NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 best at Michigan in last three years

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With wide grooves in the corners, Michigan International Speedway is a track on which drivers can often stay out of trouble. As a result, they are capable of stringing together long streaks of top 10s. Last year, five drivers swept the top 10 in Michigan’s two races – and what makes that even more impressive is that three of them also had sweeps in 2016.

Kyle Larson’s three wins and a third in the last two years put him at the top. But Chase Elliott’s three runner-up finishes and an eighth makes him almost as impressive. Both of them have found some magic at the track. Jamie McMurray is the other driver with a four-race, top-10 streak, but only one of these was a top five.

This is a track on which past records means a lot. Seven of the 10 drivers profiled below have three-year averages of better than 10th, so there are plenty of solid options for this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster.

1. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 3.50 in four starts)
Few drivers have gotten off to as strong a start as Elliott at Michigan. Three runner-up finishes in his first three attempts seemingly increased the certainty that a Cup win was just around the corner, but last August he slipped to eighth. Coming off a solid Pocono performance, the topic of his first win has to be foremost in fantasy players’ minds once more.

2. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 6.00)
Larson is chasing a record held by Chase’s father. From 1985-87, Bill Elliott won four consecutive races at Michigan. Larson enters the weekend with three wins. If Larson is successful, a footnote will be added to the record books because both drivers kicked off their winning streak with a third-place finish in the race immediately preceding it.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 7.67)
Last week’s winning performance at Pocono has many experts putting Truex in the same category as Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Earlier this year, he won on the other 2-mile track (Auto Club Speedway) and a second-place finish at Michigan last August puts him on fantasy owners’ radar screens.

4. Erik Jones (three-year average: 8.00 in two starts)
One of Jones’ best opportunities to win as a rookie last year came on this track. He finished behind Larson and Truex in the Pure Michigan 400. A 13th-place finish in the Firekeepers Casino 400 wasn’t bad either and it suggests he is going to maintain a great average after Sunday’s race is complete.

5. Joey Logano (three-year average: 9.00)
Logano entered last August’s Michigan race with a nine-race streak of top 10s, but fell two laps off the pace and finished 28th. So far in 2018, Logano has 11 top 10s in 14 starts, which puts him on par with Harvick and Busch. He has only five top fives this year, but one of those came at Auto Club this March.

5. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 9.00)
McMurray has made his way onto this list a few times in 2018 because of his remarkable consistency over the past three years. He has not lived up to expectations for the most part, but his last two races this season showed some promise. He finished sixth at Charlotte Motor Speedway and ran better than last week’s 15th-place finish suggests.

7. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 9.17)
Keselowski does not have the same long record of top 10s as his teammate Logano, but he was impressive in the previous four years. He entered the 2018 Firekeepers Casino 400 with six consecutive top 10s that included a sweep of the top five in 2016. He fell to 16th and 17th last year, however, and should not be activated on fantasy rosters unless he shows speed in practice and qualification.

8. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 11.00)
Busch has been the model of consistency at Michigan during the past two seasons. He finished 10th in the first race of 2016 and has been either 11th or 12th in the three events that followed. If he gets track position late in the Firekeepers Casino 400, he might even be able to replicate the victory he earned in the rain-shortened 2015 Quicken 400.

9. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 11.17)
This could be the week Kenseth returns to the top 10. He hasn’t had one at Michigan since winning the track’s second race of 2015, but he came close on three occasions in the last four races with top-15 finishes. After struggling at Kansas Speedway, he has gotten progressively better in the last two races with a 17th at Charlotte and a 13th at Pocono.

10. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 11.13)
Before a fantasy player considers this might be a good time to leave Harvick in the garage because he failed to crack the top 10 at Michigan last year, they should look at the four years that preceded that. In eight races there, he earned five second-place finishes and two fifths.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Larson and Keselowski took the top spot in Michigan’s two races last year, but only one of them has enough momentum to be considered a legitimate threat to win this week’s pole.

Segment Winners: Truex swept the stages and race at Auto Club earlier this year. He won one of the two stages last week at Pocono, so he deserves the nod this week to take those bonus points again.

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

Circuit of the Americas to host Cup for first time in 2021

R. Kevin Butts photo - Courtesy of COTA
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The Cup Series will do more road course racing in 2021 with the addition of the Circuit of the Americas to the schedule, the track announced Wednesday.

The Cup race will be held May 23.

The 3.41-mile road course in Austin, Texas, has hosted Formula One and IndyCar races, among others since its debut in 2012. The track also has a 2.2-mile, 15-turn short course. Announcements regarding race length, course selection and the full weekend schedule will be made at a later date.

MORE: Cup to run on Indy road course in 2021

A NASCAR event has never been held at Circuit of the Americas, but Tony Stewart piloted a Stewart-Haas Racing car there last year in a demonstration run.

COTA is located roughly 220 miles south of Texas Motor Speedway. Speedway Motorsports will be the event’s promoter.

“Our company is proud to have a 60-year history of fabulous firsts in motorsports entertainment, and we are honored to bring America’s premier racing series to one of the world’s most renowned entertainment venues and cities for the very first time,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith in a statement. “I’d like to thank COTA CEO Bobby Epstein as well as NASCAR’s executive leadership for supporting us in an endeavor to do something that we believe will be spectacular for race fans, not only in Texas but around the world. We work and challenge ourselves every day at Speedway Motorsports to create amazing experiences that will last a lifetime, and we know NASCAR at COTA will deliver in 2021.” 

“I’m grateful for Marcus Smith’s vision and determination to make this event possible,” said Circuit of the Americas CEO and Chairman, Bobby Epstein in a statement. “His teams in Charlotte and at Texas Motor Speedway have created a spirit of partnership that will make for a spectacular weekend of fun and competition. Speedway Motorsports, along with the leadership at NASCAR, have a ‘Fans First’ attitude and have responded to everyone who has long desired to see a Cup Series race at COTA. Fans who’ve been here before will witness stock car racing at its finest for the first time, and first-time visitors will be amazed at the views and friendly experience. It will be our pleasure to write another chapter of motorsports history alongside Speedway Motorsports and NASCAR in 2021.” 

The complete 2021 schedule will be announced this afternoon by NASCAR.

Cup to run on Indy road course in 2021

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The NASCAR Cup Series will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2021 but will race on the road course for the first time instead of the oval, track officials announced Wednesday.

Cup will race on the road course on Aug. 15. That race will be held a day after the NTT IndyCar Series races on the Indy road course.

“Our first NASCAR-IndyCar weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants involved,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and IndyCar together during this exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

MORE: Atlanta to have two Cup dates in 2021

MORE: Darlington to run Cup races on Mother’s Day, Labor Day weekend in 2021

The Cup Series has raced at Indy since 1994. But as the racing there has been questioned and the sport has made a push for more road course races, NASCAR moved the Xfinity Series to the road course this year as a trial. The event was well received, creating the opportunity to move next year’s Cup race to the road course as well.

“Indy is Indy, no matter if you’re on the road course or you’re on the oval,” Joey Logano said of what a win there would mean. “It doesn’t matter. If you’re on the dirt track, I don’t care, it’s Indy. It’s that big deal to win there. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a Cup car, IndyCar or a tricycle, you want to win at that race track.”

Indy’s road course is 2.439 miles and features 14 turns. Chase Briscoe won the Xfinity race there after a four-car battle for the lead in the final laps.

The full Cup schedule will be announced Wednesday afternoon. The Xfinity schedule will be announced at a later date. Boles said on a media Zoom he was unsure of the Xfinity plans but talked with Logano about an interest Logano would have in running in a Xfinity race there to get more track time for the Cup race.

 

Darlington Raceway gets second Cup race for 2021

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Darlington Raceway will have two races in 2021, marking the first time since 2004 that the track has been scheduled to hold multiple Cup races in a season. The track announced its schedule Wednesday with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster at the Governor’s mansion.

“Congratulations. Thank you. Hallelujah,” Gov. McMaster said after the dates were announced.

Darlington was scheduled to host one race in 2020 but added two more in NASCAR’s return to racing after the season was suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MORE: Atlanta to host two Cup races in 2021 for first time since 2010

The track will hold its first Cup race next season on May 9. That is Mother’s Day. It marks only the third time in the last 40 years the series will have run on Mother’s Day. The series last raced on Mother’s Day in 2007 when rain forced the Darlington race to be held that afternoon. The only other time NASCAR raced on Mother’s Day in the last 40 years was 1986 when the All-Star Race was held at Atlanta.

Darlington’s second date will be its Southern 500 event on Sept. 5, Labor Day weekend. That race will again open the  Cup playoffs.

NASCAR will announce the 2021 Cup schedule on Wednesday afternoon.

Darlington hosted two Cup races a season from 1960-2004. It held one Cup race from 2005-19.

The track stated that 2021 schedules for the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be announced at a later date.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, tweeted that the Darlington races would be run with the low downforce package.

 

 

Atlanta to host two Cup races in 2021

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Atlanta Motor Speedway will host two Cup races in 2021, marking the first time since 2010 that the 1.5-mile speedway will have multiple Cup events in the same season.

Atlanta will host Cup races on March 21 and July 11.

The July 11 race will be the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart, moving sponsorship that had been with Kentucky Speedway. Kentucky Speedway will not be on the 2021 schedule. Its date becomes the second Atlanta date. The March race will be known at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

The July race marks the first 400-mile race at Atlanta since 1966.

The track announced its dates Wednesday morning. The full 2021 Cup schedule will be released Wednesday afternoon.

Atlanta Motor Speedway stated on its website that it plans to host fans in its stands and camping areas in socially distanced, limited capacity for each of its Cup races in 2021.

“We’re beyond excited to deliver what our fans have been yearning for: a second weekend of NASCAR action in Atlanta once again,” AMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Brandon Hutchison said in a statement. “Folds of Honor and QuikTrip continue to be phenomenal partners for our spring weekend of racing and we’re thrilled to have Quaker State and Walmart on board this summer as we put together two weekends of entertainment and excitement for race fans.”