NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Watkins Glen in last three seasons

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In Modern Day NASCAR, no race is disposable. The dominance of the Big 3 is altering a lot of strategies, however, and it changes how one want to approach the fantasy game. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are locked in a tight battle to lead the points and earn 15 bonus playoff points that go along with it, but the real concern for them is in accumulating race victories.

That changed the way they approached Sonoma this June. Instead of battling for segment wins, the Big 3 opted to challenge for the overall victory at the end. That race was run with limited caution flags, so the strategy played out perfectly, but there are a lot of unknowns on road courses. An ill-timed caution can play havoc with one’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster, so this is a good week to take a few risks and perhaps even leave one of the Big 3 in the garage.

1. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 5.00)
Busch has been close to perfect at Watkins Glen. In 13 starts there, he’s scored two wins and 11 top 10s. He is also the only driver in the field with three consecutive top 10s on the New York road course – including a second-place finish to Joey Logano in 2015. He’s been just as strong at Sonoma and his fifth-place finish there was his seventh straight road course top 10.

2. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 5.33)
This will be Kenseth’s first road course race of 2018; Trevor Bayne got behind the wheel at Sonoma. It appears that the No. 6 is improving, but so far Kenseth has been able to score only results in the teens. That trend will likely continue this week, but in some fantasy games that might still make him a good value.

3. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 7.33)
Busch has been one of the most consistent drivers all season. He has not contended for top fives like his teammate Harvick or brother Kyle, but at the end of the race he finds a way to get to the front. That has been his pattern on road courses as well with his last five races at Sonoma and the Glen landing between sixth and 11th.

4. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 8.33)
Keselowski thought he had this race won in 2012 when he nudged Kyle Busch out of the way on the white flag lap on a track made slippery by oil from Bobby Labonte’s car. He was beaten to the finish line by Marcos Ambrose. That wound up being one of three consecutive runner-up finishes at the Glen. Keselowski came close again in 2016 with a third-place result.

5. Joey Logano (three-year average: 9.00)
Logano was one of the best values on road courses from 2014 through 2016. He scored five consecutive finishes of sixth or better – including a victory at the Glen in 2015. He slipped to 12th last June at Sonoma, was 24th at the Glen in August and 19th in the most recent road course race. It’s time to look elsewhere for a fantasy value worthy of challenging the Big 3.

MORE: Rotoworld Go Bowling at the Glen Cheat Sheet

6. Clint Bowyer (three-year average: 9.67)
For the past five years, Bowyer has alternated top 10s with results outside the top 15 at Watkins Glen and if the pattern holds, he will struggle this week. Since finishing fifth at Sonoma this spring, he has scored only one more top 10 in five races in the Cup series. That does not bode well for his chances.

7. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 10.67)
From 2010 through 2015, Hamlin struggled on road courses. He failed to score a single top 15 in that span with an average finish of 29.2, so his turnaround in 2016 came as a surprise. He finished second at Sonoma that year and won at the Glen. Last year, he swept the top five on the combined road courses and followed that with a 10th at Sonoma this spring.

8. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 11.00)
At Sonoma this spring, Truex became the first Cup driver to win back-to-back road course races since Kyle Busch in 2008. The odds of him getting three in a row are high since three of his previous five attempts on twisty tracks ended 25th or worse.

9. AJ Allmendinger (three-year average: 12.33)
Allmendinger didn’t take command of the 2014 race at Glen until lap 61, but once he grabbed the top spot he refused to let go. That victory locked him into the playoffs and he hopes the same thing will happen this season. His missed shift and blown engine at Sonoma this June is still etched in his brain, but he has always been much better at the Glen with a career average of 9.3 to Sonoma’s 26.3.

10. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 13.00 in two starts)
Elliott would like to get out of the Glen with a top 10 so he can take some momentum to Michigan. In two starts on this lightning fast road course, he’s missed the single digits both times with 13th-place finishes. He enters this weekend with back-to-back top 10s on the flat tracks of New Hampshire and Pocono. Many experts think the same skills apply on the road courses as drivers have to brake before the corner and accelerate at the apex.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Only four active drivers have won poles at the Glen in the past. Kyle Busch leads with two poles. AJ Allmendinger, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson have one each. Throughout the history of this track, scoring multiple poles has been difficult with only three drivers ever stringing three together. In all likelihood, the pole will go to someone new, so make your selection after practice is in the books.

Segment Winners: There is simply no way to predict who will be victorious at the end of segments on road courses. Strategy played such a critical role in the Sonoma race this June that the leaders gave up the opportunity to lead at the end of each stage in order to gain track position. In three road course races in the past two years, no one has won more than one stage.

The most likely segment winners this week will be drivers who believe they are going to make the playoffs, but have not yet won a race to lock themselves in. They not only need the potential stage bonus, but also the points that are awarded at the end of each segment in order to protect their position in the standings.

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

NASCAR’s weekend schedule for Auto Club Speedway

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NASCAR’s West Coast swing continues this weekend with a visit to the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Cup and Xfinity Series teams will be in action, with the weekend capped off by Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

For Friday, wunderground.com forecasts partly cloudy skies, a high of 81 degrees and no chance of rain.

For the start of Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, the forecast is for sunny skies and a high of 70 degrees.

On Sunday, the forecast for the start of the Cup race is cloudy skies, a high of 54 and a 39% of rain.

Here’s the full weekend schedule with TV and radio info:

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, Feb. 28

Noon – 10 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1 – 9 p.m. – Cup garage open

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. – Xfinity practice (FS1)

4:05 – 4:55 – Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network)

5:02 – 5:27 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

5:35 – 6:25 p.m. – Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

Saturday, Feb. 29

10 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Cup garage open

11:30 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

1:05 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying; one car/single lap (FS1)

2:15 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief introductions

2:35 p.m. – Cup qualifying; one car/single lap (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

3:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

4 p.m. – Production Alliance Group 300; 150 laps/300 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, March 1

11:30 a.m. – Cup garage opens

1:30 p.m. – Driver-crew chief meeting

2:50 p.m. – Cup driver introductions

3:30 p.m. – Auto Club 400; 200 laps/400 miles (Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Myatt Snider: It’s ‘game on’ if conflict with Noah Gragson continues

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The spat between Xfinity Series drivers Myatt Snider and Noah Gragson may not necessarily be over.

The pair tangled in Sunday night’s Xfinity Series race in Las Vegas. Gragson made contact with Snider’s car, sending it into a spin.

Snider discussed the incident Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint” and where things stand between the two drivers.

“It, to me, just seemed like some impatience on Noah’s part,” Snider said of the incident. “I had gotten into a rut and was trying to figure out how to make the car faster but at that point in time, I didn’t. So he was running me down and he actually had a run on me going to the frontstretch.

“So I was, ‘Okay, he’s going to go by me.’ Then I felt a little yoink in the left rear quarter and around I was going. It’s kind of unfortunate it had to go down that way, that’s not racing to me. But I’m a big believer in karma and what goes around, comes around. We’ll be performing at our best over these next couple of weeks and I’m not worried about it.”

Snider also told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he hasn’t texted or talked to Gragson since Sunday, but Snider said he’s ready if the spat continues.

“I’m the kind of guy that believes in racing people how you’re raced,” Snider said. “I’m not going to take any kind of stuff like that. If (Gragson) wants to send that kind of message early, then game on.”

On Tuesday, here’s how Gragson explained what happened on “Sirius Speedway” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“It was just some hard racing between the two of us and we got into each other, so I think we both can look forward to the next couple of races and stay out of each other’s ways,” Gragson said. “I think we’re both at fault. It was a long race, none of us were going to give and we’re going to go on to California and run as good as possible and do as good as we can.”

Much has been made about the TV replays of Gragson and Snider meeting after the race to talk about the incident. Gragson tried to give Snider a fist bump only to have Snider walk away without fist bumping him.

“I told (Myatt) let’s play rock, paper, scissors,” Gragson quipped in part on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I went with rock and he still hasn’t gotten back to me if he wants scissors, paper or rock.”

Gragson won the season opener at Daytona and finished fourth at Las Vegas for JR Motorsports. Snider, who won the pole at Daytona, finished 33rd at Daytona and 16th at Las Vegas for Richard Childress Racing. Snider will race this weekend at Auto Club Speedway for RSS Racing.

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Ryan Newman gets standing ovation in visit to Roush Fenway Racing

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Exactly 10 months to the day when the country will celebrate Thanksgiving, the entire Roush Fenway Racing organization gave thanks and a warm welcome to driver Ryan Newman, who visited the team’s shop Wednesday.

Newman, who was involved in a horrific crash coming to the finish line of the Daytona 500 just nine days earlier, received a standing ovation from his colleagues and posed for a number of photos.

While there is still no timetable for Newman’s return behind the wheel of his No. 6 RFR Ford Mustang — Ross Chastain is scheduled to drive the car until Newman comes back — Wednesday’s appearance was yet another positive move in that direction.

“Just a good day,” RFR president Steve Newmark tweeted about Newman’s visit.

Newman said in a prior statement he suffered an undisclosed head injury in the crash but did not suffer any broken bones or internal injuries.

Tuesday he took part in one of his favorite pastimes:

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Hendrick focused on Jimmie Johnson’s success, not successor

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Kyle Larson. Brad Keselowski. Ryan Blaney. Erik Jones.

No, we’re not talking about this week’s fantasy racing picks, but those four drivers have been among drivers mentioned most often when it comes time for Hendrick Motorsports to name a replacement for Jimmie Johnson, who will retire after this season.

Yet even though filling Johnson’s spot is important, it’s not as much a priority right now as it is for the entire organization to learn more about the nuances of the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, according to HMS vice president of competition Jeff Andrews.

“We don’t have a timetable for that, to be honest with you,” Andrews said of naming a replacement for Johnson on Wednesday “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Our focus has been getting better race cars under Jimmie Johnson and getting better race cars for (crew chief) Cliff Daniels and his race team to work with on the weekend.

“The focus right now immediately for the 48 is to get a win, get that car in the playoffs, get multiple wins through the season and then get Jimmie Johnson to Phoenix at the end of the year to battle for that championship.”

Andrews admits the vibe around Hendrick Motorsports’ campus is markedly different this year, knowing it’s Johnson’s final season in the No. 48.

“I think the sense is pride here within Hendrick Motorsports, to just have been associated with someone like Jimmie,” Andrews told SiriusXM. “For those of us who have been here really throughout his career, we’re just incredibly proud that he chose to drive for Hendrick Motorsports throughout his whole career.

“But we’re also proud of all his accomplishments and what he’s done for this company. I think we would have an awful hard time of ever paying him back for all that. Our goal this year is giving him everything he needs for a multiple win season and to get to Phoenix. We owe him that at the least.”

The Hendrick organization has struggled in adapting to the new Chevrolet Camaro body style this year. In the season-opening Daytona 500, Chase Elliott (finished seventh) was the only HMS driver in the top 15.

Things were a bit better this past Sunday at Las Vegas. Johnson was the highest-finishing HMS driver (fifth), while Alex Bowman was 13th. But there was considerable sense of accomplishment overall for Chevrolet as a whole, with six of its Camaros in the top 10 (as opposed to only two Chevys in the top 10 at Daytona).

That leaves Andrews, the competition department at HMS and Chevrolet officials as a whole feeling optimistic as the series heads for the third race of the season this weekend at the two-mile track in Fontana, California.

“From a barometer perspective, we’re feeling good about where we’ve been,” Andrews said. “We haven’t had that finish, that win that we’re looking for, but certainly we’ve started off the year with some good speed in our cars.

“The one thing that all of our drivers were commenting on is we had more speed in our cars and just had a better platform in our cars and a better ability to run multiple lines on the racetrack, which is something we haven’t in recent years.”

Admittedly, it’s been a tough road for Hendrick drivers over the last three seasons. Since Johnson’s seventh Cup championship in 2016, no HMS driver has reached the Championship 4 round since.

Also during that time frame, only two drivers have finished in the top-10 overall in the last three seasons (Chase Elliott, fifth in 2017, sixth in 2018 and 10th in 2019; and Johnson, 10th in 2017).

These next five races, particularly the last two of that stretch at Homestead-Miami and Texas, will help give Andrews and his staff a better handle on where their adjustment to the Camaro goes from there.

“We know it’s a long season and have a long ways to go with this,” Andrews told SiriusXM. “We need to get through three or four more races.

“I think we’ve targeted as a company a better understanding of where we’re at after the Homestead/Texas timeframe to get some types of tracks and learn with this new car.

“Steep learning curve with the new car and we’ve got to act quick. We have just a year to work with this before we get to another generation of race cars. … We’re looking forward to going back to the track this weekend in Fontana and see where we go with it.”

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