NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 best at Michigan in last three years

Leave a comment

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.

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

Leave a comment

Pocono Raceway is an oddity with three distinct corners and straightaways. Because it requires a lot of compromise to go fast, one might suppose experience would be a critical factor, but six drivers entered this week scored top fives in their first attempt.

Denny Hamlin was the best of these with victories from the pole in his first two tries in 2006, followed by Erik Jones (third in 2017), Jimmie Johnson (third in 2002), Chase Elliott (fourth in 2016), Kyle Busch (fourth in 2005) and Kyle Larson (fifth in 2014).

Notably, three of the six drivers who excelled in their Pocono debuts raced for Hendrick Motorsports at the time, so that suggests William Byron might be a good dark horse to include in this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster.

Pocono is also a track prone to streaks. Seven drivers swept the top 10 last year and three of them carried momentum over from the previous season. This is a track on which success is often predicted by success, so chose most of your lineup from the 10 drivers listed.

1. Erik Jones (three-year average: 5.50 in two starts)
Jones continued the tradition of strong rookies at Pocono in last year’s Pocono 400 with a third-place finish. He was eighth in the Overton’s 400 later in the year. It didn’t hurt matters any that Jones had the notes from his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin and Busch as a jumping off point.

2. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 5.67)
Statistically, Keselowski is the best fantasy pick this week. He enters the week with five consecutive top-five finishes that includes a pair of runner-up finishes. He has struggled with three results outside the top 20 in the last seven weeks, but that means the competition is likely to ignore him – and an astute player can make up ground.

3. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 8.33)
It is not yet time to consider that Kenseth’s track record is more important than the obstacles currently faced at Roush Fenway Racing. But there are two factors that make the No. 6 a little more appealing this week. Kenseth came close to cracking the top 15 at Charlotte and may be getting closer to finding a good race setup. Secondly, he has a knack for Pocono with five top 10s in the last six races.

4. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 10.17)
Last week was a disappointment for NASCAR Fantasy Live players, but in all likelihood Harvick’s crash didn’t affect much since the majority of rosters had him activated. The key to success sat in the garage – if a player remembered to swap that driver before the end of the second segment. At Pocono, Harvick has a current three-race, top-five streak.

5. Daniel Suarez (three-year average: 11.00 in two starts)
Suarez finished 15th in last year’s edition of this race at Pocono. He improved to seventh in the Overton’s 400. Since his record includes only two races on this track, fantasy players have to place more emphasis on his recent momentum and he has five top 15s in the last six races of 2018.

6. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 11.50)
Hamlin ran a clean race last week and was rewarded with a solid top-five finish. He needs to avoid mistakes for a little while longer before NASCAR fantasy players begin to trust him, but Pocono is a track he has dominated in the past. Hamlin should be watched closely in practice before making a final decision on whether to start him or place him in the garage.

7. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 11.67)
Busch’s Pocono record is actually a little better than it appears. If one disregards a crash-induced 37th in August 2015, he would have an average of 6.6 over the past three years – and he has not finished worse than 13th in five years. Busch’s appeal recently has been his consistency. The lack of a significant downside to starting him makes him a great selection for the garage this week.

8. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 11.67)
Pocono is not the type of track one usually associates with Larson since there is no high groove to manipulate in any of the corners, so a driver is left to fight and gouge at the bottom. Still, Larson had a perfect record of top-12 finishes to his credit before he developed a drivetrain problem last July and finished 33rd – 12 laps off the pace.

9. Ryan Blaney (three-year average: 13.00 in four starts)
If one throws out the high and low for Blaney, it is easy to predict he will finish about 10th. His rookie season produced a 10th and 11th-place finish. When he won his first Cup race on this track last July, expectations were raised, however, and a 30th in July spoiled a lot of rosters.

10. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 13.33 in four starts)
Sometimes a switch flips for a driver on a given track. That may be what happened to Busch last July when he won from the pole after being shut out of the top five at Pocono since 2011. For the record, he was leading in August 2015 when he ran out of gas with two laps remaining.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Kyle Busch won both Pocono poles last year and has another in 2015. If he shows any speed at all in the first practice session, make certain he is activated

Segment Winners: Until their domination ends, the most obvious pick to win segment bonus points is Busch and Harvick. Keselowski demands a little attention as well, however, because he has been the third-most productive producer with four stage wins so far this year. If one wants a dark horse, last year’s winner Blaney has three stage wins to his credit in 2018.

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

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best fantasy values of 2018

Leave a comment

The All-Star Race comes at the one-third mark of the season and affords the opportunity to take stock in who has been a good fantasy NASCAR value so far in 2018.

Kevin Harvick (with five wins and an average finish of 7.8) and Kyle Busch (three wins and an average of 8.5) have dominated the first 12 races like few have done in recent memory, but that does not make them good fantasy values. It is impossible to make up any ground on the competition when everyone has the same two drivers on the roster.

Their domination and popularity among fantasy players puts a premium on the other three active drivers as well as the garage pick.

Players also want to look at trends. Read the articles at Rotoworld.com, particularly the weekly Power Rankings and Cheat Sheets.

When setting the roster for the NASCAR America Fantasy Live game, click on the stats tab in the game’s navigation bar. There is sortable data that provides a wealth of information, such as the three-week average fantasy points earned by each driver.

The fantasy points, as reported on the stats tab, include points for the Gatorade Duels in Daytona and do not subtract any points lost to penalties during the year, but they are still highly reflective of a driver’s strength to this stage of the season.

1. Joey Logano (average finish in 2018: 6.91; stage points: 117)
Logano actually has a better average finish so far this year than either Harvick or Busch and is within striking distance of them in terms of fantasy points earned through the first 12 races (plus his Daytona Duel). Harvick leads with 553. Busch is second with 534, but Logano has earned 529 points on the strength of his average finish and 117 stage points. He has scored 10 top-10 finishes and a 13th so far this year.

2. Clint Bowyer (average finish in 2018: 10.67; stage points: 79)
Once one is past the top three drivers in terms of fantasy points, the difference becomes notable. Bowyer has scored 426 fantasy points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game because he has not been as productive in terms of stage points. He is also trending down with 31.3 points per game in the past three weeks, which is tied for only eighth best.

3. Kurt Busch (average finish in 2018: 13.25; stage points: 102)
Busch got off to a rocky start in 2018. His 26th-place finish in the Daytona 500 came after an accident on lap 198. He crashed two weeks later at Atlanta to finish 35th. His next six races featured only two top 10s. But in that span, he also had three more top 15s and that was enough to keep him fantasy relevant. In the last three races, he swept the top 10.

4. Brad Keselowski (average finish in 2018: 15.50; stage points: 138)
Keselowski actually has earned a few more fantasy points than Bowyer or Kurt Busch, but his tendency to fall back in the second half of the race has cost fantasy players. Much of Keselowski’s woes can be traced to a four-race period from Texas Motor Speedway through Talladega Superspeedway when he crashed three times. If he can stay out of trouble, he will rival his teammate Logano.

5. Denny Hamlin (average finish in 2018: 10.25; stage points: 57)
Because of a rash of penalties, Hamlin has struggled enough in the early stage of races that he was a recent topic of conversation on NASCAR America. His 57 stage points is the least among any other driver in this week’s top 10, but he has at least been able to overcome at the end of races to minimize that damage.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (average finish in 2018: 12.50; stage points: 77)
With only 412 fantasy points banked, it would be easy to say that Truex has been a bit of a disappointment this year, but that is not strictly true. Champions often have slumps after winning the Cup and Truex suffered through a four-race streak from Texas to Talladega without a single top 10. Seven of his 12 races this year have ended in top-five finishes, however, so he is only an adjustment or two away from challenging the No. 4 and 18.

7. Kyle Larson (average finish in 2018: 13.83; stage points: 74)
One thing fantasy players look for is consistency. Having a historically strong driver on the roster when he wrecks, like Larson did at Texas earlier this year, or when he simply fades is not helpful. For that reason, streaks are important. Unfortunately, Larson has managed to back up one top 10 with another only three times so far this year and has not yet had a three-race string.

8. Aric Almirola (average finish in 2018: 12.42; stage points: 47)
Ranked eighth on the list, Almirola might be even more valuable because he is still flying under the radar. He has been strong, but as the fourth-most productive driver in a four-car team it can be easy to overlook him. The biggest factor Almirola has in his favor is consistency. In 12 races this year, he has finished outside the top 15 only twice and one of those was a 17th at Richmond Raceway.

9. Ryan Blaney (average finish in 2018: 14.67; stage points: 86)
Last week’s late-race crash at Kansas Speedway was frustrating. Since the NASCAR Fantasy Live game allows players to change a driver before the end of stage two, one prefers any problems to come early. That has not typically been the case with Blaney as can be evidenced by the fact that nearly 23 percent of his 374 points have come at the end of stages while his average finish of 14.67 is the second-worst among this week’s top 10.

10. Chase Elliott (average finish in 2018: 14.50; stage points: 31)
Elliott is a victim of his popularity. Everyone keeps expecting him to win so he keeps popping up on rosters. The unfortunate fact is that he has been hampered by whatever problem the new Chevrolets are facing. So long as players keep their expectations in check, Elliott’s eight top-12 finishes this year have been enough to make him fantasy relevant, but no one wants to build a roster around the No. 9. Use him as a frequent garage pick.

Stage Winners
Picking stage winners has been challenging. Harvick has dominated the first stage with four victories, followed by Keselowski with two. No one else has more than one. Stage two has been just as mercurial. Harvick and Keselowski are joined by Blaney with two.

Stage Points
Stage points are a good way to determine who has potential even if their average finish is less than optimal. Jimmie Johnson has not had the season anyone expected with only five top 10s in the first 12 races, but he has managed to earn stage points on 10 occasions for a total of 39.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has is another driver to watch. With Matt Kenseth joining Roush Fenway Racing, expectations are high that its performance will rise. Stenhouse has earned 33 stage points by being up front seven times. Now he needs to figure out how to close the deal.

Erik Jones has also earned segment points on seven occasions this year. Sophomores often have erratic results, but Jones is a solid value as a garage pick.

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

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

Leave a comment

It has been four weeks since NASCAR last visited a 1.5-mile track, but with four races on them in the next eight points races and another on the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway, it’s back to basics for the team.

The 2018 season has been about domination for Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. But Martin Truex Jr. was the driver to beat last year at Kansas Speedway with a sweep of victory lane.  Those three are going to be on virtually everyone’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster this week, so difference will come down to the other two active drivers on the roster.

1. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 5.20 in five starts)
In the garage last week, Busch said he knew what went wrong with the drive train on the No. 18. Kansas is a good place for him to rebound because he has five top fives in the last six races there that includes one win.

2. Kevin Harvick (9.50)
If not for a penalty in the 2015 Hollywood Casino 400 that cost him a lap, Harvick would probably have a six-race streak of top 10s at Kansas. What he has instead is a victory, two runner-up finishes and a third since the start of the 2015 season.

3. Ryan Blaney (14.60 in five starts)
Blaney has been close to perfect at Kansas. Ignoring a 27th-place finish in his spring 2017 debut, Blaney has never finished outside the top 15. Three of his last four efforts were fifth or better and he was the only driver except Martin Truex Jr. last year to sweep the top five.

4. Kurt Busch (8.50)
Busch’s three-year average is great, but his consistency leaves a little to be desired. In the last six races at Kansas, he has earned two top fives, another pair of top 10s and two results in the teens. Since the last two races of this season ended in a second at Talladega Superspeedway and a fifth at Dover International Speedway, he should land on the high side of that range.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (8.50)
Nobody really cares about Truex’s three-year average finish this week. The only thing fantasy NASCAR players will focus on is that he won both races last year and showed so much mastery on the 1.5-mile tracks in the past two seasons.

6. Jimmie Johnson (10.00)
One has to look closely at statistics before drawing conclusions. Johnson has been great on the similarly configured, 1.5-mile tracks in the past and with three victories, Kansas is no exception. Unfortunately, Kansas has not been immune to his recent struggles with three results outside the top 10 in his last four attempts.

7. Kasey Kahne (12.83)
Since Kahne’s most recent track records came in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5, they can be easy to discount. But last year Michael McDowell, the former driver of the No. 95, swept the top 20 and that suggests Kahne is going to be able to battle for a comparable finish.

8. Brad Keselowski (13.17)
Keselowski’s numbers would be much better if not for an accident in fall 2016. Otherwise, he has swept the top 15 in the last three years with a runner-up finish in last year’s spring event. Equally important, with the exception of his accident, he has finished all but one lap in the other 15 races.

9. Matt Kenseth (13.67)
It is only fitting that Kenseth makes the top-10 list in his first race back in a Cup car. Entering last fall’s Hollywood Casino 400, he had a 14-race, top-15 streak that included back-to-back wins in fall 2012 and spring 2013. Even with the struggles at the No. 6 that occasioned his being named as the temporary driver, Kenseth should be able to finish in the teens.

10. Chris Buescher (17.25 in four starts)
Buescher makes the top-10 list this week based on consistency. In four career starts, he has improved in each outing and never finished worse than 24th. His upward trajectory probably ended with a sixth-place finish last fall, but he will be a driver worth watching in the KC Masterpiece 400.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Truex won two of the last four poles at Kansas and started on the second row in the other two races.

Segment Winners: Harvick swept Las Vegas Motor Speedway with both segment wins and the race victory. He also has segment wins at Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Truex swept Auto Club Speedway, so both should be on the radar this week.

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

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

Leave a comment

NASCAR travels from one of the least predictable tracks to one where streaks are commonplace.

Talladega Superspeedway was as much of a wild card as predicted with a massive crash in the closing laps that eliminated many top contenders.

Dover International Speedway offers the promise of something different.

Last year, four drivers swept the top five there. Two others posted a pair of top 10s and several more swept the top 15. Far from making it easier to pick one’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live lineup, it puts a premium on getting exactly the right five on the roster.

Fantasy players need to look for consistency to go along with strength and put a lot of thought into which of the following 10 drivers will be the one that differentiates their lineup from the competition.

1. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 3.25 in four races)
Simply put, Elliott is as close to perfect at Dover as any driver will get before winning a race. Inheriting the team that propelled Jeff Gordon to so much success, Elliott has finished in the top five in four starts and finished second in last fall’s playoff race.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (5.67)
Truex’s name is going to pop up a lot in the next seven races because he has recent victories on all but one of those tracks. At Dover, he has been both consistent and good with a win in fall 2016 and an eight-race streak of results 11th or better.

3. Daniel Suarez (7.00 in two starts)
When handicapping a NASCAR race, one has to look at a driver’s track record and recent results. Suarez not only swept the top 10 at Dover last year, but he enters with back-to-back 10th-place finishes at Richmond Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway. That means he also has momentum on his side.

4. Kyle Larson (7.67)
With the exception of a 25th in fall 2016 and an 11th in his Dover debut, Larson has swept the top 10 on the Monster Mile. Three weeks ago, he finished second on another high-banked oval. His second-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway has him hungry for his first win of 2018.

5. Kasey Kahne (9.50)
This could be the week Kahne gives Leavine Family Racing their first top 10 on a non-plate track since 2016. Dover is a driver’s track and Kahne has a worst finish of 17th there in his last six attempts.

6. Jimmie Johnson (13.00)
This is going to be a great test of how much Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team have learned about the new Chevrolet Camaro. With a record 11 wins – the most recent of which came in last year’s AAA 400 – there is simply no one who has a better idea of what it takes to get to Victory Lane.

7. Kevin Harvick (13.50)
Harvick is a difficult driver to predict this week. His three-year average is positively skewed by a first and second-place finish in 2015. He has not earned a top five at Dover since. Then again, he has rarely entered the AAA 400 with as much momentum as this week.

7. Erik Jones (13.50 in two starts)
The super sophomores Suarez and Jones make great garage picks in the NASCAR American Fantasy Live game because of their consistency. Make the decision about which to place based on the weekend data – after practice and qualification are in the books.

9. Brad Keselowski (14.33)
While Keselowski has been solid at Dover in the past three years, these are not his glory days. From fall 2012 (when he won a race on fuel mileage) through 2014 he scored four top fives in five races. He has replaced that with consistency in recent years with only one result worse than 16th in the last six races.

10. Kyle Busch (14.50)
If this was the fall race, Busch would be one of the favorites. He has finished first or second in the last three October events. His best recent effort in the spring came last year with a 16th, but he was 30th or worse in the three preceding races.

10. Ryan Newman (14.50)
This should be precisely the type of track that favors Newman and his take-no-prisoners attitude, but he has only been able to score one top five in the last three years. He’s consistent, however, with a sweep of the top 20.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Truex has the most poles this season, but that is not the only reason to recommend him. He has started on the front row in his last three Dover attempts and won the pole for the 2017 Apache Warrior 400.

Segment Winners: Keselowski and Harvick – both of whom are among this week’s 10 best – have the most segments wins in 2018. With four apiece, they double the closest competitors and have an opportunity to extend that lead in the AAA 400.

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