Fantasy Recap: Tables turn toward Johnson
September 30, 2013, George Winkler, NASCAR.com
It's nearly impossible to afford Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch on the same fantasy team, so it stands to reason that owners are picking one or two of the aforementioned drivers to hitch their rides to the rest of the way. Entering Dover, those in the Kenseth or Busch camps were riding high with back-to-back 1-2 finishes at Chicagoland and New Hampshire.
But now, after Johnson's dominating victory at Dover for his record eighth win there, the tables have turned. Kenseth was a solid seventh at Dover, but for Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup purposes that's not going to cut it -- and he even admitted so after the race. For fantasy purposes, Kenseth still finished fourth, but when the price is high and the margin for error thin, the gap of 10 fantasy points between Kenseth and Johnson that might have seemed small earlier in the season is chasm-like now.
It was difficult not to notice Johnson taking control at Dover, and we're sure the No. 48's detractors were trying their hardest not to let it sink in on Sunday. But with the way Johnson looked in Delaware, and given the statistical dominance he has displayed at Kansas (more on that later in this story), the decision to buy in with Jimmie when he was slightly down and to stick with him through the start of the Chase is looking better and better all the time.
If you don't believe me, then look at the lap summary report from the AAA 400, where for the final 300 laps at Dover Johnson was either in first place or second place at every 20-lap checkpoint. It's an impressive display of the five-time champion's power, and could be a harbinger of things to come.
So if you are sitting on Jimmie in your fantasy lineup, be glad. Reap the rewards of the rising price of the No. 48 as the rest of us rush to join you.
Key Fantasy Moment: Although Dale Earnhardt Jr. had problems entering the pits, his mishap came early enough that he was able to bounce back for a second-place finish. Meanwhile, Kurt Busch, whose team brought in four new crew members from Richard Childress Racing's Nationwide Series program, continued to have problems. On Lap 159, Busch came in for an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel. After that, Busch fell off the lead lap and went on to finish 21st after starting ninth. Coming into Dover, Busch had been a strong performer -- and had provided it at a second-tier price ($24.75). But it's not the driver fantasy owners have to worry about here, it's the team. That risk has to be factored in each week before owners take the plunge to purchase the No. 78.
Biggest Bargain: After a 37th-place finish at Chicagoland and a 14th at New Hampshire, Joey Logano might have been off-limits to some fantasy owners heading into Dover. But for those who took his victory in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday to be a good sign they were pleasantly rewarded on Sunday. Logano, who started 11th, finished third in the AAA 400 and compiled the sixth-highest score in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game. That came at a price of $23.50, which was less than each of the three drivers who finished right behind him in fantasy points, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle. Honorable mention here goes to Brian Vickers, who had the 10th-highest fantasy score of the week and cost $20.50.
Biggest Bust: Carl Edwards seemed like a safe choice after opening the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with an 11th-place finish at Chicagoland and a ninth-place showing at New Hampshire, and he was maintaining a spot in the top 15 through the first 360 laps at Dover. But disaster struck late in the race when a broken hub led to him finishing 35th, the worst showing among Chase-qualified drivers. For Edwards, who started fourth, the subtracted points for place differential were enough to ruin his fantasy value. He ended up with minus-7.5 fantasy points, and Michael McDowell was the only driver who had a worse showing. Edwards cost $24.75 for all that. Ouch!
Tip to take forward: Jimmie Johnson leads in a multitude of statistical categories at Kansas over the past 11 races at the track, including driver rating (119.1), quality passes (496) and fastest laps (439), so if you picked him up during his down times heading into the Chase, then continue to ride him while the performances and the prices likely continue to go up. Meanwhile, if you didn't get in on the Jimmie train in time, you might be able to pick up some value from Biffle, who is second in driver rating and has 465 quality passes at Kansas in the same span.