Fantasy NASCAR: Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing Ready for 2011

Brandon Croce@@BrandonCroceAnalyst IJanuary 22, 2011

Kevin Harvick and his team are ready to make a run at the Championship in 2011
Kevin Harvick and his team are ready to make a run at the Championship in 2011Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

We are getting closer to the start of the 2011 NASCAR season and drivers and their teams are kicking it into high gear. This week they were allowed to go out and practice on the new, repaved Daytona track. They have made some improvements to the race track and resurfaced it for this season in hopes to not run into the pothole problem they had at last year’s Daytona 500.

This week we will be taking a look at Richard Childress Racing, who was one of the more successful teams last year. They have four drivers on their team which includes Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard, who was the only driver not to make it into the Chase last year. We will be focusing on Harvick, Burton and Bowyer as they will have the most impact in fantasy NASCAR this year.


Kevin Harvick

Team: Richard Childress Racing
Car Number: 29
Crew Chief: Gil Martin

If the end of last season is any indication of how good Kevin Harvick will be in 2011, then Jimmie Johnson may have some serious competition for his sixth straight championship. Last year, Harvick finished the season as one of the hottest drivers. He finished in the top 10 in 10 of the final 11 races, and all those races he did not start above 20th except one. He ended the year third in the final point totals.

Kevin Harvick won three races last season at the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega, the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona and the CarFax 400 at Michigan International. The Aaron’s 499 win was his first win since 2007 when he won the Daytona 500. He also won the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona last year but that doesn’t count toward the season points total.

Last year was the most wins he has had in a season since 2006, when he won five races. He went on to finish in the top five 16 times as well as in the top 10 in 26 of the 36 races he competed in last year. He had an average finish of 8.7, which was a huge jump from 2009 when his average finish was 19.9.

The one concern that I have with Kevin Harvick is that his average start per race was really low compared to where he finished races. He was generally starting towards the back of the pack having an average start of 21.

It is impressive that he was able to finish so high in races with a low average start but he was also very lucky because he is in prime location to get caught up in a wreck trying to pass all these cars to get to the front. Also, with his low average start, he was missing out on leading laps as he was spending a lot of time working to the front when he could have been out front leading.

2011 Outlook: Kevin Harvick had a great season last year but I am sure he has his eyes set on a championship this year. It will be important for him to improve on his starting position this year as it has dropped from 13.5 in 2006.

If he is able to do this, he will be a top driver in 2011. Kevin Harvick sees his best success on the Super Speedways or the tracks that are over 2.5 miles per lap. He had four races on these tracks, finishing in the top 10 in all four and winning two of them.

Clint Bowyer

Team: Richard Childress Racing
Car Number: 31
Crew Chief: Shane Wilson

Another driver who finished in the top 10 for points last season was Clint Bowyer, who had a bounce-back year from 2009. Last year, he finished 10th in the points standings with seven top-five finishes and 18 top-10 finishes. He also won two races, the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega.

He was able to improve across the board in a number of categories from 2009 including wins, top-five finishes, top-10 finishes, average start, average finish and laps led.

One category that did go up that should be noted is DNFs. Last year he was not able to finish three races, which is the highest total since 2006 when he had four. Like Kevin Harvick, Bowyer saw a lot of success last year on the Superspeedway tracks, winning one of his races there and finished in the top 10 in three out of the four races.

He also had an average finish of 7.2 in those four races compared to an average finish of 14.4 for the season. He did, however, struggle on the road courses where in two races his best finish was 31st.

2011 Outlook: I expect Clint Bowyer to once again be in the top 10 of points at the end of the 2011. He is a great choice on the Superspeedway tracks and a solid option on the Intermediate tracks, which have lap lengths between 1.0 and 2.49 miles, where he had an average finish of 13.4. Last year he started the season strong by finishing in the top 10 in the first three races and I wouldn’t be surprised if he started fast again this year.

Jeff Burton

Team: Richard Childress Racing
Car Number: 31
Crew Chief: Todd Berrier

Jeff Burton doesn’t have as much fantasy importance as Harvick or Bowyer on Richard Childress Racing, but he can definitely help you if he is used for the right races. Last year, Burton finished 12th in the points standings but was not able to win any races or poles. He had six top-five finishes as well as 15 top-10s in 36 races.

His average start was 16.6 and he generally finished around the middle of the pack with an average finish of 15.1. One stat that was interesting from last year was that he had a fairly high laps led at 539. He led more laps than both Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.

Last year, he saw his best success on the short tracks, which are tracks that are less than a mile per lap. In six races on short tracks he finished in the top 10 three times and finished as high as fourth in the Crown Royal Presents the Health Calhoun 400 at Richmond International Speedway. He had an average finish of 12.2 in these six races.

2011 Outlook: Last year he was able to make a little improvement over 2009; however, I don’t see Burton making any push to returning as a top driver in NASCAR next season. I do still think Burton has value this season, specifically on the short tracks, and should be considered for those races.