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Thursday, May 29, 2008
SCC Preview: Best Buy 400

By Scott Engel
ESPN.com

The second segment of the Stock Car Challenge is now under way, and after one race, your group standings may not be quite what you expected just yet. Kasey Kahne won at Lowe's Motor Speedway last week, and he hasn't been the optimum choice this season because of his overall inconsistency. It is highly likely that many teams in your group didn't gamble on Kahne last week, and drivers such as Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers, tabbed as top picks, ran into bad luck.

Many savvy SCC players are leaning on Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards in the second segment and are hoping for a win from one of them this week, even after both drivers finished well at Lowe's. The difference in your group standings ultimately will be determined by the drivers you surround those two guys with, and some luck. As we saw with several drivers last week, anyone can wreck or blow an engine or suffer through tire troubles at any time, so you have to be fortunate in addition to being well-informed.

This week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to another challenging site. Dover is known for its high-banked, 1-mile surface that has been likened to 400 laps of racing in a "concrete cereal bowl." This event is considered one of the toughest on the circuit and comes fresh on the heels of the longest race of the year, the 600-miler at Lowe's. It's another daunting task and an endurance test, so you simply have make the most well-informed choices possible, then hope for good luck.

Victory lane special

Carl Edwards (Value: $23.1 million): He is one of the two guys who should be anchoring your squad during this second segment, he's due to push for his fourth win of the season, and Edwards has a good history in the Cup series at Dover. He has finished in the top three in each of his past three races at the site and won the second event there in 2007. Edwards has four top-10 finishes at Dover in seven career starts and an average finish of 9.1. He has led for a total of 134 laps in his past three Dover races. In his past six races at the site, Edwards has 158 of the fastest laps run, which ranks fifth among all current drivers. He also ranks fourth with 144 quality passes. NASCAR defines quality passes as passes of cars in the top 15 while under green-flag conditions.

Prime picks

Kyle Busch (24.0): He is the highest-priced driver in the game, but he is well worth it and should be the cornerstone of your SCC team. Busch is capable of winning every week in his illustrious first season at Joe Gibbs Racing. He is a great bet to finish strong again at Dover, where he has four top-5 finishes in six career starts, including a pair of second-place showings in 2005. Busch finished fifth in the second Dover race of 2007. In the past six races at Dover, he has an average green-flag speed of 141.925 mph, which ranks third among all current drivers. His 137 quality passes and 243 green-flag passes are sixth-best in the field, as is his 1,659 laps in the top 15 (a percentage of 69.0).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (23.3): His long-awaited first win of 2008 doesn't appear too far off. He had a dominant car at Lowe's, and Earnhardt may have very well won last week if he didn't end up in the wall and in the pits when it seemed he was about to finally thrill his fans and fantasy owners. He led for 76 laps at Lowe's and has led laps in each of the past seven races, so it's just a matter of finishing strong. Earnhardt has seven top-10 finishes in 14 career starts at Dover and finished third in the second race there in 2007. At the very least, he has an excellent chance of delivering his sixth top-5 finish of the season.

Greg Biffle (21.4): He finished second at Lowe's and should be primed for a strong run at one of his best tracks. Biffle won the second race at Dover in 2005 and has finished eighth or better in his past four races at the site. He finished second in the fall Dover race of 2007 and has six top-10 finishes in 11 starts there. In his past six races at Dover, Biffle leads all drivers in average running position (7.0) and laps in the top 15 (2,251, or 93.6 percent). He also ranks second during that span in fastest laps run (190), average green-flag speed (142.601) and quality passes (180).

Secondary standouts

Martin Truex Jr. (18.9): Truex, a native of Mayetta, N.J., considers Dover his "home track" and it was an obvious thrill for him to score his first-ever career victory in the first race of 2007 there. He has finished sixth, first and 13th in his past three races at the site. Truex led for 216 laps in his win at the site last season. Truex has four career starts at Dover, and among drivers who have been entered in any of the past six races there, his average of 28.3 quality passes per race ranks fourth. Truex has been a disappointment so far this season, but like Kahne did at Lowe's, he can "rise up" for a week at one of his best tracks.

Mark Martin (17.8): He's on the entry list again this week, so he should be locked into your lineup. Martin remains the ultimate bargain in the SCC. Martin has an average finish of 14.0 this season. He has finished ninth or better in seven of his past eight Dover races and finished seventh and fourth at the site in 2007. In the past six Dover events, Martin ranks third in the current field in fastest laps run (174) and laps in the top 15 (2,062, or 85.8 percent). He ranks fourth in average running position (8.4) and average green-flag speed (141.907) during that span.

Robby Gordon (14.5): He has an average finish of 27.3 this season and has not been a good fantasy choice overall, but Gordon has looked respectable at Dover recently. He also allows you additional flexibility in the third and fourth spots in your SCC lineup. Gordon finished 10th in the first race at Dover in 2007, and then finished 19th in the second event of the season there. Either type of showing will do just fine for the price this week.

Pit points

Matt Kenseth (18.5) leads all drivers in quality passes (186) and fastest laps run (222) in the past six Dover events. … Clint Bowyer (22.4) has an average finish of 11.3 at Dover. … Ryan Newman swept at Dover in 2003. … Denny Hamlin (22.9) has two top-10 finishes in four Dover starts. … Kasey Kahne (19.9) has one top-10 finish in eight Dover starts. … Juan Pablo Montoya (18.7) finished 10th in his second career start at Dover in 2007.

The Engel five

Kyle Busch (Locked at 23.8): Simply the best. Apologies if the Tina Turner song now gets stuck in your head.

Carl Edwards (Locked at 23.0): I'm waiting for a strong run of top-5 finishes, and I will get it soon.

Martin Truex Jr.: Calling it "home-track advantage," even though Delaware is not part of New Jersey. When are they going to build a track closer to New York City? I love Champion's Week in November, but we want a real Cup event. Well, I do.

Mark Martin (Locked at 17.6): I would personally love to see him win, for reasons other than my fantasy outlook, too.

Robby Gordon: I have a feeling he'll either push for a top-15 spot or end up in the garage. I'll take the gamble.

Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.