a strong finishing record. His average finish is 28.0 despite running at the finish each of those tries. His poor 2011 results combined with the series heading to one of his worst tracks makes him a driver fantasy owners should avoid this week.

Matt Kenseth
After three races of finishing 21st or lower, Kenseth got back in the thick of things by winning the FedEx 400 earlier this month. The season has been impressive so far, even with the 14th-place result in the Coca-Cola 600. Kansas Speedway is not a track where Kenseth has been consistent. His average finish is 21.8. He only finished on the lead lap two of those five tries, both of which were top-10s, though. His engine failed in the 2009 Price Chopper 400, and his career average finish at the track is 20.6 in 10 starts. Roush Fenway Racing Fords have been the fastest this season, and they should run well at Kansas too, but if you want to choose one of their drivers, you may want to go with Biffle's finishing record.

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