Looped In


NASCAR Fantasy Live: Who to pick at Sonoma Raceway

June 19, 2014, Mike Forde, NASCAR.com

Few NASCAR Fantasy Live locks come along like Gordon at Sonoma -- chose wisely

Related: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live: Win $5,000

Hendrick Motorsports has won five consecutive races, inching toward the Modern Era record for consecutive team wins it set back in 2007. That year, during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson combined for six consecutive Hendrick wins, the most since Richard Petty won 10 straight all by himself for Petty Enterprises. The record -- for the record -- is 16 by Carl Kiekhaefer, in 1956.

Hendrick’s wins have not been all that surprising, coming at race tracks where it has traditionally been successful -- Kansas, Charlotte, Dover, Pocono and, to a lesser extent, Michigan.

This weekend poses the biggest test yet. Statistically speaking, the streak rests squarely upon Gordon. A nine-time road-course winner, he’s the undisputed king of the road course. The other three Hendrick drivers combine for just two wins (and an average finish of 18.5).

Top Picks

Jeff Gordon, $27.75: Of the "top shelf" drivers -- those costing $27.00 or more -- Gordon’s the only comfortable option. Slide him into your lineup, and feel secure in at least one top 10 lock -- he enters the weekend with eight consecutive top 10s at Sonoma, the longest streak in the series. Two of the last three races were runner-up finishes.

Marcos Ambrose, $21.25: Only at a road course would a $21 driver be the best bet. But here we are. Since his 42nd-place run in his Sonoma debut in 2008, Ambrose has averaged a finish of 5.8. He turned fastest laps run in every one of his Sonoma starts -- a vitally important stat this weekend. With only a scheduled 110 laps, bonus points are at a premium.

Sleepers

Kurt Busch, $23.50: Only Busch and Clint Bowyer enter this race with three consecutive Sonoma finishes in the top five. We like Busch a tad better, and here’s why: He pulled off the difficult feat with three different teams -- Penske, Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row Racing. In each of those races, he scored a driver rating over 107 and tallied fastest laps run. There’s no reason to believe he won’t do the same -- and more -- with a fourth different team, Stewart Haas Racing.

AJ Allmendinger, $17.75: Allmendinger’s Sonoma stats are so-so (two top 10s in five starts). But it’s hard to ignore what he accomplished in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last year. Two starts, both on road courses, both ending in victory -- at Road America and Mid-Ohio. He’s a legit road course talent, and at this price, a near must-start.

Stay Away

Dale Earnhardt Jr., $27.25: Whereas drivers such as Marcos Ambrose relish the opportunity to race at a road course, Earnhardt seemingly loathes it. His worst two tracks, in terms of average finish: Sonoma (21.5) and Watkins Glen (23.2). His worst two tracks, in terms of driver rating: Watkins Glen (73.4) and Sonoma (61.5). In 14 starts at Sonoma, Earnhardt has yet to finish in the top 10 and has led only nine career laps.

Mike Forde is the senior manager of content communications for NASCAR's Integrated Marketing Communications department. He is also known as "Loop Dogg" for his weekly loop data-based fantasy advice on SiriusXM NASCAR and SiriusXMFantasy.