NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best on road courses in last three seasons

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One part oval, one part road course, the Charlotte Roval is a hybrid. It is not just that it combines two distinctly different track types, but it also has characteristics of both Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International. The interior section of the track is technical and tight like Sonoma. The oval portion will allow drivers to get a full head of steam and separate from the competition.

Furthermore, there are choke points in the course that are going to be trouble on restarts. If two drivers get together in some of the narrow canyons that distinguish the infield portion of the course, the path could be completely blocked.

In the best of circumstances, road courses can be wild cards. The Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is going to be almost impossible to predict, so don’t get too emotionally invested in your NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster. There is always next week and the Monster Mile.

1. Kyle Busch (three-year average on road courses: 5.50) Playoff
Busch is a triple threat. He has the longest active streak of road course top 10s (eight), is coming off a victory last week at Richmond and is highly motivated to win on the Charlotte Roval to keep his record of winning on every track alive.

2. Denny Hamlin (three-year average on road courses: 5.67) Playoff
Hamlin can advance to Round 2 of the playoffs on points, but it is highly unlikely given his deficit and the drivers he needs to pass. That means nothing less than a win is going to be acceptable to the No. 11 team. Hamlin won the 2016 race at the Glen and finished second at Sonoma that same year. This season has not been as kind with a 10th at Sonoma and a 13th at the Glen after winning the pole.

3. Kurt Busch (three-year average on road courses: 8.17) Playoff
Busch’s best asset in 2018 has been the team’s consistency. That is also true of his results on road courses in the past six years. Since 2013, he has not finished worse than 12th. He has not won on this track type in that span, but he came close at Sonoma in 2015 with a second-place finish to his brother Kyle.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average on road courses: 8.83) Playoff
If Truex’s team is going to unravel, it is unlikely to happen this week. He has been the strongest contender in the last three road course races with a pair of victories and a second-place finish. If not for an engine failure at Sonoma last year, he would likely have a six-race, top-10 streak going and would be much higher in the rankings.

5. Daniel Suarez (three-year average on road courses: 9.50 in four starts) non-Playoff
Fantasy players do not yet know whether Sonoma or the Glen will be more predictive of a driver’s finish at Charlotte. Suarez has been much better at the Glen than Sonoma in his two seasons of Cup competition with a pair of top fives to his credit.

MORE: Bank of America Roval 400 cheat sheet

6. Chase Elliott (three-year average on road courses: 9.50) Playoff
Elliott has gotten progressively better on road courses. As a rookie, he finished 21st and 13th at Sonoma and the Glen respectively. Last year, he was eighth and 13th. So far in 2018, he’s swept the top five and scored his first career win at the Glen. He sits above the cutoff line to  advance to the second round of the playoffs and cannot afford to make any mistakes. That might keep him from gambling, which could be a good thing if he salvages a top-10 finish.

7. Brad Keselowski (three-year average on road courses: 9.50) Playoff
Keselowski has a three-year average that places him in the top 10, but his record does not necessarily recommend the No. 2. A pair of third-place finishes at the Glen in 2016 and Sonoma last year skews his average positively. His other four efforts on road courses in the past three years ended in results of 13th or worse.

8. Kevin Harvick (three-year average on road courses: 11.00) Playoff
One might be tempted to ignore Harvick’s three-year average on road courses because they are skewed by two bad results. He sustained crash damage in back-to-back races at the Glen in 2016 and ’17, but given his comments at the end of the Richmond race last week – that he was “terrified” of the Roval – there is a real possibility that he could get swept into yet another accident.

9. Alex Bowman (three-year average on road courses: 11.50 in two starts) Playoff
Bowman’s two road course starts this year are the only time in six career efforts that he finished among the top 25 on this track type. Granted, his equipment was not as strong in 2014 and 2015 as what he has, but there is simply not enough data for fantasy owners to make an informed decision.

10. Erik Jones (three-year average on road courses: 11.75 in four starts) Playoff
Jones has gotten progressively better in four Cup road course starts. He struggled to finish 25th in his rookie year at Sonoma, but backed that up with a top 10 at the Glen. This year, he finished seventh at Sonoma and fifth at the Glen. In order to be in a position to capitalize on prospective misfortune for the other playoff contenders, he is going to need to finish in or near the top 10.

Other Notable non-Playoff Drivers

12. Jamie McMurray (three-year average on road courses: 15.50) non-Playoff
McMurray has a bit of a reputation as a strong road course racer. One reason for that is a Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona victory on another hybrid road and oval course. In stock cars, he has been less predictable with only seven top 10s in 32 starts (21.9 percent). He should still be considered a top pick in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game among non-playoff contenders because six of his last seven road course starts ended in results of 17th or better.

14. William Byron (three-year average on road courses: 16.50 in two starts) non-Playoff
Byron will have a great set of notes from which to work this week. Hendrick Motorsports fields great equipment on the road course as evidenced by Elliott’s win at the Glen. The No. 24 team had a strong run there as well with an eighth-place finish.

16. Ryan Newman (three-year average on road courses: 17.83) non-Playoff
The best thing to be said about Newman is that he will probably go the distance this week. In 34 races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, he failed to finish on the lead lap just three times. On two other occasions, he finished one lap down to the leaders. He has failed to complete a road course race only once in his career, which suggests he has a knack for keeping his nose clean.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Kyle Larson has won the last two poles at Sonoma, so his mastery of the technical portion of the Charlotte Roval is liable to put him near the front of the pack. If a player is looking for a dark horse, AJ Allmendinger swept the two road courses in 2015 and is going to be highly motivated to run well after this week’s announcement that he and JTG-Daugherty will be parting ways.

Segment Winners: Predicting segment winners on road courses in almost impossible. In order to set themselves up for the final stage of the race, teams have been getting their service before pit road closes and foregoing stage victories. Even so, Truex stands head and shoulders above the remainder of the field with two stage wins and 44 points earned at Sonoma and Watkins Glen in the past two years.

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

Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson

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Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

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After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)