2009 NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Atlanta I

This week the series heads to Atlanta for the first time this early in the season. NASCAR believes that they should get much better weather this time of the year and thus be able to bring more fans to this venue. I’m not sure if this is going to work because it sounds like every track is having a hard time selling out because of the economy this year.

There are only 2 races left before the top 35 in the standings for this season are guaranteed a starting spot in the race. Some of the big names that are currently in the top 35 but are in danger of dropping out and having to qualify on speed include Mark Martin, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

My pick to win this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 500 in Atlanta is Jimmie Johnson.

  • Jimmie Johnson has struggled a little bit during the early going this season but there is nothing to worry about. Since Daytona, Jimmie has had pretty good handling cars with a lot of power built into them. A mistake on pit road forced him to the back of the pack last weekend and he was over driving his car trying to get as many spots back as he could. Jimmie has been very good at Atlanta with 2 wins and 2 runner-up finishes in his last 5 starts there. Engines will be a concern for the Hendrick teams once again this coming weekend with a 500-mile race

  • Jeff Gordon seems to be back in championship run mode right now. For the last few years Jeff has struggled on the intermediate tracks but came away with a great finish at Las Vegas last week and has finished in the top 10 in 6 of his last 7 starts in Atlanta.
  • Carl Edwards was the king of the intermediate tracks last season but the Roush teams had some major problems with engines last weekend. Heading into another 500-mile race this weekend could be of some concern for all of these teams once again. Losing 3 engines in 5 cars and having the other 2 drivers saying that their engines were sounding funny and giving them vibrations is raising some red flags for me right now. Carl does have 3 wins here in 9 starts and will be a contender if the engines hold up next weekend.
  • Kyle Busch struggled here early in his short career but made a turn around last season, winning in the spring and finishing 5th in the fall race. As I say every week, Kyle can win at any track at any time. The trick is to use him when he doesn’t have some sort of problem during the race. It’s a long season and the Toyota’s haven’t had the greatest luck with their engines either so far.
  • Tony Stewart has run surprisingly well so far this year and usually runs very well at Atlanta. Tony has 12 top 10 finishes in his last 15 starts here including 2 wins and 3 runner-up finishes during that stretch.
  • Matt Kenseth has finished in the top 5 at Atlanta in 5 of the last 7 races run there. However, Matt has one of those Roush engines which he lost after less than 9-miles of the race was run last weekend at Las Vegas. Once the Roush teams have this issue behind them they are going to be very tough week in and week out.
  • Greg Biffle is yet another of the Roush drivers that is having a very good year so far. Once again Greg loves to run at Atlanta and if his engine holds on he will be there at the end to challenge for the win. Greg has never won at Atlanta but has dominated some of these races before mechanical failures or accidents have taken him out of the races.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. has one of the best finishing averages of all drivers at Atlanta but has been struggling a bit so far this season. I think that there is a lot of pressure on Junior right now to improve on his performance. I really believe that he needs a crew chief change for starters and then he needs to get a win under his belt to remove some of this pressure.

Yahoo Picks for Atlanta

Group A

  • Jimmie Johnson
  • Jeff Gordon

Group B

  • Tony Stewart
  • Jamie McMurray
  • Brian Vickers
  • David Ragan

Group C

  • AJ Allmendinger
  • Bobby Labonte

Top 5 Overall at Atlanta

    1. Jimmie Johnson
    2. Jeff Gordon
    3. Carl Edwards
    4. Kyle Busch
    5. Matt Kenseth

Dark Horse: Jamie McMurray
Stay Away From: Martin Truex Jr.

As always you can Email me with your questions, comments or suggestions at gutsamaniac@hotmail.com. Good luck once again this weekend!