NASCAR Fantasy Blog


NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Indianapolis

July 24, 2013, Dan Beaver, NASCAR.com

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Knowing a driver's history on flat tracks provides clues for picking at Indy

The average fan has discovered the similarity between many of the 1.5- and two-mile tracks. They have noticed that drivers who run well at Texas Motor Speedway seem to also run well at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and teams that are fast at Michigan International Speedway are equally stout at Auto Club Speedway. Just under their radar, however, is the similarity between many of the flat tracks and this course type is almost as prevalent on the NASCAR circuit.

Between them, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway host 11 races, and that is nearly one-third of the schedule. Not all race purses are created equal and the similarly configured, 1.5-mile tracks tend to have higher payouts than many of the flat tracks -- so a little less emphasis is placed on them by teams looking to squeeze the most out of their budget. That makes these events opportunity races for fantasy players, because even though Indy has one of the biggest purses in the sport, the skills necessary to go fast on this track are cemented on smaller courses.

Dark horses are slightly less widespread on most flat tracks and handicapping the races is a little easier. The Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire, this week’s Crown Royal presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at The Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com and next week’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono present players with a chance to place-and-hold drivers on their team.

Fantasy Power Ranking:
Flat tracks
Last Three Years

Rank

Driver

Power Avg.

1.

Jimmie Johnson

7.39

2.

Denny Hamlin

8.65

3.

Jeff Gordon

8.79

4.

Kyle Busch

10.81

5.

Kevin Harvick

11.84

6.

Tony Stewart

12.16

7.

Matt Kenseth

12.91

8.

Clint Bowyer

13.17

9.

Brad Keselowski

13.18

10.

Carl Edwards

13.40

11.

Kasey Kahne

13.55

12.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

13.90

13.

Ryan Newman

14.02

14.

Greg Biffle

14.95

15.

Mark Martin

15.09

16.

Kurt Busch

15.60

17.

Jeff Burton

15.96

18.

Juan Pablo Montoya

16.57

19.

AJ Allmendinger

18.28

20.

Jamie McMurray

18.86

21.

Martin Truex Jr.

19.45

22.

Joey Logano

19.91

23.

Aric Almirola

21.62

24.

Paul Menard

21.64

25.

Marcos Ambrose

23.82

26.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

24.83

27.

David Ragan

26.72

28.

David Reutimann

27.57

29.

Bobby Labonte

28.31

30.

Trevor Bayne

29.92

31.

Danica Patrick

30.82

32.

Casey Mears

31.23

33.

David Gilliland

33.36

34.

Landon Cassill

33.42

35.

Travis Kvapil

33.46

36.

Dave Blaney

34.65

37.

David Stremme

37.25

38.

JJ Yeley

38.00

39.

Scott Speed

38.23

40.

Michael McDowell

38.30

41.

Timmy Hill

38.90

42.

Josh Wise

39.17

43.

Joe Nemechek

39.45

The Favorites

There is a reason Jimmie Johnson continues to be profiled as one of the favorites each week. He simply earns the most points on a consistent basis. Even though he has earned only two top-five finishes in the past seven races, he has earned the most or second-most points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game five times. That includes the infamous Dover International Speedway race when he was black-flagged for jumping the restart. He finished 17th, but he already had enough points in the bank to be the second-best value. In the two races in which he failed to earn top-two points, he was sixth-best at Michigan International Speedway and fourth-best at Sonoma. His two top-fives in the last seven races were victories, and he is pretty good at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with four wins in the past seven races.

Johnson is a good value no matter how much he costs to acquire, but nearly every other driver in the field has to be measured by a different yard stick. Greg Biffle’s services this week will cost significantly less than the No. 48's, and while he is still expensive at $25.50, those extra few dollars between him and Johnson could go a long way toward securing a better mid-cap filler. Biffle will earn his pay. He has been solid at Indy in recent seasons and enters the weekend with five consecutive top-10s and three top-fives. Last year, he was third in this race, and he should be a good bet to earn a top-10, despite recent struggles.

Kyle Busch is galvanized by controversy and after getting into a verbal shoving match with Ryan Newman following the Camping World RV Sales 301, he has something to prove. He was frustrated with how he was raced by the older veteran and felt that slight contact from the No. 39 was the difference in winning and losing at New Hampshire. The fact that he was frustrated after finishing second speaks volumes about the driver and the strength of his car. Busch is only content when he is winning, but fortunately he has a strong fleet of Toyotas at his disposal and does not have to stay unhappy for long.

Dark Horses

Now that Brad Keselowski has found his way back into the top 10, he should be able to stay there. He was almost perfect on flat tracks last year with 10 top-10s in 11 races. He started strong in 2013 with a fourth at Phoenix and a sixth at Martinsville, but he struggled in eight of the next 11 races, including two that occurred on flat tracks. The cumulative effect of that string of races is that his salary cap value has dropped, but that only makes him a better value. “Kez” is only listed as a dark horse this week because he previously had a top-five at Dover a couple of months ago but that failed to reverse his momentum. So a single, strong run is no guarantee from him.

Ultimately, Tony Stewart was listed as finishing 26th, which capped off a bad afternoon for the organization at New Hampshire, and that factors into his handicap. Newman and Danica Patrick crashed out of the Camping World RV Sales 301, but both of them were running fairly well before their incidents. Stewart was going to be the top performer by a wide margin and he almost had the correct strategy to score a top-10 finish until he ran out of gas during a green-white-checkered run. This strong run came on the heels of a second-place finish at Daytona International Speedway and soon after a four-race streak of top-10s. Stewart has earned eight top-10s in his last 10 Indy attempts and two of those were victories, so he cannot be overlooked.

Underdogs

The benefit of NASCAR parity is that on any given Sunday a driver can win. Paul Menard used a little strategy and a lot of power to claim the 2011 edition of this race. Ultimately, fuel mileage played a role in that victory, but he had enough power to keep a charging Jeff Gordon at bay and would have scored a solid top-10 without the extra gasoline. Unfortunately, that is his only top-10 in six Indy starts. Two of his last three efforts on this track ended in top-15s, but he has not shown nearly as much strength overall on flat tracks in 2013 with an average finish of 19.8. He will get a lot of press this week, but players should think of him as Fool’s Gold and ultimately of limited value.

Martin Truex Jr. is improving on flat courses, but he remains a better value on similarly configured, 1.5- and two-mile tracks. He should be saved until the series rolls into Michigan International Speedway or Atlanta. A 16th-place finish at New Hampshire was his best effort in nine races on minimally banked courses, and Indy has not been much kinder for most of his career. Like Menard, he has one strong run and that was a top-10 last year, but his average finish in the seven Indy races that preceded it was 23.4.

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