Jeff Wolfe · Thursday May 16, 2013
We are almost to the one-third mark of the season and when it comes to making fantasy picks, we have a pretty good idea who and who not to pick in some cases. Sometimes it’s just luck, and sometimes it’s a matter of matching the right driver with the right track. With most leagues having the week off when it comes to picks because of this weekend’s All-Star race, here’s a look at some highs and lows and what the future may hold for the next 25 events or so when we pick it back up with the 600-miler at Charlotte next week.
LOOKING FOR SOME ACES
We will start out for who not to look for from what is generally considered the elite group. And unfortunately for you Tony Stewart fans, where there is Smoke, right now there is no fire. I’m not sure what’s more alarming in this case: That Stewart actually sits 21st in points with just one top 10 finish in 11 races, or the fact that he’s not his ornery old self when he’s running so poorly. If he had a stretch of even three or four races where he did not contend during his time at Joe Gibbs Racing, it seemed like his world was going to end. And while some will say that the role of being an owner now has matured Stewart, and they would be right in saying so, I can’t imagine he’s not upset with running so poorly. At least if he was mad a lot now, it would make a little sense.
No disrespect to Stewart’s current crew chief Steve Addington, but you have to wonder if Stewart still wishes Darian Grubb was on his pit box. And if these finishes continue, you have to wonder if his former Gibbs crew chief and current competition director Greg Zipadelli isn’t far from a return to the position he held when they won their titles together in 2002 and 2005. Stewart has a history of rallying late and winning in the summer when the tracks are hotter and slicker.
But being buried this far in the standings, Stewart will have to live up to his nickname to the make the Chase this year. And for now, he’s simply a driver you have to avoid when it comes to fantasy picks.
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD
Anyone who follows NASCAR can’t be surprised that Kyle Busch is a contender to win about every week, even if his impatience did show up a little at Darlington last week. Busch’s ability to drive cars fast is not a surprise.
However, there are a couple of surprises in this group though to take note of who you probably haven’t used a lot if you are on race pick limits for drivers. Aric Almirola has four top 10 finishes this year and sits ninth in points. Certainly, he has not been spectacular, but he has been dependable and that’s a key element to fantasy success. Only one driver can win (just in case you didn’t realize that), but if you pick drivers who can consistently reach the top 10, then, you have a chance for fantasy success.
Another driver who fits this category is Paul Menard. He sits 11th in points. And sure, he’s done really nothing spectacular at all. However, like Almirola, he does have four top 10 finishes. I don’t know if I would pick both Menard and Almirola each week if you are allowed two mid-pack picks, but it would be wise to take a look at one of them.
THE DARK HORSES
The really only consistent pick from this group is rookie Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. He’s shown that he can contend at races, and while seemingly everybody loves his girlfriend Danica Patrick, and hey she is likeable, when it comes to picks for my fantasy racing team, Stenhouse is clearly the best of this pack. But if you are on race limits, that could present a problem as you can’t pick him every week.
So where else to look? For the moment there is the driver of the No. 51 car. It has been in the top 10 twice this season and has two top 10 finishes with an array of drivers that has included Regan Smith, A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Dillon. Car owner James Finch has said he’s not sure how much longer he will run the No. 51 team as it has struggled to find sponsorship. So since the No. 51 might not be around at the end of the year, it’s not a bad pick to select whoever is driving it each week, and save Stenhouse for the final 10 or 12 races.
A couple of other things to keep in mind with this pick is that the two road courses remain on the schedule as well as two restrictor plate races. There are always some road-course ringers you can slide into this spot that are capable of giving you a top 15, or even a top 10, finish (long live the Said Heads!).
And when it comes to plate tracks, after their 1-2 performance at Talladega, you have to take a long look at Front Row teammates David Ragan and David Gilliland.
The other options in this slot will be Dillon and also Trevor Bayne, who is on a limited Cup schedule again this year while running full-time in Nationwide. If you can get a top 20 finish from one of these picks each week, then that’s actually a pretty good day.
We take a look at each of the two Frontstretch Fantasy leagues in Yahoo! each week, made up of a combined 63 entries. The leaderboard took a bit of a twist after Darlington with a flat-footed tie (as opposed to tip-toed tie) between RWO Motoring and team cdakost each with 2,894 points. RWO Motoring has the tiebreaker at the moment with five top five finishes, while cdakost has one top five finish.
The top individual picks for the second time in three weeks came from the Ford Malone team. The victory by Matt Kenseth, along with a sixth from Kyle Busch, a 14th from Kurt Busch and an 18th from Ricky Stenhouse totaled 344 points.
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