L2H (Love Like Hate): Shelby 427

“Before heading to Atlanta, the NASCAR Cup series will remain on the West Coast for one more week to run the Shelby 427. The race will be held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a 1.5 mile tri-oval that features steep banking.

Last season, this race was won by Carl Edwards which broke a streak of three victories by Jimmie Johnson. But all eyes will be on Matt Kenseth, the driver who won this event the two years previous to Johnson.

Matt Kenseth – (last season: 20th, 2007: fourth)
Kenseth has started his impressive season with back-to-back checkered flags but a third would make history. Allocation owners should ride the hot streak and assume Kenseth’s lovefest at Las Vegas will earn him at least a top-five. Among drivers with five or more starts, Kenseth has the best average finish, ninth place.

Last season ended a five year streak of top-eight finishes in Las Vegas for Kenseth. That run of success was started with consecutive victories in 2003 and 2004. He leads all drivers in laps led by a wide margin. In nine starts, he has led 179 more laps than Mark Martin, who has 11 starts.

Mark Martin – (last season: 10th, 2007: fifth)
In the first two races of this season, Martin has lost an average of 18 spots per race. Las Vegas is a great place for Martin, who won the first Cup race held here, to get back on track. Martin has the most top-10s among all drivers with nine. Martin is not a flashy start but he’s been very solid here. I like his chances for a strong finish.

Kasey Kahne – (last season: sixth, 2007: 35th)
Kahne has lost an average of 12 spots per race thus far, but is another rebound candidate in Vegas. In formats like Yahoo, where points are awarded to the top starting positions, Kahne should be on your provisional roster. In addition to winning two poles here, he has complied two top-fives and three top-10s through five starts. I really like Kahne’s record of strong qualifying runs but using him on race day with hinge upon what row he starts in.

Clint Bowyer – (last season: 28th, 2007: 36th)
Among the A-List drivers in the Yahoo! game, Bowyer is clearly the worst option this week. In three Vegas starts, Bowyer has finished 15th, 36th and 28th. Count me among the haters this week.

L2H Results last week @ Auto Club 500:

Love: Jimmie Johnson (ninth) Great start but failed to make the right adjustments to remain a front-runner
Likes: David Ragan (17th), Kasey Kahne (12th) Ragan lost a few spots, had issues with overheating and got into the wall. Kahne gained 10 spots but was otherwise pretty quiet.
Hates: Jamie McMurray (16th) Had excellent starting position but lost 13 spots, a trend he’s had at this track.

L2H 2009 Season Tally:

Love/Like average finish: 14.5
Hate average finish: 26