Commentary

The Good Bad Ugly - Samsung 500

Updated: April 4, 2008, 4:20 PM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Editor's note: Mark Garrow provides driver trends for Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

• Andretti will have to qualify on time for the race Sunday. Andretti has seven starts here with a career-best finish of 12th with an average finish of 28.0 and two DNFs.

• Biffle has eight starts here, with two top-10s and a win. Despite the win, he has an average finish of 24.5 and four DNFs. All of his non-top-10 finishes are 28th or worse.
• The "Biff" had two outstanding runs at Las Vegas (3rd) and Atlanta (4th) and I think that translates very well here at Texas. I think he's a lock to finish in the top 10 and could be sniffing around the top five again.

• The Caterpillar Racing team plans to utilize chassis No. 11 for the Samsung 500, a car they were testing Tuesday and Wednesday at Kentucky Speedway.
• Blaney has made 11 Cup Series starts at the 1.5-mile high-banked oval during his career. He has started as high as 12th (2005) and finished as high as sixth (2001). He has scored three top-20 finishes in Cup Series competition at the speedway.
• Blaney's practice at Kentucky should help him. The team has been way off on intermediate tracks this year. Their average finish at Las Vegas and Atlanta was 30th. They should be better this weekend, but it still won't be enough to get him into the top 20.

• Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 237 this weekend. Built new for 2008, this is the same car Bowyer raced to a 19th-place finish in the Auto Club 500 and to a sixth-place finish in the Kobalt Tools 500.
• According to NASCAR's loop data statistics, Bowyer is eighth in the Laps Led category after spending 139 of the 2,048 laps run this season (6.8 percent) atop the leader board. Bowyer also ranks 10th in the Average Running Position category at 14.052.
• The Kansas driver is beginning to heat up with three straight top-10 finishes. He struggled at Las Vegas, but bounced back with a sixth place run at Atlanta and that should make him top-10 material again this weekend. Bowyer was 19th at Texas last fall, but he ran much better than that with a tire problem costing him a couple of laps.

• In 13 starts at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS), Burton boasts two wins, two top-5's and five top-10 finishes. According to NASCAR's loop data statistics, Burton is the sport's third-best Closer at the two-mile oval; a statistic derived from the number of positions improved over the last 10 percent of each race. Burton has gained an average of two spots over the past six events held at TMS.
• Over the season's first six races, Burton has earned one win, three top-5's and four top-10 finishes. He currently holds a 19.2 starting average coupled with a 7.3 finishing average. Burton has yet to finish outside the top 15 this season.
• You can mark Burton down for a minimum of a top-10 and I see him finishing among the first six across the line. That about splits the difference from his fifth-place run at Las Vegas and 10th at Atlanta. This team has really not shown any weaknesses with the 13th-place run in the Daytona 500 their worst performance.

• In 10 career starts on the 1.5-mile Texas track, Busch has recorded one top-5 finish and seven top-10s. He has a 14.9 average start and a 12.0 average finish.
• This is a team that hasn't shown a whole lot since the runner-up at Daytona. Busch has been basically a top-15 type driver and I don't see that changing this week here in Texas. He did finish ninth at Las Vegas and 11th at Atlanta, so there is a glimmer of hope he could run top-10, but I don't see it.

• Busch is racing the same car here that he won with in Atlanta earlier this season. In six starts here, Busch has two top-5's, finishing fourth in the last two fall races here. Busch has led 155 laps at Texas with an average finish of 20.2.
• The short tracks were a disaster for the young driver, but he's been gold on the big tracks this year, and he's money again this weekend. The Toyota horsepower will keep him in the hunt and near the front. He should finish in the top 10, but a top five is very possible.

• Being outside the top-35 in owner points, Carpentier will have to qualify on time to make his Texas debut.
• He'll make Texas and finish somewhere around 30th.

• In 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway, Junior has recorded one win, one pole position, three top-5 finishes and seven top-10s. He has led 362 laps at Texas. Earnhardt has an average starting position of 9.3 and, despite not finishing two races, an average finishing position of 12.9.
• Dale Jr. has had no real weaknesses this year. Without the wreck at California, his average finish in the other five events is fifth. I see him leading some laps Sunday and finishing in the top five.

• In six starts this season, Edwards has accumulated two wins, with one additional top-10 finish.
• Edwards has one career win at Texas Motor Speedway. He won the inaugural Dickies 500 in 2005. The win is his only top-10 finish here with two finishes outside the top-25 and an average finish of 18.2.
• Edwards is at the top of my rankings this week and is one of my picks to win this race. If not for a blown engine he'd have three in the win column on the intermediate speedways this year. No question Roush-Fenway has rediscovered their magic on this size of track.

• Elliott will make the field this weekend, as he will be eligible for a past champions' provisional if needed. In 11 starts, Elliott has one top-10 with an average finish of 25.3. Elliott has led 82 laps and has completed 85.7 of the total possible laps.

• This weekend Franchitti will compete in both the Nationwide (NNS) and Cup Series (NSCS) races at Texas Motor Speedway. He will be making his 10th career start in NNS competition and seventh in NSCS. Franchitti made his second-career NNS start at Texas last November, driving to a 25th-place finish.

• Gilliland has an average starting position of 23.7 and an average finish of 22.7 at Texas with a best finish in the 2007 Samsung 500 where he finished 19th.
• After what I saw at Vegas and Atlanta, I view Gilliland as a top-25 driver and don't expect much more than that.

• Texas is one of only two tracks where Gordon has yet to visit Victory Lane. He has five top-5's and seven top-10s in 14 starts at Texas. Gordon's past three finishes here have been in the top 10. He has started in the front row twice consecutively.
• I rank the four-time champ fifth in my rankings this week, and think he's top-five material. I don't think he can win, but he'll hang near the front like he did at California and Atlanta.

• Gordon has nine starts here with an average finish of 29.8 with three DNFs. His best career finish is 18th. Gordon has five finishes of 30th or worse.
• Given the way he's run on the intermediate tracks so far this year, about the best Robby can hope for is a top-25 finish. This team seems in a state of flux.

• Hamlin's most recent finish here was 29th, but his previous four starts have been top-10s with his best being a fourth two years ago.
• I've ranked Hamlin seventh for Texas because I think he'll be closer to his ninth-place finish at Las Vegas. Hamlin has had the speed this year, but hasn't always had the finishes to match. Last week's win will boost that team, and I expect him to lead some laps Sunday and finish in the top 10.

• Kevin Harvick will pilot chassis No. 238. Built new for the 2008 season, this is the same car that Harvick drove to a seventh-place finish at Atlanta and an eighth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway.
• In 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas, Harvick has two top-5's and four top-10 finishes.
• The California native's worst finish this season is 14th and average finish is a sterling 7.8. I've got him ranked eighth and think he can finish fifth to ninth.

• Hornish will have to make Sunday's race based on qualifying.
• Hornish Jr. has a total of three intermediate-track starts in Sprint Cup Series competition with an average start of 27.3 and an average finish of 34.3.

• Johnson will use chassis No. 465 as his primary car Sunday. This car finished second at the Auto Club Speedway.
• He has collected one win, four top-5's and seven top-10 finishes at Texas. His average starting spot is 9.6 and average finish is 9.2.
• After two really ugly races at Las Vegas and Atlanta, no one can really know what to expect out of Jimmie Johnson this week. The Lowes Team did get a chance to test at Rockingham a couple of weeks ago in an attempt to to figure out why they are struggling on the intermediate tracks. It's hard for me to believe they'll go from pitiful to contending for a win this weekend. I rank Johnson 11th for this week. If they've improved in the downtime from Atlanta to now, he will finish in the top 10. If not, he could struggle for a top-15 finish. Obviously, they have potential to win if they nail the setup.

• In seven starts here, Kahne has two top-5's with a win. He also has a second-place finish. His average finish here is 21.6 with three DNFs. Three of his finishes are 33rd or worse.
• He struggled at Atlanta, finishing 28th, but Kahne looked pretty steady with a ninth-place finish in California and sixth at Vegas. I have him ranked 13th this week but could see him as high as eighth. He's won at Texas, but has two more DNFs than victories.

• In 11 Texas starts, Kenseth has posted one win, five top-5's and six top-10 finishes. His average finish is 10.3.
• In Kenseth's five most recent finishes at TMS, he has been outside of the top three only once and has three second-place finishes.
• I've ranked Kenseth 10th this week and I'm kicking myself just a bit. The more I think about it, the more I think he should ranked higher. I think Kenseth can run in the top five this weekend. He finished fifth at Fontana and eighth at Atlanta and I can see him finishing between third and eighth.

• Kvapil has an average starting position of 35.2, and an average finish of 27.2 at Texas
• No. 457 is the chassis the team will be running this weekend. The team raced it in Las Vegas and achieved a season-best eighth-place finish.
• Kvapil did a great job at Vegas ... he really did. Before and after that there's been nothing to really cheer about. A top-25 is about all you can pencil him in for this weekend.

• Labonte has five top-10s and three top-5's with an average finish of 20.4 at Texas.
• He finished in the top 10 in the first four events here. Since then, he's had only three finishes in the top 20 and four finishes outside the top 30.
• This team is in a state of turmoil right now. Sponsor General Mills is waving goodbye to join RCR next season, Bobby Labonte is rumored to be headed in the same direction, and who knows what to expect this week. They could dig in a have a better race than they are capable of, or they could go in the tank. Hard to say which way it goes. I see Labonte finishing between 15th and 25th.

• Lamar is attempting to make his first-ever Cup Series start this weekend, but he will have to make Sunday's race based on his qualifying speed.

• Martin has one win at Texas in the second race there in 1998. He has five top-5's and seven top-10s in 14 Cup starts at Texas.
• Martin is back after sitting out the two short-track races. He hasn't shown much all year, with a 10th place at Vegas his best to date. Martin has top-15 potential this week, and I see him finishing 11th to 15th. Part of his problem is lack of speed for the DEI cars.

• Mayfield has 12 starts at Texas with two top-10s, a top-5, and an average finish of 22.0 and two DNFs.
• Mayfield isn't really anybody that should be on your fantasy teams. About the best he can hope for is a top-30 finish and to run as strong as teammate Scott Riggs.

• Chad McCumbee is replacing Kyle Petty in the No. 45 Dodge at Texas this weekend. McCumbee has two prior Cup Series starts with a career-best finish of 25th.
• McCumbee must qualify for Sunday's race on time.

• McDowell makes his second Cup Series start here this weekend, the same place where he made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut last year.
• He finished 26th in his Cup debut last week at Martinsville. That was better than expected, although not getting out of the way of the leaders late in the race didn't win him any fans in the garage. When you make Jeff Burton mad, you have really gone way out of bounds. McDowell could surprise with a top-25 finish this weekend but is a major risk.

• In eight visits to Texas Motor Speedway, McMurray has posted five top-10s and two top-5 finishes. The best finish came in April 2005, when McMurray finished second. He sports an average finish of 13.8, which is 16 positions better than his average starting position.
• Could this be the week that McMurray runs as good as the rest of the Roush-Fenway gang on an intermediate track? The answer: There is no way to know. His best finish prior to the eighth-place finish at Martinsville was 22nd at Fontana and average finish this year is 27.3. Stay away until that team proves it can run these big tracks.

• In eight starts at Texas Motor Speedway, Casey Mears has recorded two top-5 finishes and four top-10s. He has led a total of 38 laps, all during the two races in 2005.
• Crew chief Alan Gustafson has chosen chassis No. 418 for Sunday's race. Mears raced this car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and recorded a 13th-place finish.
• I like Mears because this is one of his best tracks. He's a dark-horse top-10 candidate who I can see finishing from eighth to 14th.

• In three previous Cup starts at Texas, Menard's best qualifying effort is 16th, and his best finish is 15th.
• I can see Menard finishing 18th to 23rd this weekend. A top-20 would be good value.

• Montoya earned his second of six top-10 finishes last season at his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Last fall, Montoya led 10 laps at TMS before dropping a cylinder and finishing 25th.
• Montoya's average finish in the Fontana-Vegas-Atlanta swing was 18.3 and I expect him to finish 16th to 20th.

• Nemechek must qualify for Sunday's race on time.
• Nemechek has 13 starts here with one top-5 finish and an average finish of 26.2.

• Newman has two top-5 finishes, including a win during the 2003 season at Texas. Last fall, he scored a fifth-place finish at Texas.
• The No. 12 Alltel Dodge finished 14th at both Las Vegas and Atlanta this season, both tracks similar to Texas.
• Since Daytona, Newman has been basically a top-15 driver and I don't see that changing this weekend. Newman should finish from 10th to 15th.

• Ragan visited Texas Motor Speedway twice in 2007, with his best Sprint Cup result being a 37th-place finish in the fall race.
• Ragan is racing RK-561, the same car he drove to a seventh-place finish earlier this season at Vegas.
• He's a good fantasy value since he can finish in the top 15 at this track.

• Reutimann must qualify for Sunday's race on time.
• He only has one Sprint Cup start to his credit at Texas but has also had track time in the Nationwide and Truck Series, with a combined 10 additional starts.
• A 20th- to 25th-place finish is about the best you could hope for from Mr. Reutimann.

Scott Riggs

• In seven starts here, Riggs has one top-10 with an average finish of 22.1 and one DNF.
• I can see Riggs finishing 18th to 24th, which is good value. He was really steady throughout the three-race intermediate-track swing (California-Vegas-Atlanta). He messed up late at Vegas or would have finished in the top-10, maybe as high as seventh.

• The team will race chassis No. 233. It finished 12th at Las Vegas.
• Sadler won this race in 2004, leading 48 laps en route to Victory Lane. In 2003, he led 91 laps, nearly winning before a late-race accident ended his race.
• His back injury didn't not hurt as much as some thought it would. His 12th-place finish at Vegas shows me a lot as far as how far this team has come. They still have a ways to go, which is why I envision him finishing 18th to 25th.

• Skinner must qualify for Sunday's race on time.
• Skinner has nine Cup Series starts here, with a career-best finish of 12th (twice) and an average finish of 28.7 and four DNFs.

• Regan Smith is making his first Cup Series start at Texas this weekend.
• The rookie driver tested at Kentucky Wednesday to help prepare for this race. I still don't expect him to finish much better than 30th.

• In four NSCS starts at Texas Motor Speedway, Sorenson has averaged a 22nd-place starting position and 27th-place finish. His best finish was 13th in his Cup debut in 2006.
• He's been a major disappointment after finishing fifth in the Daytona 500. In his defense, no one on the Chip Ganassi team is exactly setting the world on fire. The new car has apparently thrown them for a loop.

• In his last six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas, Stewart has led the most laps among active drivers (437). In his 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas, Stewart has seven top-10s, which ties him with five other active drivers for the most top-10s at Texas.
• I've got Tony ranked third this week with a chance to win. Again, Toyota horsepower will keep him in the game. I can't see him finishing worse than fifth.

• Truex has five starts here, with three top-10s, a top-5, and an average finish of 9.4. Truex sat on the pole in the most recent race here, finishing third.
• Truex, like DEI teammate Mark Martin, is top-15 material. I don't see either having the car to contend, but they'll hang in and might sneak into the top 10.

• In seven starts here, Vickers has a career-best finish of 12th with an average finish of 24.6 and a DNF.
• I believe Vickers can finish this race from 9th to 14th. The Red Bull team looks like their intermediate speedway program is pretty strong, and the Toyota horsepower helps make up for what they are lacking.

• He will start in his 13th race at the 1.5-mile track. His best TMS start is fourth (April 8, 2002), and his best finish is sixth in his NAPA machine (April 17, 2005).
• During his career at Texas, Waltrip has earned three top-10 and six top-25 finishes. His average start is 28th and average finish is 23rd.
• A top-30 finish is about all you can hope for from Waltrip.

• Yeley has four starts here, with a career-best of 17th. His other finishes are 20th or worse. His average finish here is 28.8 with a DNF.
• Average finish this year is 28.3, which is about where he'll end up when it's over.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

Mark Garrow

Fantasy Racing
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.