Hopefully, your first week of fantasy didn’t go up in smoke like it did for the Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines. Trevor Bayne’s win on Sunday (Feb. 20) proved just how unpredictable picking drivers at a restrictor-plate track can be. Fortunately, it should get a little easier from this point forward, starting with this weekend’s race in Phoenix.
Jimmie Johnson’s string of poor restrictor-plate finishes continued on Sunday. Hopefully, you kept him out of your starting lineups. Like I said last week, he is good just about everywhere else, and Phoenix may be his best track. Johnson’s average finish in 15 races in the desert is 4.9; that includes four wins and 10 top fives, including a pair of top fives last season. If you need added incentive to pick Johnson, look at his stats over the last five years in the second race of the Sprint Cup season. His average finish is 3.4.
In a top-tier group, a second guy to look at is Carl Edwards. Edwards was dominant at Phoenix just three races ago in the fall of 2010. He also has five top 10s and momentum on his side after a strong second-place showing in the Daytona 500.
Ryan Newman may not compete for the win on Sunday, but his consistency on flat tracks make him a great fantasy value. Newman won the spring race in 2010 and finished second in the fall race. The No. 39 also took a pair of top-10 finishes at the track that most closely resembles Phoenix, New Hampshire, last season.
Joey Logano is a good pick on Sunday for the same reason as Newman. Logano has become a quality flat-track driver, picking up three top 10s in four combined races at Phoenix and New Hampshire last season.
Another possible option for a mid-level driver is AJ Allmendinger. The ‘Dinger qualified on the front row in both races at Phoenix last season. He also led a number of laps in the spring race. Allmendinger was also 10th and 12th in the two races at New Hampshire last season.
There isn’t a clear frontrunner in the bottom-tier groups. David Ragan has run well at smaller tracks like Phoenix and New Hampshire in the past. However, his best finish in Arizona last season was 19th. I think Ragan could be a good pick this weekend because he is looking to redeem himself after a late-race mistake that may have cost him a win in the Daytona 500.
For the second week in a row, I would stay away from Tony Stewart. Over the course of his career, Stewart has been known as an above average flat-track driver, but was 17th and 23rd at Phoenix last season. Pair that with his habit of getting off to slow starts at the beginning of the season and Stewart is not a very good value in a top-tier group.
I would also stay away from Kasey Kahne, not because of his past results at Phoenix, but because it is unclear at this point how he is going to run with Red Bull Racing.
I believe that momentum is an important factor to consider each week in fantasy NASCAR, but even with the momentum of a Daytona 500 win, stay away from Trevor Bayne. Even in the bottom-tier category, Bayne is in sub-par equipment and shouldn’t be valued over guys like Ragan and Paul Menard.
Until next week, good luck my friends!
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