April 24, 2014

FANTASY: Revitalized for Richmond

Toyota Owners 400 Fantasy Preview

Kyle Busch has four wins at Richmond.  Most recently,
he won at the track in April 2012. (Getty)
The Easter Break, NASCAR's first off-weekend of the season, is over.  The break should have given the opportunity for everyone to rest after a two-month, eight-week sprint to start the season.

That beginning included races everywhere from Florida to Tennessee to Texas to California.  It featured three rain delays, which resulted in two unplanned night races and a Monday event.  It raced on tracks that included two half-mile ovals, two 1.5-mile cookie-cutters, and a restrictor plate track of 2.5 miles.  It certainly challenged both the skills and the patience of drivers, teams and NASCAR officials alike.

There's plenty of good news and reason for optimism.  The weather is warming up; the traveling circus will stay closer to Charlotte in the near the future; and, thanks to the new Chase format, a postseason berth is not too far away for most teams (except Swan Racing, which sold its teams this week).

From a fantasy NASCAR standpoint, it's time to refocus in what many fantasy experts have considered to be an unreliable and difficult year to pick drivers.  It starts with getting it right coming out of the break.  Here's a look at some of the best performers at Richmond:

April 18, 2014

Easter Egg Hunting for a Win

Three of the standings top-five winless entering break

Of the three late season contenders in 2013, Jimmie Johnson
(left) and Matt Kenseth (center) are winless despite being
in the top-five in the standings.  Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick
(right) has two wins but sits in 22nd place. (Getty)
Ok, sorry, that the title isn't 100% politically correct.  Children, and adults for that matter, of any faith can certainly participate in an Egg Hunt in the spring.  Let's be honest, the inner kid in us always finds that kind of a treasure hunt to be fun.  However, to be fair, NASCAR takes off this weekend every year specifically in recognition of the Easter holiday, so the Easter Egg Hunt itself is applicable to the article.

The first break of the year gives drivers the opportunity to assess their season after eight races and figure out where they stand in comparison to the field.  With the new Chase format, winning is the key to success.  A win more or less guarantees a driver a Chase spot this postseason.

Despite that emphasis, some of the most consistent drivers have been those that have failed to find victory lane so far.  Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson all sit in the top-five in the standings despite not having any wins.  Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick is 22nd as the only driver with multiple wins.

It's assumed that the winless drivers racing with consistency will inevitably pick up a win at some point.  But, this is racing and that's not necessarily a valuable assumption.  Here's a look at several of the winless drivers and their current standing on the season:

April 14, 2014

Magic Mile Power Rankings: Darlington

Race #8 – Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

Darlington Raceway certainly wasn’t too tough for Kevin Harvick to tame on Saturday night, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran became the first driver to win two races this season. The No. 4 Budweiser Chevy was dominant , leading 238 of 374 laps en route to a dramatic finish that saw Harvick overcome Dale Earnhardt Jr. under a green-white-checkered finish.

Here's a look at the MMPR heading into Race 9 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, April 26:

April 10, 2014

Winter vs. Summer: Then and Now Photo Comparison

NHMS Ready to Open After Harsh Winter

The majority of New Hampshire Motor Speedway fans might think that the facility operates for two NASCAR weekends each year.  That's certainly true; the year does revolve around those major dates which bring in over 100,000 people each.  However, we do so much more at the Magic Mile.

The gates open in early April and don't close until the end of October, as we host everything from motorcycle race weekends to legends cars and bandolero races to NASCAR driving experiences sports car club track rentals to cycling and running events.

The New Hampshire Cycling Club is traditionally the first group on the track, and continues to use the facility on Thursday nights throughout the season.  This year won't be any different.  The group will take to the track on the evening of April 10 for the first on-track event of 2014.

This year, more than most, that comes as a relief to those of us at NHMS.  The cyclers were originally scheduled to open the season on April 3 with Rusty Wallace Driving Experience to follow from April 4-6.  However, after a long, cold winter that saw several feet of late-season snow and frigid temperatures to hold it, the start of the schedule was delayed a week while New England still thawed itself out.

The start of the 2014 on-track events marks a long-awaited end to winter and a start to our busy season.  We're excited for our 25th summer and intend to make it the best in our history.

Here's a then and now comparison of the harsh winter vs. the Opening Day of the track:

April 9, 2014

FANTASY: A Southern Tradition

Bojangles' Southern 500 Fantasy Preview

Darlington Raceway has earned the nickname "The Lady
in Black" due to all the tire scuffs on the wall. (Getty, 2010)
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race at Darlington Raceway for the 111th time this Sunday.  The series first raced there in 1950, and most anyone that's anybody in racing history has won there: Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt (Sr.), Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson; just to pick out a few across the generations.

The track has its own unique, egg-shape.  It was built like this in 1949 to allow for the preservation of a minnow pond on the west side of the property ... A minnow pond, of all things.  Over the years, the track earned the name "The Lady in Black" because of the marks that the wall would get from the amount of drivers that slid up the track and left black tire marks.

To this day, it remains one of the most legendary tracks on the schedule.  It's other nickname, "Too Tough to Tame," says just about all you need to know about its difficulty.  This isn't a track for the faint of heart (not that auto racing in general is designed for the faint of heart).  Here's a look at the drivers that might be able to tame "The Lady in Black" this weekend: