Playoff scenarios. You may be bored with all the “what ifs” but when it comes to your fantasy roster, they’re a “what launches” you above your competition. Just what drivers may or may not do with a Chase spot on the line could well factor into how your fantasy team does these next couple of weeks. With the Sprint Cup cars heading into Atlanta Sunday night, we take a quick look at how the strategy of those winless bubble drivers could affect their late-race decisions and finishes.
There have been 12 winners this season and there are just two races left in the regular season. That means the most we can have is 14 winners, which means the guys that have won this season are virtually guaranteed a spot in the 16-driver Chase. That also means there are several drivers on the bubble of trying to make it in on points.
Matt Kenseth is pretty secure to make the Chase, even though he hasn’t won yet, because he sits fifth in the points standings. So, he’s in position to go for a win and not have to worry about the points situation. Even if there are two new 2014 winners in these next two races, it would take a complete disaster for him not to make it.
Then there is Ryan Newman, who also looks to be in a good spot at the moment. He has leads of 11 and 16 points over Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle, the last two Chasers at the moment. Newman may be in the most precarious position of knowing a win would guarantee him a spot, but that a 30-something finish combined with two new winners in these next two races would knock him out.
Bowyer and Biffle are also in precarious spots. Biffle is 26 points ahead of Kyle Larson in what would be the last Chase spot if there are no new winners. But he knows if there’s a new winner, and it’s not him, he’s in trouble. Bowyer is 31 points ahead of Larson, and a 30-something finish is the last thing he needs, too. While that team has been known to gamble and have success in fuel mileage races in the past, it would be a huge gamble for them to try something like that now.
Then you’ve got think about the go for it guys here. Along with Larson, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Marcos Ambrose and Brian Vickers are all in that boat. And, if Tony Stewart returns to the track and wins one of these next two races, would NASCAR make a special case and allow him in the Chase? I would certainly hope so.
LOOKING FOR SOME ACES
A driver who needs a boost right now and could very get one at Atlanta is Kyle Busch. It’s hard to believe he has dropped to 17th in the points standings and it’s good for him he has a win to stand on when it comes to making the Chase. In his last two races at Atlanta, he has a win and a sixth-place finish while leading 102 laps. If Rowdy wants some momentum heading into the Chase this may be the perfect track for him.
A driver who doesn’t need much momentum who has been good at Atlanta the last two years is Jeff Gordon. He has finished second and sixth in those two races. And given that he’s got three wins this year and is leading the points standings, it would be no surprise to see him contend again this week. For his career, Gordon has five wins at Atlanta with 15 top 10 finishes in 26 races, leading an active-driver best 1,297 laps. He may add to that total again Sunday.
A driver who has won two races this season and with just a little luck, could have won two or three more, is Kevin Harvick. In his last two trips to Atlanta he has finished fifth and ninth while leading 101 laps. He does have one career win at Atlanta and he could add another one given the fact he has had good cars at a variety of tracks this season.
Another driver who has been good at a bunch of different tracks this year is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. And given that two of his three wins have come on the fast tracks of Daytona and Pocono, Atlanta and its high speeds may be a good match for him. Junior has finished seventh and eighth in his last two Atlanta starts and also has one career win there.
MIDDLE OF THE ROADSTERS
The Penske team seems to be at the top of its game right now, and no matter the history of drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski at tracks, usually both of them are contenders at any track they race at lately. Logano was second in last year’s race, and Keselowski was third the year before. This may very well be the week they put it all together where they both finish in the top five. Also, Keselowski has five wins and Logano one win at intermediate tracks since the beginning of the 2012 season.
If you’re looking for a bit of an upset special, or cheaper/rarely used pick for this week, then take a look at Martin Truex, Jr. He has been third and fourth in his last two trips to Atlanta. And even though those were with a different team, he does know the fast way around the track and how a car should feel and work there. And you know with the team buried at 25th in the points standings, if there’s even a remote chance at a win, they’ll be going for it.
Another driver looking to build momentum going into the Chase is Denny Hamlin. He has won one of the last two races there and has led 105 laps in those races. And yes, since he too already has a win this year, he’ll be going for a win too if late race strategy comes into play.
And just this note, too. If Tony Stewart does race this week, he does have three career wins at Atlanta. If Stewart doesn’t race, then look for his replacement, maybe Jeff Burton again, as a possible cheap option, too.
Well, we do have a new entry this week, but before you get too excited about it, just remember, that no matter how talented a driver may be, the first Sprint Cup race is just a whole different experience.
However, if you’re looking for a super cheap option, or a driver on the Yahoo! C list that you can use for a race, Ty Dillon will be making his Sprint Cup debut in the No. 33. Just exactly where he will finish, is just hard to say. If you’ve used Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon a lot in this spot this season, it’s difficult to say with any certainty that he will be better than those two. However, if you think he can finish better than say Justin Allgaier or Danica Patrick, then go for it.
Dillon did finish 19th in his first race at Atlanta last year, so a top 20 finish is possible for a first-timer. Patrick has finished 21st and 29th in her two trips to this track. Larson and Allgaier will be making their first career Sprint Cup starts at the track, too.
NoBarNASCAR took over the lead in the overall standings in the Frontstretch Fantasy League on Yahoo! And remains there this week with 6,593 points. Next are LeftTurnOnly with 6,533, Mojothemonkey at 6,491, SiLo Sounds Racing at 6,316 and ShadowsPT at 6,296. The biggest mover of the week was DKcrasher, moving up 11 spots to 18th in the overall standings.
The top weekly performance went to SiLo Sounds Racing with 351 points with race winner Joey Logano, second-place Brad Keselowski, 11th-place Kevin Harvick and 15th-place Jeff Burton.