Brett Poirier · Thursday February 17, 2011
Here we go, set to embark on the longest fantasy season known to man: Fantasy NASCAR. Get ready for 36 weeks of racing over the course of nine months.
Without further ado, let’s jump into a two-car draft and get ready for Daytona.
This year, we will start the season with a bigger wild card than ever before created by a brand new surface at Daytona. In case you’ve missed the racing in Speedweeks so far, here are some things to remember as we head to the new Daytona:
The new track surface has eliminated the handling aspect of driving at Daytona. In last season’s Daytona 500, the race mirrored Talladega for the first 10 or 15 laps of each run (because of fresh tires). After that, handling came into effect and the field spread out.
That will not happen this season. Handling has become a thing of the past, rendering Daytona to be essentially Talladega with the new added twist of breakaway two-car packs. Even in the smaller packs, expect a wreck-fest because of the insane 20-plus mile per hour closing rate between those who are hooked up and those who aren’t.
Picking fantasy drivers at restrictor plate tracks is an inexact science. For example, Tony Stewart (a notoriously good plate driver) had a best finish of 16th last season in the four plate races while Mike Bliss (in different cars) finished in the top 10 twice. While restrictor plate racing is unpredictable, there are some drivers that seem to always rise to the top at the end.
As a top-tier driver, no one stands out like Kevin Harvick. No other driver was even close to matching Harvick’s consistency at the plate tracks in 2010. Last season, he won at Daytona and Talladega and finished second and seventh in his other two plate races. That gives him an average finish of under three. Harvick is a no-brainer.
Jamie McMurray is another easy pick at a restrictor plate track. This guy flat out excels at this form of racing, giving him wins in two of the last five races to go with a second-place finish. Enough said.
While Harvick’s consistency has been noted, the strong runs of one of his teammates has flown under the radar. Clint Bowyer’s first plate win at Talladega in October was no fluke. Bowyer finished fourth and seventh in the first two plate races, and if he hadn’t had problems in the Daytona night race, he probably would have been looking at top 10s in all four races.
Along with Bowyer, here are two more guys not known for their restrictor-plate prowess, but maybe they should be:
Juan Montoya finished in the top 10 in three of four races, including a pair of third place finishes and David Reutimann scored top 15 finishes in all four races for an average finish of 8.5.
There are also some bottom-tier drivers to consider. Paul Menard, one of the best drivers for his fantasy value in 2010, should be valued again in 2011. This year, he is in better equipment (the same equipment as Bowyer and Harvick at Richard Childress Racing). David Ragan is also worth considering (with one top 10 last season).
For those of you new to fantasy NASCAR, do not make the mistake of only selecting bottom-tier drivers without guaranteed spots in the field. For example, if there are two spots available in your lineup before qualifying, do not pick Casey Mears and Michael Waltrip. Both drivers do not have owner points to fall back on, meaning if they are in a wreck in the qualifying races, you will have no one to start on Sunday.
Even after Ryan Newman’s strong performance in the Bud Shootout, I would stay away from Stewart-Haas Racing. Tony Stewart, known as one of the best restrictor-plate racers in past years, finished outside the top 20 in three of four races last season. Newman struggled even more with an average finish of 30th at the plate tracks and a best finish of 23rd.
Jimmie Johnson is a safe pick just about anywhere. I say just about anywhere because the plate tracks would be four spots to stay away from Johnson. The 5-time champ had three finishes of 31st or worst last season, and while most of that can be attributed to bad luck, there are far safer picks at his fantasy value, primarily Harvick.
Until next week, good luck my friends!
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