There are a number of different formats of fantasy NASCAR leagues that are out there. Many now offer the chance for fantasy owners to compete in a 26-race regular season in order to qualify for a 10-race Chase for the Cup. Unless you are in league where picks for each driver are not limited, driver selection for the next eight races will be critical.
Owners currently on the outside the playoff bubble will be forced to use up picks with top drivers to try their hardest to get in the Chase, while those who are already in contention may choose to take some risks at a race like New Hampshire. It may not seem like a big deal now, but it could decide the outcome of the owner’s season. The owner who has to use up top-driver selections now will have to take more risks in the Chase, and the owner who takes the risks now can save for when they count the most.
The Cup Series has hit the halfway point and it means there are only eight races until the Chase. So much strategy is incorporated in fantasy NASCAR and it’s time for that strategy to start playing out. No matter what plan you are on, here is who will be good in Loudon, N.H.
After 18 races, Jimmie Johnson has just one win and it came in the two-car tango at Talladega. The No. 48 team has had a quiet year to say the least, but Johnson is headed to one of his top tracks this weekend. Johnson has three wins and 12 top-10 finishes in 18 starts at New Hampshire. His average finish of 9.89 is second to Denny Hamlin. Johnson is primed for a breakout performance and it could come on Sunday.
Kurt Busch has posted top-10 finishes in five of the last seven races this season. At New Hampshire, he has posted finishes of sixth or better in five of the last six races. Can you say momentum? After looking like a borderline Chase contender in the beginning of the season, Busch has surged back at the halfway point. He is fourth in the points standings, only 18 points out of the lead and nobody has been better at Loudon over the last four races (average finish of 6.25) than Busch.
Clint Bowyer has four career victories in the Cup Series and two of them have come at Loudon, including a victory in the first Chase race of 2010. Bowyer has had poor showings in his last two races (36th at Daytona; 35th at Kentucky) and has dropped out of the top 10 in points. The pressure will be on the No. 33 team to capitalize on Sunday at their best race track.
Along with Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has also been plummeting in the series standings. Poor finishes as of late have put this team on the Chase bubble, but they will have a great chance to recapture momentum on Sunday. Earnhardt has made it no secret that he enjoys racing at the flat 1-mile track and even when his team has been down, Earnhardt has put up solid runs at the track. He was fourth and eighth last season. If Earnhardt is going to snap this losing streak anytime soon, this will definitely be his best chance.
Ryan Newman didn’t run well for most of last Saturday’s race at Kentucky, but he found a way to finish fourth. This team has made that happen numerous times this season, and it will probably reward them with a Chase spot at the end of race 26. New Hampshire has been a track where Newman shouldn’t have to fight back because chances are he will be toward the front all race. He has two wins and 12 top 10s in 18 starts at Loudon.
David Ragan and Paul Menard have each enjoyed hot streaks this seasons that make them very valuable commodities in unpredictable bottom-tier groups. In most fantasy leagues, owners are restricted as to how many times they can select these drivers though, so owners need to make their picks count by only using drivers such as Menard and Ragan where they have a history of success. New Hampshire is not that place. Ragan has recorded only three top-20 finishes in eight starts at Loudon along with no top 10s. Menard has been that much worse. In eight starts, he is yet to record a top-20 and his average finish is 29.13.
Regan Smith looks like a solid pick this week in a group that doesn’t have much to offer. Smith was 19th last fall and most owners would gladly take that finish on Sunday.
For the first time this year, Carl Edwards is going to be placed on the Fantasy Insider bench. The No. 99 team has proven that it is championship caliber this season with solid runs practically everywhere, but Edwards is yet to prove that he has gotten a hold of New Hampshire. He was 11th and 25th there last season and has just two top-10 finishes in 13 starts.
Edwards isn’t the only Roush Fenway driver to avoid this weekend. Keep them all out of your fantasy lineup. Greg Biffle has only six top 10s in 17 starts and an average finish of 17.35, Ragan is yet to record a top 10, and while Matt Kenseth has finished in the top 10 in 50% of his starts (11-for-22), there are far better picks at his value.
Until next week, good luck my friends!
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