NASCAR has its first night event of the season this Saturday in Phoenix, and once again, expect Jimmie Johnson to lead the way for your fantasy team. What you aren’t expecting, though, is which lower-tier drivers are gonna give you the most bang for your buck in the desert. So to see who’s going to give you that extra edge, read on in this week’s edition of our Frontstretch Fantasy Preview:
Johnson – No surprise here. Johnson has four straight top-seven finishes and a win in the spring Phoenix race, and he has won four of the last five overall events at this track. Throw in the roll he has been on since the Daytona 500, and this one is a no brainer.
Tony Stewart – If anyone is gonna beat Johnson, it’s Stewart. Stewart has compiled an impressive resume at Phoenix that includes runner-up finishes in three of the last four Spring races. Look for Tony to post another top five this Saturday night under the lights.
Who Will Carry You
Paul Menard – Phoenix has been one of Menard’s best tracks and he’s having his best season ever, so it is safe to assume he’s a good bet this Saturday. Menard is sitting 11th in points and running well every week. While he has never finished in the top 20 at the tri-oval in the dessert, he has finished in the 20s every race he has run there. I think a top 20, if not a top 15, is very likely.
Sam Hornish Jr. – Sam doesn’t have a lot of history here, but what he has is pretty good. In two spring races, he’s finished 20th and ninth. The No. 77 team is also coming off a nice 13th-place effort at Martinsville, and Team Penske is continuing to make strides in overall improvement. Plus, he’s 30th in points so he’s pretty much a cheap date.
Travis Kvapil – Here’s the flyer of the week. I know you are probably laughing right now, but consider his history at PIR: Kvapil has run two spring races in Phoenix and finished 22nd and 21st. He also has a 10th-place finish back in 2005. That’s not a bad record. Plus, you know he’s gonna beat the start-and-park teams, and probably Ryan Newman and Elliott Sadler. He’s also got such a low value in most leagues, you can take the points left over and bump up one of your other drivers to one of the upper-tier teams.
Who Will Bury You
Newman – The man doesn’t seem to have the night race here quite figured out yet. While he did finish 16th last year, his previous three finishes in the spring were 43rd, 38th and 39th. Avoid at all costs.
Sadler – Sadler also can’t seem to get around in the dark out west. Sadler has finished no better than 32nd in the last four races there, and his average finish over that span is 36th. Stay away from him.
A little more advice
If you do take Kvapil this week, that means you have points to burn. So when looking to upgrade a driver, you may want to check out the following top-tier guys. While not the most dominant, they do have some impressive numbers….
Mark Martin – Won the event from the pole last year and has finished no worse than 12th in the last four spring races.
Jeff Burton – Has an average finish of ninth, with three top 10s in five night races here.
Denny Hamlin – Has posted a fourth-place finishing average in the last three early season trips out west. If you aren’t worried about the knee, grab him for this weekend.
So, there you have it; your drivers and some strategy to take control of your league this week! Now go set your lineups, and we’ll see you back here next Thursday as we delve into who does what in Texas.