Fantasy NASCAR Finally Returns

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The NASCAR Cup Series is schedule to return Sunday, March 17th. So what did you miss while you were quarantined in your house and what do you need to know to help you prepare for the rest of Fantasy NASCAR season? A lot has happened so let me fill you in on what you need to know.

The Cup Series last competed on Match 8th at Phoenix Raceway. It seems like it has been a year since we have seen our favorite drivers on the track. Here are some events that took place over the last two months…

 

KYLE LARSON: The biggest story coming out of the Covid-19 break is that Kyle Larson is now out of the No. 42 car and Matt Kenseth is now behind the wheel. Larson made a racial slur during an I-Racing event and it was heard on an open microphone. The sponsors pulled out of their contracts with Larson and left Chip Ganassi Racing with a tough decision to make.

For those of you who used your allocations with Larson in the Driver Group Game or used him in the One & Done Games, you are lucky. It does not sound like Larson will be back any time soon, so we will have to get by without him. Kenseth should be a good pivot at most tracks but I would give him a race or two to get his racing rhythm back.

 

RYAN NEWMAN: When the Cup Series was competing at Phoenix, Ross Chastain was behind the wheel of the No. 6 car and Ryan Newman was recovering from a horrendous wreck at Daytona. The plan in Fantasy NASCAR was to get as many starts as possible with Chastain in the Driver Group Game while Newman was out of the car. Newman has now been cleared to return to the No. 6 car so we can now focus on Matt Kenseth as our “ringer” to get us through the season in Group C.

 

I-RACING: NASCAR was smart to replace the real races with I-Racing during the lock down. Yes, it is not the same as the real cars on the track but it is the most realistic replacement out of all of the sports who tried the computer events.

DraftKings and FanDuel even offered contests for the I-Racing events. We need to forget everything we learned from the ProInvitational Series races because it does not translate to the real DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) contests.

The key to success in I-Racing DFS is to select as many drivers as possible with a lot of I-Racing experience. You did not really need to worry about place differential points, laps led or fastest laps. As long as you had a lot of the I-Racing “studs”, you were good-to-go. Now we need to get our minds back to the “real DFS.” We need to focus on dominators and place differential points if we want to win some cash.

 

TEAMS IN SHOPS

The Cup Series was just completing the West Coast races when they were last on the track in early March. There were some teams that got off to a hot start (Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports) while other teams got off to a slower than expected start (Joe Gibbs Racing).

The Competition Director for Joe Gibbs Racing (Wally Brown) told Series XM before the Phoenix Race, “We started the season with too much of what we had for down-force from last year. The other teams improved, while we maintained the status quo. The good news is that we know what we need to fix. The bad news is that our cars for Atlanta and Homestead are already to go. We will have to wait until Texas until we can incorporate the changes we need into the cars.”

Well, the Coronavirus bought JGR (and other teams) some time to improve their cars. Most teams only got a week or two to work before they were shut down, but any time in the shop is valuable. It is hard to say how much teams like JGR will improve when the cars get back on the track but Erik Jones did win the last race at Darlington and Kyle Busch led the most laps. The JGR drivers “should” be good options for your fantasy teams but it all depends on how much work they were able to get completed in the shop.  It will not take long to see what everyone has since the new schedule is filled with high down-force tracks.

 

Pre-Race Inspection

Stretching the boundaries…. Finding loopholes… Cheating… Call it whatever you want but taking advantage of the rulebook has been a part of NASCAR for a long time. Some teams are better at manipulating their cars to find some extra speed then others. I expect the games to be played even more when the cars return to the track.

NASCAR is going to have a schedule where teams show up at the track, go through the Optical Scanning Station (O.S.S.) and then lineup for the race. This is all going to happen in about two hours. That means NASCAR is going to need to get the cars through inspection faster than normal and will likely not be able to scan the cars as closely as they do for three-day race weekends. I am sure the teams know this and they will try to “bend” the rules. Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 4 car with Rodney Childress seem to be the best at finding speed through advantages from manipulating the inspection process. Keep this in mind when making your picks.

 

Top Drivers

I use a model to figure out who the best drivers are each week. I factor in a Driver’s Finishing Position in each race, Driver Rating, Average Running Position, Green Flag Speed and I give bonus points for Leading Laps and Place Differential in the race. Here are my rankings through the first four races of the season… (This shows which drivers were running the best when the series was put on pause. It also does not include Daytona since that race does not translate into results at the smaller tracks…)

Driver

Total Points

1. Ryan Blaney

193

2. Kevin Harvick

187

3. Joey Logano

186

4. Chase Elliott

184

5. Alex Bowman

169

6. Jimmie Johnson

163

7. Denny Hamlin

145

8. Kyle Busch

144

9. Brad Keselowski

142

10. Martin Truex Jr.

134

11. Aric Almirola

134

12. Clint Bowyer

131

13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

131

14. Kyle Larson

128

15. Matt DiBenedetto

128

16. Chris Buescher

124

17. Kurt Busch

100

18. Austin Dillon

100

19. Tyler Reddick

99

20. William Byron

96

21. Darrell Wallace Jr.

96

22. Erik Jones

90

23. Ty Dillon

84

24. Cole Custer

80

25. Corey LaJoie

79

26. Michael McDowell

75

27. John Nemechek

73

28. Daniel Suarez

61

29. Christopher Bell

55

30. Ryan Preece

53

 

Fantasy League Recap

The 2020 Fantasy NASCAR season got off to a blazing hot start. The Fantasy Live picks were on fire. The lineups posted this season are currently beating 99.99% of the entries and ranked 67th overall. I already mapped out the allocations for the next four races and have a good strategy to get the hot streak going.

 

The Driver Group Game picks were beating 92.9% of the competition and scored 1,182 points through the first four races. That is not bad but it is not where I want to be. I was in “allocation savings mode” in the West Coast races. That will not be the case with an unpredictable race schedule coming up for the 2020 season. I am planning on using the best drivers at each track until I run out of allocations with them.

 

The DFS picks were performing well this year. I have not been able to take down the large multi-entry contests but I have won a lot more than I lost and that is my goal each season. I have been more successful on FanDuel than on DraftKings. I expect that trend to continue throughout the season, so keep that in mind when you use the picks.

 

Let’s Go Racing

Now that you know what you missed while you were stuck in your house trying to complete the Netflix list of movies… Let’s Go Racing!!!!

 

Good luck this season!

 

Follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR