The 2018 MENCS kicks off with the 60th running of the Daytona 500. The biggest story this offseason had nothing to do with the cars, the drivers or the tracks. It came from the Fantasy NASCAR industry. Yahoo decided to pull their Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game and this left the fantasy community in shock. FantasyRacingCheatSheet.com (FRCS) decided to step up and create the Driver Group Game.
I am proud to announce that I will be one of the members of the Experts Picks page on the FRCS site. Before you get all excited and think you can just go to the Experts Page to see my picks, let me tell you about the rules. FRCS told us to make our picks each week without factoring in allocations. FRCS will then keep track of each expert’s pick and see who scores the best at the end of the season. So I will not be figuring in allocations into my picks. If you simply use my picks from that page you will not have any good drivers left for the playoffs. But check out the page and see what the others are thinking.
The rules are essentially the same as the Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game, but there are two changes that will affect the way we select our drivers. The bonus points for leading a lap and leading the most laps are cut from 10 to 5. This means it will be less important to pick the drivers who lead a lap this season. Also, the driver that wins the race will score 10 points more than the 2nd-place finisher. Selecting the driver who wins the race will be very important in 2018.
* FRCS normally offers bonus points for qualifying. Since the field is set in the Can-Am Duel 150 races Thursday, there will be no qualifying points awarded for the Daytona 500. Your team does not need to be selected until Sunday at 2:30 pm ET.
Each driver can be used 9 times throughout the season. FRCS was a little generous on their grouping in my opinion. Here is how I think the allocations for each group will be played out in 2018…
Group A: Fantasy players will need 36 allocations from Group A. I plan to use all 9 allocations with Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kyle Lason (That makes up 27 allocations for the season). I will only need 9 allocations the rest of the season. I can easily get them from Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott or Jimmie Johnson. Do not be worried about saving allocations in Group A. There is plenty of talent to get you through the season.
Group B: Fantasy players will need 72 allocations from Group B. I plan to use Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer 9 times this season (That takes up 63 allocations). I will only need 9 allocations the rest of the season. I can easily get them from Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon or Ryan Newman. The only drivers I would save allocations with in this group are Elliott, Blaney and Jones. These three drivers will be the cream of the crop in Group B in 2018.
Group C: Fantasy players will need 36 allocations from Group C. I plan to use William Byron, Alex Bowman and Darrell Wallace Jr. 9 times this season (That gives me 27 allocations for the season). I will need to find 9 allocations for the rest of the season. I can easily do that by using Chris Buescher or Michael McDowell. Use your allocations wisely with Byron, Bowman and Wallace. These three drivers will be the most valuable drivers in the Driver Group Game this year.
Group A Driver
Our fantasy teams do not need to be in until Sunday so our Bench Driver does not really matter this week. There are only three drivers I am considering for the Daytona 500 from Group A. Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have been the three best restrictor-plate drivers and I am not too concerned about running out of allocations with any of them this season.
My thoughts right now are to use either Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano for the race. Ford has won 7 consecutive races on the Superspeedways and they continued to long strong in the Advance Auto Parts Clash race last Sunday. I am thinking about going with Logano because I know Keselowski will be the popular pick. Logano has finished 4 of the last 6 races at Daytona in the top 6, including a win in the 2015 Daytona 500. Keselowski only has one finish inside the top 20 in his last 6 races at Daytona. The numbers favor Logano this week.
I will watch the Can-Am Duel 150 races and make my picks for Group A Saturday after the final practice.
Group B Driver
Group B is going to be the toughest group to pick this week. I am sure everyone will have similar picks in Group A and Group C, so our Group B pick will determine where we are in the standings at the end of the first race.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be the most popular pick since he won two of the four restrictor-plate races last year. It will be hard to fade him at Daytona. I plan to use Stenhouse and if he crashes we will not lose too much ground to our competition because I am sure they will have Stenhouse on their team as well.
The other popular picks for Group B will be Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney. I think these drivers will run well but I am concerned with burning an allocation with these drivers in a race where they do not control their fate. Jamie McMurry is also a good pick, but I would save him for a more predictable track as well.
Three drivers I will be watching in the Can-Am Duel 150s are Paul Menard, Austin Dillon and AJ Allmendinger (Yes, you read that right… Allmendinger). I am not concerned with burning n allocation with either of these drivers. Menard now has an alliance with the Team Penske drivers. I expect Menard to hook up with Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney in the Daytona 500. Menard finished 3rd and 5th in the two races at Daytona last year. He will probably be the driver I pair with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Group B.
If anything happens with Paul Menard in the Can-Am Duel 150 race, I may consider Austin Dillon. He was pretty happy with his car after qualifying and there is something special about the No. 3 at Daytona. Dillon finished 5 of 6 races in the top 10 at Daytona until I started to brag about him last year. Hopefully my curse has worn off and he gets back to the top 10 this week.
My sleeper pick this week and he has been my sleeper pick in the last two Daytona 500s is AJ Allmendinger. He is the most underrated driver on the restrictor-plate tracks. Allmendinger is the ONLY driver to finish on the lead lap in 6 consecutive races at Daytona. He has NEVER crashed in a Daytona 500!! Allmendinger finished 3rd and 8th in the two races at Daytona last year. He will definitely be in my DraftKings lineup and may make it into my Group B lineup as well.
I will post my final picks for Group B after the final practice Saturday.
Group C Driver
The pick for Group C is pretty easy this week, but I know it may not be popular.
Danica Patrick is only competing in one MENCS race in 2018. She has had some success at Daytona so you have to give her a chance and save an allocation with your other drivers. I expect Patrick to ride around the back and stay out of trouble since she is not racing for Stage points. She is actually pretty good at dodging wrecks, so hopefully she avoids the BIG ONE and makes it into the top 15 at the end of the Daytona 500. Cole Whitt finished 18th in this car last year.
The other drivers I will be watching Thursday are the two drivers for Front Row Motorsports Michael McDowell and David Ragan). Daytona is the best track for McDowell. He has finished 4 consecutive races at Daytona in the top 15. Last July McDowell finished 4th. Ragan is a former race winner at Daytona. He finished 6th in the last race at Daytona.
I will have my final picks for Group C posted after the final practice Saturday.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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