RotoWire Partners

NASCAR Barometer: Johnson Tames the Monster

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.

Jimmie Johnson was the favorite heading into Sunday's FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway, and he validated those odds by claiming his second consecutive win of the 2014 season. Johnson won Sunday's race in dominating fashion, leading more than half of the miles on tap after contender Kyle Busch's race ended prematurely.

Sunday's race may best be remembered for different circumstances, though. Jamie McMurray ran over section of the track that had broken up, throwing concrete chunks flying through the air and sending McMurray's car glancing off of the outside wall. The race was stopped to perform quick repairs. Track personnel patched the pothole that had formed, allowed racing to resume relatively quickly. The incident was reminiscent of Jeff Gordon's experience at Martinsville Speedway in 2004 when a piece of the track damaged his car.

In the end it was Johnson's day, and he was not to be denied. The six-time champion joins the list of multiple race winners in 2014, and firmly stamps his fingerprint on a spot in the season-deciding Chase for the Championship. The question going forward is how many more races will the No. 48 team win?


Jimmie Johnson -
As expected, Johnson was the car to beat at Dover last weekend. The Dover master led more than half of Sunday's race distance, romping to his second consecutive victory, and virtually guaranteeing himself a spot in the season's Chase for the Championship. At Dover there is no better than Johnson, and on Sunday he became the all-time lap leader at the track. Not surprisingly he holds the best record among active drivers at Pocono as well. The No. 48 driver has three Pocono wins, 10 top-5s, and 16 top-10s from 24 races at the Pennsylvania triangle. His average finish at the difficult circuit is impressive at 8.8, and no other driver has a career average finish inside double digits.

Tony Stewart -
After starting deep in the field on Sunday, Stewart worked his way forward to run inside the top five with less than a quarter of the race remaining. Stewart has a habit of coming forward as the summer temperatures begin to warm, and this season appears to be no different. The former champion worked his way up the running order from a terrible starting position to finish seventh on Sunday. He has two wins, along with 12 top-5s, and 22 top-10s from 30 starts at Pocono. His average finish is 11.0 in that time, and the season is entering the span in which Stewart typically performs his best. Now is the time that fantasy owners want to begin seriously considering Stewart just about every week.

Matt Kenseth -
Despite getting involved in some contact early in Sunday's FedEx 400. Kenseth was able to battle forward and found himself running inside the top five with less than 100 laps remaining. When all was said and done he finished third, giving him consecutive top-5 finishes. Though he still hasn't found Victory Lane in a 2014 points race, he seems most likely to become the next to etch his name on the victor's list. Kenseth has never won at Pocono, but does claim three top-5s and 10 top-10s from his 28 career starts at the track. His average result is 14.9, and he has never recorded a DNF at the tricky triangle. His momentum and Pocono resume may make him a top choice this week.

Clint Bowyer -
After weeks of bad luck, Bowyer finally tallied a finish that he can take pride in and build upon for the next leg of the schedule. His fourth-place finish on Sunday was just his second top-5 this season, and was his first top finish since he claimed third position in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Sunday's result was important for the No. 15 team as they look to get the monkey off of their back and start making serious strides toward claiming a spot in the Chase. Bowyer has just one top-5 and seven top-10 finishes from his 16 career Pocono starts. His average finish at the track is 15.1, and this week's result could mean a turnaround is in process for the team.


Kyle Busch -
After leading many of the opening laps Busch connected with another car that sent him into the wall and ended his afternoon. The young driver was squeezed out of position and damaged his right-front wheel, ending any hopes of securing a top finish in Dover. The result is a shame because he may have had the only car in the field that was capable of challenging Johnson for the win. Unfortunately, a top result just wasn't meant to be. Busch has not fared too well at Pocono with just four top-5 finishes from 18 career starts either. His average finish at the track is 17.8, which is worse than his average start of 13.8. If the bad luck goes away, Busch could be a serious championship contender.

Greg Biffle -
After 84 consecutive races without recording a DNF, Biffle was touched by A.J. Allmendinger, sending his car rear-end first into the outside wall. That record was challenged, but the No. 16 car struggled onward and finished more than 100 laps behind the leader. Biffle and teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were involved in the early crash, but damage to expectations was greater for Biffle than Stenhouse. The veteran driver is still looking for a win this season, but has been just slightly off the pace thus far. Biffle has one Pocono win, with another three top-5s, and six top-10s from 22 career starts, but hasn't demonstrated that he will take a trophy anytime soon.

Jamie McMurray -
Fantasy players probably weren't expecting too much out of McMurray at Dover, and they weren't proven wrong when he collected a piece of the track, sending him into the outside wall and bringing out a red flag to patch the concrete. The contact removed any hope of a top finish from the team's expectations, but the team was able to soldier onward and claim a 13th-place result. Questions should remain about what could have been had that unfortunate situation not occurred. McMurray's Pocono record includes just four top-10 finishes from 22 starts. His average finish is 20.8 despite an average start of 16.9, and could be a solid fantasy play depending on what speed he shows in practice.

Kevin Harvick -
A valve stem issue put Harvick two laps down before the halfway mark of Sunday's FedEx 400. It was a very disappointing start to Sunday's effort; an effort that many fantasy experts would have expected Harvick to excel in. Instead, the championship contender was relegated to working his way back to the lead lap instead of stalking the leaders and finished the day 17th. Harvick has five top-5s and nine top-10s from 26 career starts at Pocono, with an average finish of 14.0 from an average starting position of 19.0. Harvick has been racing well all season, and has been one of the fastest competitors every week, this week at Pocono may not be any different, but will require some effort after last week's result.

Ryan Newman -
Transmission failure ruined what could have been a great day for Newman. The veteran driver came into Sunday's race as one of the drivers poised to outperform expectations. Instead, it was an afternoon to forget for the Richard Childress Racing driver. Things could improve for Newman at Pocono. His statistics at the Pennsylvania track are good with a win, none top-5s, and 12 top-10s from 24 races. Additionally, he has just one finish outside of the top 10 there since 2010. He hasn't made the splash in 2014 that would make a lot of fans sit up and take notice, but he has been quietly consistent, making him a decent fantasy option. He will have to overcome three consecutive finishes outside of the top 10, though.


Martin Truex Jr. -
Another driver that would have been hoping to come away from Sunday's race in Dover with a decent result to build from would have been Truex. The No. 78 driver has had his fair share of poor luck this season, collecting just one top-10 finish prior to Dover. The team has shown speed on multiple instances, though, and the solid Dover result could spur even better results in the near future. His Pocono record of two top-5s and five top-10s from 16 career starts help him generate an average finish of 15.3 at the track. He wouldn't normally rise to the top of fantasy wish lists at Pocono, but his results this week could be a strong indicator of his value for the remainder of the season.