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!
For the time being, I am focusing on Draft Kings. If you would like weekly or seasonal advice for other formats, please post in the Comments below or DM on twitter to @illinisjc
Here is my initial list of targets for Draft Kings games this weekend. Many of these guys are profiled in my prior two postings listing driver targets. I've added a few words on the new names appearing here for the first time. I'll update this list after the Duals when we see more of how the cars look on track and know everyone's starting position:
Pic from www.teampenske.com
A few quick thoughts after watching the Clash today.
Pic from Nascar.com
With cars hitting the track today, I wanted to cover a few more drivers to target for the Daytona 500.
With cars hitting the track for practice, qualifying and "The Clash" this coming weekend, it's time to start thinking about lineups for the Daytona 500. First a few general concepts to remember for plate track races:
NASCAR finally announced the new format for its Fantasy Live game. Gone are the salary caps and bonus points for laps led and fastest laps. Now you can use any driver you want in a particular week, but you may only use each driver ten times for the entire season. So, for example, you could use Jimmie Johnson as one of your five drivers for the first ten races, but then you could not use him again for the remainder of the season. The link to NASCAR's announcement page is at the bottom of this post. Here is a bullet point list of the new format:
PIC -- www.teampenske.com
Brad Keselowski had a very strong 2017 season. He made the playoffs once again and advanced all the way to the championship race, only to finish behind the three other championship contenders. Along the way, Brad continued his trademark outspoken approach -- challenging NASCAR about Toyota's perceived advantages and more. It will be interesting to watch more fireworks fly this year if Chevrolet's new chassis shows improved speed as well.
Let's dig into some of Brad's numbers from 2017. He had three wins -- at Atlanta, Martinsville and Talladega. He had a total of 15 Top 5 finishes and 21 Top 10 finishes. He finished outside the Top 20 seven times. All in all, it was a solid but not spectacular season. His team returns intact in 2018, with the innovative and gambling Paul Wolfe as crew chief.
Now let's look at four tracks where Brad typically excels and where you should look to lock him into your lineups in 2018. First is Martinsville. In 2017, Brad won the Spring race and finished 4th in the Fall. He led over 100 laps in each race. And, in 2016, he finished 2nd and 5th at Martinsville, so this has been a very strong track over the last two years. Next is Talladega, where Brad has wins in 2014, 2016 and 2017. This is a track where it is not uncommon to see the 2 car out front switching from one lane to the next to stay out front. It has worked well and Brad has driven to Victory Lane in three of the last four years. That's downright dominance at a plate track. Next is Pocono. Brad finished 5th in both races there in 2017. In 2016, he finished 2nd and 3rd. I feel like this is a track where Paul Wolfe comes into play. It's such a long track that a car running near the front can make a green flag pit stop without losing a lap. That gives an aggressive crew chief strategy options to get a good (but not great) car into Victory Lane. And Wolfe is one of the best at capitalizing in those situations. Finally, it's Las Vegas. Note there will now be two races at Las Vegas -- an early season Spring race and a September race that opens the playoffs. This should be a good thing for the 2 car because the numbers say this is a great track for Brad. In the last five races there, he has two wins (in 2016 and 2014) to go along with a 3rd, 5th and 7th. And, Brad led laps in each of those five races, including 89 laps led in 2017. But this one makes me a bit nervous if Toyota (and now Chevy) have an advantage with their new chassis. (Ford is yet to upgrade its chassis.) While those advantages can be overcome at the plate tracks and tracks where innovative pit strategy is an option, there is really no place to hide at a mile and a half track. The first Vegas race is the third race of the season, so it will be too early to tell for sure where things stand. But do keep an eye on that story line before you plug in Brad at Las Vegas in week three.
I do want to mention one more track and that's Kentucky. Brad faltered there last year, crashing out about a third of the way through the race and finishing 39th. In the prior three years, however, he had two wins and well over 300 laps led. But, at this point, we have no idea what any of those prior results mean. The track was repaved prior to the 2016 race and then repaved again prior to the 2017 race. So keep Brad in the back of your mind for Kentucky and take a look at qualifying and practice speeds to help you decide what to do. At one time, Brad was pretty dominant on the old surface, so it's one to keep in mind.
Photo -- LAT Photographic and Autoweek.com
Aside -- I just love this Lowe's paint scheme.
Jimmie Johnson had a very rocky and unpredictable 2017 season. That is about the worst thing one could say about an elite level driver for fantasy purposes. Let's look at some of the numbers to show just how erratic things were.
Johnson won races at Texas, Bristol and Dover. His Texas and Dover wins came as no surprise because historically those are two of his strongest tracks (see below). In the remaining 33 races, however, Johnson had only one other Top 5 finish (3rd in the October race at Dover). And, for the entire year, Johnson had only eleven Top 10 finishes. On the flip side, he finished outside the Top 20 twelve times. It's incredible to think that one of the best drivers and teams in the history of NASCAR would be more likely to finish outside the Top 20 than in the Top 10. But that is what happened with the 48 team last year.
Can we expect an all around improvement in 2018? I'm not convinced that we can due to all the change and uncertainty that has happened in the off-season. First, the Chevy teams are all switching to a new chassis. While that may ultimately lead to more speed -- as the Toyota chassis update did -- there is likely to be at least some struggle and a learning curve early in the season. And, within Hendrick Motorsports, there has been a near complete makeover, with Johnson now being teammates with a stable of three young but talented drivers -- Chase Elliott, William Byron and Alex Bowman. I have to imagine something will be lost without the input of accomplished race winning drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne, both of whom were Johnson's teammates last year.
So what to do with Johnson for our fantasy games in 2018? At this point, I have to recommend limiting his use to the tracks where he has historically dominated. Things could change if the team shows marked improvement in speed at some point in 2018, but for now, I would stick with the tracks he loves. Here are three to focus on: (1) Dover -- In the last three Dover races, Johnson has finished 3rd, 1st and 7th. In the last ten races there, he has four wins and seven finishes inside the Top 7. Johnson will probably be a threat to win every Dover race until the day he retires. (2) Texas -- Johnson has won four of the last seven and six of the last eleven races at Texas Motor Speedway. In 29 Texas races during his Cup Series career, Johnson has seven wins, another five second place finishes, and a total of twenty-one Top 10 finishes. He has finished outside the Top 20 only four times. Simply amazing numbers and the dominance shows no signs of slowing at this track. (3) Charlotte -- Finally comes a track that is just a 15-20 minute walk down the street from Hendrick Motorsports' complex in Concord, North Carolina. Early in his career, Johnson simply manhandled the competition at CMS. He won five of his first ten races there as a full-time Cup driver, led laps in each of those races and did not finish outside the Top 7. His performance at CMS has been more uneven since then, but he has been very strong there the last two years. During those four races, Johnson has a win in October 2016, to go along with 3rd and 7th place finishes. In the one other race (the 2017 Coca Cola 600), Johnson ran out of gas a few miles from the finish while leading the race. (Austin Dillon went on to win that race and take the #3 back to Victory Lane.) Johnson always seems to bring a little something extra to those hometown Charlotte races.
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