Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 best at Texas in last three seasons

Leave a comment

Last year’s championship finale was as predictable as any NASCAR race can be.

Seven of the top-10 finishers qualified among the top 10. Eight of them finished among the top 10 in both stages and only one – Ryan Newman in 10th – failed to finish that well at the two breaks.

The top-three finishers all led significant portions of the race with Martin Truex Jr. pacing the field four times for 78 laps, Kyle Busch leading four times for 43 laps and Kyle Larson up front four times for 145 laps.

For the most part, these were the same drivers who were fast in practice, so this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster should be heavily influenced by the drivers with the best 10-lap averages.

Qualifying will also be important, but there is no reason to automatically discount a driver who starts outside the top 10. Last year, Chase Elliott advance to fifth from 18th on the grid while Joey Logano finished sixth after starting 19th.

1. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 3.00) Playoff
Harvick has been as close to perfect as possible at Miami. Since the track went to its current configuration in 2003, Harvick has missed the top 10 only once (2007). In the 10 races since then, he has seven top fives, including the last four. He won the championship on the strength of his 2014 victory and is one of the best bets to do so again.

1. Kyle Busch  (three-year average: 3.00) Playoff
There are many signs pointing to this week being a two-man battle between Harvick and Busch. Las Vegas odds makers have had them as co-favorites most of the week at 2/1, they’ve dominated the 1.5-mile tracks with Harvick winning four times and Busch three. Their three-year average at Homestead are identical. Unless something happens to slow one of them down, the race and championship will come down to these two. 

3. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 3.33) Non-Playoff
It is unfortunate that Larson failed to make the Championship 4 because he will be part of the battle for the win this weekend. He enters with three consecutive top fives including a second in 2016 and a third last year. In four years of NASCAR’s current knockout format, a non-playoff driver has never won this race, so history could be made this week.

4. Joey Logano (three-year average: 4.67) Playoff
Logano is this week’s dark horse to win the championship. He has not been nearly as dominant on 1.5-milers as Harvick, Busch or Truex but he does have a couple of things in his favor. 1) He has had the luxury of preparing for Miami for three weeks since winning at Martinsville and 2) he has not finished worse than sixth in his last three starts at Miami. 

5. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 7.33) Non-Playoff
It has been easy to disregard Kenseth’s statistics in 2018. His most recent runs on a given track were with Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 6 at Roush Fenway Racing has struggled with both him and Trevor Bayne behind the wheel. Last week’s seventh-place finish at Phoenix changed that. Now that he knows how to get to the top 10, his Miami record of five consecutive results of eighth or better is suddenly meaningful.

MORE: Rotoworld Fantasy Power Rankings

6. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 8.00 in two starts) Non-Playoff
There is a old adage in racing that states drivers must first lose races in order to win them. The same is true of championships – and under NASCAR’s current rules, that also applies to simply making the Championship 4. Elliott has been eliminated in the Round of 8 in the past two seasons. Elliott knows he has been one of the strongest performers during the playoffs and if not for the poor start that Chevrolet endured at the beginning of the season, he might be one of the challengers if he had started winning earlier in the year. 

7. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 9.33) Non-Playoff
Hamlin will be on most fantasy radars because of his five race top-10 streak at Miami. He has not earned a top five there since 2013, but that year he won his second race on this track. His first came in 2009, so there is still some hope that he will keep his streak of winning every year since he was a rookie in 2006 alive.

8. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 10.33) Non-Playoff
McMurray is another driver who would like to close the season on a high note. He has not announced his plans for 2019, but he knows he will not be with Chip Ganassi Racing next year and with most of the major rides spoken for, he may not have another opportunity to win. Two of his last four attempts on this track ended in fifth-place finishes. The other two were a pair of 13ths. 

9. Austin Dillon (three-year average: 12.33) Non-Playoff
Dillon has come on strong in the last two weeks. His 10th at Texas and eighth at Phoenix is the first time this year that he has earned back-to-back top 10s. At Miami, he has a current streak of three top 15s without a top 10. With a little luck and some track position, he could close out the year with three consecutive strong runs.

9. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 12.33) Non-Playoff
Johnson has already shown what he will do for a win. It didn’t matter that he might miss the playoffs when he sailed into the final chicane at the Charlotte Roval and it won’t matter that the Championship 4 are battling for the Cup this week. If Johnson can sniff the lead, he is going to do everything he can to get to the checkers first. 

14. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 16.33) Playoff
Truex may have won last year, but he has not been overly impressive at Miami in recent years. That was his only top 10 in the past four seasons, which suggests he has his work cut out for him this week if he wants to beat Harvick and Busch.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Hamlin has won two of the last three poles at Miami. He will not be front-of-mind for most fantasy players this week and that could be a blessing in disguise. While most of the competition makes a safe pick like Harvick, Kyle Busch or Truex, someone willing to take a little risk could reap a huge benefit.

Segment Winners: Last year, the top-four finishers each swept the top five at the end of the stages. Meanwhile, there were only two drivers who earned stage points before falling out of the top 10 at the checkers (Clint Bowyer was 10th in Stage 1 before finishing 12th; Kurt Busch was seventh in Stage 1 and sixth in Stage 2 before losing two laps in the final segment and finishing 22nd). That suggests this week’s stage winners will come from among the drivers who impress the analysts most in practice.

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

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 best at Texas in last three seasons

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway
Leave a comment

The road to Miami runs through Texas.

The top six drivers this week in regard to three-year averages are all playoff eligible. Four of them have a better-than 10th-place average that is going to make it difficult to maximize this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster. Someone will stumble. The question is who.

The answer to that question is often found in practice and qualification on 1.5-milers. It is possible to find speed at the track, but most often it rides along with the car from the shop. Cars that roll off the hauler fast typically remain that way at Texas.

When a player is confused about who to place on their roster, they will want to look at the other 1.5-milers for confirmation. Five drivers (Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson) have earned at least seven top 10s in nine races on this track type in 2018.

Larson is the only driver not represented among the this week’s 10 best at Texas because of back-to-back accidents there last fall and this spring.

1. Joey Logano (three-year average: 4.20) Playoff
Drivers want to peak at the right time. Logano brings momentum from last week’s Martinsville win with him to Texas and that is great news for fantasy players who do not want to automatically rely on the Big 3. Logano is one of only two drivers (along with Harvick) who have swept the top 10 in the past three seasons. His worst result in that span of races was seventh last fall.

2. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 4.60) Playoff
Harvick enters the weekend with three consecutive top fives at Texas including a victory last fall. He has an active streak of eight straight top 10s; six of these were top fives. With Logano’s win last week and the possibility that another driver below him in points could win, Harvick actually needs this week’s victory as much as anyone. This spring, he won Stage 1 before finishing second in the race. 

3. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 7.40) Playoff
Elliott had not been good on 1.5-milers this year until his Kansas victory. He started the season with a 10th at Atlanta and had several results in the low teens, but that would not be good enough to make him an acceptable value among playoff eligible drivers this week in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game. It probably is not enough to advance him to the finale either. Elliott needs to win and if he does, he puts remarkable pressure on the Big 3 next week at Phoenix.

4. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 8.20) Playoff
Since 2012, Busch has been an all or nothing driver at Texas. He has finished in the top five eight times and worse than 10th on four occasions. Three of his strong runs ended in victory lane including this spring. He earned the most points that week with a second-place finish in Stage 1 and the Stage 2 win. Like Harvick, he needs to reestablish his dominance if he wants to concentrate on the championship run at Miami. 

5. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 11.00) Playoff
Nearly every week Busch shows up on this list, it is remarked how consistency is what earned the spot. Texas is no exception. He has not scored a top five since 2010, but six of his last eight attempts ended in top 10s. His other two results were a 14th in 2015 and a worst finish of 20th in fall 2016.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 11.20) Playoff
Truex came into the spring Texas race with a six-race, top-10 streak. He was almost certain to add another until he fell victim to a blown tire. He crashed and finished 37th, but that is the only time in the last two seasons that he failed to crack the top 10 on a 1.5-mile track. After getting bumped out of the lead in Turn 4 of the last lap at Martinsville, he is highly motivated to win and advance to Miami in championship form. 

7. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 12.00) Non-Playoff
Can McMurray be the best non-playoff driver this week? It seems unlikely given the season he has had and the struggles faced in his last full year with Chip Ganassi Racing, but he put the No. 1 car on fantasy owners’ radars with top 10s in two of his last three Texas starts and five of the last eight. If he performs well in practice, he deserves a spot in the garage so he can be evaluated in the first two stages.

7. Erik Jones (three-year average: 12.00 in three starts) Non-Playoff
Jones might be this week’s best value in most fantasy games. His first start at Texas came in a pre-rookie warmup in fall 2015; he finished 12th. He was 10th last fall and fourth this spring, showing a steady improvement that could end with him challenging for a win. Jones’ last attempt on a 1.5-mile track also ended in a fourth-place finish at Kansas this fall.

9. Ryan Blaney (three-year average: 12.80) Non-Playoff
One could easily vote a straight Team Penske ticket this week with Logano among the playoff eligible plus Brad Keselowski and Blaney among the non-playoff drivers. Blaney finished fifth this spring in his first Texas attempt with the organization. That comes on the heels of a sixth last fall and back-to-back 12th-place finishes in the two preceding races.

10. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 15.20) Non-Playoff
If not for an accident this spring, Keselowski would probably have an average finish that placed him in or on the cusp of the top five. His previous four efforts netted an average of 10.75. The three races before that were all top fives. Keselowski has never won at Texas, but he’s come close with second-place finishes in 2012 and 2015 as well as a third in 2014.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: This is a good week to remember that the pole pick does not need to be a driver that is selected as a race pick. Kurt Busch has sat on the pole in the last two Texas races before slipping outside the top five at the checkers. He also won the pole in spring 2015 the second year he drove for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Segment Winners: It is difficult to discount the Big 3 this week. Select your segment winners from among Harvick, Busch, and Truex with an emphasis on the two who start closest to the front.

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

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

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
2 Comments

There are a lot of wild card races on the calendar each year. All four races on the restrictor-plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega), as well as the three road courses come immediately to mind. But what happens when a race on one of the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks goes so horribly awry as it did last week?

Fantasy players simply have to pick themselves up and wash the dust from their feet – just like all the drivers involved in last week’s carnage.

An unfortunate pairing on the schedule puts Bristol Motor Speedway next in line, however. This half-mile bullring where cars circle in 15 seconds is often a chaotic mess. Little mistakes are compounded by how quickly drivers can lose laps and accidents can clog up the straightaways to create multi-car pileups.

As a result, streaks are hard to come by and only two of this week’s 10-best drivers over the past three years have average finishes better than 10th. They are the ones to watch closely in practice and qualification, but be prepared to make last minute adjustments on race day.

Players who have not already joined the NASCAR America Fantasy league can still do so at nascar.com/nbcsportsfantasy, and then share their team using #NASCARAmericaFantasy.

1. Jimmie Johnson, (three-year average: 8.00)
Is this the week Johnson finally breaks his career-worst winless streak? Probably not, given how many things can go wrong at Bristol, but he won last spring’s Food City 500 and finished second in the 2015 edition.

2. Erik Jones (9.50 in two starts)
Jones has only two starts at Bristol so it is much too soon to make any sweeping judgements. His near-miss and second-place finish last fall makes him a great garage pick in the NASCAR America Fantasy Live league, however.

3. Kevin Harvick (9.83)
Entering the fall 2015 race, Harvick had not earned a top 10 at Bristol in eight races. He was second in that event and has not finished worse than eighth in five races since.

4. Denny Hamlin (10.83)
With three consecutive third-place finishes, Hamlin is much better in the fall at Bristol than the spring. In his last three Food City 500 efforts, he has only one top 10 and an average of 18.7.

5. Chase Elliott (11.00 in four starts; tied with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)
After getting penalized 20 points for an infraction at Texas, Elliott is going to want to make it up this week. Bristol is not the track one wants to come with something to prove.

6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (11.00; tied with Elliott)
In fantasy racing, predictability makes a driver’s stats more meaningful. Stenhouse has finished worse than 16th only twice in his 10-race career at Bristol and came close to winning twice with runner-up finishes.

7. Jamie McMurray (11.67)
Several drivers had season-best results last week at Texas, but McMurray may have had the most dramatic run with his third-place finish. At Bristol, he has a seven-race streak of top 15s.

8. Ryan Newman (12.00)
With the exception of crash damage that caused him to finish more than 20 laps off the pace in fall 2016, Newman has finished in the top 15 at Bristol in the past three years.

9. Clint Bowyer (12.83)
Bowyer has been getting progressively better in the spring race with a 12th in 2015, an eighth in 2016 and his runner-up finish to Johnson last year.

10. Trevor Bayne (13.00)
Like his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Stenhouse, Bayne has been one of the best dark horses in the field whenever NASCAR comes to Bristol. In six career starts there, he has five top 15s and a best of fifth in the 2016 Food City 500.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Denny Hamlin has four front row starts at Bristol. Three of these were poles with the most recent coming in 2015. That makes him a front runner for the top spot.

Segment Winners: Bristol is hard to handicap. That is not only true at the end of the race, but during the segments as well. Last year, four different drivers won the four segments, but going back two years, Kyle Busch has been at the front most often at those critical junctures. He should be the pick for segment two. For segment one, pick a front row starter after qualification is in the books.

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

NASCAR America: Phoenix fantasy picks

Leave a comment

During the weekly NASCAR fantasy segment on NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman and Jeff Burton ran down their picks for Sunday’s race at the renamed ISM Raceway in the Phoenix area.

In the video above, Kligerman explains why he likes Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

Burton is picking Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Hamlin, Larson, Logano and Harvick.

Watch the video above for picks by Kligerman and Burton to win the pole, both stages and the race.

NASCAR makes changes to Fantasy Game for 2018

Getty Images
1 Comment

NASCAR’s Fantasy Racing Game will have new wrinkles for fans this season — including money.

Players no longer will have a salary cap when setting their lineup. Instead, drivers can be used only 10 times in the season. Players pick five drivers to start before each Cup race and can have a sixth driver in the “garage” that can be swapped in-race for any active driver before the final stage begins.

Game scoring follows NASCAR scoring and rewards points based on race results and finishing position in each stage. Players also can score bonus points by correctly picking the pole winner (five points), stage winner (10 points), winning manufacturer (10 points) and race-winning driver (30 points).

NASCAR Fantasy Live will run throughout the 26-week Cup regular season that culminates with the Sept. 9 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The overall points leader after that race will win $10,000.

Players can register at NASCAR.com/fantasy beginning today and set their driver rosters for the Daytona 500 when the entry list is announced.

 and on Facebook