L2H (Love Like Hate) plus C-List: Subway Fresh Fit 500

“Following an off-week, the NASCAR Cup Series enters the Valley of the Sun for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. The track is a low-banked, unique tri-oval with a curved backstretch between turn two and three.

Jimmie Johnson swept both races here last year and has won three in a row total.
When considering who to start, consider the results from Martinsville Speedway, which is also a very flat track and held just a few weeks ago.

Jimmie Johnson – [first @ Subway Fresh Fit 500, first @ Checker Auto Parts 500]
In addition to the aforementioned three-peat, Johnson has never finished worse than 15th in 11 career starts. Over the last six races this season, Johnson has five top-10s and enters with three consecutive top-three finishes, including a victory at Martinsville.

Jeff Gordon – [13th @ Subway Fresh Fit 500, 41st @ Checker Auto Parts 500]
Until an engine issue last season, Gordon had never finished worse than 17th at Phoenix, his first start there. In between Gordon compiled 12 top-10s in 14 starts. He owns a single victory at Phoenix but his dominate start to the season will keep him in the debate at nearly every track on the schedule.

Salary caps owners will have to debate which to love more: Johnson’s better career numbers versus Gordon’s blistering start. Allocation owners should have both on their provisional roster and perhaps wait until qualifying or practice sessions to make a final decision.

While it’s clear who the top options are, there are still several likeable choices:

Kevin Harvick – [19th @ Subway Fresh Fit 500, seventh @ Checker Auto Parts 500]
Since finishing second at Daytona, Harvick has an average finish of 20.33 this season. Despite those erratic performances, Harvick is a sneaky play this week. He swept the 2006 races and in four starts since then owns an average finish of 10.5 at Phoenix.

Denny Hamlin – [third @ Subway Fresh Fit 500, fifth @ Checker Auto Parts 500]
The knock on Hamlin has been inconsistency at intermediate-length tracks but over his last five Phoenix starts, Hamlin has four top-fives, including a trio of third-place finishes. Just a few weeks ago, Hamlin finished second and led the most laps at Martinsville, another flat track.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – [seventh @ Subway Fresh Fit 500, sixth @ Checker Auto Parts 500]
After taking home the checkered flag in 2003 and 2004, Earnhardt’s performances look uneven on paper. But if you excuse the two DNFs, Earnhardt has an average finish jumps to 11.33 since 2005 at Phoenix.

Kasey Kahne – [36th @ Subway Fresh Fit 500, 13th @ Checker Auto Parts 500]
I’m on hating Kahne this week because he has finished worse than he has started in each of his nine career starts at Phoenix.

Get the most out of low-rent fantasy drivers; C-List drivers in the Yahoo! game and/or drivers valued at $20.00 or less in most salary cap games.

Bobby Labonte – [12th @ Subway Fresh Fit 500, 19th @ Checker Auto Parts 500]
Readers of the C-List know I’ve been sour on Labonte thus far this season. Well this week is a good one start Labonte. Over the last three years (six starts), Labonte has finished 19th or better in five starts. What I like even better than the consistent results is the fact Labonte has overcome very poor starting position, an average of 30.8 in those five races.

AJ Allmendinger – [16th @ Checker Auto Parts 500]
In your back pocket should be Allmendinger, who qualified 13th and finished 16th in his only career start in the valley of the sun. Last month at Martinsville, another flat track, Allmendinger came away with a top-10 finish.”