The first race is in the books… So how did you do in the Daytona 500? The picks I provided last week scored 331 points (could have been much better if Brad Keselowski did not decide to punt his teammate, Chris Buescher) and that is great news. I have been providing picks for either the Driver Group Game or the old Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game since 2010. When I score well in the Daytona 500, my picks usually have a great season. When my drivers crash in the Great American Race, they usually get off to a slow start which takes a while to recover from. We had a good race last Sunday, so we should be go-to-go in 2022.
Driver Group Game Strategy for Auto Club
The race this week is going to be the toughest to predict. The Gen-7 car has never been tested on a two-mile oval, like Auto Club Speedway using the current aero package. Oh, and about that aero package… The Cup Series used the 550 HP aero package at Michigan (the most similar track to Auto Club) last year. They will use a 670 HP aero package with a 4-inch spoiler. This car will not drive like the cars used last year.
My strategy this week will be to diversify my lineups. We do not know which team is going to show up with speed until practice and qualifying are complete. I do not want all of my eggs in one basket. So I will have a mixture of Chevy’s, Fords and Toyotas in my lineup. Once we see how they look in practice and where they qualify, we can then select the best four drivers for our starting lineup.
* The Driver Group Game will award points for qualifying this week. The drivers who qualify in the top-five will be awarded points, even if we do not use that driver in the race. I expect Hendric Motorsports to have the best chance to win the pole (just like at Daytona since the drivers will hold the throttle wide-open in qualifying) so I will have some of the HMS drivers in my lineup and try to capture the bonus points from qualifying Saturday.
Driver Group Game Team
GROUP A DRIVERS
Kyle Busch (9): Busch is my pick to win before seeing any cars on the track. It doesn’t matter what car is used at Auto Club Speedway this week. Busch could drive a dump truck to Victory Lane at this track. He finished 2nd, 1st, 3rd, 8th, 25th, 1st, 1st, 2nd and 3rd dating back to 2012 at this track. He has also completely dominated the Xfinity Series races at Auto Club (Rowdy has an average finishing position of 2.2 in his last eight Xfinity Series races at Auto Club). This is the best track for Busch, so I will have him in my lineup.
Kyle Larson (9): It is hard to believe, but Larson only has 16 wins in the Cup Series on his resume. Four of those 16 (one-fourth) have come at two-mile ovals. Larson won three races at Michigan and one at Auto Club Speedway (2017). He should be fast Sunday. I like having Larson as an insurance policy, just in case Kyle Busch’s car is not as fast as I think it will be. Larson should also have a good chance to score bonus points for winning the pole since qualifying will be similar to what we seen at Daytona.
GROUP A DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Kyle Busch 2) Kyle Larson 3) Chase Elliott 4) Martin Truex Jr. 5) Denny Hamlin 6) Ryan Blaney 7) Kevin Harvick
GROUP B DRIVERS
Joey Logano (9): There is a lot to like about Logano Sunday. He always starts off the season on a hot streak and that seems to be the case again this year. Logano also has a history of running well on the two-mile ovals. He won at Michigan in 2019, 2016 and 2013. His average finishing position in his last six races at Auto Club Speedway is 5th. I like using my allocations with Logano early in the season because he always runs well on the west coast.
Alex Bowman (10): I switched my pick from Joey Logano to Alex Bowman since Team Penske is having problems with the inventory of cars.
William Byron (9): I have two Fords in Group B with Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski so I need a Chevy. I will take another driver from Hendrick Motorsports and use Willy-B. The Cup Series only practiced the 670 HP aero package at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Byron had the fastest car and it wasn’t even close. His best speed (180.126 MPH) was 1.5 seconds faster than the second-place car of Brad Keselowski (178.625). Byron should have a good chance to score bonus points for the pole and should have a good chance to win Sunday if the No. 24 team can bring a car with the same speed that they had at the test session in Charlotte.
Brad Keselowski (9): Most people expected Keselowski to be good at Daytona but how will RFK Racing be on the smaller tracks? If the test sessions in the 670 HP aero package tell us anything, Keselowski should be good in California. He posted the second-fastest speed in the test. Keselowski has been the second-best driver (behind Kyle Busch) at Auto Club Speedway. He finished 5th, 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 9th and 1st since 2014 at this track. Keselowski should be good enough for a top-10 finish Sunday.
Kurt Busch (9): OK, I have two Fords and one Chevy in my lineup. I need a Toyota and I will get it with Busch. He has been the third-best driver at Auto Club Speedway (Behind Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski). Busch finished five of the last eight races at Auto Club in the top-six. He also finished eight of his last nine races a Michigan in the top-10. Busch knows his way around the two-mile oval tracks.
GROUP B DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Joey Logano 2) William Byron 3) Brad Keselowski 4) Kurt Busch 5) Tyler Reddick 6) Alex Bowman 7) Austin Dillon 8) Aric Almirola 9) Christopher Bell 10) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
GROUP C DRIVERS
Austin Cindric (9): Do you believe in momentum in Fantasy NASCAR? I do. Cindric has the most momentum after winning the Daytona 500. Now he gets to compete at a track that used to be owned by Roger Penske. The Team Penske drivers always had speed at Auto Club Speedway. I expect the same Sunday. Cindric finished 3rd and 6th in his last two Xfinity Series races at this track. He should be good for a top-15 finish Sunday.
Erik Jones (9): Group C has a lot of drivers in the mid-tier category (they typically finish 15th – 25th). It will be tough figuring out which one will be the best each week. I have a Ford in Group C with Austin Cindric so I will take Jones and his Chevy. Jones has four races at Auto Club Speedway on his Cup Series resume. His average finishing position is 12th. I will roll the dice with Jones Sunday.
GROUP C DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Austin Cindric 2) Erik Jones 3) Cole Custer 4) Daniel Suarez 5) Harrison Burton
* Be sure to check back Saturday evening for my starting lineup for the Driver Group Game.
Good Luck This Week!
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