Well, last week wasn’t too horrible for me – or for you, if you took my fantasy advice – when all was said and done. Four of my drivers finished in the top 25, all of them finished in the top 30, and four of them logged bonus points for leading laps. All three of my mid-pack drivers also beat out their much more highly-touted counterparts: Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson, as the parity of restrictor plate racing took center stage at the Daytona 500.
Like I said, not a bad start… but as the real racing season begins, Fontana offers us a chance to do even better. This week, we’ll look at a dynamic duo you MUST have on your team, along with three middle-of-the-road drivers with history and momentum on their side. So, read on to find the diamonds in the rough at California… along with the one popular dud you need to avoid at all costs.
Even with Wednesday’s crew chief change for the No. 17, trust me – you are gonna want the Roushketeer duo of Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth on your roster this week. The duo has posted some staggering numbers for Roush Fenway Racing in the last six years at California, combining for four wins, 12 top fives and 19 top 10s since 2004. Roush-Fenway has also won five straight spring races at California – with Edwards and Kenseth combining to win the last four. So, read those stats again slowly to yourself, and I think you’ll agree that when it comes to big name shoo-ins, there’s no need to look any further for your top-tier picks.
Who’s Gonna Carry You
Jamie McMurray – Now, I am not about to anoint McMurray as a Chase threat or Comeback Driver Of The Year… yet. However, the win at Daytona shows he’s far from an afterthought, and he does have a good history in the series’ first visit to Fontana each year. In the last seven visits following Daytona, McMurray has posted a decent average finish of 15th to go along with three top 10s. Grab him for this week if you can still get him cheap.
David Ragan – Perhaps you have noticed the pattern of Roush dominance here with these picks. Ragan did me well last week with a 16th-place finish, and I think you’ll want him again this time. In his last three runs in this event, Ragan has posted finishes of 17th, 14th and 16th to remain consistent behind the wheel of the No. 6 UPS Ford. If you picked him up last week, definitely hang on to him for this week, too.
Brian Vickers – Vickers has a nice little history in Cali’s opening race of the season. In his last three February races there, he has finished 10th, 11th and 10th while winning the pole (some leagues award points for that) in 2009. His career average finish at this track is 17th, which isn’t too shabby for a driver you can still pick up at a reasonable value.
Martin Truex Jr. – Gonna throw in an extra middle-tier driver, especially since there is only one dud this week. Truex doesn’t have a lot of history out in Cali, but his few finishes on the 2-mile oval have been decent. He has posted an average finish of 23rd, and if you throw out a blown engine in 2007, that number jumps up significantly to 16th. The team is also coming off a sixth-place run at Daytona, so they’ve got a bit of spring in their step heading out West.
Who Will Bury You
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Little E has been very little E when it comes to Fontana in the early season. The last six events following Daytona have resulted in a best showing of 11th in 2006, and his last three finishes out West have been 39th, 40th and 40th. Like McMurray, I am hardly ready to proclaim him “back” after one good run at Daytona – until the team shows improvement at these types of tracks, you’ll want to avoid him like the plague.
This Week’s Question of the Week
Full season, no trade. Papis or McDowell? Thank you. – Ray
This is kind of tough, as Max Papis is not scheduled to “run” the full schedule (starting-and-parking in several races) while Michael McDowell’s team “plans to attempt” a full schedule. I would go with Papis on this one. He ran well in selected events last year, and will probably keep high enough in points to make the race on rainouts. You know Watkins Glen qualifying will be rained out, and McDowell probably will get lifted for a substitute driver anyways in both road-course events. Prism Motorsports ran mostly start-and-park with one team last year, and I am not convinced by adding a second car they will be any different in 2010. I think when all is said and done at Miami, Papis will be ahead of the No. 55 and McDowell in the points standings.
So, there you go folks, plenty of fantasy information to go rule your racing league this wek. So go set your lineups and prepare to gloat! We’ll see you in a week, with a recap of Fontana and a look ahead as NASCAR prepares to invade Sin City. Until then, so long from Fantasy Land!