NASCAR Fantasy Blog


NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Bristol

August 20, 2013, Dan Beaver, NASCAR.com

NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Bristol
With five wins already at Bristol, Kyle Busch could possibly gain a sixth

Nothing in the sport of auto racing compares to Bristol Motor Speedway’s Irwin Tools Night Race.

It is the ideal convergence of weekly short-track racing and the glitz of big-budget sports -- and it holds a special place for NASCAR fans. Bristol is not exactly a wild card race, but it pays to have a Joker up one’s sleeve: it is a place where streaks are not common, but are commonplace.

Doubling down at Bristol requires a special skill, so drivers who perform the feat are well above the ordinary. Three drivers racing for a wide variety of teams enter the weekend with three-race top-10 streaks. Part-time Brian Vickers, young gun Paul Menard, and title contender Clint Bowyer have momentarily displaced the accepted short-track masters and will free up a lot of salary cap in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game this week.

Martinsville Speedway and Bristol may both measure a half-mile in length with Richmond coming in only slightly larger, but the similarities stop there, with one exception: the short tracks require patient aggressiveness to maneuver through heavy traffic.

Bristol is about rhythm, and streaks of five or more consecutive top-10s are not rare even in the current age of parity, so it will pay dividends to fantasy owners if they concentrate primarily on a driver's record on this track and then fill in the blanks with other short tracks.

 

Rank

Driver

Power Avg.

1

Jimmie Johnson

7.69

2

Kyle Busch

9.17

3

Jeff Gordon

9.17

4

Denny Hamlin

10.32

5

Clint Bowyer

10.89

6

Matt Kenseth

11.17

7

Kevin Harvick

12.04

8

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

13.67

9

Brad Keselowski

14.22

10

Carl Edwards

14.54

11

Ryan Newman

14.64

12

Kasey Kahne

14.72

13

Juan Pablo Montoya

15.62

14

Mark Martin

16.43

15

Martin Truex Jr.

16.61

16

Jamie McMurray

16.64

17

AJ Allmendinger

16.93

18

Greg Biffle

17.45

19

Joey Logano

17.56

20

Kurt Busch

18.19

21

Jeff Burton

18.33

22

Brian Vickers

18.42

23

Aric Almirola

22.10

24

Paul Menard

22.36

25

Marcos Ambrose

23.24

26

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

23.90

27

David Ragan

26.44

28

David Reutimann

26.66

29

Bobby Labonte

29.05

30

Casey Mears

29.45

31

David Gilliland

32.68

32

Danica Patrick

33.13

33

Dave Blaney

33.47

34

Travis Kvapil

33.82

35

Landon Cassill

34.68

36

Ken Schrader

35.99

37

David Stremme

37.45

38

Michael McDowell

37.96

39

Tony Raines

38.41

40

JJ Yeley

38.52

41

Mike Bliss

38.85

42

Scott Speed

39.24

43

Josh Wise

39.28

44

Joe Nemechek

39.91

The Favorites

Kyle Busch has found his niche at Bristol. The steep banking allows him to charge into the corners hard and still come out the other side. Any competitor on the high side of his charge may not be as lucky, but that is their problem and Busch has converted his aggressive nature into five victories since 2007. When he misses, it is often by a narrow margin, such as this spring when he finished second to Kasey Kahne in the Food City 500. Better still, he earns a lot of points along the way in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game. According to NASCAR Statistical Services, he has snagged more than eight percent of the fastest laps run in the past 17 races and that is head and shoulders above the competition.

Bowyer has not only scored three consecutive top-10s at Bristol, he has been just as perfect on the remaining short tracks. Last year, he swept the top 10 on tracks measuring less than one mile in length and he claimed victory in the Capital City 400 at Richmond. This year, he has been even better with a sweep of the top five in three short track races. He has not won yet this year, but he was second at Martinsville and Richmond. Compared to Jimmie Johnson and Busch, he is still relatively affordable in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game and will be nearly as productive as either of those drivers.

Kahne’s Bristol victory this spring was enough to vault him to favored status for the Irwin Tools Night Race. Even without that win, he has accumulated statistics that are relevant to fantasy players during the past three years. He has logged 34.2 fastest laps, recorded 33.2 quality passes, and led 75.5 laps on average. That places him in the same league as Busch, Johnson, and Brad Keselowski. His average finish in that span of races is a modest 12th, which may cause the competition to overlook him. If that happens, he will be an even greater value because he will differentiate one’s roster from the competition.

Dark Horses

In the NASCAR Fantasy Live game, how a driver performs throughout a race is just as important as where they finish. Sometimes it is even more important. NASCAR Statistical Services provide Loop Data each week and it is compiled from the last 17 races on a given track, but Truex has only been entered in only 15 of those events. Despite giving up two races to many of the drivers in the field, he has surpassed them with 494 quality passes. That is an average of 32.9, but it is also only half of the story. Martin Truex Jr. has been much stronger in the past three seasons with an average of 51.5 quality passes in the most recent six races.

Last week, Vickers' NASCAR journey was complete when he was officially named the full-time driver of the No. 55 for the next two seasons; early this week, it was announced that he will take over the ride for the remainder of the season now that Mark Martin is moving into the No. 14. For Vickers, it must have seemed like a long voyage, but in reality it was only last year that he shocked the field by finishing fifth in the 2012 Food City 500. Bristol has not been his best track during his career. Prior to climbing into Michael Waltrip Racing's Toyota in relief of Martin, his best effort there was 12th. His ability to overachieve was demonstrated multiple times in the past two years and is why he earned the fulltime ride It is also what makes him a great fantasy value. He finished fourth in last year's night race and followed that with an eighth-place finish this spring. He could do even better this week with pressure off his shoulders.

Underdogs

Ryan Newman is a hard-nosed racer with something to prove. Looking for that perfect opportunity to showcase his talent in 2014, he went out and dominated, and then won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in one of the biggest races of the year. He cut his teeth on short tracks in dirt competition and should be able to negotiate traffic with the best in the field. Unfortunately, his need to prove himself is both a blessing and a curse. The ragged edge at Bristol is thinner than nearly anywhere else on the circuit and the slightest mistake can result in some seriously mangled machinery.

Kevin Harvick won the most recent short track race in Richmond and that will put him on a number of players’ radar screens. In 2008, he swept the top five at Bristol and there is no question in anyone’s mind that he can run well there when he finds the right setup, but that has been difficult in the past few years. Since the beginning of 2009, Harvick has logged only one top-10 on this high-banked asphalt track and his average finish is 17.8. Last year, he scored only one top-10 in six combined short track races and none of those numbers are good enough to outweigh his extremely expensive salary cap.