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Thursday, September 11, 2008
Updated: September 12, 12:33 PM ET
Good, Bad and Ugly: Sylvania 300

By Mark Garrow
Jayski.com

Mark Garrow provides driver trends for Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.

* Driver needs to qualify for the race based on time.
# Driver is eligible for the champion's provisional.

AJ Allmendinger

• Allmendinger has two starts here with finishes of 33rd and 43rd, respectively. Started 10th in the race here earlier this season.
• He is a big question mark again this weekend because the Red Bull team's short track and flat track programs are not nearly as good as the one for the high-banked tracks. But with a Stock Car Challenge (SCC) value of 13.4, we'll have to dig out his story for our race-day chat.

Aric Almirola

• Almirola has one previous Cup Series start here, finishing 23rd in the race earlier this season after starting 39th.
• I'm not sure why Almirola has a SCC value of 15.0. That appears high to me. That said, DEI's short track and flat track programs are pretty solid. His teammate Martin Truex Jr. should run very strong, and being able to rely on him will help Almirola's performance. He has a chance to be a solid "budget" pick this weekend.

Greg Biffle

• He has 12 starts here with four top-10s, three top-5s and an average finish of 19.5. He finished 13th in this race last year and will be driving the same car he finished eighth with at Indy this year.
• I've ranked Biffle 14th, and with a SCC value of 21.0, I don't see him as a "buy" this weekend because this has never been one of his best tracks and Roush Fenway hasn't really ever set the world on fire here.

Dave Blaney

• Blaney has made 17 New Hampshire starts and finished as high as ninth (2006) and has scored one top-10 and five top-15s at Loudon. Blaney also started from the pole during the spring event last season.
• At 14.8 in SCC and given his recent strength at Loudon, you'll need to keep a close eye on Blaney and we'll certainly try to flush out his strength or weakness for the race-day chat.

Clint Bowyer

• Bowyer is the defending Sylvania 300 winner at New Hampshire after earning the pole, leading 222 laps and recording his first Cup victory last fall. He is driving the same car this weekend he won with last year.
• Bowyer is going to be a tough call this week. He's been inconsistent, but Richard Childress Racing's flat track program is really strong and Bowyer had a strong run at Phoenix. However, he finished 22nd here in June and for some crazy reason he's the fifth-highest-valued driver now. Unless you think he can win, spending 22.0 on him is going to be tough to do.

Jeff Burton

• In 27 Cup Series starts at Loudon, Burton boasts four wins, seven top-5s and 12 top-10s and has a 13.1 finishing average. He is driving the same car he drove to a 12th-place earlier this season.
• Burton is going to put up some solid stats in the Chase but he's ranked too high. His teammate, Kevin Harvick, is 11th-highest but has outrun Burton over the past month and a half and will be a better value Sunday.

Kurt Busch

• Busch has 15 starts here with six top-10s, five top-5s, three wins and an average finish of 16.1. He is the most recent winner here, having won the summer event. He finished 25th in this race last year.
• At 17.7 in SCC, Busch might turn out to be a decent midlevel pick this week. He's got the potential to finish ninth to 15th. He doesn't win like he did earlier this year. I'm a little worried, though, because of a 23rd-place finish at Phoenix and the fact he had five mediocre races at Loudon before winning in June.

Kyle Busch

• In seven starts here, Busch has three top-5s, a win and an average finish of 15.7. He finished fourth in this race last year.
• Busch is going to be very tough this weekend and he's my No. 2 pick for this race. He should challenge for the win. He's the highest-ranked driver. It might be time to grab him and ride the wave in the Chase. There might be a "wipeout" or two, but he's going to "hang ten" in victory lane again real soon.

*Patrick Carpentier

• Carpentier is driving the same car he won the pole with here earlier this season. He finished that race 31st.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

• In 18 Cup starts at Loudon, Junior has recorded four top-5s and seven top-10s. He is driving the same car he nearly won with at Richmond earlier this season.
• Junior is one of two drivers other than the big three of Busch, Edwards and Johnson who I believe can put together a run that could lead to a title. He finished seventh at Phoenix and ran way better than his 24th-place in June would indicate. I see Junior as a top-10 car this weekend with an outside shot at a top-5.

Carl Edwards

• Edwards' average finish at Loudon is 14.1. Despite that fact, only once in his previous eight starts has Edwards finished inside the top 10. He is driving the same car he finished 17th with here earlier this season.
• Again, this isn't a strong Roush track. I have him ranked eighth because I think he can find a way to the top 10, but I'd be surprised if he did much more than that. You might need to wait a week or two before you jump on the Edwards bandwagon to ride the rest of the way.

#Bill Elliott

• He has two top-5s and four top-10s in 21 Loudon starts. He is racing the same car he ran at Richmond last week.

David Gilliland

• Gilliland has an average finish of 32.8 at Loudon.
• At 15.6 in SCC, Gilliland needs to get a look-see this weekend because he finished 15th at Phoenix and has been running a little better lately.

Jeff Gordon

• In 27 starts, Gordon has three wins, 12 top-5s and 15 top-10s. In his past four Loudon races, Gordon has three top-3s with a worst finish of 11th, which occurred here in June. During that rain-shortened event, he was running fourth late in the race before a pit stop for fuel and Mother Nature ended his hopes of collecting another top-5.
• Gordon at 20.7 for SCC has a pretty attractive value for a driver with his kind of record at Loudon. He might be someone you pick up this week and have to dump pretty quickly. I've ranked him 10th because this team isn't consistent.

*Robby Gordon

• Gordon has 17 starts here with three top-10s, two top-5s, a win and an average finish of 21.5. He finished 31st in this race last year.
• This has been a pretty good track for Robby in the past and he could score a top-20, which would be pretty good for a driver valued at 14.6 in SCC.

Denny Hamlin

• Hamlin has five starts here with four top-10s, two top-5s, a win and an average finish of 6.8. He's driving the same car he finished eighth with here earlier this year.
• I like Denny Hamlin a lot this weekend. He's very good at this track and has three straight third-place finishes. I think he challenges for the win and certainly a top-5. He is the fifth-highest valued driver right now so he'll have some decent room to grow.

Kevin Harvick

• In 15 races at Loudon, Harvick has earned one win, three top-5s and eight top-10s. Additionally, he has a 12.7 finishing average. He is driving the same car he finished seventh with last weekend at Richmond.
• Harvick is a good value pick right now in my opinion. His SCC value is 20.4 and he's rolling with six straight top-10s. I predict this team will turn it up a notch in the Chase. I believe he could be a top "buy" this weekend.

Sam Hornish Jr.

• Hornish will make his second Loudon start Sunday. Earlier this season, Hornish started 20th and finished 39th.

Jimmie Johnson

• Johnson has made 13 starts at Loudon, posting two wins, three top-5s and eight top-10s. His average finish is 10.5. He's driving the same car he drove to wins at Martinsville and Phoenix last fall.
• The sleeping giant has been awakened. My prerace rankings have him tops because it would be no surprise for him to post his third straight victory. Johnson has found his groove, and it will be very tough not to put him on your team. Even though Kyle Busch will be strong, I would argue Johnson will put up some big numbers and with less risk.

Kasey Kahne

• In nine Loudon starts, Kahne has one top-5 and four top-10s. His best finish (fourth) came in his second start when he started 12th and led 31 laps.
• I'm not giving Kahne a lot of love this week, ranking him 22nd. They've been floundering and he hasn't done much at Loudon lately.

Matt Kenseth

• In 17 starts at Loudon, Kenseth has five top-5s, 11 top-10s and 12 top-15s.
• Again, it's not a strong Roush track so don't expect a lot this week. He could surprise me, though, because he has top-10s in three of the past four and had three straight top-10s prior to disaster at Richmond.

Travis Kvapil

• Kvapil has an average finish of 33.2 at Loudon. His best finish is 27th, which he has accomplished twice.

Bobby Labonte

• In 27 starts here, Labonte has 10 top-10s, five top-5s and an average finish of 15.3. He finished 22nd in this race last year.
• He finished 10th at Loudon earlier this year -- a gift -- and since then the bottom has fallen out with only two top-20s.

*Joey Logano

• Logano is making his first Cup start this weekend. He has 12 Nationwide starts with nine top-10s, three top-5s and a win.


• His SCC value of 14.7 could be attractive this weekend, as well as the fact he'll be driving a Joe Gibbs Toyota. He'll have to be a little conservative not to make anybody mad in his maiden voyage, but with his skill and the kind of equipment that he'll be driving he might have a chance to finish in the top 20.

*Chad McCumbee

• McCumbee is making his first Cup start filling in for Kyle Petty.

*Michael McDowell

• McDowell has one Cup start here, finishing 42nd earlier this season.
• After sitting out three races, McDowell came back with a 20th at Richmond. With a 13.0 SCC value, that would be a nice payoff if he could back that up.

Jamie McMurray

• In 11 Loudon starts, McMurray has one top-5 and three top-10s. Each season he has improved his position in the fall race over the summer race. His average summer finish is 29.5 and his average fall finish is 13.4.
• McMurray is a tough guy to figure out. He goes on a run with five pretty strong races in a row and then runs poorly at Bristol and Richmond. I think his SCC value of 18.0 makes him too expensive with that kind of inconsistency.

Casey Mears

• Mears has recorded back-to-back top-10 finishes in his past two starts at Loudon. Mears led 53 laps and scored his best Loudon finish (seventh) in June after a fuel-mileage gamble. He is driving the same car that finished in the top 10 at Richmond.
• At 16.2 for SCC, Mears could the top budget pick. I feel pretty confident he can at least be a top-15 car, which would be a great outcome at a great price.

Paul Menard

• Menard has three starts here with an average finish of 30.7.

Juan Pablo Montoya

• Montoya has three starts here with an average finish of 24.7. He finished 23rd in this race last year.
• You need to stay away from JPM. There's several cheaper drivers who will perform better this week and beyond.

*Joe Nemechek

• Nemechek has 27 starts here with five top-10s, three top-5s, a win and an average finish of 24.6.

Ryan Newman

• Newman has two wins, five top-5s and nine top-10s in 13 Loudon starts. He is driving the same car he drove to a 10th at Fontana.
• I have Newman ranked 13th because I think he has a shot to run in the top 10 and don't see him any worse than 15th. His 18.9 SCC value is pretty attractive, too.

David Ragan

• Ragan has visited Loudon three times. His best finish was 15th in the spring race of 2007. He's driving the same car he finished 11th with at Martinsville.
• Take a pass on Ragan this week. This isn't one of his best tracks and you can find better value.

*Tony Raines

• Raines has six starts here with an average finish of 25.8.

David Reutimann

• Over the past four races, Reutimann has averaged a 14th-place finish.
• At 15.9 for SCC, he's another candidate for the top budget pick this week. He had a strong performance at Richmond and I think that will translate to Loudon. I rank him 18th and he has potential to run top-15 at a great price.

Scott Riggs

• Riggs has eight starts here with one top-10 and an average finish of 28.1. He finished 32nd in this event last year.

Elliott Sadler

• In 19 previous starts, Sadler has earned five top-10s and one top-5. He's racing the same car he drove to a fifth-place finish here earlier this season.
• His fifth was a bit lucky this year, but he could still run top-15 this time. With a 16.8 SCC value, he might be attractive, but he's also had three straight disappointing runs.

*Johnny Sauter

• Sauter has five starts here with an average finish of 26.8.

Regan Smith

• Smith has three previous Cup Series starts here with an average finish of 31.7.

Reed Sorenson

• His average finishing position is 17th at Loudon.
• I give Sorenson a little love this week because he's only had one bad finish in five starts at this track and his SCC value is 15.1.

Tony Stewart

• Stewart has 19 starts here with 11 top-10s, 10 top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 12.8. He finished third in this event last year.
• I have Tony ranked fourth and like his SCC value of 21.3. He's closing in on getting that first win of the season and I think he makes a serious run Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr.

• Truex has an average finish of 10th at Loudon with three top-5s.
• I love this guy this week. He feels like a lock for a top-10 or better and has a very attractive SCC value at 18.6.

Brian Vickers

• In eight starts here, Vickers has a top-5 and an average finish of 20.1. He finished 43rd in this race last year.
• Like I said with Allmendinger, Red Bull doesn't really have a very strong flat track program. His SCC price is too high for what you'll get this weekend.

Michael Waltrip

• Waltrip has made 25 starts at Loudon and has one top-5 and five top-10s. That top-5 came in June when he finished second.
• Waltrip's runner-up run was a fluke. His second-best finish this year was 19th and his average 2008 finish is 29.2.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.