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Laboring Into Atlanta

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Kasey Kahne's best chance at the Chase would be another win at Atlanta. Photo: Getty Images (2006)

As one of our sister tracks (or is it brother?  I'm never quite sure how that works), there are probably plenty of good things to say about Atlanta Motor Speedway.

There are storylines about how they sadly got one of their race weekend's taken away, but a Labor Day night race might be one of the most appealing of any to host.

And, that brings us to this week's topic: Labor Day.

Labor Day is a universally agreed upon (in the United States at least) to not work.  Which, of course, poses the question of which corporate pinhead thought up the oxymoron of labeling a day with no work as "Labor" Day.

Well, it's a good thing you keep checking out The Granite Stripe, because we've got the answer!

Based on my extensive (three minutes) of research on Wikipedia, which is about as reliable of a source as your grandfather recalling his days in World War II, Labor Day was first observed in 1882 by a New York union and became a federal holiday in 1894.

The federal holiday came about after the violent Pullman Strike in the summer of 1894, which was started by railroad workers who were underpaid and overworked by the Pullman Palace Car Company.  Based on President Grover Cleveland's request, the U.S. military intervened when the strike got out of control, but it only angered the groups and 13 workers ended up getting killed.

Cleveland's reconciliation with the group was to immediately push through the proposal of Labor Day.  Congress passed it within six days and it's been a federal holiday for well over a century.

You don't have to consider that this weekend.  All you need to consider is who is going to do well in this weekend's AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, while you post up on the couch for the Sunday night race (because you aren't laboring on Monday).  Here's this week's fantasy NASCAR outlook.

*In case you're new to this segment, check out my first fantasy post on how the system works.

Strategy: Atlanta is a cookie-cutter track, meaning it is very similar to the standard race track.  At 1.54-miles, it defines the intermediate size and it's 24 degrees of banking in its gradual turns make for a quick race track.  This is one of those tracks where the best drivers usually finish consistently well.  You can scroll back through the last ten years and not find one winner that surprises you.  Stick with what works this weekend!

A-List

Start

#24 Jeff Gordon - It just came down through the NASCAR wire today that Gordon has in fact clinched a Chase spot; not that there was ever any doubt that he would.  He's won four times at Atlanta and posted 23 top-10s in 37 starts.  His 100.6 driver rating is fourth, but Tony Stewart (102.3) and Carl Edwards (101.2) hold slim leads on that.

#48 Jimmie Johnson - Johnson's 110.1 driver rating at Atlanta blows away the field of two, three and four that I just listed.  He's won three times and averages a finish of 10.4.  This is a good week to use Jimmie!

#99 Carl Edwards - As mentioned, he has the third best driver rating here.  He has three wins and nine top-10s in 13 starts.  Two DNFs mean that he's only twice crossed the finish line outside of the top-10.

Park

#22 Kurt Busch - Busch has three wins at Atlanta, so you'd initially want to consider him.  Dig a little deeper, however, and you see he's only recorded eight top-10s in 20 starts and has an average finish of 18.1.  The A-list is too good to risk a start on an inconsistent finisher.

B-List

Start

#2 Brad Keselowski - He wrecked out at 36th in last spring's Atlanta race and finished running in 25th last fall in his only two starts.  Does that small sample size have any bearing in comparison to the way he's raced lately!?  No, not at all.  He's won two of the last four races and finished second and third in the other two.  Start him every week until he cools off!

#4 Kasey Kahne - Kahne's won here twice and has eight top-10s in 14 starts.  However, he hasn't done better than 28th in the other six, so he's a big boom-or-bust candidate.  It bears noting that his only real shot at the wild card would be to win and jump over Denny Hamlin in the next two races.  Hamlin currently leads him by only 16 points, so you have to assume it will surely be a boom-or-bust weekend for the No. 4 team.

#39 Ryan Newman - Here's the disclaimer: Newman has just six top-10s in 18 starts and his 72.9 driver rating is by far the worst among the current top-10.  That said, he's claimed a whopping seven poles, so I'm recommending rostering him for the bonus points and keeping him securely on the bench despite temptation to start.

#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Junior is the best option on the B-List with the list's best driver rating of 96.9.  He has a win and an average finish of 12.5 at Atlanta.  He hasn't finished inside the top-10 in the last five races, but he also hasn't been as good the past few seasons as he has this year.

Park

#20 Joey Logano - Logano's leveled off after a terrible start and a hot midseason.  He's not awful, but he's just kind of plodding along at this point as an also-ran in the standings.  He hasn't done well at Atlanta with an average finish of 28.5 and a career best of 22nd.  He can be skipped.

#39 Ryan Newman - See the disclaimer above.  He qualifies well but rarely finishes well, so I'll repeat: roster him but do not start him.

C-List

Start

#27 Paul Menard - Menard has the best stats in the C-List at Atlanta.  So, in the constant debate of starting him or fellow C-List "stud" (to use word liberally) David Ragan, Menard gets this week's slice of pie.

#47 Bobby Labonte - As I mention on a regular basis, the rule that you can only start a guy nine times a season plays a big role in game planning the C-List.  Labonte might never be the best option, but you have to scrounge about six starts out of him when you can.  Six of his 21 career wins have come at Atlanta, and while those are days gone by, this would be a good week to give him a go.

Park

#6 David Ragan - He has an average finish of 25.6 at Atlanta and just one top-10 (an eighth in 2008) in eight starts.  There will be better times to start him.

My Preliminary Roster

A - JOHNSON (5), Edwards (4)

B - KAHNE (3), KESELOWSKI (8), Allmendinger (8), Newman (3)

C - LABONTE (6), Menard (4)

*Number in parenthesis are allocations remaining.

-JS