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

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Is Bristol Motor Speedway a wild card?

An argument can be made either way with one driver exemplifying both.

Kyle Busch is arguably the best driver to ever compete at Bristol. In 2010 and 2011, he scored five consecutive wins in NASCAR’s three national series. Last August, he swept Bristol again – winning the Truck, Xfinity and Cup races. He won this spring’s Food City 500 and enters this weekend with back-to-back victories in Cup.

But he doesn’t have one of the 10 best average finishes during the past three years because he was involved in three consecutive accidents in 2016-17 – finishing 35th or worse each time.

Bristol is a rhythm track. That is one of the reasons Busch is so great, but the opposite side of that coin is that when a driver loses his rhythm, it can be difficult to get back.

NASCAR’s parity among most teams – prior to this season’s dominance of the Big 3 – has kept all but four drivers from accumulating a three-year average of better than 10th and that could make setting this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster a little tricky.

1. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 5.20)
Bristol has not always been one of Harvick’s better tracks. After getting off to a strong start in the early 2000s, he struggled through 13 races from 2009 through 2015 with only a single top 10. He finished second to Joey Logano in the 2015 night race and has not been outside the top 10 since.

2. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 9.00)
While this team fought to find the right setup on most tracks this spring, Johnson scored a solid third-place finish at Bristol. Except for one poor showing in spring 2016, he has finished 11th or better since the 2014 night race including a victory in the 2017 Food City 500.

2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (three-year average: 9.00)
Bristol may be Stenhouse’s final opportunity to score a victory and lock the No. 17 team in the playoffs. He has not yet won on the half-mile bullring, but has a pair of second-place finishes in 2014 and 2016 to indicate he is capable of doing so if the strategy plays out just right.

4. Joey Logano (three-year average: 9.40)
With a six-race streak of results 13th or better, Logano has been one of the most consistent drivers at Bristol in recent years. Only two of these were top-fives, but one earned maximum points when he won the 2015 night race. He won that same event in 2014, which suggests he has a great setup under the lights.

5. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 10.00)
If one had to venture a guess, it would be that Hamlin will finish third this weekend. That is where he’s finished in each of the last three years during the August race, so the 14th earned by the No. 11 this spring at Bristol is less predictive than it otherwise might be.

6. Trevor Bayne (three-year average: 11.80)
Bayne is anything but a safe choice this week, but for fantasy NASCAR players who need to take a big risk, he could be the best differentiator. Entering this spring’s Food City 500, he had a four-race streak of results 12th or better. He was involved in a crash this spring and finished five laps off the pace in 24th, so he’s going to need a little luck this weekend.

7. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 12.80)
McMurray will not be a good choice for this week’s Fantasy Live game, but he is a great utility driver in other games. In the last eight Bristol races, his best finish was an eighth, but before this spring, he had a perfect record of top-15s. He missed that mark in the Food City 500, but still finished in the middle of the pack with a 19th. He won’t earn maximum points, but he’s not going to cost a lot either.

8. Ryan Newman (three-year average: 13.40)
Newman is another great dark horse pick. He is not going to get a lot of attention before the race begins and is unlikely to get a top five, but the odds are in his favor that a top 10 is in the offing. In the last 18 races at Bristol, he has finished in the top 10 in 55.6 percent of the races and earned a top 15 72.2 percent of the time.

9. Clint Bowyer (three-year average: 13.60)
Bowyer has been stronger in the spring than fall in recent years. His last three attempts in that race ended in top 10s, while his August races under the lights have netted only one top 10 in the past five years. His overall average since 2011 has been 11.3 with only three results outside the top 15 in 13 races, so he should be on fantasy owners’ radar screens when practice begins.

10. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 14.60)
Elliott deserves attention less for his Bristol record than the recent momentum he brings to the weekend. In five starts on the bullring, he has only one top five and another top 10. Meanwhile, his last two attempts have ended in results outside the top 15. He has momentum on his side, however, with a four-race, top-10 streak to his credit that includes his first Cup win at Watkins Glen two weeks ago.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Joe Gibbs Racing or an affiliated driver has won the last six Bristol races for which time trials were run. Kyle Larson took the top spot in spring 2017 based on NASCAR’s rule book. JGR’s strength is a good indication that they will lead the field to green again this weekend. Busch has the advantage. If he shows speed in practice, last summer’s pole winner Erik Jones is also a good choice.

Segment Winners: In three races at Bristol since the advent of segment points, Brad Keselowski is the only driver to win a stage more than once. He swept the segments this spring. Those were the only times that Keselowski finished among the top 10 at the end of a segment, however, so it is difficult to make him a top choice to sweep the stages again this week. Larson and Johnson are the only drivers to score points in all six stages. The Gibbs’ guys Busch (earning points in 4 stages) and Jones (5) are not far behind and they have a lot more momentum on their side this week.

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

Texas Xfinity results: Noah Gragson wins playoff opener

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Noah Gragson is rolling through the NASCAR Xfinity Series like a bowling ball headed toward a strike.

Gragson won for the fourth consecutive race Saturday, taking the lead with 11 laps left and winning the 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory put Gragson in the second round of the playoffs.

Finishing behind him in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

Texas Xfinity results

The race was pockmarked by wrecks, scrambling the 12-driver playoff field.

POINTS REPORT

Noah Gragson remains the points leader after his win. He has 2,107 points. AJ Allmendinger is next, 26 points behind.

Sam Mayer and Ryan Sieg hold the final two transfer spots. They are one point ahead of Riley Herbst, eight points ahead of Daniel Hemric, 13 points ahead of Brandon Jones and 29 points ahead of Jeremy Clements.

Texas Xfinity driver points

The Xfinity playoffs will continue Oct. 1 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, USA Network).

Noah Gragson wins Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway

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Noah Gragson opened the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs the same way he has run much of the season.

Gragson sidestepped a web of issues plaguing playoff drivers and won Saturday’s 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway, tying a decades-old Xfinity record by winning for the fourth consecutive race. Sam Ard, formerly a series mainstay, won four in a row in 1983.

Gragson, continuing to establish himself as the championship favorite, took the lead with 11 laps to go from Jeb Burton as most of the day’s leaders were running different tire and fuel strategies over the closing laps.

Gragson, 24 and set to jump to the Cup Series next season, led 85 laps. He won by 1.23 seconds.

“This number 9 team, man, they’re on fire,” Gragson told NBC Sports. “Luke Lambert (crew chief) and the boys executed a great race.”

MORE: Texas Xfinity results

The win was Gragson’s seventh of the year. Following in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

The victory pushed Gragson into the second round of the playoffs.

A big crash at the front of the field on lap 117 changed the face of the race. John Hunter Nemechek lost control of his car on the outside and was clipped by Justin Allgaier, starting a wreck that scrambled most of the field. Damages forced playoff drivers Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones and Allgaier from the race.

“The 7 (Allgaier) chose the top behind me, and I haven’t seen the replay of it, but the 7 chose the top behind me and started pushing,” Nemechek said. “The 21 (Hill) made it three-wide on the 9 (Gragson), and I was three-wide at the top, and I think we ended up four-wide at one point, which doesn’t really work aero-wide in the pack.”

Pole winner Jones, a playoff driver taken out in the crash, said Nemechek “was pushing a little too hard. Nothing to fault him there for, but probably a little early to be going that far. It is what it is.”

Six laps earlier, another multi-car crash scattered the field and damaged the car of playoff contender and regular season champion Allmendinger.

The wreck started when Brandon Brown slipped in front of Allmendinger and went into a slide, forcing Allmendinger to the inside apron. Several cars scattered behind them trying to avoid the accident.

Allmendinger’s crew repaired his car and he later had the race lead.

Playoff driver Jeremy Clements had a tough day. He parked with what he called mysterious mechanical issues about halfway through the race.

Below the cutline after the first race are Herbst, Hemric, Jones and Clements.

Stage 1 winner: Daniel Hemric

Stage 2 winner: AJ Allmendinger

Who had a good race: Noah Gragson is threatening to turn the final weeks of the Xfinity season into a cakewalk. He clearly had the day’s dominant car Saturday in winning for the fourth race in a row. … AJ Allmendinger’s car was damaged in a wreck in heavy traffic, but his crew taped parts of the car and gave him an opening to finish fourth.

Who had a bad race: Jeremy Clements, in the playoff field, finished 36th after parking with mechanical trouble near the race’s halfway point. … Jeffrey Earnhardt crashed only 17 laps into the race and finished last.

Next: The second race in the first round of the Xfinity playoffs is scheduled Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. ET (USA Network) at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Cup drivers are for changing Texas but leery about making it another Atlanta

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Some Cup drivers are concerned that a reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway could create racing similar to Atlanta, adding another type of superspeedway race to the NASCAR calendar.

While Texas officials have not stated publicly any plans to make changes, some competitors feel Sunday’s playoff race (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network) could be the final event on this track’s current layout. 

With the All-Star Race moving from Texas to North Wilkesboro next year, Texas Motor Speedway’s lone Cup race will take place Sept. 24, 2023. That could provide time for any alterations. Work on changing Atlanta began in July 2021 and was completed by December 2021. 

Reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson said work needs to be done to Texas Motor Speedway.

“I would like them to demolish this place first and then start over from scratch,” Larson said Saturday. “For one, they did a very poor job with the reconfiguration, initial reconfiguration. 

“I would like to see them change it from a mile-and-a-half to something shorter. I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever. 

“If I could build a track, it’d be probably a three-quarter mile Bristol basically, pavement and progressive banking. But I don’t know if that’s even possible here. I’m not sure what they have in mind, but anything would be better than what they did.”

Former Cup champion Joey Logano worries about another superspeedway race with such events at Daytona, Talladega and now Atlanta. 

“Do we need more superspeedways?” Logano asked Saturday. “Is that the type of racing fans want to see? Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano said he wants to have more control in how he finishes, particularly in a playoff race. 

“I want to be at tracks where I can make a difference, where my team can make a difference, and we’re not at the mercy of a wreck that happened in front of us that we couldn’t do anything about,” he said.

Discussions of changing the track follow complaints about how tough it is to pass at this 1.5-mile speedway.

“Once you get to the top, it’s almost like the bottom (lane) is very, very weak,” Daniel Suarez said.

Suarez has mixed feelings about the idea of turning Texas into another Atlanta-style race.

“Atlanta was a very good racetrack, and then they turned it into a superspeedway and it’s a lot of fun,” Suarez said. “I see it as a hybrid. I don’t think we need another racetrack like that, but it’s not my decision to make. Whatever they throw out at us, I’m going to try to be the best I can be.”

Suarez hopes that Texas can be like what it once was.

“Maybe with some work, we can get this race track to what it used to be, a very wide race track, running the bottom, running the middle, running the top,” he said.  

“As a race car driver, that’s what you want. You want that ability to run around and to show your skills. In superspeedways … everyone is bumping, everyone is pushing, and you can not show your skills as much.”

Chase Briscoe would be OK with a change to Texas, but he wants it to be more like a track other than Atlanta.

“If we’re really going to change and completely start from scratch, I would love another Homestead-type racetrack,” Briscoe said. “The problem is any time you build a new race track, it’s not going to be slick and worn out for a while. It’s trying to figure out what’s best to maximize those first couple of years to get it good by the end. 

“I think Homestead is a great model, if we’re going to build another mile and a half. I think we’re going to have to look at what they have, the progressive banking, the shape of the race track is different. I just think it’s a really good race track, and I think it always puts on really good racing. Anything we could do to try to match that, that would be my vote.”

Denny Hamlin just hopes some sort of change is made to Texas.

“I’d rather have another Atlanta than this, honestly,” Hamlin said. “Anything will be better than kind of what we have here.”

NASCAR shares prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer

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FORT WORTH, Texas — The NASCAR garage is sharing its prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer DJ VanderLey, who was injured Thursday night in a crash during a micro sprint Outlaw race at the Texas Motor Speedway dirt track.

He suffered several fractured vertebrae and has a spinal cord injury, according to a post from his wife Jordan on her Facebook page. 

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up to help the family with medical costs. 

VanderLey was Chase Briscoe’s engineer for four years, and they are good friends.

“I hate that it happened to anybody,” Briscoe said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, “but for it to hit close to home has definitely been tough for me.”

Briscoe said he planned to visit VanderLey in the hospital on Saturday and that “I just hope that everybody continues to pray. That’s really all we can do at this point, trying to hope he gets better.”

Christopher Bell calls VanderLey among his best friends. VanderLey was Bell’s engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016. 

Bell spent the night at the hospital and also picked up Jordan VanderLey at the airport when she arrived. 

Stewart-Haas Racing had a decal for VanderLey on Riley Herbst‘s No. 98 Xfinity car for Saturday’s race.