Fantasy Recap: Kyle Busch a study in contrast
August 12, 2013, George Winkler, NASCAR.com
Related: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live
Two road courses. Two different results for Kyle Busch. After finishing 35th at Sonoma earlier this season, Busch came away with the victory Sunday at Watkins Glen. This was consistent with the No. 18's past performances at both of the tracks, so fantasy owners who were keen to that knowledge no doubt benefited from Busch's presence in their lineups.
Busch scored the most points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game at 79.5, and that was a whopping 19.5 points more than what second-place Carl Edwards had. Busch led all drivers in fantasy points for fast laps and was second only to Marcos Ambrose in laps led. And although the finish was close between Busch and Brad Keselowski in real life, Busch was 23 points better than Keselowski in fantasy.
That was a big gap to overcome on a road course where fantasy points were at a premium. But if you did study those previous stats, you would have known better. In nine career Cup races at Sonoma, Busch had one win -- but just two top-10 finishes. Now, in nine Cup races at Watkins Glen, he has two wins and eight top-10s. That’s a stark contrast despite the tracks being a similar genre.
It's an interesting point to take forward when setting your lineup. Never take a previous performance at a similar genre track for granted.
Of course, Busch might not have fared as well had it not been for a Lap 59 pit stop that came fortuitously before a Lap 60 caution flag. That meant leaders like Ambrose had to come in to pit while Busch was on his way out and grabbing an advantage.
That key moment shuffled the standings around quite a bit in fantasy leagues. And that made fantasy owners either famously fortunate, like Busch, or fittingly frustrated, like Ambrose, who was spun by Max Papis on a late restart -- or road-course king Jeff Gordon, who met an even worse fantasy fate. For more on Gordon, let’s move ahead with our story …
Key Fantasy Moment: It came on Lap 14 when Jeff Gordon, with a series-leading nine road-course wins, got off track and out of control and slammed into an inside barrier (watch video). Gordon managed to get back in the race and finish 36th, but it was a far cry from what fantasy owners were expecting from the four-time Cup champion. In fact, Gordon did not score a single fantasy point thanks to minus-8 in place differential that wiped out the points he gained by his finishing position.
Best value: Forgive us if you've heard this before, but it was Casey Mears, who qualified 30th but moved up to a 12th-place finish. For that he scored 51 fantasy points and was the seventh-highest scorer this week. That was slightly better than Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch but at a fraction of the cost at $11.25. Owners who saw Mears' best average finish for his Cup career was at Watkins Glen did well to take advantage of that stat.
Biggest bust: Let's make it plural and say it was the two Hendrick Motorsports cars that got tangled up with each other on Lap 81. Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne made contact, Kahne spun and got slammed into by Junior (watch video). Both Hendrick machines received significant damage and led to Junior finishing 31st in fantasy points and Kahne 38th -- with just a single fantasy point. That qualifies as "ugh" for two drivers who cost $26.50 and $24.75, respectively.
Tip to take forward: There are no more road courses on the schedule this season, so it's time to jettison Marcos Ambrose and perhaps even Juan Pablo Montoya -- and any of the other road experts -- from your roster. It's unfortunate because they are value picks and allow for roster flexibility. But now that the road courses are in the rearview mirror, fantasy owners can focus the alternating intermediate tracks and short tracks in the next four races before the chase, including Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond.