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Good, Bad and Ugly: Lenox Industrial Tools 301

6/27/2008

*AJ Allmendinger

• He finished 33rd in only Loudon start, but has finished in the top 10 in two of the last three races on circle tracks. I'll track him through practice and qualifying.

Aric Almirola

• Almirola is running his first Cup race at Loudon but has run three Truck races here with one top-10.

• He finished eighth in his debut in the No. 8 at Bristol, but his average finish in the next three races was 34th with best of 28th. Was Bristol a fluke?

*Marcos Ambrose

• If he makes the race it would be his first Cup race on an oval after debuting in Wood Brothers car at Sonoma. He finished 30th in his only Nationwide start here.

• Do not look for Ambrose to shock the world like he did at Sonoma. He has a lot of road race experience but is limited on circle tracks, and Wood Brothers Racing has struggled to find speed all year.

Greg Biffle

• He's driving the same car he drove to a third-place finish at Las Vegas earlier this season.

• Biffle had a run of three consecutive top-5s here before the COT was implemented, but has finished 13th or worse since. I've got him ranked 11th, with drivers cheaper and more expensive in Stock Car Challenge that I rate above him.

Dave Blaney

• He tested at Milwaukee recently to prepare for this event.

• In 16 starts at Loudon, Blaney has only one top-10 finish.

• He's been scarily inconsistent. He has a pair of ninth-place finishes in the past two races but nothing else better than 17th. An eye must be kept on him, though, and I'll chat with his crew chief over the weekend and give a report in the Sunday chat.

Clint Bowyer

• He won Richmond and finished second at Phoenix with this car.

• Bowyer won the fall race last season at Loudon, leading 222 laps with a margin of victory of six seconds.

• He has turned into a flat-track terror. I've got him ranked second this week and expect a top-5, with potential for a win.

Jeff Burton

• This is the car Burton won with at Bristol.

• He's won here four times, but the last trip to victory lane was in 2000.

• Burton is a top-10 threat at nearly every stop on the Cup Series and this week will be no different. I've got him ranked eighth after four top-10s in his past five Loudon starts.

Kurt Busch

• Busch tested at Milwaukee this week to prepare for this race.

• He swept both races here in 2004 and has four top-5s and five top-10s in 14 races.

• Busch is really hit or miss. He has only two top-10s this year. Make the sign of the cross and back away slowly.

Kyle Busch

• Busch has three top-5s here with one win in six starts and an average finish of 14.2. He finished 11th and fourth here last year.

• Busch has won four of the last eight Cup races. He also has two top-5s in two of past four at Loudon and I've ranked him fourth, because I think he can win or at least finish in the top five. He's expensive in cap games, but if you have him already you'd be crazy to drop him until further notice.

*Patrick Carpentier

• Carpentier will probably make the race, but don't expect him to finish inside the top 25.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

• In this race last year, he finished fourth after leading 64 laps. He has led a total of 243 laps at Loudon track.

• Dale Jr. is driving Chassis No. 88-490 this weekend. This is the same chassis the team raced at Richmond earlier this season when Earnhardt led 15 laps and nearly won before being involved a late-race accident.

• Junior had a good race here last fall in DEI equipment, so it stands to reason that he should be even better Sunday in a Hendrick car. I've ranked him sixth because I expect him make a run at a top-5, but I don't think he'll have a shot to win. I don't forsee anything worse than a top-10.

Carl Edwards

• Edwards has only one top-5 and one top-10 in eight Loudon starts, but his average finish is a decent 13.7.

• He has finished in the top 10 the past seven consecutive races. Look for his streak of consistency to continue this weekend. I've ranked him ninth and can see him finishing better.

*Dario Franchitti

• Franchitti is going to struggle just to make the race. Anything after that should be considered a bonus.

David Gilliland

• Gilliland has an average finish of 34.3 at Loudon.

• Gilliland is coming off a career-high second last week at Infineon, so the team is pumped up. Forget previous Loudon stats. Gilliland has been a pretty consistent top-20 kind of guy over the past month. The team is coming on. He's a guy we will track closely and talk to his crew chief Sunday.

Jeff Gordon

• Gordon was the runner-up in both races here last year.

• In 26 career starts at the New Hampshire track, Gordon has three wins, three poles, 12 top-5s and 15 top-10s.

• Gordon is on a stretch of four top-5s in six races, including a third last week. I can see him finishing in the top five, but a win? I won't go that far.

Robby Gordon

• He's won here, but Gordon has not finished in the top-10 here since this race in 2003.

Denny Hamlin

• Hamlin is the defending winner of this race and has three top-10s in four starts with an average finish of 6.5.

• Combine Hamlin's win here last year, his dominance on flat tracks and Joe Gibbs Racing's strengths and you get as close to a sure thing as possible for this weekend.

Kevin Harvick

• Harvick and his team tested at Milwaukee recently in preparation for this race.

• He has a solid average finishing position of 12.6 with one win.

• Harvick has been in a big time slump and I ranked him 14th even though he could perform way better than that. In the past six races, he has three finishes of 30th or worse and three top-15s. That leaves more questions than answers.

Sam Hornish Jr.

• Making his Loudon debut, Hornish is racing the same car he drove at Atlanta and Richmond earlier this season, finishes of 25th and 23rd.

• I don't expect much out of Hornish this weekend. You shouldn't either.

Jimmie Johnson

• With two wins and seven top-10s in 12 starts here, Johnson has an average finish of 10.7.

• Johnson is driving a car that has won three times, the latest on the flat track at Phoenix in April. He also tested the car at the Milwaukee Mile in prepping for this race.

• Johnson is on a short list of drivers going into this race with a good chance at victory -- that's why I have him ranked third.

Kasey Kahne

• Kahne's average finish is 16th at Loudon.

• Kahne has been hot of late, so that momentum could go a long way this weekend. I don't see Kahne as a world-beater here, which is why I rank him 15th. He could sneak a top-10, though. My problem with Kahne is that Martin Truex Jr. is cheaper and will outrun him this weekend.

Matt Kenseth

• His average finish at Loudon is 10.5 and he is driving same car that finished sixth at Pocono.

• Kenseth's run of six straight top-10s has put him back in the top 12, and I probably "dissed" him with a 12th-place ranking this week. He should finish in the top 10. The more I think about it, I'm crazy for ranking him outside the top-10, since he finished in the top 10 in both races at Loudon in 2007 as well.

Travis Kvapil

• This is same chassis the team took to Martinsville and finished 18th.

• Kvapil has had some good runs this year, but all have been on banked tracks. He could be a top-20 candidate, though, depending on practice and qualifying.

Bobby Labonte

• In 15 starts here, Labonte has five top-10s, and an average finish of 17.2.

• I rank him 16th because he has an outside shot to match the 12th-place finish at Phoenix or finish just inside the top-20.

#Terry Labonte

• Texas Terry will get in the show thanks to his champion's provisional, but is just filling a seat while Kyle Petty is in the broadcast booth. The best this team can hope for is a top-25.

Michael McDowell

• McDowell is still a work in progress and is using this season to make laps. He's remained in the top-35 in points which is a plus. He will have a breakthrough race this year, but I doubt it will be this weekend.

Jamie McMurray

• In 10 starts at NHIS, Jamie McMurray has one top-5 and three top-10s.

• McMurray finished 16th and 11th here last year.

• Ranked 17th, I see him as a lock for a top-20 and with a chance to sneak in and get a top-15.

Casey Mears

• Mears finished this race eighth last July and tested at Milwaukee for this weekend.

• Mears is coming off his best finish of the year (fifth) but is now a soon-to-be free agent with he and Rick Hendrick splitting at the end of the year. That means a little more determination this weekend -- no telling how that turns out. I have him ranked 20th, but he's cheap in SCC and we need to keep a close eye on his 15-lap average speeds in the final practices and talk to his crew chief Sunday.

Paul Menard

• Menard has basically turned into a guy that you can count on for a top-25, but that's not good enough.

Juan Pablo Montoya

• Juan Pablo Montoya finished 19th and 23rd a year ago.

• I have JPM ranked 19th and think he's -- as he has been all year -- a top-20 car and not much more. Crew chief Brian Pattie will eventually make a difference, but I think it's too soon to feel the effects yet. He might be able to match his sixteenth at Phoenix.

*Joe Nemechek

• This team has made little noise when it comes to qualifying. It's nothing but silence, though, when the green flag drops.

Ryan Newman

• Newman has two wins, four poles, five top-5s and nine top-10s in 12 NHIS starts.

• This is a guy that will be hard to figure this week. He has great stats here but has just one top-10 in the past six races this year. I've ranked him 13th because I can see him potentially finishing just inside or outside 10th. I would go with the cheaper Truex in SCC.

David Ragan

• Ragan has been a little off lately and I rank him 18th. He has a shot at a top-15. His SCC price is too high in my opinion, and I won't buy until it comes down and the team is more consistent.

David Reutimann

• He was 18th at Phoenix and his SCC price is 14.9. That could make him attractive. Reutimann is a good flat-track driver, but the car has continually let him down. Because of price, keep an eye on him.

Scott Riggs

• History says Riggs won't finish better than 30th.

Elliott Sadler

• Sadler has only four top-10s in 18 NHIS starts.

• The team has found some speed, but the finishes have been inconsistent and he's been unlucky. His price is so low we'll try to key on him as well for Sunday's chat. If he's got the speed again this weekend, he could be worth some serious thought.

Reed Sorenson

• He tested at Milwaukee this week to prep for this race. He's flirting with the wrong side of the top-35, but he has run reasonably well here and could see a top-25.

Tony Stewart

• In 18 start at NHIS, Stewart has racked up two wins, seven top-3s, 10 top-5s, 11 top-10s and led a total of 803 laps.

• Sooner or later Tony is going to break out in a big way this year, but I'm not sure it will be at Loudon. I've ranked him 10th even though he's got a shot at a top-5. He just can't seem to stay away from the bad luck. Maybe he needs to get "Mojo", his monkey, back.

Martin Truex Jr.

• Truex has four starts here with two top-5s and an average finish of 12.0.

• This is same car he drove to a fifth-place finish earlier this year in Richmond.

• DEI's COT program did well here last year with Truex earning both his top-5s in that span. Truex is looking at another top-10 Sunday, which is why I've ranked him seventh this week. I expect big things out of Truex.

Brian Vickers

• In seven starts here, Vickers has one top-5 and an average finish of 20.7.

• Vickers and his Red Bull team have improved since last year, but a top-10 here is still out of reach. Look for a top-20 to top-25.

Michael Waltrip

• Best finish this year is 23rd and average finish is 28.7. Don't expect much better.