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Fantasy Recap: Johnson, Newman win in own ways

July 29, 2013, George Winkler, NASCAR.com

Faith in Newman pays off at Indy

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Ryan Newman delivered for Stewart-Haas Racing -- and his fantasy owners -- by winning the Samuel Deeds 400 on Sunday at the Brickyard. Newman and Jimmie Johnson battled throughout the day, and although Johnson scored more fantasy points (111 to 101.5) in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game, it was Newman who was the bigger bargain -- and bigger surprise.

That’s because Johnson entered the race with an average weekly score of 103.1 fantasy points (tops in the game) while Newman came in at 43.73 (19th). Johnson cost $28.50 while Newman’s price was $22.

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NASCAR FANTASY LIVE TOP 15
*Fantasy Finish=FF
*Race Finish=RF

FF Driver Points RF
1. Jimmie Johnson 111 2nd
2. Ryan Newman 101.5 1st
3. Kasey Kahne 85.5 3rd
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 74.5 6th
5. Matt Kenseth 73.5 5th
6. Kyle Busch 70.5 10th
6. Martin Truex Jr. 70.5 11th
8. Jeff Gordon 70 7th
9. Tony Stewart 69.5 4th
10. Joey Logano 66.5 8th
11. Paul Menard 59 12th
12. Jamie McMurray 52.5 15th
12. Juan Pablo Montoya
52.5 9th
14. Kurt Busch 46.5 14th
15. Kevin Harvick 45.5 19th

It was easy to expect Johnson to make a run at an unprecedented fifth victory at Indy, but not so easy to put one's faith in Newman. However, Newman took two tires on a late pit stop while Johnson took four. A seven-second gap ensued and the No. 48 could not overcome it, though he did shave the gap down to under three seconds by race’s end.

We wonder how many fantasy owners took advantage of Newman, though. Because even though he won the Coors Light Pole in qualifying, he entered the race with just two top-10 finishes in 12 races at his home-state track.

But it became clear as the race wore on that Newman had the only car that was worthy of a battle with Johnson. And for owners who had Johnson and Newman on their team, well that’s the beauty of fantasy. There is no loser in that situation. In fact, many of the owners with that combination had a leg up on winning their leagues.

Key Fantasy Moment:
Just 12 laps into the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to head to pit road with a loose tire. That knocked Junior off the lead lap and could have been disastrous in fantasy, especially for a fantasy driver priced as high ($26.25) as he was entering the weekend. But by Lap 60 Junior was back on the lead lap and was able to end up in sixth place. That effort made him the fourth-highest fantasy scorer of the day with 74.5 points.

Best Value:
Newman was the best value, but Juan Pablo Montoya provided some bang for the buck, too. The $18.50 you spent on Montoya wasn’t bad, considering he finished tied for 12th in fantasy points with 52.5. That was better than some more high-priced drivers, such as Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards, who all ended up with worse scores.

Biggest Bust: Greg Biffle entered Indy with a stellar history at the track, including five straight top-10 finishes, so when Biffle qualified 27th it was understandable to view him as a potential mover in place-differential points. But Biffle’s team struggled throughout the race and he finished in 24th place as the first car off the lead lap. Biffle ranked 23rd in fantasy points after that effort, just a point ahead of Casey Mears. The problem is Biffle cost $25.50 while Mears went for $10.75.

Tip to take forward: Although playing the place-differential game did not work for Biffle owners, it sure did for those who took the plunge on Martin Truex Jr., who qualified 38th. Truex Jr. drove like a man on a mission to move up through the field, and he finished in 11th. That gave Truex Jr. a whopping 27 points in place differential and was a big reason he was the sixth-highest scorer of the week.

Kudos to NASCAR.com’s Alan Cavanna for suggesting Truex Jr. in his Fantasy Update video on Sunday morning. Balancing your lineup with a driver who can move up in place differential is something to consider each week.

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