The Frontstretch: Fantasy Insider: Trip To Texas A Trick Or Treat For Your Team by Jeff Wolfe -- Thursday October 31, 2013

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Fantasy Insider: Trip To Texas A Trick Or Treat For Your Team

Jeff Wolfe · Thursday October 31, 2013

 

So it’s Halloween and by now, you pretty much know who to pick and stay away from in your NASCAR fantasy leagues. However, if you’re close to winning, or being in the money for your league you’d like to get that boost in these final three races to push you to the top. While Texas is a fast track, there won’t be much pushing in terms of drafting. But there are a number of drivers who will be pushing for victory and an improved place in the standings starting with Sunday afternoon’s race in Texas.

With that in mind, here’s a look at this week’s picks…

LOOKING FOR SOME ACES

The big question here for some is whether to pick points leaders Matt Kenseth or Jimmie Johnson. So, to clear things up, we will take a look at their last five races there.

First, for Kenseth he has one win and three other top-5 finishes for an average result of 5.20 in those events. Kenseth has also led 272 laps in those races while his worst finish is 12th.

Johnson has a win, another top-5 finish and two other top-10 results in his last five trips to Texas. He has an average finish of 6.20 in those races and has led 325 laps with a worst finish of 14th.

With seven wins to his credit and three races remaining, Kenseth won’t have to worry about running out of fingers if the No. 20 team closes things out in grand fashion.

So, split hairs here however you want; it’s not a clear-cut choice. Who knows; maybe they’ll be tied in the points when they leave Texas, too? But if you pointed one of those Texas six-shooters at me and forced me to make a choice, I’d nervously pick Kenseth, knowing full and well it’s never a good idea to pick against Johnson in a championship situation.

One driver in the Chase, but not in contention to win the title who has been better than anybody at Texas in the last five races is Greg Biffle. He and Johnson seem to have made up from last week’s little tiff, but they might be running up front together again this week. Biffle has a win and three other top-5 finishes, plus a top-10 result in the last five races at Texas for an average finish of 4.80. He’s led 120 laps, so while that tells us he’s not been dominating, it does tell us he and his crew have made the right adjustments late in races to finish well.

Why is this man smiling? Two months ago he was 13th in points; with three races to go he has a shot at his fifth Cup Series title. It would be his first Sprint Cup trophy to go with the four Winston Cups he won in 1995, 1997, 1998, and 2001.

One driver looking to end the year strong, pretty much having to if he wants to challenge Kenseth and Johnson for the title is Jeff Gordon. He will need to be in the top 5 again, at worst, with the hope of gaining eight to 10 points on Kenseth and Johnson this Sunday. And, if that happens, it will be a bit of an oddity for him at Texas. Yes, Gordon does have one career win there, but in the last five races, he has one top 5 and one other top-10 finish for an average result of 17.0. He’s also led just 18 laps in those races.

MIDDLE OF THE ROADSTERS

Another driver who pretty much has to win out to have any chance at a title is Kyle Busch. But here’s the thing; on the short list of drivers who are capable of winning three straight to close out the season, he’s on that list. Busch has one win and two top 5s in his last four races at Texas. He’s also led 251 laps in those races. He didn’t have a fifth race like all of the others because of that not-so-little suspension issue he had a couple of years ago there after a bumping incident during a Truck Series race. And, actually, Rowdy hasn’t been quite so Rowdy since then.

Need a good reason based on prior history to not pick Kyle Busch this weekend at Texas? We’ll give you two…

Another good mid-level option here is a man who would love to get one more win for his team before he moves on. That would be Martin Truex, Jr., who will be in the No. 78 next year. Truex has one top five and two other top 10 finishes in the last five races and has an average finish of 12.80. The big thing here, though is he has led 211 laps in those races. It tells me the team has been strong; it just has to get the end game figured out.

One driver whose average finish is a bit difficult to figure out in the last five races at Texas is Carl Edwards. He has led just 17 laps in those races, but has three top 5s and another top-10 finish. Also, his worst result is 16th, helping him to an average finish of 6.40. So, it’s hard to say if he’s ready to win there or not, but he does have a knack for finishing well.

And finally, too, we will mention Dale Earnhardt, Jr. While he does have one career win at Texas, none have been in the last five races. But he does have four top-10 finishes in those last five events, where he has led just two laps. So, it’s hard to predict a breakthrough for Junior here, but it’s also reasonable to think he won’t break down, either.

DARK HORSES

This week’s entry list gives us plenty of options for a low budget or rarely-used pick and that’s always helpful late in the season. But there are so many, just trying to make the right pick here can be crucial to success or failure for your fantasy team.

Kyle Larson is back in the No. 51 this week, but if you sniffed the ethanol like I did last week, you were burned when his engine expired midway through the race. The problem at Martinsville is he wasn’t really competitive before the engine gave up. And another problem here is that in two races he’s been in the No. 51, the engine has blown twice. So, you know, a third time might tell me it’s more than coincidence. Pick at your own risk here. It could be a home run or nothing.

If Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. isn’t your speed, pick the other driver that already comes equipped with a cowboy hat.

In the No. 33 this week there is Austin Dillon. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see him pull up behind Kevin Harvick at some point? But I don’t think this Dillon will play the role of sheriff here (Google the name Sheriff Dillon if you don’t get that reference). Dillon has shown the ability to hang around in races; he just might not be a bad pick here if you are looking for a top-20 finish.

Then, too, we’ve got Trevor Bayne in the No. 21. Bayne does have three top-20 finishes at Texas in his last five trips there, so you know, that might not be a bad pick either.

Also, Parker Kligerman will make his Sprint Cup debut in the No. 30 Swan Racing entry. So, if you’re pretty much out of options, he’s there. Don’t forget Elliott Sadler in the MWR No. 55 either, who did win his second career Sprint Cup race at Texas back in 2004.

Finally, don’t forget the usual options for this category in the boyfriend-girlfriend tandem of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Danica Patrick. There were 40th and 28th in the first race at Texas this year, but I think both have potential to run well, especially Stenhouse, who comes pre-equipped with his own cowboy hat.

REAR-VIEW MIRROR

There was a bit of separation in the running for the top spot in the two Frontstretch Fantasy Leagues on Yahoo! Nobody Rides for Free has the overall lead for the season with 8,537 points pulling ahead of SiLo Sounds Racing, which is now at 8,488. Next are RWO Motoring at 8,421, Bomb Squad at 8,382 and emits 97 at 8,345.

For the second straight week, there was a tie for the top weekly performance. The red devils and Mark Martin MotorSports each scored 304 points. The red devils had race winner Jeff Gordon along with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in eighth, Kyle Busch in 15th and Elliott Sadler in 25th. Mark Martin MotorSports had Gordon, then Greg Biffle in ninth, Jeff Burton in 11th and Casey Mears in 21st.

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