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NASCAR Fantasy Insider: Are You Ready To Roll The Dice In Las Vegas?

The Sprint Cup Series makes its only in-season trip to Las Vegas this week and now that we’re into Week 3 of the 36-race season, the decisions on who to pick for your NASCAR fantasy team can start to get a bit tricky, especially if you’re in a league with pick limits. So if you’re off to a good start in your league, you may want to save some key guys for the 10-race Chase. If you’re not off to a good start, it’s not time to panic yet, but for sure, you want to have a good week. So, hopefully we can find some drivers who can offer you success, but not burn up a week of eligibility that you will regret later. *Looking For Some Aces* This is getting old already, but of the top drivers this week it’s just impossible to ignore *Jimmie Johnson*. Yes, you may have to pick and choose just exactly what weeks to play him, and for sure, you want to save four or five races in the Chase for him – but the fact remains, his numbers in Las Vegas are pretty much off the charts. He has an average finish of 9.82 in 11 races with four wins and two other top 10 finishes. Johnson is again my pick to win this week. Yes, I know I said it last week, too, so go ahead, put out a news bulletin if you wish. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15453.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"200\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Apparently, this guy is good at driving or something. Guaranteed top-2 finisher every week if the current trend is to be continued.</p></div> Another top driver with a pretty good record at Las Vegas is *Matt Kenseth*. In 13 races there, he has two wins, and four more top 10 finishes. He also has led 471 laps led, second most in the series. Which brings us to . . . *Tony Stewart* is the defending champion of this race and has the most laps led at the track with 482. Stewart also has five other top five finishes and three more top 10 finishes in his 14 races at Las Vegas. He had the 2011 event won as well, before a botched late pit stop saw him hand the win to Carl Edwards. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15374.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"183\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Who could say no to a face like that? Smoke won at Las Vegas last year, and should have won in 2011. Go ahead and pick him now – no need to wait until later in the season.</p></div> And take this for what it’s worth, too. One premium driver to avoid this week may well be *Brad Keselowski*. In four career starts at Vegas, he has an average finish of 30.50. He’s of course capable of turning that around, and he has back to back fourth place finishes to start the year, but BK looks like a pretty risky pick here compared to these others that are available. *Middle of The Roadsters* Last week I gave you *Carl Edwards* as one of the possibilities in this spot, and he came through with the win. Edwards can be a bit streaky in his career, both on the good side and bad, so if you’re really thinking his team has things figured out now, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to pick him this week as well. He does have two wins in eight races at Las Vegas and an average finish of 10.25. If you’re a believer that *Jeff Burton* is having, or can have, a rebound season after last year’s disaster, Las Vegas isn’t a bad place to spot him. Burton has two wins in 15 career starts and an average finish of 10.93. He also has six other top 10 finishes there. If it's a sleeper pick you're questioning, a guy who will be a must pick on only the road courses, look no farther than Richard Petty Motorsports driver *Marcos Ambrose*. He was 18th at Phoenix last week and has an average finish of 12.75 in four races at Las Vegas, including one top five finish. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/14120.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"183\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Why is this man smiling? Jeff Burton's three-year long spiral into obscurity may be over with the advent of the Gen-6 car.</p></div> And lest we forget, there is *Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* in this group, too. He very easily could have won the first two races, with just a little better luck in the draft at Daytona and on exiting pit road at Phoenix. Junior does have six top 10 finishes in 13 races, including two top fives, for an average finish of 16.31. *The Dark Horses* Just because these drivers aren’t respected by fantasy leagues, doesn’t mean they aren’t important. In fact, you can make a case they are more important because if you score a top 10 with one of these picks, then you’re likely in for a good week. The two obvious ones in each week in this group are rookies *Danica Patrick* and *Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.* But if you are on a nine race limit, that means there are 18 races where you have to pick at least two other drivers. You can probably choose a road-course specialist for the Sonoma and Watkins Glen races as well, so that leaves you with 16 open spots. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/13768.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"183\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Wondering why you haven't picked Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. yet? So is he. A 12th and a 16th to start the year is rather respectable for a rookie – even if he has won two Nationwide titles back-to-back.</p></div> The other option when he runs is *Trevor Bayne*, who is running a limited schedule again for the Wood Brothers. That being said, here’s some good news: Bayne is entered to drive in the No. 21 car in the Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas this week. The problem here is that Bayne, Patrick and Stenhouse have not driven a Sprint Cup car at Vegas. That’s also the case with former Truck Series champion *Austin Dillon*, who is entered to be the third driver in three weeks for the No. 51 car owned by James Finch. Driving that car has been a good thing for the first two races, where it finished 11th at Phoenix with *A.J. Allmendinger* behind the wheel and seventh at Daytona with *Regan Smith* driving. So, knowing that Patrick and Stenhouse will be available to pick all year, this may well be the week to look at Dillon or Bayne. *The Rear-View Mirror* The top scorer in the two Frontstretch Fantasy leagues last week was the team Hurtubise, most likely named after late Indycar great Jim Hurtubise, with 359 points. That team had race winner *Carl Edwards*, then a third place from *Denny Hamlin*, a fifth by *Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* and an 11th by *A.J. Allmendinger*. That’s tough to beat in this format. So good picking there and obviously there wasn’t a case of beer in the engine compartment when these picks were made (that’s an inside joke for us old IndyCar fans. Go look it up. It’s a great story). Since the Frontstretch leagues have the lucky dog scoring provision, throwing out the worst score, the season total reflects the best score between the two races this season. So if you have a bad week and see that your score didn’t change, just remember it’s already been thrown out. *Connect with Jeff!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/jeffwolfe206\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Jeff Wolfe\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/37938/ Read More »

NASCAR Fantasy Insider: Are You Ready For Real Racing To Begin?

NASCAR Fantasy Insider: Are You Ready For Real Racing To Begin?

Sure, Daytona is a great way to start the season and there always seems to be some kind of drama going on there. But do not fear, fantasy players who may have failed in week one. There are 35 other points races on the schedule and while winning at Daytona is obviously the best way to start a season, it’s not necessarily an indicator of how a driver or team will do the rest of the way. Case in point: the last Daytona 500 winner to win the Sprint Cup title was Jimmie Johnson in 2006, looking to repeat the feat after winning this year. And while the mainstream media will likely tone down its NASCAR coverage after Daytona, we who follow the sport know that the other races can’t be ignored, so it's off to Phoenix we go. There was actually snow in the Phoenix area last week, so be careful with those predictions, such as, “it will have to snow in Phoenix before (insert your least favorite driver’s name) wins.” Read More »

Fantasy Insider: Looking for Some NASCAR Aces In The Biggest of Races

Fantasy Insider: Looking for Some NASCAR Aces In The Biggest of Races

It’s time again for the biggest race of the year this Sunday: NASCAR's Daytona 500. Since it’s a restrictor plate track, it’s also one of the biggest pains to try and pick a winning team within your league. As you probably know, anything can and often does happen during a restrictor plate race; the only thing that’s predictable is that they're _unpredictable._ That’s why fans love those kind of events, four times a year while most drivers are simply driven crazy by them. Of the 43 that will start Sunday’s Daytona 500 (1 PM, FOX) probably about 30 stand a legitimate shot at winning the 55th running of The Great American Race -- and all of them could easily be the victim of a 15-car wreck. Read More »

2013 NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Old Favorites And Diamonds In The Rough

2013 NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Old Favorites And Diamonds In The Rough

*Come back every Thursday, to the website to get Jeff's advice on who to pick for your team, all season long and see if you can beat your favorite staff members! More special announcements about this league to come.* Daytona is just around the corner, so it’s time to rev up that NASCAR fantasy engine again. When it comes to playing fantasy sports, we all like to think we have some inside secret, or maybe some unique idea that can shoot us to the top. We like to think we know more than the other people we're playing against. But having played in many a fantasy league in many a sport (baseball, football, basketball, hockey, NASCAR) more often than not, having success is more about not making the huge mistake than coming up with a sleeper pick who comes up big consistently. So whether you are in league that limits drivers to a certain amount of races for the 36-race season (Yahoo gives drivers nine) or a where you have drivers for an entire season, one of the key factors is to not mess up that early "sleeper" selection. Read More »

Fantasy Insider: Sunday’s Championship Contenders Could Help YOU Win A Title

Fantasy Insider: Sunday’s Championship Contenders Could Help YOU Win A Title

It's often thought of as a bad idea in fantasy NASCAR to pick championship contenders in the last race of the season. It can be a poor choice for two reasons: 1) By the last race, most point leaders are usually coasting to the finish line. They don't battle other cars for position and run very conservatively. These teams are in the prevent defense, and just like it is not going to win a football game, it isn't going to win a race either. 2) If the championship battle is tight, the pressure put on the contenders can sometimes be too much to bear. Read More »

Fantasy Insider: Phoenix’s Surface Has Changed, But Leaderboard Shouldn’t

Fantasy Insider: Phoenix’s Surface Has Changed, But Leaderboard Shouldn’t

Some fantasy owners tabbed Talladega as the wild card, or biggest unknown in the 2011 Chase. Others labeled it as Martinsville. They all may have been wrong because this year it could be Phoenix. The second-to-last race in The Chase will not only be intriguing this season because of the championship battle brewing between *Tony Stewart* and *Carl Edwards*, but also because of the reconfiguration of the track. The frontstretch was widened, the dog-leg on the backstretch was pushed out and variable banking was added in the resurfacing project among other things. The new track surface and variable banking in the corners are the most significant change. It was done to promote better side-by-side racing, but will that be the case Sunday? The biggest question for fantasy owners is will the drivers who dominated Phoenix before the changes still be at the top of the leaderboard after them? I suspect they will. There have been a number of changes to the facility, but it still a relatively flat 1-mile track. There is an unknown about Sunday's race, but remember it is still Phoenix. Don't set your lineup strictly by test and practice speeds. Rely on guys who have past success in the desert. Read More »

Fantasy Insider: Study Intermediate Trends To Help At Texas

Fantasy Insider: Study Intermediate Trends To Help At Texas

The best fantasy owner is always on the lookout for the latest trend. It has been a difficult season to spot these tendencies because of fuel and tire strategy deciding the outcome of many events. Luckily the good folks at NASCAR (can you sense the sarcasm?), have eleven 1.5-mile circuits on the 2011 calendar. Two out of the final three races on the schedule will be at these cookie-cutter tracks, including Sunday's race at Texas. While each intermediate track varies slightly in layout, drivers that usually perform well at one, perform well at another (See *Carl Edwards* below). Take advantage of this by studying the nine races at 1.5-mile layouts before this weekend. Chances are it won’t only assist you on Sunday, but it will help you set your lineup for the final race of the season at Homestead as well. Read More »

Fantasy Insider: Don’t Let Chase Standings Impact Your Lineup

Fantasy Insider: Don’t Let Chase Standings Impact Your Lineup

The biggest wild card in The Chase for the Sprint Cup is in the rearview mirror. Fantasy owners are breathing a sigh of relief this week as the series goes from one of its biggest and fastest ovals to one of its smallest and slowest. However, one constant remains: close racing. With tight racing comes impatient drivers and that means more bumper tag. Chase contenders *Kyle Busch* and *Kevin Harvick* were victims at Talladega. There is no telling who it will be at Martinsville. Much like at Talladega, there isn’t a way to play it safe at Martinsville. Only three Chase drivers ended up in the top-10 last Sunday (*Brad Keselowski*, *Tony Stewart*, *Denny Hamlin*). Your best bet is to ignore the standings heading into the weekend and only put drivers in your lineup that have had past success at Martinsville. For example, *Carl Edwards* and *Matt Kenseth* have been the best two drivers in The Chase thus far, but they have sub-par results (see below) at the short track. Read More »

Fantasy Insider: Chasing That Talladega Lineup – How To Use The Title Contenders

Fantasy Insider: Chasing That Talladega Lineup – How To Use The Title Contenders

Talladega provides a bigger challenge for fantasy owners than any other race in The Chase for the Sprint Cup for one reason: unpredictability. Some drivers have caught on to the two-car draft faster than others, but that still leaves 25 to 30 possible winners and with 88, 87 and 88 lead changes in the last three races, it is impossible to predict who will cross the line first. Not to mention, that there have been eight different winners in the last eight races at Talladega and last lap passes for the win in eight of the last 12 trips there. Despite all of these staggering numbers, there is still some strategy that can be used in setting your lineup for Talladega. I suggested at the start of the 10-race playoff to map out your Chase. With five of the 10 races down, it is time to re-evaluate how many picks you have left with each driver and where you are going to use those selections. If you have been leaning on hot fantasy drivers such as *Carl Edwards*, *Brad Keselowski* and *Regan Smith*, it might be best to keep them out of the lineup this weekend. Use your top drivers where you know for sure they will be good. Read More »

Fantasy Insider: Perfect Time To Take Risks On Saturday Night

Fantasy Insider: Perfect Time To Take Risks On Saturday Night

There are only six races left in the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season. Hopefully, fantasy owners have positioned themselves to make a run at the title. With so few races left on the calendar, it might be time to make a fuel-only pit stop with 50 laps to go, or in other words, take a risk to score big points. There is no better place, except Talladega of course, than Charlotte to take a gamble on some drivers that probably didn’t get you to where you are this season, but could be worth a look in these final races (See *Joey Logano* and *David Reutimann*, below). Read More »