I started this blog to provide a casual, recreational level of fantasy NASCAR advice and discussion. I've been playing these contests for a number of years and am annoyed by lineup sellers and groups of players using the same lineup. I'm hoping to give the casual player some help in building solid lineups that can beat that annoying crowd most of the time. I'm not a "tout" and don't do this for a living, so proceed accordingly. I hope you enjoy the discussion here and Good Luck!
Off to Las Vegas this weekend for the second consecutive 1.5 mile track. This is a much different track though. The pavement is not as old as Atlanta and it won't chew up tires and kill lap time as much as we saw in Atlanta. We have one practice and then qualifying on Friday with two additional hour long practices on Saturday. The weather should be dry, but chilly, which will probably give us some very fast speeds.
We have a pretty good list of drivers with a long history of consistent success at Las Vegas. Here are some we'll be looking at very closely this week in order of their DK price:
As of now, I'm thinking this list is too heavy on the Fords. I'll be looking for one or two Toyotas and Chevrolets to add to the list on Friday or Saturday.
Picture c/o Stewart Haas Racing
If you played our main line-up this week, you doubled your money. I played it in the $50 DK single entry game and doubled my money with a $100 payout. Let's take another look at that line-up, which we posted late Saturday night:
Bowyer and Kurt Busch were the key to victory here. Bowyer was under 10% owned in the games I played and Kurt was right around 10% owned. Bowyer scored 55.5 points after finishing third from the ninth starting spot. Kurt finished eighth after starting seventh, but he led 52 laps, so he scored 57.5 points. We identified Bowyer based on how strong he was in final practice with single lap, 10 lap, 15 lap and 20 lap averages. Kurt had a very strong recent history at Atlanta and ran solidly in practice as well. So the signs were there if you did your homework -- which we did.
We also added Blaney based on his strong performance in final practice. Watching that coverage really paid off.
We're obviously disappointed with Kahne and Ty Dillion. We expected a bit better. It turns out that the winner of the $50 DK contest had a very similar line-up. They had the same four main drivers we posted, but used Austin Dillon and David Ragan instead of Kahne and Ty Dillon. Austin made a huge difference -- scoring 41 points after finishing 14th from the 25th starting spot. I didn't want to go there because I expected a Daytona hangover. Plus Austin had no history of strong Atlanta runs -- finishing worse than 30th in two of the prior three races. But taking those chances led to a very large pay day.
We also talked about fading Ryan Newman given his history of poor finishes from strong starting spots at Atlanta. That was spot on as Newman finished 22nd and failed to score even 30 points.
As for our alternate lineups, they were designed as contrarian lineups to capitalize if Harvick or Truex, or both, ran into problems. So these lineups obviously did poorly since the conventional wisdom prevailed this week. In addition, both lineups featured Jimmie Johnson based on his strong Atlanta history and position difference potential. But his day was all but over when he spun and suffered damage shortly before the end of Stage 2. Again, if you're playing multiple line-ups, these are the types of line-ups you want to sprinkle in to hit it big if a race turns unpredictable and the favorites fall. By their nature, these line-ups normally fail. But when they succeed, they tend to win big.
On to Vegas!
Just a few quick notes on Vegas. We'll spend much more time on it throughout the week:
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Some interesting developments during qualifying.
First, Kyle Busch wins the pole. He certainly has to be on the radar since it wouldn't surprise if he leads numerous laps and runs a significant number of fastest laps. But there is so much risk in the position difference category. And there is this history: Kyle has qualified in the Top 10 in nine of the last ten Atlanta races. But, in those nine races, he has finished in the Top 10 only three times. And the most laps he has led in any of those nine races is 66. That shows the downside risk of using him this week. (h/t www.driveraverages.com)
Second, Martin Truex starts 35th. Given his 1.5 mile track record, you have to think he's going to move forward and score a lot of position difference points. And, in a long 500 mile race, it's possible he works his way all the way to the front and also scores laps led/fastest lap points. (In 2015, Jimmie Johnson started 37th, but won the race and led 92 laps. And in 2016, Kyle Busch started 39th, but finished 3rd and led 2 laps. So it has been done.) Truex has the biggest points upside in the field I think.
High End Options
I think Truex and Harvick have the highest upside and there are ways to get them both in there despite their $10K+ salaries.
Other expensive options starting towards the front include Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch -- both of whom we highlighted earlier this week.
Further back in the field, I like Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson. Each has run well here in recent races and they both offer good upside with position difference points. I'm also OK with Blaney. He has a mediocre record at Atlanta, but you have to figure he's likely to move up 10 spots or so from his 26th starting position.
Ty Dillon and Kasey Kahne look like pretty good lower cost options to me. They have at least some credibility compared to the other low end options. I don't think either of these guys are going to score a huge points day, but they should be solid.
Some will look at Ryan Newman's $6,900 salary since he starts on the front row. But I'm really worried about him. He started 2nd last year too, but finished 35th. The year before, he started 4th, but finished 24th. Another replay of that would be a huge hit to your lineup. If you're playing a lot of lineups, I suppose you can dump Newman in one or two. He'll be low owned and if he does lead laps and stay up front, it will differentiate you from most other entries.
I'm still tinkering with some lineup possibilities. Will be back by Sunday morning with any new developments and a few sample lineups to help you finalize your lineups for the race. Until then, keep an eye on weather reports as things don't seem to be getting any better. 80% chance of rain on Sunday!
A few quick notes before on track action begins today:
Pic from AMS official website
Here's our first detailed look at this weekend's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. With all the randomness and unpredictability that goes into a plate track race like Daytona, I consider this the true start to the fantasy NASCAR season. So let's get started and win some contests.
This is a 500 mile race on an old, worn out 1.5 mile surface. Last year, most of the cars that ran all the laps made 9 - 11 pit stops. So, with the new pit stop procedures this year, a team that can have clean, penalty free pit stops is going to gain a significant advantage in track position. Not to knock them unfairly, but the 11 team of Denny Hamlin seems to have an inordinate share of pit road mishaps. It has been prevalent in years past and reared it's head at Daytona when Hamlin slide through his box and was then penalized when the crew started fueling the car before it was fully back in the pit stall. Two mistakes in the same pit stop in race one is not the way to start.
Another factor this week will be the weather. The schedule is set up with one practice and qualifying on Friday, one practice on Saturday and the race at 2pm Eastern time on Sunday. Friday's weather is predicted to be OK. But Saturday shows a 30-50% rain chance. And Sunday shows rain likely throughout the day. Hopefully we can get the race in Sunday without delays or interruptions. Even if we do, though, the conditions could be much different than what the drivers experienced earlier in the weekend. That should favor drivers who have done well in recent races and have a good baseline coming into the weekend.
So, here's our list of the top recent performers at Atlanta. You'll probably want to get two or three of these guys onto your DK roster:
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After each race this season, we're going to do a recap and look ahead. In the recap, we'll go through some observations and analysis of the just completed race and review how our driver targets and predictions turned out. In the look ahead, we'll provide just a few nuggets of fantasy relevant information for the upcoming week's race. Here we go.
Daytona 500 Recap: Four big wrecks played a huge role in whether you had a good or bad fantasy racing day. All four were the direct result of cars blocking strong runs coming from behind. I suppose it's something that is going to happen at plate tracks, but I just don't understand blocking at the front of the field in the first half of the race. It seems like the first two big wrecks could have been avoided. I get blocking in the closing laps, and I saw all the action there as "just racing". In the last incident, Almirola did what he had to do to try to stay in front and Dillon did what I think 99 out of 100 drivers would do in his position.
How did we do with our drivers and predictions this week? Our top picks were Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson. All three picks were the right ones, but we got a bit unlucky -- particularly with Almirola. He was out front and poised to win (or at least finish in the top five) after starting 37th. Dillon got a run on him, Almirola went to block it and got knocked into the fence a mile from the finish line. He came home 11th and still scored 62.25 points, but he came inches away from having a banner day. Larson seemed to get dinged every time there was a wreck and his car was not right at the end. He finished 19th and still scored 47 points, but it seemed like a disappointment considering what might have been. BK really killed us. He had a run on the 9 car, tried to pass him on a late inside move, the 9 went to block, and they came together. From the post-incident interview, it was pretty clear that Brad regretted the chance he took that early in the race. He was running in the top five and there were still almost 20 laps left in Stage 2. In hindsight, it would have been much better to back it down there. But those are split second decisions and I'll always take my chances with BK at the plate tracks. Here, however, he finished 32nd and scored only 12 points.
Our next group was Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger and Jimmie Johnson. I'm really proud of the Allmendinger pick. I did not see anyone else touting him this week and he was only about 10% owned in the games I played. He finished 10th and scored 45.75 points at a minimal salary. This was our best call of the week. Kahne was looking good and running in the Top 10 but got taken out as an innocent bystander in the Keselowski incident. That was a killer for us because Kahne was only around 20% owned in the games I played and could have combined with Allmendinger to form a winning, low-owned combination. Truex was also running near the front late, but got caught up in the second to last incident and had pretty heavy front end damage. That took him from a Top 10 finish to 18th. And Jimmie was looking great. He went from starting in the back to the Top 5 in Stage One alone. He had a potentially huge points day, but got taken out as an innocent bystander in the first "big one". So this group had one great call and three very, very unlucky ones. That is the way it goes sometimes at plate tracks.
Our last group was Hamlin, Logano, Blaney and Stenhouse. The first three guys there finished 3rd, 4th and 7th. While they didn't have position difference bonuses to speak of, they each paid very solid points. Stenhouse got front end damage in one of the incidents, began to overheat at the end of Stage 2 and finished 29th.
Our bold predictions were (1) Some combination of 4 cars from Penske and SHR would finish in the Top 10. Not quite. Two Penskes were in the Top 10, but the SHR crew just missed out. Almirola finished 11th and Bowyer 15th. (2) A Penske or SHR car wins. Nope. Dillion's Chevy broke Ford's seven race winning streak at plate tracks. (3) At most 1 Hendrick car finishes in the Top 20. Nailed it! The only Hendrick car in the Top 20 was Alex Bowman who finished 17th. (4) RCR and affiliate Germain will put two cars in the Top 10. YES! Dillon won and Newman finished 8th.
On To Atlanta: We start the real weekly grind next week at Atlanta. It's an old worn out track that just beats up the cars. A few quick nuggets from recent Atlanta races:
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Nothing from Friday practice changed where I am looking on Sunday. So here is where I'm at on Draft Kings:
I really like these guys because they have excellent records at plate tracks and they are starting towards the back of the field, so offer great potential for position difference bonus points.
These guys are starting mid-field and offer some combination of position difference bonus plus a solid record at plate tracks.
All of these guys are good candidates to win the race, but they also come with huge point differential downside. They could score a lot of points, but carry a ton of risk. If you do want to take one of them, don't pair them with anyone else starting near the front.
The Duels were pretty uneventful. A few incidents, but also a lot of single file rim riding around the top of the track. For fantasy purposes, most of what we already talked about in our previews below is looking spot on.
First, as we've talked about, it looks like the Fords will continue to dominate at plate tracks. In the first Duel, the Penske Fords ran 1-2-3 most of the race. Keselowski crashed out late, but Ford still scored the win and four of the top five spots. In the second Duel, the Fords of Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and even Paul Menard all looked strong. Fords will make up 6 of the Top 12 starters on Sunday.
Second, some of our under the radar driver targets looked strong. Guys like Clint Bowyer, Trevor Bayne and AJ Allmendinger looked solid and finished in the Top 10 in the second Duel. They will start in the top half of the field on Sunday. In the first race, Logano and Stenhouse scored Top 5 finishes. And Aric Almirola was crashed out when Jimmie blew the tire, but the 10 car looked good at the start and Almirola spoke very highly of the car in his post-crash interview. In a nutshell, he said they felt they could contend for the win and that they were just riding and biding their time until the end of the race.
The closest thing we have to a new development for fantasy purposes is a few big names starting at the rear of the field Sunday after crashing out. That gives them solid potential for bonus points for position difference from start to finish. Guys like Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski will all start 30th or worse on Sunday. Given his success at plate tracks, I think that moves the 2 car of Keselowski right to the top of the board. JJ and Larson don't have the same history of success at plate tracks, but this gives them a chance to really return great value if they can avoid the big one and finish in the Top 15 or so.
We'll watch practice tomorrow, crunch some more numbers and do an updated/final driver target list on Saturday.
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My name is Steve and I've won thousands playing NASCAR fantasy racing games. This blog will share my advice for enjoying and winning your fantasy racing games. I'm also a NASCAR writer at the motor sports website slicksandsticks.com