June 12, 2013

FANTASY: Catching Up with Ford

Quicken Loans 400 Fantasy Preview


Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke a four-year winless streak
by taking the win at Michigan last June. (Getty)
I was operating the @NHMS Twitter account during a race last month and as has become common place this season, a slew of Toyotas were running up front.  One of our fans commented how they'd been fast all season and added that the Chevys had been fast too.

Being as there are only three car manufacturers in the the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, I had to pose the question whether she was implying if Ford had been running slowly.  To which she responded, "Basically, yes."  To date, only two of the 14 races have been won by Ford.

If there's a week for Ford to turn around its slow start with the Generation-Six car that debuted in February, it will be this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.  Since Ford's second track win with Bill Elliott in 1984 (its first came in 1969 with David Pearson), the manufacturer has won more than half of the races (31 of 58) on the two-mile oval.

Here are the drivers Ford or otherwise that might make your Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing team this weekend.

The Track


Due to its size, Michigan International Speedway will be one of the fastest in the series.  The two-mile track is the biggest (along with Auto Club Speedway), non-restrictor plate oval in NASCAR.  Pocono and the road courses are all longer, but their layout restricts the pedal-to-the-metal speed.  This race is very much about the fastest car, which means there's less emphasis on driver ability.

X-Factor


The Fords have been dominant at Michigan, but seem to have struggled with the new Generation-Six technology.  It's likely that we won't know until after this race whether or not the manufacturer can overcome its recent struggles to put up a good showing in its home state.  It's also worth noting that while Ford is notoriously strong, Greg Biffle's win last August was the first at Michigan for the manufacturer since 2008.

Fantasy Strategy


Fastest cars to the front, please.  Practice and qualifying will be worth tracking, as the cars with the most speed leading up to the race are likely the ones that will run away from the pack on this two-mile oval.  I'd recommend the drivers on the better funded teams, as those are usually the ones with the fastest equipment.

A-List


Start


  • #11 Denny Hamlin - He needs wins to qualify for the Wild Card and make the Chase.  Hamlin had a lot to do with ending Ford's strong run in recent years, as he won back-to-back spring races at Michigan in 2010 and '11.
  • #20 Matt Kenseth - His move to Joe Gibbs Racing's Toyotas from Roush Fenway Racing's Fords have made him borderline dominant this season.  Consider that four of the last seven wins at this track have come in a Toyota and that Kenseth has a 9.6 average finish at Michigan; things look good for him this weekend.
  • #24 Jeff Gordon - With five career poles at Michigan, Gordon provides bonus point potential in Yahoo's scoring system.  He also has 18 top-fives in 40 Michigan races, and any time you can average nearly 50 percent top-fives, that's very impressive.


Park


  • #48 Jimmie Johnson - Five-Time is so good at so many tracks, that you never want to start him at a track where he's not great.  This is one of very few Sprint Cup Series tracks where he's never won at and he's managed just four top-fives in 22 starts.  That defines "not great."


B-List


Start


  • #16 Greg Biffle - He hasn't had a great season, but this would be a great opportunity for him to pick up a win and contend for a Chase position after a second place finish last week.  He has three wins at Michigan, including (as mentioned before) last August.
  • #55 Mark Martin - For all the jokes about finishing in second place in his career, Martin has won at Michigan five times.
  • #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - He's only won two races since 2006 and both have been at Michigan.  I do suggest caution, as he has just 10 top-10s in 27 races at the track, so his wins don't correlate with any sort of dominance.
  • #99 Carl Edwards - This is Cousin Carl's track.  His 8.2 average finish at Michigan leads the field and he has 13 top-10s in 17 starts.


Park


  • #27 Paul Menard - He might be contending for an automatic bid in the Chase, but with just two top-10s in 13 Michigan starts, there's not much upside.
  • #78 Kurt Busch - He has two wins at Michigan, but a paltry 21.4 career average finish at the track.  Furniture Row Racing isn't the worst equipment in the Sprint Cup Series, but it's not nearly the best and won't give Busch any advantages.


C-List


Start


  • #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - Kenseth was phenomenal at Michigan in the No. 17.  If Stenhouse can carry that over, he could be the best choice in the C-list.
  • #34 David Ragan - He's not in the same equipment he used to be, but Front Row Motorsports does operate Fords.  He has a career average finish of 18.2 at Michigan, which ranks among Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski.  Not bad, right?


Park


  • #10 Danica Patrick - Stewart-Haas Racing might provide one of the fastest cars on the C-list, but Danica isn't putting up the finishes to be worth considering.


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Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily in rank order.

Join the "Fans of NHMS" Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing group.

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