Fantasy Recap: Chase drivers dominate
September 16, 2013, George Winkler, NASCAR.com
Related: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live
While it would be impossible to fit an entire roster of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers under the salary cap in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game, it's important to point out that nine out of the 10 top scorers this week were from the field of 13. And as colleague Dan Beaver said in his Chase Fantasy Preview, fantasy owners can expect that trend to continue on most of the tracks left in the Chase.
The only non-Chase driver in the fantasy top 10 after Sunday's rain-delayed event was Brad Keselowski, who brought home the ninth-best fantasy score for the price of $24.25 (down $0.25 since last week). But at that price, Keselowski was actually more expensive than some of the drivers who are in the Chase such as Kurt Busch, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.
So the trick this week was picking the best Chase drivers and avoiding the one or two who provided a pitfall for fantasy owners. The best were the 1-2 punch from Joe Gibbs Racing of Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. This wasn't a big surprise considering only Jimmie Johnson had scored more fantasy points than those two this season, but with Busch at $28.75 and Kenseth at $27.75, it was an expensive duo to own.
They were worth it, but if you paired one of those with Johnson, you were also OK. And then if you combined two of those powerhouse performers with a second-tier driver such as Jeff Gordon ($24.75), who provided the fourth-best fantasy score this week, you were cooking. Throw in a value such as Danica Patrick ($11.25), who scored the 22nd-best fantasy points, and no doubt you're looking down at the rest of the league right now.
This will be the formula for winning the rest of the way now that the field has, in a sense, been condensed. It could be a different combination every week, because we don't know which drivers will catch a bit of bad luck at any given time. But Kenseth appears to be the gold standard at the moment. There are always those early-season engine problems that enter as a potential worry with the No. 20, but they seem to have those issues behind them.
With six wins and counting in what is shaping up to be perhaps his best season, Kenseth at $27.75 is still priced the same as Johnson and beneath Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. So even though Kenseth might not be a choice that has a lot of sizzle, he is the right choice for your foundation heading into New Hampshire.
Key Fantasy Moment: Things seemed to be going great for Joey Logano in his Chase debut after he won the Coors Light Pole Award and led the first 32 laps of the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. But then Logano started to have engine problems, and after battling them valiantly finally had to succumb on Lap 176. Logano finished 37th at Chicagoland, his worst showing since back-to-back 40th-place finishes at Daytona and New Hampshire in July. It's the first time Logano has had engine problems since way back at Talladega, but it still might be worth dropping him just to see if his price, which had risen during a recent hot streak, might come back down to earth.
Biggest Bargain: It was a virtual dead heat between Aric Almirola and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who finished 11th and 12th, respectively, in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game this week. Almirola scored 53.5 fantasy points, with 20 of them coming on quality passes, while Stenhouse had 51.5 points. Almirola cost fantasy owners $17.25 while Stenhouse was $15.75. The good news about Almirola is he finished fifth earlier this season at New Hampshire, so it's tempting to hold onto him another week. Same goes for Stenhouse, who now has two top-10s in a row after not getting a single top-10 in the first 25 races this season.
Biggest Bust: For the third time this season a major engine problem sent Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the garage early. And for the third time in the past six weeks, the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet had a finish of 30th or worse -- this time coming in 35th at Chicagoland. While his popularity might be contributing to Junior's rising price tag (up to $26.50 last week), recent history suggests fantasy owners should look elsewhere on that price level for their fantasy driver. Junior had the ninth-worst fantasy score this week with nine points.
Tip to Take Forward: Jimmie Johnson overcame pit-stop problems of his team's doing as well as an official's apparent error to finish fifth Sunday. It was by far Johnson's best finish in a five-week span and a signal that the No. 48 is back on track. That's good news for fantasy owners searching for a smartly priced elite driver. Johnson's recent woes dropped him to $27.75, which is equal to Matt Kenseth's price and less than Kyle Busch ($28.75) and Kevin Harvick ($28). Grab J.J. at a reduced price entering New Hampshire, where he has the third-best Driver Rating (105.1) over the past eight seasons.