NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best fantasy values of 2018

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The All-Star Race comes at the one-third mark of the season and affords the opportunity to take stock in who has been a good fantasy NASCAR value so far in 2018.

Kevin Harvick (with five wins and an average finish of 7.8) and Kyle Busch (three wins and an average of 8.5) have dominated the first 12 races like few have done in recent memory, but that does not make them good fantasy values. It is impossible to make up any ground on the competition when everyone has the same two drivers on the roster.

Their domination and popularity among fantasy players puts a premium on the other three active drivers as well as the garage pick.

Players also want to look at trends. Read the articles at Rotoworld.com, particularly the weekly Power Rankings and Cheat Sheets.

When setting the roster for the NASCAR America Fantasy Live game, click on the stats tab in the game’s navigation bar. There is sortable data that provides a wealth of information, such as the three-week average fantasy points earned by each driver.

The fantasy points, as reported on the stats tab, include points for the Gatorade Duels in Daytona and do not subtract any points lost to penalties during the year, but they are still highly reflective of a driver’s strength to this stage of the season.

1. Joey Logano (average finish in 2018: 6.91; stage points: 117)
Logano actually has a better average finish so far this year than either Harvick or Busch and is within striking distance of them in terms of fantasy points earned through the first 12 races (plus his Daytona Duel). Harvick leads with 553. Busch is second with 534, but Logano has earned 529 points on the strength of his average finish and 117 stage points. He has scored 10 top-10 finishes and a 13th so far this year.

2. Clint Bowyer (average finish in 2018: 10.67; stage points: 79)
Once one is past the top three drivers in terms of fantasy points, the difference becomes notable. Bowyer has scored 426 fantasy points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game because he has not been as productive in terms of stage points. He is also trending down with 31.3 points per game in the past three weeks, which is tied for only eighth best.

3. Kurt Busch (average finish in 2018: 13.25; stage points: 102)
Busch got off to a rocky start in 2018. His 26th-place finish in the Daytona 500 came after an accident on lap 198. He crashed two weeks later at Atlanta to finish 35th. His next six races featured only two top 10s. But in that span, he also had three more top 15s and that was enough to keep him fantasy relevant. In the last three races, he swept the top 10.

4. Brad Keselowski (average finish in 2018: 15.50; stage points: 138)
Keselowski actually has earned a few more fantasy points than Bowyer or Kurt Busch, but his tendency to fall back in the second half of the race has cost fantasy players. Much of Keselowski’s woes can be traced to a four-race period from Texas Motor Speedway through Talladega Superspeedway when he crashed three times. If he can stay out of trouble, he will rival his teammate Logano.

5. Denny Hamlin (average finish in 2018: 10.25; stage points: 57)
Because of a rash of penalties, Hamlin has struggled enough in the early stage of races that he was a recent topic of conversation on NASCAR America. His 57 stage points is the least among any other driver in this week’s top 10, but he has at least been able to overcome at the end of races to minimize that damage.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (average finish in 2018: 12.50; stage points: 77)
With only 412 fantasy points banked, it would be easy to say that Truex has been a bit of a disappointment this year, but that is not strictly true. Champions often have slumps after winning the Cup and Truex suffered through a four-race streak from Texas to Talladega without a single top 10. Seven of his 12 races this year have ended in top-five finishes, however, so he is only an adjustment or two away from challenging the No. 4 and 18.

7. Kyle Larson (average finish in 2018: 13.83; stage points: 74)
One thing fantasy players look for is consistency. Having a historically strong driver on the roster when he wrecks, like Larson did at Texas earlier this year, or when he simply fades is not helpful. For that reason, streaks are important. Unfortunately, Larson has managed to back up one top 10 with another only three times so far this year and has not yet had a three-race string.

8. Aric Almirola (average finish in 2018: 12.42; stage points: 47)
Ranked eighth on the list, Almirola might be even more valuable because he is still flying under the radar. He has been strong, but as the fourth-most productive driver in a four-car team it can be easy to overlook him. The biggest factor Almirola has in his favor is consistency. In 12 races this year, he has finished outside the top 15 only twice and one of those was a 17th at Richmond Raceway.

9. Ryan Blaney (average finish in 2018: 14.67; stage points: 86)
Last week’s late-race crash at Kansas Speedway was frustrating. Since the NASCAR Fantasy Live game allows players to change a driver before the end of stage two, one prefers any problems to come early. That has not typically been the case with Blaney as can be evidenced by the fact that nearly 23 percent of his 374 points have come at the end of stages while his average finish of 14.67 is the second-worst among this week’s top 10.

10. Chase Elliott (average finish in 2018: 14.50; stage points: 31)
Elliott is a victim of his popularity. Everyone keeps expecting him to win so he keeps popping up on rosters. The unfortunate fact is that he has been hampered by whatever problem the new Chevrolets are facing. So long as players keep their expectations in check, Elliott’s eight top-12 finishes this year have been enough to make him fantasy relevant, but no one wants to build a roster around the No. 9. Use him as a frequent garage pick.

Stage Winners
Picking stage winners has been challenging. Harvick has dominated the first stage with four victories, followed by Keselowski with two. No one else has more than one. Stage two has been just as mercurial. Harvick and Keselowski are joined by Blaney with two.

Stage Points
Stage points are a good way to determine who has potential even if their average finish is less than optimal. Jimmie Johnson has not had the season anyone expected with only five top 10s in the first 12 races, but he has managed to earn stage points on 10 occasions for a total of 39.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has is another driver to watch. With Matt Kenseth joining Roush Fenway Racing, expectations are high that its performance will rise. Stenhouse has earned 33 stage points by being up front seven times. Now he needs to figure out how to close the deal.

Erik Jones has also earned segment points on seven occasions this year. Sophomores often have erratic results, but Jones is a solid value as a garage pick.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

Kyle Busch, Bubba Wallace involved in multicar wreck on Lap 2 at Bristol

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – A 15-car wreck occurred on Lap 2 of Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, eliminating Bubba Wallace, AJ Allmendinger, Michael McDowell and Gray Gaulding.

The wreck also involved Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Jesse Little, Martin Truex Jr., Ty Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, and JJ Yeley. Martin Truex Jr. narrowly avoided clipping Busch’s car.

The wreck started when Busch spun in Turn 4 and stopped just past the entrance to the frontstretch.

McDowell then plowed into the back of Busch’s car, and Little rammed the left side. Busch was able to continue two laps down after making repairs.

“It just felt like an ARCA wreck,” Wallace said. “I hit the No. 47 (AJ Allmendinger) before my spotter called it I had run into the back of the No. 47, but then I got checked-up enough to pull down out line and just kept getting shoved into cars.  It’s unfortunate.  I was super excited to run tonight and see how we stacked up, but fate had other plans.”

Check back for more.

Songs from driver introductions for the Bristol Night Race

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It’s that time again.

With NASCAR’s summer return to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, that means another round of driver introductions with a special soundtrack.

Below are the songs drivers were introduced to before tonight’s Cup race.

Some of these songs are being reused from April when the songs were voted on by fans.

1.       Kyle Larson                       “Dirt Road Anthem” by Jason Aldean

2.       Chase Elliott                     “A Crazy Racin’ Man” by Bill Elliott

3.       Kyle Busch                        “All I Do is WIN” by DJ Khaled

4.       Paul Menard                    “R.O.C.K. in the USA” by John Mellencamp

5.       William Byron                  “Fan the Flames” by Liberty University

6.       Kevin Harvick                   “Happy” by Pharrell

7.       Denny Hamlin                 “Forever” by Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne & Eminem

8.       Aric Almirola                    “Miami Vice”

9.       Kurt Busch                      “Outlaw State of Mind” by Chris Stapleton

10.   Ryan Blaney                     “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash

11.   Brad Keselowski              “Little Deuce Coupe” by The Beach Boys

12.   Ricky Stenhouse Jr.         “People Back Home” by Florida Georgia Line

13.   Jimmie Johnson              “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes

14.   Erik Jones                         “You Ain’t Seen Nothin Yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive

15.   David Ragan                     “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band

16.   Clint Bowyer                    “Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr.                             

17.   Martin Truex Jr.              “Reason to Drink” by Cole Swindell

18.   Austin Dillon                    “Cowboy” by Kid Rock

19.   Joey Logano                     “Brass Monkey” by The Beastie Boys

20.   Jamie McMurray             “One” by Metallica

21.   Daniel Suarez                  “Speedy Gonzales” by Pat Boone

22.   Alex Bowman                  “Rise” by I Prevail

23.   Trevor Bayne                   “Rocky Top” by the Pride of the Southland Marching Band

24.   Ryan Newman                 “Huntin, Fishin & Lovin Every Day” by Luke Bryan

25.   AJ Allmendinger              “I’m Alright” by Kenny Logins

26.   Kasey Kahne                    “5-1-5-0” by Dierks Bentley

27.   Bubba Wallace                “Into The Fire” by Asking Alexandria

28.   Chris Buescher                “Pork and Beans” by Weezer

29.   Matt DiBenedetto           “Rocky Theme Song”

30.   Corey LaJoie                     “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

31.   Michael McDowell          “Taking it to the Streets”, by The Doobie Brothers

32.   Ty Dillon                           “Walk it Like I Talk It” by Migos

33.   Jesse Little                        “John Deere Green” by Joe Diffie

34.   JJ Yeley                              “Warrior” by Imagine Dragons

35.   Ross Chastain                  “Watermelon Crawl” by Tracy Byrd

36.   Reed Sorenson                “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix

37.   Timmy Hill                        “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osborne

38.   Gray Gaulding                 “Makes Me Wonder” by Maroon 5

39.   Landon Cassill                 “Going to Mars” by Judah and the Lion

40.   Blake Jones                      “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle

Austin Dillon’s car fails pre-race inspection, will start from rear

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Bristol, Tenn. — Austin Dillon‘s No. 3 Chevrolet failed pre-race inspection three times Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Dillon will start from the rear and his car chief, Greg Ebert, has been ejected from the event.

Dillon had qualified 18th.

Dillon will have to serve a 30-minute practice hold in two weeks at Darlington Raceway.

Kyle Larson seeks turnaround at ‘by far my favorite racetrack’

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – With his team in a mini-slump in midsummer, Kyle Larson is back in his happy place, and the Chip Ganassi Racing driver wouldn’t mind returning more often.

“I love racing here,” Larson said Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I wish we could race here weekly. I think our sport would be in a good spot if we could.

“I didn’t watch a ton of NASCAR growing up, but I’d never miss a Bristol race. If you were to ask me what Bristol race stands out, I couldn’t tell you. I just loved watching Bristol. It was always a lot of fun. Ever since they added the progressive banking, it’s been a lot better, too, as far as style of racing goes. It’s by far my favorite NASCAR track.”

The love of Bristol grew only stronger Friday night as he won the Food City 300 and scored his first victory in 18 Cup and Xfinity starts at the 0.533-mile oval.

Larson will be trying for his first win in NASCAR’s premier series at the track – and his first in Cup this season – while starting from the pole position in tonight’s race.

A victory would be a welcome result for Larson’s team, which is virtually locked into the playoffs but has only two top 10s in six races since his memorable runner-up finish to Kyle Busch at Chicagoland Speedway.

While Chevrolet teams Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing seem to have gotten faster in recent weeks, Larson’s No. 42 Camaro seems to have tailed off slightly after easily being the best Chevy in the first half of the season.

“I don’t know where we might be off,” he said. “Nobody really honestly knows where other teams have gotten speed from, so we’re working on all areas, really, I’m pretty sure, to try and get faster. We have moments where we’re really fast, but I would say we’re just a little inconsistent from track to track.

“You look at last year, we were good everywhere. This year, we’re good at our good tracks. Not as good at the tracks that we have struggled at years prior.”

But what about starting and finishing 17th last Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, where he won three consecutive races from 2016-17?

A loose wheel after his first pit stop mired Larson in traffic and out of sequence, and then contact on a restart hampered into using an older set of tires for the last run of the race.

“It just snowballed into a bad run where I felt like we were going to have a shot to run top 3 or 5, but it just doesn’t show for it, and other people look at it as we just ran bad all day,” he said. “If you look at lap times, we were running some of the fastest laps of the race, just buried in traffic. I feel like we’re not that bad. We just had a little bit of a bad luck that cost us finishes we deserved the last few weeks.”

The urgency to maximize his speed stems more from being well positioned in the playoffs than making the 16-driver field. Larson is one of three provisionally qualified who have no playoff points yet.

“That part is a little frustrating,” he said. “It makes you more nervous when it comes to the playoffs, but the good thing is there’s been three guys taking up all the playoff points, so the other ones don’t have a whole lot, either, but every point matters.

“You look at it as you need to win some stages and win a race, but I also view Bristol as being my best opportunity to get some playoff points. I feel like we can win both stages and win the race. Not easily but this is our best shot. That five to seven points would be huge.”

And after getting bumped from the lead by race winner Kyle Busch at Bristol in April, Larson has earned some leeway in playing rough – not that he plans to use it.

He prefers the “options” afforded by the 2007 addition of progressive banking (which was retrofitted in 2012 in a manner that often makes the top groove the fastest).

“If there was progressive banking 20 years ago, the racing would have been a lot better back then,” he said. “I’m not a fan of the bump and run. I’m just a fan of Bristol.

“I’d much rather see two to three wide racing at Bristol than single file. I think the racing is really good, and that’s why I love coming here to race.”