Commentary

Good, Bad and Ugly: Toyota/Save Mart 350

Updated: June 20, 2008, 2:39 PM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Mark Garrow provides driver trends for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway.

Key:

* A driver needs to qualify for the race based on time.
# A driver is eligible for the champion's provisional.

• Allmendinger is attempting to qualify for his first NASCAR road course race.
• He is worth some serious thought this week. He has two strong runs in a row and lots of road racing experience. Keep an eye on where he qualifies. That could tell us a lot this week about his chances to run top 20 or better at a bargain price.

• This weekend will mark Almirola's first Cup Series race at a road course. His only other NASCAR road course race came in the Nationwide Series last year when he finished 11th at Montreal.
• Almirola lacks road racing experience and that makes him a driver to avoid.

• Ambrose is attempting to qualify for his first Cup race this weekend.
• Has four Nationwide starts at road courses with three top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 7.5.
• This guy can get it done on the road courses. The downside is that he's driving a Wood Brothers car that has struggled to find enough speed. With it being his first Cup race, Ambrose will probably ride and take what he can get.

• Biffle has five starts here with two top-5s and an average finish of 14.6.
• I expect a lot from the "Biff" this weekend. Fifth at Sonoma a year ago, he was third in total road course points last season. He's third in my rankings because I think he can finish in the top five again.

• It will be the first time this season this car has been raced, but the team tested it at Virginia International Raceway several weeks ago.
• Blaney has scored two top-20 finishes here in his Cup Series career.
• We've been pretty high on Blaney lately, but not this week.

• Bowyer has two starts at Infineon Raceway. He has a 10th-place average finish which includes a career-best fourth-place finish last year.
• He's been in big-time slump since winning at Richmond and the bottom has practically fallen out, leaving him close to dropping out of the top 12. With guys like Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya cheaper in Stock Car Challenge, there is no reason to go here this week.

• In 14 starts here, Burton has posted one top-5 and five top-10s.
• I've got Burton ranked ninth because I can see another steady run and potential top-10 finish for him Sunday. Problem is, if you don't already have him, he's too expensive to buy in SCC. There are, at least, four other drivers who are cheaper and have a shot to win.

• He has three top-5s and three top-10s in seven starts. He started 14th and finished 22nd in last June's race.
• He's too inconsistent for my taste. Again, there are guys under his salary-cap number who will absolutely perform better this weekend.

• Busch's best finish at Infineon Raceway was an eighth-place result last year.
• Busch is a "tweener" for me this week with a ranking of 13th. On one hand, he finished in the top 10 here last year and was fourth in most points scored in the two 2007 road course races. On the other, he's been pressing and there's a good chance he won't make it through Sunday's race without a problem.

• In both the Cup and Nationwide Series, he has two top-10s in four road course starts.
• Carpentier was very impressive in the Nationwide road course race at Montreal last summer. This is a place he could really shine. We'll keep a close eye on him for Sunday's raceday chat.

• Earnhardt shares the highest number of top-10s (11) with one other driver (Carl Edwards) in 15 Sprint Cup races thus far this season. Earnhardt also has the second-highest number of top-5s in 2008 with seven overall.
• I think Junior is going to be a pleasant surprise here this weekend. I don't see him winning but I've ranked him seventh because he'll find a way to finish somewhere in the top 10.

Carl Edwards

• In his previous three starts, Edwards has one top-10.
• Edwards is racing the same Ford Fusion used at both road races last season. Edwards finished 18th at Infineon and eighth at Watkins Glen.
• Might be "dissing" Edwards a little too much with ranking of 14th. He has a shot to finish in the top 10, but my gut tells me he won't and his SCC price is too high to buy. There are better picks at better prices.

• Fellows has won three times at Sonoma in the American Le Mans Series.
• Fellows boasts three wins in 12 Nationwide starts and two Truck Series wins.
• Of all the road course "ringers" this is the guy to watch. He's fast and still plays a very defensive game plan. He was fifth in points scored during the two Cup road races last year. He can finish in the top 10 and open up cap space.

• This weekend will mark Dario Franchitti's first NASCAR Cup Series start at Infineon Raceway.
• I don't see Franchitti's experience in Indy cars here helping him that much. I see Franchitti having trouble finishing this race.

• Gilliland has an average finish of 28.5 at Sonoma
• Gilliland is from the West Coast and has some experience here in other types of cars. Could be a sleeper and we will keep a close eye on him for the Sunday chat.

• Along with his five wins, Gordon has collected nine top-5s and 11 top-10s in 15 Sonoma starts.
• Gordon has a shot to win this race or, at least finish in the top five. Gordon has circled this one on his calendar as a must-have and he could get it. I've ranked him second this weekend, the highest I've had him in a while.

• Gordon has 10 starts here with three top-10s, two top-5s and a win with an average finish of 20.7.
• Gordon has not finished better than 16th here since his win in 2003.
• He's inexpensive in SCC and should finish no worse than 10th. He might be a top-5 car if his team doesn't shoot itself in the foot.

• Hamlin has finishes of 10th and 12th here with three laps led.
• Hamlin is a sneaky good road racer. He was second in most points scored in the two 2007 road course races. Hamlin's another guy whose SCC price is too high for this race, but if you have him already, you should give some serious thought to keeping him.

• In seven Cup starts here, Harvick has earned two top-5s and has led one race for five laps. He sports a 15.1 finishing average and has completed all but one lap.
• Vastly underrated as a road racer, which is why I'm giving him a sixth-place ranking this weekend. I can see a top-10 run out of him.

• Hornish will make his Sprint Cup Series road course debut this weekend. In three starts at Infineon in the IndyCar Series, Hornish posted one top-5 and two top-10s.
• He knows this place well and has road course experience and he'll break your heart just like he did at Michigan last Sunday.

• Johnson will drive chassis No. 442 in Sunday's race, the same chassis he piloted to a third-place finish at Watkins Glen last fall.
• Johnson has made six starts at Infineon Raceway, collecting one top-5 and two top-10s.
• Jimmie will be OK, but too many guys at a cheaper SCC price will be better so there's no reason to put him on your team at this point.

• Kahne posted his best Sonoma finish (23rd) last summer. He has four starts here with an average finish of 31.5.
• He is another "tweener." He's been on a roll lately, but has a dismal record at this track. That's why I have him ranked 18th.

• Kenseth will make his ninth start at Infineon Raceway. In his previous starts, Kenseth's best finish is 11th. His average finish at Infineon Raceway is 23.5, his worst of any track.
• I rank Kenseth eighth because I think he's going to record his best finish ever at Sonoma. I can feel it. It's either that or a bad taco.

• Kvapil has one start here, finishing 21st, on the lead lap.
• His SCC price is too high and no telling what he'll do in Sonoma. I'm staying away.

• In 15 starts here, Labonte has five top-10s, two top-5s and an average finish of 17.2.
• Unless he can somehow get on a fuel sequence nobody else is, which is highly doubtful, I don't see him doing much Sunday.

• Labonte has 19 starts here with eight top-10s, six top-5s and an average finish of 18.9.
• He'll be worth keeping an eye on during practice because of his SCC price and road race exploits in the past. Still, I can't get past the feeling that there's no way he's going to push it and take any kind of real risk.

• McDowell will make his first Cup start at Infineon Raceway.
• He has won three times at Infineon in separate racing series -- the Star Mazda Series, the Russell Racing Formula Car Series and Formula TR.
• Because he comes from a road racing background this could be the week McDowell breaks through with a top-20. One problem; as a rookie, he's the designated caution flag on a track like this if veteran driver needs it. In other words, he's got the kick me sign on his back.

• In five starts here, McMurray has completed all but one lap of competition and will be driving the same car that earned a 17th-place finish at Watkins Glen last year.
• McMurray nearly pulled a win out here last year. He is a better road racer than most people think, which makes his SCC price enticing.

• Casey Mears has earned one top-10 in five Sonoma starts.
• He has recorded wins at road courses in 2000 (Champ Car) and 2006 (24 Hours of Daytona).
• His season has been really ugly to date and to think it will all turn around this Sunday just doesn't seem likely to me.

• Menard tested at Kershaw (South Carolina) and also twice at VIR (Virginia) and attended a driving school earlier this season at Sonoma to become a better road course driver.

• Montoya is the defending winner of this race and he's bringing back that same car this year.
• I don't see Montoya winning again, although it's possible. But I see him being more competitive than a year ago when his team helped him "steal" the win here on fuel mileage. Montoya has more experience with a heavier car now and should spend a lot of time running up near the front of the pack. I can see him challenging for a top-5. No one in the field, other than maybe Ron Fellows, has his kind of road racing experience.

• Nemechek has 12 starts here with an average finish of 26.9 and finished 38th last year.

• Ryan Newman has two top-5s and four top-10s in four Infineon starts.
• Newman is pretty crafty road racer, but I've got him ranked 15th due to his struggles this year.

• Papis is attempting to make his first Cup start this weekend.
• He does have four Nationwide starts at road courses with one top-5.
• He's a good road racer, but this is his first Cup race, first race in COT and he's driving for a Haas-CNC team that won't have one of the elite cars underneath him. Adds up to way too many questions.

• He has had six starts at Infineon with a best showing of third in 2004.
• Pruett has made a total of 11 stock car starts on road courses in both Nationwide and Cup, scoring one pole, four top-5s and six top-10s.
• This is a guy you must give some serious thought to. He's got a lot of road racing experience in heavier cars, is very smart and could be a real sleeper. Practice and qualifying will tell us a lot about his story, but Ganassi guys know quite a bit about road racing and Pruett should be able to take a lot more advantage of that than Reed Sorenson could have.

• Ragan finished 29th in this race last year, his only Cup Series start at Sonoma.
• I don't see much here this week as he is too inexperienced at Sonoma.

• This will be Reutimann's first start here and he has visited the track only once, during testing in March.
• Like Ragan, I don't see much here. His first start at this place and not much road racing experience.

• Riggs has three starts here with an average finish of 31.0.
• Riggs did not qualify for this race last year and finished 27th in 2006.

• Sadler has earned four top-10s -- all in the past six races -- in nine previous Sonoma starts.
• I didn't give Sadler a lot of love, ranking him 24th, but you want to see where he practices and qualifies. He was 12th in points scored last year on road courses and has been running better lately. I ranked him so low because sometimes he doesn't finish nearly as well as he races.

• Said has four top-10s in eight Infineon starts, including a pair of sixth-place finishes.
• In 15 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road course starts, Said has six top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 19.4.
• He's certainly one of the road course "ringers" you have to give some serious thought to along with Fellows and Pruett. If he shows the speed to qualify up front, that should make him a decent bet for Sunday.

• In nine starts here, Stewart has five top-10s, three top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 10.0.
• I've got him ranked first because I think he can win this race and because he's hungry enough to eat a $2 steak. Montoya won the race last year and Robby Gordon led the most laps, but I think Stewart had the fastest car and there's a good chance he will again.

• Truex has two starts here with an average finish of 19.5.
• Truex was 10th in points scored in the two road races last year, so he's better at this than many think. The problem is he's more expensive than Montoya and several others who should outrun him.

• In three starts here, Vickers has an average finish of 23.3.
• Vickers is on a roll but it would be a big surprise for him to come anywhere close to what he's done the past two weeks.

• In total, he has one top-5 and seven top-10s at Infineon with a best finish of fourth.
• He could finish in the top 20, but that's about it.

• Yeley has two starts here with finishes of 33rd and 21st.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

Mark Garrow

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