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

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On the heels of one of NASCAR’s crown jewel races – the Southern 500 – the series heads to another of its marquee events: the Brickyard 400.

Last week, Brad Keselowski joined Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, and Erik Jones as recent winners among those who are not generally considered one of the Big 3.

The Brickyard 400 is the final regular season race of the 2018 season, which means there is only one more opportunity to win and get into the playoffs – and that may be one of the biggest factors in who should be on a fantasy roster. This race has been won by some surprising contenders in the past, including Kasey Kahne last year and Paul Menard in 2011 when he employed a fuel mileage strategy.

The entire field is ready to roll the dice and take some risks. That could make for one of the most interesting and chaotic finishes of 2018 and it is going to keep fantasy owners second-guessing the makeup of their NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster until the checkered flag waves.

1. Joey Logano (three-year average: 4.33)
Logano was happy to finish second at Darlington last week for more than one reason. That strong run gives him momentum entering a track on which he’s finished eighth or better in each of the last five years. He has not yet won at Indy, but a second-place finish to Kyle Busch in 2015 proves that he has a feel for the track.

2. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 4.67)
Kenseth has been unable to back up his previous numbers on any track since he re-entered the Cup series, but strong records typically predict a result in the teens. He enters this week with four top fives and a seventh in his last five starts at Indy. Depending on which game one is playing, Kenseth could be a great value.

3. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 5.00)
For the past three weeks, Harvick has been the top performing driver among the Big 3. Even so, he has not shown the same dominant form that he had earlier in the year. He could be in a similar situation this week where a finish just outside the top five allows him to earn a lot of points without challenging for the victory. At Indy, he’s finished in the top 10 in the last four races, but has only one top five.

4. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 8.67)
Hamlin was a victim of the general chaos that defined last year’s Brickyard 400 when he crashed on the final lap and finished 17th. Prior to that, he had three consecutive top fives plus a sixth in 2012. The trick for this team is going to be in managing a smart race without making any mistakes. If that happens, they should be right back among the top five.

5. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 9.67)
Keselowski’s win last week came at an opportune time. Team Penske has been as strong as any organization without at Big 3 member, but that has been obscured by the supremacy of The Dominators. By finishing 1-2 last week in the Southern 500, Keselowski and Logano have become part of the conversation when it matters – as they are trying to create and maintain momentum.

MORE: Rotoworld Brickyard 400 Cheat Sheet

6. Chris Buescher (three-year average: 11.50 in two starts)
Like Pocono, Indy is a rhythm track. Buescher’s victory on the Tricky Triangle was aided by strategy, but he has had other strong runs there as well. The same is true of the Brickyard where he has a perfect record of top 15s in two starts. If one is looking for a solid dark horse, the No. 37 fits the bill.

7. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 12.00)
Busch’s numbers are not at all indicative of how he will run this week. He was racing Truex for the lead last year when he crashed and failed to finish. Before that, he had back-to-back wins in 2015/2016 plus runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2012. He is the best opportunity for the Big 3 to get back into victory lane after getting shutout in consecutive races at Bristol and Darlington.

8. Paul Menard (three-year average: 13.33)
Seven years ago, Menard’s crew chief made a great call and helped the driver win the 2011 Brickyard 400 on fuel mileage. That was Menard’s second top 15 in five starts on this track. He has not earned another top five since, but he has been perennially in the top half of the field with five results of 10th through 16th in the past six races.

9. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 14.00)
Larson was another strong contender last year who ran into trouble. He finished 28th, which was the first time in four Indy starts that he failed to crack the top 10. Last week’s dominant performance in the Southern 500 will give him a lot of confidence. It should even help him earn a third straight top five for the first time since last October.

10. Kasey Kahne (three-year average: 14.33)
Kahne survived the carnage marking last year’s Brickyard 400 and got a great restart during a green-white-checkered attempt to beat Keselowski to the overtime line as Hamlin crashed behind him. While that was a surprise, astute fantasy players would note that he started his Indy career with back-to-back top fives and had a third-place finish as recently as 2013.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Prior to last year’s Brickyard 400, five consecutive Brickyard 400s were won from a top 10 starting position. On three occasions, the race was won from the front row with Ryan Newman winning from the pole in 2013 and Kyle Busch doing so in 2016. Jeff Gordon won from the outside pole in 2014. Kyle Busch won the last two poles on this track, but that does not necessarily mean he’s a favorite because the previous 12 editions were all won by a different driver.

Segment Winners: Kyle Busch won both segments of last year’s Brickyard 400. Truex finished second in both with Ryan Blaney third in each. If not for accidents, they would almost certainly have been among the top five at the end of the race. If one wants to disregard last year’s Indy results because the multitude of accidents that altered the finish, the top segment points earners at Pocono in the past two years have been Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Chase Elliott.

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

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

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Drivers are constantly on the edge of control. On most tracks, there is a little room for error. If a car is too loose in the bottom groove, the driver has chance to catch it. That luxury does not exist at Darlington Raceway where the preferred line has always been about an inch from the retaining wall.

The Darlington Stripe is more than a badge of honor; often, it is a sign of speed because it means the car has hovered on that edge for most of the race. Drivers who lightly brush the wall are maximizing speed; those who hit the wall too hard risk doing damage, however, and the difference between those two is measured in tiny increments.

Only five drivers enter the Southern 500 with back-to-back top 10s at Darlington. By itself, that is a testament to how difficult this race is to navigate – and also how challenging it will be to set this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster.

1. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 2.67)
Bristol was the first time this season the Big 3 all experienced trouble in the same race. That opened the door for someone else to win. The same thing could happen at Darlington. Hamlin is the defending winner of this race and enters with three consecutive top fives at Darlington.

2. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 5.33)
Only three drivers enter the weekend with at least three consecutive top 10s. Harvick has the longest streak among active drivers with five. That includes a victory in 2014 and a second in 2016. He is also tied for the longest top-10 streak of 2018. Harvick and Kurt Busch have both finished that well in the last six races.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 6.00)
Truex won the 2016 Southern 500. That was a bit of a surprise because it was only the second time he’d finished in the top five there. Last year, he proved it wasn’t a fluke by winning both stages of the race before slipping to eighth at the checkers. With Harvick and Kyle Busch developing a points advantage, he needs to win and close the gap.

4. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 6.67)
When Busch won the Dodge Challenger 500 in 2008, he lacked consistency. In his first five attempts at Darlington, he finished outside the top 20 three times. Since 2010, he’s earned six top 10s in eight races and finished 11th twice. It won’t take long for players to forget all about what happened at Bristol where he was involved in three incidents.

5. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 8.67)
Everyone keeps waiting for Keselowski and Joey Logano to snap out of their slump and challenge for more top fives. The time is running out on the regular season. If they want to develop some momentum before the playoffs, there are only two races remaining and that is a lot of pressure on a track as tough as Darlington.

MORE: Rotoworld’s Southern 500 Cheat Sheet

6. Joey Logano (three-year average: 9.00)
It took seven years for Logano to score a top five at Darlington, but on the heels of a fourth-place finish in 2015, he scored a fifth in 2016. That momentum might have been squandered with last year’s 18th. Logano was one of the biggest challengers to the Big 3 at the start of the year, but fantasy players want to see more from him before they risk an allocation.

6. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 9.00)
Darlington is not typically kind to rookies, so Larson’s eighth-place finish in the 2014 Southern 500 was notable. He followed that up with a 10th the following year and a third in 2016. Fantasy players need to take a moment and consider if his 14th in last year’s edition of this race foreshadows a turnaround or if it was simply an anomaly.

8. Ryan Newman (three-year average: 9.33)
Ryan Newman could well be the greatest differentiator this week. While he has not earned a top five at Darlington since 2011, his last five attempts there have been between seventh and 13th. He deserves a spot in the garage in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game because he’s going to be a safe pick if one your other drivers experiences trouble.

9. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 11.00)
This could be the week that Kenseth finally gets back inside the top 10. Trevor Bayne came within one position of that mark last week at Bristol and Kenseth has a stellar record at Darlington with a victory and five results of sixth or better in the last six races. If Kenseth can get in the top 10, the No. 6 will be this week’s most pleasant surprise.

10. Austin Dillon (three-year average: 12.67)
Dillon’s average finish is not as impressive as one would like, but he’s rapidly improved during the past three years at Darlington. He finished 22nd in 2015, scored a 12th the following year and then jumped all the way to fourth in 2017. Anything near the top 10 will be a successful outing for this team.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Harvick has led the field to green in three of the last four races. He earned the pole on speed last year and in 2014. He was awarded the pole by NASCAR’s rule book in 2016 and that has been part of his secret to success.

Segment Winners: Truex swept both stages of last year’s Southern 500 and he’s proven capable of repeating that accomplishment on a number of occasions – most recently this July at Kentucky. If he has fast 10-lap averages in this week’s practice, he is a good selection for the race. Hamlin scored 17 stage points last year and should also be considered.

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

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 America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Sonoma in last three years

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The last nine races at Sonoma have been won by a different driver each time. Only one driver enters the weekend with back-to-back top-fives on this track and three others have consecutive top 10s. Given the importance of strategy and track position, repeating at this track is incredibly difficult.

Those stats should predict a fresh face in Victory Lane, right?

Unfortunately a brief glance at the drivers with the best average finishes over the past three years reveals that the two dominators of 2018 – Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch – head up the list. If a fantasy player thought this was going to be a good week to vary their NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster, it’s time to rethink that position.

There are a couple of surprises among recent top performers, but the cream tends to rise to the top of NASCAR events. Anchor this week’s team with solid marquee drivers and use dark horses as a way to differentiate those selections from the competition.

1. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 3.67)
Harvick won last year’s edition of this race, but it is not the first time he has run well at Sonoma. He finished fourth in 2015 and was sixth the following year. Making those runs even more impressive is the fact that he has started outside the top 10 in each event and had to drive his way through the field.

2. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 4.33)
Along with Harvick, Busch is the only other driver with a current three-race streak of top 10s at Sonoma. He won there in 2015, followed by a seventh and fifth in his last two outings. He may be a better value than Harvick this week, however, because he has an equally impressive record at Watkins Glen International with a second in 2015, a sixth in 2016 and a seventh last year.

3. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 6.33)
It has been three years since Busch scored a top five at Sonoma, but what he lacks in raw power is made up for in consistency. In his last seven attempts on this track, he has finished outside the top 10 only once and that was a 12th in 2014. He won on this track in 2011 and finished second in 2015.

4. Joey Logano (three-year average: 6.67)
It appeared Logano had found the handle on this track. He scored his first top five in 2015 when he crossed under the checkers fifth. That was followed by a third in 2016. Last year was difficult for the driver of the No. 22; he qualified poorly in 18th and managed to climb only to 12th at the checkers.

5. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 8.00)
Sometimes a switch seems to flip for a driver on a given track. That is what happened to Hamlin in 2016 when he was on his way to Victory Lane before contact from Tony Stewart in the final corner. He hung on to finish second – snapping a six-race streak of results outside the top 15 – and backed that up with a fourth last year.

6. Ryan Newman (three-year average: 10.67)
Newman’s consistency has aided in his making the top 10 list a few times this year and the same is true at Sonoma. Without a top five to his credit in the past five years, he has swept the top 15. That makes him a good utilitarian pick. He will probably not score maximum points, but is also unlikely to lose a lot at Sonoma.

6. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 10.67)
There are so many different things that can go wrong on a road course and Johnson has had too many disappointments in 2018 to make him a fantasy favorite. Sonoma and Watkins Glen reward skill behind the wheel over raw horsepower and handling, however, so there is still a chance that he could earn a top five if the team is mistake-free.

8. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 12.33)
Keselowski makes the top-10 list despite having a 19th-place finish in his three-year average. That indicates just how difficult it is to sustain momentum on road courses given the various strategies that play out in a given race. The good news for Keselowski fans is that he finally earned his first career top five in eight starts last year with a third.

9. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 12.67)
McMurray has been consistent recently at Sonoma, but that is a fairly new trait. In his first 12 starts on this track, he had two top fives and no other top 10s. His average finish before 2015 was 16.7 despite finishing fourth in the 2014 race. He was 11th in 2015, 17th in 2016, and 10th last year – so he could be a good value if he practices and qualifies well this weekend.

10. Paul Menard (three-year average: 13.33)
Some of Menard’s earliest racing experience came in the Trans-Am series and that seems to have stuck with him. While he barely makes the top-10 list this week, he is perhaps the most consistent driver in recent years with four results of 11th through 16th in the last five races. Now that Team Penske is supporting his effort with the Wood Brothers, he should easily contend for a top 10.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: This is a good week to go out on a limb where the pole sitter is concerned. McMurray has won two of the last five poles on this track, while his teammate Kyle Larson took the top spot last year. Two JTG-Daugherty Racing drivers also have recent poles with Marcos Ambrose securing one in 2012 and AJ Allmendinger leading the field to green in 2015.

Segment Winners: There is absolutely no way to determine who is going to take the segment wins this week because it will all come down to strategy at the close of each stage. Since Harvick and Kyle Busch have scored the most segment wins, however, you may as well keep riding that momentum.

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

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.