October 30, 2013

FANTASY: Deadlocked for Texas

AAA Texas 500 Fantasy Preview


Although he didn't win the title, Jimmie Johnson used a
race win at Texas in 2012 to expand his points lead. (Getty)
There's no longer a points leader in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  With three races to go, the lead is split between Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

The AAA Texas 500 likely won't decide a whole lot either, as the two drivers are 1-2 in career average finishes at the track among active drivers.  There's a strong possibility that one of the two takes the points lead via a race win, but it's also likely that the other driver stays within striking distance, thanks to an impressive runner-up finish.

It's the time of year where the top contenders just seem to find their way to the front of every race and end up with no less than a top-five.  It's what Johnson did en route to five consecutive championships from 2006-10, and it's a feat that Kenseth has pulled off in four of seven races so far in this year's Chase.

The emphasis will be squarely on these two drivers this weekend, but with 43 cars in the field, let's take a look at some of the other drivers that might also help the Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing teams on Sunday:

The Track


Texas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile oval, commonly referred to as a "cookie cutter."  This will be the 10th time in 2013 that the NSCS has raced on such a configuration.  The most successful drivers learn to do well on this track type, as proven by Kenseth's four wins in nine cookie cutter races.

X-Factor


Each of the last three races this season have been won by a driver picking up his first win of 2013.  That's surprising this late in the season, but it does show that success is still being found by some teams that haven't had it this year.  With all the focus on Johnson and Kenseth, it's possible that an out-of-sight, out-of-mind driver steps up to take the checkered flag.

Fantasy Strategy


There are only three races left in the season.  At this point, fantasy managers should really be making sure that they don't leave any of nine starts on the table for any of the best drivers.

A-List


Start


  • #15 Clint Bowyer - The speed hadn't really been there for much of the Chase, but Bowyer earned a third-place finish at Martinsville.  That moves him up to sixth in the standings, and marks his fourth top-10 in seven Chase races (albeit, the other three were a ninth and two 10ths).
  • #20 Matt Kenseth - With a series-best 8.5 average finish at Texas, the co-points leader should be on rosters this week.
  • #48 Jimmie Johnson - Even with what Kenseth has done, Johnson might still be the Chase favorite.  He won this event last year as the points leader, before facing bad luck the final two races.  He has a 9.1 average finish at TMS.


Park


  • #5 Kasey Kahne - With how badly things have gone in the Chase, it seems like Kahne might be closer to the non-Chasers in points than the leaders.  Sadly, his 27th at Martinsville was only the third-worst finish for him in seven Chase races.


B-List


Start


  • #16 Greg Biffle - He stands out with a whopping eight top-fives in 19 starts at TMS.  He might not be pushing for a championship any longer, but he showed last week in an altercation with Jimmie Johnson that he's still got the fire.
  • #18 Kyle Busch - Thirty-six points back in the standings, Busch is as far back as he can get while maintaining any real chance at a title.  It's still a slim hope at that.  He'll need to win this weekend, something that he's very capable of doing. 
  • #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Without the 35th to open the Chase, Junior might have contended this year.  He has five top-10s in seven Chase races and should keep up that consistency again this weekend.
  • #99 Carl Edwards - The Chase hasn't gone as planned for the No. 99, but Edwards is the all-time leader with three wins at Texas.


Park


  • #22 Joey Logano - The Chase's youngest driver has been somewhat of an enigma.  He did finish fifth at Texas earlier this year, but has a career average finish of 21.7.  He has two top-fives in the Chase, but nothing else higher than 14th.  All in all, he's too inconsistent right now.
  • #39 Ryan Newman - It appears as thought The Rocketman has run out of fuel in this year's Chase.  He's 12th in the points due to two finishes of 35th or worse.


C-List


Start


  • #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - If you still have starts left on him, this track is the best option remaining to use him.  It's a track on which he's already raced this season and is the layout with which he's most familiar in the Sprint Cup Series.
  • #55 Elliott Sadler - The No. 55 has been a respectable car for much of the season, and Sadler put together a decent run at Martinsville.  He even led a few laps before settling for 25th.


Park


  • #51 Kyle Larson - The No. 51 doesn't seem to be in very good shape, and that has hurt Larson's NSCS debut.  He's finished 37th and 42nd in the two races he's entered so far.


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

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