Fantasy Pick'Em: 2010 Samsung Mobile 500

Christopher Leone@ChristopherlionSenior Analyst IApril 15, 2010

PHOENIX - APRIL 09:  Kasey Kahne, driver of the #9 Budweiser Ford, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 600 at Phoenix International Raceway on April 9, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

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This weekend’s Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway will be the eighth race of this year’s Sprint Cup Series season. Last year, Jeff Gordon scored his lone win of the season in this race, leading a race-high 105 laps, including the last 28.

Before anything else, though, I’d like to comment on what a whirlwind of a week this has been as far as the silly season goes. Kasey Kahne to Hendrick in 2012, in a Jamie McMurray-esque situation? Two of the lower-tier teams changing drivers? Kelly Bires and John Wes Townley out of rides? Silly season keeps happening earlier and earlier every year, and I think NASCAR needs to look into implementing some restrictions on signings like Kahne’s. I understand that the drivers and teams are independent contractors, but how would Colts fans feel if Peyton Manning signed with the Titans for the 2012 season before even completing this year or the next?

Without further ado, and before I start ranting uncontrollably about the Kahne signing, let’s just go to the fantasy picks and call it a day.

My headlining pick for the weekend is Tony Stewart. Of active drivers, Smoke is the fourth-best at Texas, with one win and 10 top-10s in 16 starts. The win came in the fall of 2006, when he led 278 of the race’s 339 laps. Smoke also has to be buoyed by teammate Ryan Newman’s win last weekend at Phoenix, a great step towards asserting that Stewart-Haas Racing won’t fall victim to a sophomore slump in 2010.

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As for a dark horse, I’m going to pick Kahne. Yes, he has been very mediocre at Texas, with only one win and two top-10s in 11 starts, but something tells me that his Richard Petty Motorsports team is going to go all out this weekend, and in the next few weeks to try and prove that they can run up front, not only for Kahne’s potential replacements, but maybe even to keep him in the seat for 2011.

Okay, we’ve got three more picks to go. Is it fair enough for me to invoke Texas hold ‘em and call this the fantasy “flop?” (Heaven knows a lot of my picks tend to do so on raceday)

The top active driver statistically at Texas is Matt Kenseth.  With an average finish of 9.3, no other driver has a single-digit average finish at Texas, not even the great Jimmie Johnson. Kenseth has not won at Texas since 2002, but has led at least one lap in eight of the last ten Texas races. Over that span, his worst finish is 18th, with six top fives (including three runner-up finishes) and lead-lap finishes in all ten starts.

Kurt Busch is somewhat of a risky pick, but he did win the last time the Cup cars went to Texas. Granted, he only has one Texas DNF, but he hasn’t been as consistently up front at the track throughout his career as guys like Kenseth and Johnson. In fact, his only other top five finish came in his Texas debut, in the spring of 2001, when he finished fourth.

Finally, Jeff Burton has only recently asserted himself as a Texas contender, but he’s almost always been towards the front since joining Richard Childress Racing. He only led one lap in the one Texas race he won, but since 2006 he’s finished in the top 10 six out of eight times.

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