Commentary

2008 Driver Profiles: Nos. 21-40

Updated: February 5, 2008, 12:37 PM ET
By Christopher Harris | ESPN.com

In Sprint Cup's vast midsection, you'll find up-and-comers and former Chasers, a few big-organization remnants and some open-wheel legends. That'll be one of the biggest challenges in fantasy NASCAR this season: figuring out which open-wheelers are going to be able to make a Juan-Pablo-Montoya-esque transition to stock cars. (Come to think of it, they'd probably prefer to be better than Montoya was in '07, or at least to ruffle fewer feathers.) Will Dario Franchitti be the next Ganassi Rookie of the Year? Will Sam Hornish Jr. shake off his bad NASCAR experiences from last season? Can Patrick Carpentier or Jacques Villeneuve overcome possible equipment disadvantages? Your biggest weekly start/sit decisions will likely come from this group.

21. Mark Martin, 8, Dale Earnhardt Inc., Chevrolet
Martin finished only 27th in the 2007 standings, but of course, he also ran only two-thirds of the Sprint Cup events, a schedule he'll duplicate in '08. So while it's relatively unlikely that the wily Martin winds up inside the top 25 in driver points this year, he's well worth considering several spots higher than that in your fantasy draft. In his first full season for DEI, Martin takes over the No. 8 car for 24 events (Aric Almirola will run the other 12), though Martin will retain his crew (with new crew chief Tony Gibson) from the No. 01 in '07. The reason you should own Martin is simple: You'll know exactly when he won't be racing weeks in advance, and will be able to plan your contingencies accordingly, and when he is in there, you're getting a guy who'd be a Chase-worthy contender if he ran full time. Now, Martin did skip a lot of Car of Tomorrow events in '07 (nine of the 12 races he sat were COT), and it's not like DEI consistently set the world ablaze in the COT this past year. But when Martin's on my team, I'm confident he won't do anything stupid, and he'll get the most he possibly can out of his car. He definitely stirred the echoes in the second Dover race of '07, running near the front all day and finishing fourth. If you do use Martin, of course, make sure you have a stable fourth driver, because you know you'll have to use him for one-third of the season.

22. Reed Sorenson, 41, Chip Ganassi Racing, Dodge
Paging Dan Wheldon? Will Dan Wheldon please pick up the white courtesy phone? Sorenson has to see the writing on the wall. In the past two seasons, Ganassi racers Casey Mears and David Stremme have been replaced by open-wheel stars Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti, respectively. Now Ganassi's IRL champion Wheldon plans on making the jump to NASCAR in 2009, and Sorenson's ride would appear to be directly in the crosshairs. He'd better perform. I don't think you'll see the youngest full-time driver in Sprint Cup suddenly make the Chase, but I do think he'll build on the momentum he created in last year's Chase, when three top-10 finishes matched his output for the entire rest of the season. Sorenson also earned some luster by winning the pole at the Brickyard last summer, and backed that up with a fifth-place finish in the race. He's been a solid, consistent performer at Michigan in his two-year Cup career, which means he has it in him to be a downforce factor, but Sorenson is way too inconsistent to consider any higher than this. Veteran Jimmy Elledge begins his third year as Sorenson's crew chief, preaching patience and minimizing mistakes, but the No. 41 still had seven DNFs (and finished on the lead lap in just 19 of 36 races) in '07. I can see an incremental improvement for Sorenson amid his more glamorous teammates, but unfortunately I can also see Wheldon driving the No. 41 next year.

23. David Ragan, 6, Roush Fenway Racing, Ford
That guy you see spinning on the track? Yeah, that's David Ragan. Ragan led the world in spinouts and crashes last season (his 22 were six more than any other driver), which isn't surprising considering before last year, Ragan's primary exposure to Sprint Cup racing was doing well on the Roush-Fenway reality series "Driver X." Nevertheless, the kid wound up 23rd in points, finished fifth in the Daytona 500 and followed that up with a 12th in his Daytona return engagement, was superstrong in the second Richmond race threatening all night and finishing third, and ran OK at places as diverse as Homestead, Fontana, Indy and New Hampshire. He was the Busch Series Rookie of the Year and was second for Cup ROY honors (in an admittedly down year for first-timers), and he'll always have top-notch equipment. Unfortunately, among the major-team options, Ragan has to rate near the bottom, simply because he's so erratic. I'm not going to be shocked to see him show flashes in '08, especially with championship-winning crew chief Jimmy Fennig (Kurt Busch's former man) back for a second season. But it's also hard to justify spending much to acquire him, because his consistency prospects aren't much better than many of the drivers listed below him here.

24. Elliott Sadler, 19, Gillett Evernham Motorsports, Dodge
Somewhere Jeremy Mayfield is smiling. In mid-2006, fresh off being a quasi-unexpected participant in each of the first two Chases for the Championship, Mayfield was unceremoniously dumped by Evernham because he was having a terrible year, and Elliott Sadler took the No. 19's helm. Mayfield claimed his cars simply weren't any good, and that it wasn't his fault, but Evernham wouldn't have any of it. Well, a year and a half into the Sadler Administration, and the No. 19 isn't any better off. (Of course, Mayfield just got punted after a single season with Bill Davis Racing … but that's a story for another profile.) Sadler posted one top-5 and seven top-10s in 2007, to go with seven DNFs and just 11 of 36 events finished on the lead lap. Zoinks. An infusion of cash from Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. was supposed to help Evernham last summer, but that improvement never came, and now Ray Evernham himself is promising to stay away from the track more often on Sundays. Sadler had three crew chiefs last year alone, but the third, Rodney Childers (who came over from the No. 10 in November) will hopefully stick around through all of '08, and the partnership did show some good chemistry by finishing 12th in its first race together at Texas (one of Sadler's better tracks). Engineering snafus behind them, the entire Evernham team seeks redemption. They'll have a few good events in '08, but this turnaround isn't a one-year affair.

25. J.J. Yeley, 96, Hall of Fame Racing, Toyota
If J.J. Yeley were a stock, I'd say buy. His share price is too low. There's no question, his fantasy value takes a big hit after leaving Gibbs for the single-car Hall of Fame Racing team that's undergoing an ownership change (Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach are out, Arizona Diamondbacks owner -- and former super-agent -- Jeff Moorad is in). The fact that the No. 96 is following Gibbs (from whom it gets engineering support) to Toyota just adds to the transitional woes here, so that just about everything is in flux. While that's not a recipe for instant success, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the No. 96 team was actually decent in 2007, and so was Yeley. Tony Raines ran 34 events for this gang (road-course ringer Ron Fellows raced the other two), and the team finished a respectable 25th in owner points, better than any other single-car team. Meanwhile, Yeley never lived up to the hype ex-teammate Tony Stewart gave him a couple years back, but he did finish 21st in points, nearly won a fuel-mileage race at Charlotte and took a pole at Michigan. Importantly, Yeley also got two years' worth of bad habits and results out of his system driving for a super-team, and certainly comes to HOF with a good blend of talent, youth and experience. I won't be surprised to see Yeley coax the No. 96 into the top 25 in driver points, especially at venues like his home track in Phoenix and the flatter joints like Loudon and Martinsville. I definitely don't consider this an exile.

26. Dario Franchitti, 40, Chip Ganassi Racing, Dodge
With all due respect to the affable Scotsman, the best part of Franchitti's ascension to the NASCAR stage is Mrs. Franchitti (aka Ashley Judd). Coming to Sprint Cup racing as both the current Indianapolis 500 titleholder and a movie star's husband makes Franchitti a glamour pick for 2008 rookie of the year, a mantle I expect him to earn. Apparently, Ganassi believes the main problem with the No. 40 team was driver David Stremme, who was bounced, while crew chief Steve Lane and much of the team's race-day personnel will stay the same. And it's true that Stremme's results were awful: three top-10s and seven DNFs in '07, and three top-10s and 11 DNFs in his Cup career. A couple years back I wrote that I believed Stremme was being put in an unfair situation -- very little experience and a not-very-good race team -- and sure enough, he's on the street. Meanwhile, it'll be asking a lot of Franchitti to start contending for races right away (except for the road events, where he'll be a favorite), but if any team knows the challenges and processes awaiting an open-wheel convert, it's Ganassi, who went through it last year with Juan Pablo Montoya. Franchitti has precious little experience driving anything as massive as stock cars, so like JPM, he'll probably be a little wild at first. But he's a world-class talent with big upside.

27. Paul Menard, 15, Dale Earnhardt Inc., Chevrolet
Menard was born with a silver gas pedal under his foot. His dad is the founder of Menard's, a home improvement chain in the Midwest, so money (and sponsorship) hasn't been an issue. Menard had tons of success in ARCA and was a buddy of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s, and so got an "in" at DEI. And when he struggled badly in his rookie year, DEI merged with Ginn Racing; the new DEI booted Sterling Marlin and gave Menard Marlin's owner points, meaning the kid didn't have to qualify for any more races for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, Menard could translate his 30 starts into exactly zero top-10s (his best finish was 12th), and he didn't break the top 20 in the season's final 14 events. DEI says it has recommitted itself to aerodynamic and horsepower excellence, but I'll believe it when I see it. While Martin Truex Jr. was shaking up the Chase last year, everyone else associated with DEI just couldn't stay competitive. For his part, Menard finished just eight races on the lead lap. That said, Menard entered his rookie year with tons of promise and a decent racing pedigree, and he'll certainly have dollars behind him that smaller operations can't match. Plus the horrors of his rookie year are past. Doug Randolph, last seen guiding Bobby Labonte's team to a surprising 18th-place points finish in '07, takes over as crew chief for new DEI technical director Dave Charpentier.

28. Sam Hornish Jr., 77, Penske Racing, Dodge
I was prepared to rate Hornish even lower, based on his scuffles to even qualify for Cup events (he made only two races in eight attempts at the tail end of '07) and the fact that he struggled terribly in the Busch Series, with just one finish better than 25th in nine outings and an abysmal 67.6 percent laps completed. But Penske swapped the owner points of Kurt Busch and Hornish, so the No. 77 won't have to qualify on time in the season's first five events (while Busch has past champions provisionals on which to fall back), which will hopefully get Hornish inside the top 35 by Martinsville. Still, the '06 Indy 500 champ has a ton of adjusting to do, and there are enough questions about Penske in general to flatten the values of Busch and Ryan Newman, let alone a Cup rookie. Hornish obviously has tons of talent, and as with all the rookie open-wheelers, watch out for him on the two road-course races. But few open-wheel champions have struggled this badly in their first crossover events, which leads me to believe we're talking about a long adjustment period. Thirty-year racing veteran Chris Carrier, late of Ward Burton's aborted attempt to bring the No. 4 car back to respectability, will be Hornish's first Sprint Cup crew chief. I doubt he'll be the last.

29. Regan Smith, 01, Dale Earnhardt Inc., Chevrolet
Smith waited patiently this past season, thinking he'd get at least a chance to sub for Mark Martin in the No. 01 for 12 races. Then, when Ginn Racing merged with DEI, Smith got his chance: He'd be taking over for Ginn's deposed Sterling Marlin as a full-time Cup driver! But not so fast, my friend. The newly merged DEI decided to suspend operations on the No. 14 and transfer Marlin's owner points to Paul Menard. Smith's part-time ride as Martin's understudy had already been given away to Aric Almirola, so Smith was left out in the cold. Brutal. DEI will make it up to him in '08, though, by giving him the No. 01 (albeit manned by a different crew and crew chief Doug Richert, whose last two drivers were up-and-comers Brian Vickers and Greg Biffle) for the entire season. Unlike most of the other drivers eligible to win rookie of the year, Smith is quite experienced in stock cars, having run 101 Busch races in the past five years, and he had a modicum of success in the minors in '07, notching three top-5s and five top-10s in 17 Busch starts. His Cup races were much, much worse: seven starts, no finish better than 24th, two events finished on the lead lap. The good news is that six of those races were in the Car of Tomorrow, so Smith has a head start on most of the other rookies there, too. Unfortunately, the questions surrounding the "revamped" DEI plague Smith as well.

30. Robby Gordon, 7, Robby Gordon Motorsports, Dodge.
For the 2008 Invasion of the Open-Wheelers, Robby Gordon is a cautionary tale. In 1997 and then again in 2000, Gordon ditched his CART career for full-time Cup rides, then jumped from team to team, winning three career races for RCR (two on road courses) before his acerbic on-track manner and mediocre results (and a desire to be his own boss) led him to found his own single-car organization. Unfortunately in the modern NASCAR era this means Gordon is pretty much a one-trick pony: a road-course specialist who'll threaten to win at both Sears Point and Watkins Glen every year (he was 16th and fifth, respectively, at those venues in 2007). He did register a top 10 in the first Dover event, and occasionally makes a showing near the front for a while on Sundays, usually only to sink back down into the single-car primordial ooze from whence he came. It is, let's face it, just really hard to stand on the necessary razor's edge of aerodynamics and engine production when you don't have a tycoon-sized fortune behind you, which is Gordon recently announced that he'd entered an alliance with Gillett Evernham Racing, in which he'll get engine and body-template assistance (which means a move from Ford to Dodge). So why use Gordon at all in fantasy leagues? Well, he begins the year in the top 35, and managed to stay there through both 2006 and 2007, so he'll steadily churn out finishes in the high teens and low 20s, which is more than a lot of other small operations can say. And you'll love him at the roadies.

31. Brian Vickers, 83, Team Red Bull, Toyota
Vickers is my highest-ranked driver who won't have a top-35 qualifying exemption to start 2008. As such, he'll have to qualify for every race on time, beginning with the 50th Daytona 500, until he gets to 35th place in owner points. That never happened in '07, as Vickers failed to qualify for a startling 13 races, which resulted in chief Doug Richert leaving Team Red Bull last October for DEI. Randy Cox, formerly the team's head of R&D, took over as crew chief and helms again in '08. When Cox ascended this past fall, Team Red Bull decided to stop working on the "old car" and devote all its resources to figuring out the Car of Tomorrow, with an eye on this season. Clearly, Vickers and all the other Toyota-based teams have a ton riding on Joe Gibbs Racing changing manufacturers. If the Toyota power plant and aerodynamics take big steps for Gibbs, the trickle-down effect should be enormous. If that happens (and to some extent, I think it will), Vickers stands to gain as much as anyone. Of the Toyota drivers last year, he was most capable of running near the front. He and Dave Blaney tied for the most races led (eight) by a Toyota team, and Vickers wasn't that far away from winning the second Michigan race. Because of his Hendrick pedigree and because he had impressive moments in '07, Vickers makes an interesting high-upside sleeper. Sure, it's likely that even the better Toyota squads will lag half a season behind Gibbs. But you never know.

32. Dave Blaney, 22, Bill Davis Racing, Toyota
Blaney finished higher in the standings than any other Toyota driver in 2007, and it still represented the worst year of his career. Unlike Brian Vickers, Blaney managed to claw his way into the top 35 in owner points partway through the year, and so failed to qualify for only two events. So while Vickers might've had some higher highs the past season, Blaney was the most consistent Toyota threat. That could happen again in '08. During the Chase, Blaney finished third at Talladega, then followed that up with a sixth at Charlotte, a race he honestly could've won. He was also 15th at Kansas and 12th at Homestead, giving him four top-15s in the season's final eight events. Everything I wrote in the Vickers profile applies to Blaney, too. If the Gibbs transition to Toyota creates a rising tide, Blaney's boat figures to rise as much as anyone's. He's a solid veteran who's especially strong at bigger, faster tracks, and Bill Davis Racing seems committed to making a second team work with F1 star Jacques Villeneuve taking over the No. 27. However, sharks are still in the water. Whether Bill Davis will be able to continue to fully fund this team is in question, considering he filed for bankruptcy. Also, crew chief Tommy Baldwin (who took over halfway through that rocky 2007) is rumored to be searching for his own replacement before the year even begins. The No. 22 is one of NASCAR's most recognizable flagship rides, and there are plenty of folks who'll tell you Blaney is due for a top-25 season. I'm just not one of them.

33. David Gilliland, 38, Yates Racing, Ford
Disaster looms for Yates. One of the most esteemed names in the sport, Robert Yates retired from team ownership, handing the reins to his son Doug. This past year, with Gilliland and Ricky Rudd at the wheels, the Yates teams managed only three top-10s and 11 DNFs between them, in cars that simply weren't competitive. This winter, Yates got further into bed with Roush-Fenway, and now Roush will essentially be fabricating cars for both Gilliland and Travis Kvapil, Rudd's replacement. That sounds good in the longer term, but for now, it sounds like a game of "52 Pickup," where nearly everything gets reset. Gilliland, of course, represented a huge leap of faith for Yates, given that less than two years ago he was the part-time driver of an underfunded Busch Series team that produced one of the biggest Cinderella wins in the history of the sport, whereupon he suddenly found himself in a full-time Cup ride. There's no question Gilliland knows how to get around a restrictor-plate track; he qualified on the pole for the '07 Daytona 500 and finished eighth in that race, then finished fourth at Talladega and 11th back at Daytona later in the year. Unfortunately, that was it. He topped 16th only once more (an 11th), and produced 15 finishes of 30th or worse. Yeah, and his crew chief, Todd Parrott, just left for Kvapil's team. Oh boy.

34. Travis Kvapil, 28, Yates Racing, Ford
Kvapil was last seen as the driver of Roger Penske's ill-fated third Cup team back in 2005 and 2006. In those seasons he posted two top-10s and 12 DNFs in 67 starts (and remember, in '05 then-teammate Ryan Newman had 16 top-10s). In short, it was ugly. This past season, Kvapil was a mainstay on the Craftsman Truck Series, posting four wins and 12 top-10s, and finishing sixth in points, which was apparently enough not only to get Kvapil another shot at a full-time Cup ride, but also to give him the No. 28. That's quite a number in NASCAR annals; 10 of the 40 winningest NASCAR drivers have used it, and won a combined 76 races in it. Of course, this No. 28 will simply be a No. 88 in sheep's clothing; the crew and cars Ricky Rudd ran in '07 will be Kvapil's in '08. Longtime Yates hand Todd Parrott will take over for Butch Hylton as crew chief, and as I mentioned in the David Gilliland profile, Yates has entered an alliance with Roush that will essentially see Roush creating cars for Kvapil and Gilliland. Unfortunately, neither of the Yates cars has worked out primary sponsorships. UPS left a year ago to follow Dale Jarrett, while M&Ms has joined up with Kyle Busch for 2008. Clearly Doug Yates will work something out before the Daytona 500, but one wonders if the terms will be favorable to these teams. I can envision a circumstance where the Yates cars get relevant again, just not right away.

35. Scott Riggs, 66, Haas CNC Racing, Chevrolet
In 2006, Riggs looked like he was on the upswing. He finished 20th in points, made all but one race, won two poles and posted eight top-10s. But he got caught up in the madness at Gillett Evernham this past year, tumbling out of the top 35 in owner points and failing to qualify seven times. Seeing the writing on the wall, Riggs announced he'd leave for Haas CNC in '08, and was summarily fired by Evernham with two races left. Riggs is a talented guy, and his new crew chief, Bootie Barker, worked some magic with Johnny Sauter in the No. 70 in '07, posting a top-5 at Richmond, two top-10s and eight top-20 finishes (by comparison, the much-better-funded Riggs posted zero top-5s, one top-10 and eight top-20s). I actually thought Sauter showed real growth, but Haas jumped at the chance to get a former Busch Series star to improve its overall profile. The problem, as with so many of the lesser lights on this list, is there are too many moving parts here. Riggs changes manufacturers and teams. Barker switches drivers and moves his crew from the No. 70. Best Buy is gone as the No. 66's sponsor, so funding may be a question. Now, both Haas cars will use bodies and motors supplied by Hendrick, and Barker set up very competitive race cars in Car of Tomorrow flat-track events this past season (Sauter's 20.9 finishing average in those eight races was 18th best on the circuit, better than Casey Mears, Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne and, you guessed it, Scott Riggs). Still, staying in the top 35 promises to be a tough challenge.

36. Jeremy Mayfield, 70, Haas CNC Racing, Chevrolet
It's hard to believe Mayfield used to have his own TV commercials. And actually, they were some of the sport's funniest. I particularly enjoyed the one where Mayfield was picking up his date in his stock car, and asked the young lady if she was wearing motor oil perfume. "Do you like it?" the vixen asked. "Oh, yeah," replied Mayfield. It's been downhill since then. Mayfield was bounced from the No. 19 in mid-2006 amid blame and counterblame, then landed on his feet with Bill Davis Racing and the No. 36. But that Toyota-based team was a disaster; Mayfield qualified for just 13 races in 32 tries, and finished 45th (not a misprint: 45th) in points. BDR fired him, too, and Mayfield spent the final four races of '07 racing the No. 66 for Haas. Now he moves to the No. 70, but is still essentially replacing Jeff Green, whose former lead engineer, Dave Skog, moves over from the No. 66 as well, and will be Mayfield's crew chief. (Skog was Mayfield's chief with Evernham back in 2002.) Like Johnny Sauter, Green was one step above abysmal in '07, and kept his team in the top 35 in owner points all season, which means Mayfield is at least guaranteed a spot in the season's first five events. Listen, Mayfield unexpectedly lost his dad in '07, and was driving for a completely untested car and team, so we'll forgive him his trespasses. But he's probably not doing too many commercials this year.

37. Patrick Carpentier, 10, Gillett Evernham Motorsports, Dodge
Like fellow open-wheel refugees Sam Hornish Jr. and Dario Franchitti, Carpentier will be a serious threat on the road courses. Unlike Hornish and Franchitti, however, Carpentier won't have the luxury of automatic qualification for 2008's first five races, and will have to qualify on time. So while there are hopeful signs -- namely that, in his CART days, his strongest tracks were ovals -- there isn't much reason to suspect life will be any easier in the No. 10 than it was for Carpentier's predecessor, Scott Riggs. Face it: When you're third man on the totem pole at an organization that's been as dysfunctional as Evernham has been for the past couple years, the downs have the potential to be a lot steeper than the ups. New team director Mike Shiplett is a good Evernham soldier (he was partnered with Kasey Kahne in the Busch Series for a time), but is as inexperienced as a Cup crew chief as Carpentier is as a Cup driver. And if these guys don't get off to a quick start and qualify for at least four of the first five events, they'll dig themselves a hole out of which it'll be extraordinarily difficult to emerge. Of course, Carpentier is still part of one of the sport's "mega-teams," so there should be dollars flowing his way, even if top-10s are practically impossible to come by.

38. David Reutimann, 00 and 44, Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota
Considering the three drivers at Michael Waltrip Racing last year were Waltrip, Dale Jarrett and Reutimann, you'd have been hard-pressed to find anyone who'd have predicted the most successful season at MWR would be turned in by Reutimann. But that's what happened. While Waltrip qualified for only 14 events and Jarrett quickly used up his past champions provisionals and still made only 24 races, Reutimann qualified on time for 26. He didn't have much success in actual races (no top-10s, a finishing average worse than 30th, only three races finished on the lead lap), but beggars can't be choosers. MWR was a total mess, the Toyota teams all struggled, and everyone involved pretty much wants to hit the reset button. The good news for Reutimann in '07 was twofold. First, he won his first ever NASCAR race at the Busch level, and wound up finishing second in points behind Carl Edwards for the Busch title. Second, MWR pronounced Reutimann its top driver, as he's been handed the keys to Jarrett's UPS ride. Jarrett will race the No. 44 for five events, using his provisionals in hopes of getting the UPS car into the top 35, whereupon Reutimann will jump from the No. 00 to the No. 44 and become the guy that brown-clad actors implore to "drive the truck." Reutimann probably still won't have good enough equipment to compete every week, but with some luck, we might hear his name more on Sundays.

39. Joe Nemechek, 78, Furniture Row Racing, Chevrolet
Nemechek's four-year run with MB2 Motorsports (renamed Ginn Racing in 2007) ended abruptly when MB2's supposed savior, Bobby Ginn, ran out of money and sold his team to DEI in mid-'07. That led to Nemechek's No. 13 squad being dissolved, and Nemechek filing a lawsuit against Ginn. It also led Nemechek on a circuitous path that landed him with the single-car Furniture Row team, formerly piloted by Kenny Wallace. Front Row Joe has tons of stock car experience (he won the Busch Series title in 1992), and once he assumed the reins of the No. 78 this past year, that team suddenly qualified for nine of the season's final 11 races. Before Nemechek, the No. 78 had been fast enough to get in just 10 events all season. FRR closed its own engine shop this winter, and will use Hendrick engines in 2008, so like many of the dying breed of single-car teams, the No. 78 will be financially beholden to one of the sport's behemoths. Of all the full-time guys presently outside the top 35, the wily Nemechek is maybe the best bet to consistently qualify for races. The problem is that if he doesn't perform well in actual races, he'll be doomed to pins-and-needles qualifying every week, which is very hard on a Cup team.

40. Boris Said, 60, No Fear Racing, Ford.
Said will go undrafted in most fantasy leagues this year, but when the Cup Series comes to Sears Point, you can bet he'll be about the most popular "add" in the game. Said is the king of the "road-course ringers," those specialists who spend much of their racing season winning road races on other circuits, then descend on NASCAR to show the series regulars what's what on the roadies. Said has four finishes of ninth or better in the last five Sprint Cup events at Sears Point, and he came in third at Watkins Glen as recently as 2005. For a few seasons now, though, Said has had bigger plans: finding a full-time Cup ride. In 2007, he successfully qualified a fourth Gillett Evernham car at Loudon (though he finished 40th), and also raced his own "No Fear" ride in both the Daytona 500 (he finished 14th) and the first Talladega event, in which he led a lap. This year, he and crew chief Frankie Stoddard will attempt to qualify for all four plate-track events and the two roadies. Said should start in every fantasy league at Sears Point and Watkins Glen; whether he makes any headway at the Great American Race could determine whether he gets more chances later in '08.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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