NASCAR Fantasy Blog


NASCAR Fantasy Preview: New Hampshire

July 10, 2013, Dan Beaver, NASCAR.com

NASCAR Fantasy Preview: New Hampshire
Flat tracks have their own set of trends for fantasy owners to consider

Related: NASCAR Fantasy Live | Streak to the Finish

Two agendas are in play this week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. With the standings tight, drivers on the cusp of the top 10 in points need conservative, solid runs that will either protect their positions or elevate them slightly in the standings. Drivers who are well inside the top 10 or barely clinging to a top-20 position need to take any risk necessary to have a chance at winning the Camping World RV Sales 301 and stake their claim for a potential Wild Card slot.

With Daytona in the rearview mirror, it is time for drivers to take control of their fate and dominate the race to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

No matter which short-term agenda is subscribed to by a driver, this race is also a test session for the Chase itself. While NASCAR’s version of the playoffs begins in September at Chicagoland Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosts the second race. In part because the two New Hampshire events are only nine weeks apart, drivers who run strong this weekend can be expected to run strong in the Chase. Last year, seven drivers swept the top 10 in New Hampshire’s two races and 13 drivers swept the top 15. Equally important, three of the final 10 races are held on short, flat tracks, and that makes this track type nearly as important as the similarly configured 1.5-mile tracks in determining the champion.

Fantasy Power Average

Rk
Driver
Power avg.
1
Denny Hamlin
7.41
2
Jimmie Johnson
7.78
3
Jeff Gordon
9.18
4
Kyle Busch
10.34
5
Kevin Harvick
10.39
6
Clint Bowyer
11.24
7
Tony Stewart
11.94
8
Carl Edwards
13.00
9
Brad Keselowski
13.15
10
Ryan Newman
13.32
11
Kasey Kahne
13.38
12
Matt Kenseth
13.42
13
AJ Allmendinger
14.93
14
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
15.35
15
Jeff Burton
15.52
16
Kurt Busch
16.83
17
Juan Pablo Montoya
16.84
18
Brian Vickers
16.86
19
Greg Biffle
16.95
20
Jamie McMurray
19.26
21
Martin Truex Jr.
19.27
22
Joey Logano
19.55
23
Aric Almirola
21.04
24
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23.07
25
Paul Menard
23.24
26
Marcos Ambrose
23.59
27
David Reutimann
26.40
28
David Ragan
26.78
29
Bobby Labonte
27.52
30
Casey Mears
30.33
31
Danica Patrick
31.46
32
Travis Kvapil
34.20
33
David Gilliland
34.24
34
Landon Cassill
34.26
35
Dave Blaney
34.93
36
Ken Schrader
35.79
37
JJ Yeley
37.16
38
David Stremme
37.77
39
Michael McDowell
38.23
40
Josh Wise
39.40
41
Joe Nemechek
39.85
42
Scott Riggs
40.60

*The Power Average is the average finish on short, flat tracks during the last three years, plus the number of laps spent in the lead, in the top five, and in the top 10 expressed as if they were finishing results.

The favorites

Flat tracks are rhythm courses and lend themselves to long top-10 streaks. Jimmie Johnson got off to a great start this spring when he finished second in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix, and he followed that up with a victory in the STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville. His top-10 streak on this track type was snapped at Richmond International Raceway with a 12th-place finish, but that short, flat track often behaves like an unrestricted, intermediate speedway as a short course. Moreover, Johnson was running in the top five in the last quarter of the Toyota Owners 400 when Tony Stewart got loose underneath the No. 48 and nudged it into a spin. Johnson has been a top-10 points earner in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game a dozen times this year and he will continue to be an anchor on most rosters.

Jeff Gordon also narrowly missed keeping his short, flat track streak of top-10s alive. He finished 11th at Richmond when the team got off sequence on pit strategy, but his record at New Hampshire has been stellar in recent years. Since 2004, he has scored top-10 finishes in 61 percent of his starts. When he misses, it is rarely by much and he has earned top-15s in 94 percent of those races. Gordon is one of the seven drivers who swept the top 10 on this track last year, but even more impressive is the fact that he is one of only two drivers with three consecutive top-10s at Loudon. His salary cap is modest because he has struggled at times during the season, but that makes him one of this week’s best values.

Denny Hamlin is widely accepted as one of the best flat-track drivers NASCAR has ever seen, and that reputation was underscored at New Hampshire last year. He finished second in the summer race and won the fall race. Like Gordon, he is almost never outside the top 15 and in 14 career starts dating back to 2006, he has earned 10 top-10s (equaling 71 percent of his attempts) and 13 top-15s (93 percent). He will lead laps and earn points for fastest laps led, which will make him one of this week’s top earners.

Dark horses

Brad Keselowski is the only driver other than Gordon to enter the weekend with three consecutive top-10s at the track. Both drivers have a worst result of only sixth in those events and both should be favorites, but luck has not always been on the side of the No. 2 team this year. They have been taken out by other driver’s mistakes, run afoul of NASCAR’s rule book and made enough mistakes that defending the championship is no longer automatic. He needs to reverse his fortune and the short, flat tracks are a good place for that to happen. Keselowski was the only driver to sweep the top 10 at New Hampshire, Phoenix International Raceway, Martinsville Speedway and Richmond last year so he has a knack for this style of racing.

Clint Bowyer is the only driver with a perfect record of top-10s on short, flat tracks this year. He finished sixth in Phoenix and then posted back-to-back second-place finishes at Martinsville and Richmond. His ability at New Hampshire is likewise unquestioned. He won there in 2007 and 2010 in convincing fashion. If that is not enough incentive to place him on the fantasy roster, he is one of three drivers who swept the top five on this track last year with a third in the summer and a fourth in the fall.

Under dogs

Joey Logano was hooked up in Pennsylvania last year when he won the Pocono 400 by #NASCAR, and he spent his formative years trying to get a peek at former teammate Hamlin’s notebook on flat tracks. He should be great on the course type, but that has not been the case. That Pocono Raceway victory was one of only three top-10s on minimally banked courses last year. He also got off to a rough start in 2013 with 20-something finishes at Phoenix and Martinsville and while he rebounded with a third in the Toyota Owners 400 and a 10th in the Party in the Poconos 400, it is a little too soon to jump on his bandwagon.

Matt Kenseth is rewriting his personal record book this season and he has been strong on tracks where he traditionally struggled. He scored top-10s at Phoenix and Richmond in the spring, and both of those tracks rank in his bottom six in terms of career average finishes, but neither of those runs ended in a top-five. With one of the highest salary caps in the game, players need Kenseth to challenge for the victory and lead a lot of laps to make him an acceptable value, and while he will probably finish in the top 10, he will not warrant the expense.