The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series only competes on road courses twice each season. It would be great to see a road course added to the Playoffs and the test on the road course at Charlotte could be the race that is added. Fingers crossed…
When the series competes at Sonoma and Watkins Glen it is important for fantasy teams to use some of the road course specialist. Many of the great drivers in NASCAR (Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick) run very well at the road courses, but in games that limit allocations with a driver (Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing), it is wise to save these drivers for more predictable races.
The question that needs to be answered this season is: How will the Stage race format affect road course racing? I think it will prevent a driver from getting a huge lead and running away from the field. Last year three drivers (Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart) led 80 of the 110 laps at Sonoma. Three drivers (Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski) led 48 of the 90 laps at Watkins Glen last year. This year there should be more drivers leading laps.
The fact that winning a race almost guarantees a driver a spot in the Playoffs is important in fantasy racing. Many of the teams who have a slim chance at winning on an oval will take more chances on the road course to win the race (AJ Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray to name a few). Fantasy teams need to take some risks and hope some of these drivers end the race up front. There is more variance on the road courses than there is on the oval tracks.
Here are the top drivers for on the road courses in 2017…
1. Joey Logano is my top driver on the road courses for 2017. He really knows how to maneuver the car around these tracks. Logano has finished four races in a row in the top five, including a third-place finish at Sonoma and a second-place finish at Watkins Glen in 2016.
Logano scored the third-most points (98) in Fantasy Live and the third-most points (184) in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing last year at these tracks. It will help that Carl Edwards is no longer driving the No. 19. That will be one less driver Logano has to worry about racing.
Logano is better at Watkins Glen (he won the 2015 race at W.G.), but his stats at Sonoma are pretty good too. Logano is great pick for Fantasy Live and DraftKings at the road courses, but his allocations should be saved for other tracks in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing.
2. Kyle Busch is No. 2 in my rankings but he should be No. 1B. He is just as good as Logano, but the tie goes to Team Penske because the new Stage format racing should help Logano more than it does Busch.
Busch has four wins on the road courses (2 at Sonoma and 2 at Watkins Glen). Last year Busch scored the sixth-most points (86) in Fantasy Live and the fourth-most points (178) in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing last year at these two tracks. His seventh-place finish at Sonoma and sixth-place finish at Watkins Glen was a drop off from his first and second place finishes in 2015. I expect him to bounce back this year.
Joe Gibbs Racing had the fastest cars on the road courses last season. Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Busch were fast at both tracks. The drivers from JGR and team Penske should battle it out for the win again in 2017.
Busch is another driver who must be started in Fantasy Live and DraftKings, but his allocations in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing should be used at more predictable tracks.
3. Brad Keselowski is the best driver at Watkins Glen but he is still trying to find his way around Sonoma. Keselowski has never won on a road course but he does have three finishes in second place.
Keselowski scored the second-most points (98.5) in Fantasy Live and the sixth-most points in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing last year at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
The new Stage format racing should help Keselowski in 2017. Road course races always come down to fuel millage. Teams try to run the race while making the fewest amount of pit stops possible. No team is better at managing fuel than crew chief Paul Wolfe and Keselowski. This should help him at Sonoma and making him the favorite at Watkins Glen.
4. AJ Allmendinger is the best road course driver in the Cup Series. The problem is that he drives for JTG Daugherty Racing. If Allmendinger drove for Joe Gibbs Racing he probably would never lose a road course race. His team puts a lot of effort into these two races and the pressure on Allmendinger to win sometimes hurt his chances.
Allmendinger scored the eighth-most points (76.5) in Fantasy Live and the seventh-most points (163) in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing last season on the road courses. He ran a lot better than his final points suggest.
Allmendinger is a must start in Fantasy Live and Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing. He is cheap enough in Fantasy Live to allow you to spend up and get Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Allmendinger allows you to save allocations with other highly used drivers in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing. I like to fade him in DraftKings because his price is too high and he is usually heavily owned.
5. Denny Hamlin came very close to sweeping the races on the road courses last year. He won at Watkins Glen and lost on the final laps to Tony Stewart at Sonoma. Conspiracy theorist suggests Hamlin let Stewart win so Smoke could make the Chase in his final season. Only Hamlin knows if that is true but as a Stewart fan I am glad to see the 14 car win the race.
Hamlin was never a great road course racer before last season. He did not have any finishes in the top 10 between 2010 and 2015 (12 races). He said before the Sonoma race last year that he sat down with Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards to talk about how to drive the road courses. Their knowledge paid off and he finished first and second in the two races.
Is Hamlin that good on the road course or was last year a fluke. I think he will be good, but fantasy players should not expect him to nearly sweep the races again. Hamlin should finish both races in the top 10 though.
6. Martin Truex Jr. is not known as being a great road course driver but he should be. He only has one win (Sonoma in 2013), but he consistently runs up front.
Last season Truex finished fifth at Sonoma and seventh at Watkins Glen. He scored the fourth-most points (88.5) in Fantasy Live and the 12th-most points (123) in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing at the two tracks. He scored better in Fantasy Live because he qualified poorly and raced his way to the front. Yahoo does not award position differential points.
The Toyotas always run well at the road courses. Truex will be a good choice in all formats at Sonoma and Watkins Glen this year.
7. Kevin Harvick has only been to Victory Lane once at the road courses (Watkins Glen in 2006), but he consistently runs in the top 10. Harvick has finished four of the last five races in the top 10 at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
Last year Harvick scored the 14th most points (56.5) in Fantasy Live and the 13th-most points (118) in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing on the road courses. His struggles last year was because he ran out of gas at Sonoma and finished 32nd. I doubt he will gamble so much in 2017 in the new Stage format.
Harvick is a good choice in Fantasy Live but I would suggest fading him in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing. There are better tracks to use the No. 4 car.
8. Clint Bowyer might be the must underrated driver on the road courses this season. After driving for H-Scott Motorsports last season, some fantasy players may have forgot how good Bowyer actually is at these tracks.
Bowyer has finished four of the last five races on the road course in the top seven. That includes a sixth-place finish last year at Sonoma in a car that lacked the speed of the more heavily funded teams.
Bowyer has never been behind the wheel of a car as good as what he will have this season. It will also help that he will be in the car that won the race at Sonoma last season. Bowyer could easily be in the top five on this list, but I want to see him on the track with his new team before I rank him too high.
Bowyer should be used in all formats at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen. He is that good.
9. Kurt Busch is often overshadowed by his brother and his teammates at the road courses, but he is very good as well. Busch is one of the most reliable drivers for your fantasy team at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. He has finished eight consecutive races at these tracks in the top 12.
Busch scored the 10th-most points (69) in Fantasy Live and eighth-most points (153) in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing last year on the road courses. He finished 10th at Sonoma and 11th at Watkins Glen. Fantasy teams should expect the same kind of results from the No. 41 team this season.
Busch will be a good choice in DraftKings because he is reliable and he should not be heavily owned. There are better choices in Fantasy Live and his value in Group B in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing is at the 1.5-mile tracks and not on the road courses.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is No. 10 on my list. Yes, you are reading this right. Most fantasy players do not consider Earnhardt a good driver on the road courses but he actually is. Earnhardt has the second-best driver rating (105.2) in the last four races on the road courses. He has finished five consecutive races in the top 11 at these tracks.
Last year Earnhardt only raced at Sonoma. He started 13th and finished 11th. The No. 88 car should finish just inside the top 10 at Watkins Glen and just outside the top 10 at Sonoma.
Earnhardt is a good contrarian pick in DraftKings at the road courses. His ownership will be less than five percent and his ability to finish in the top 10 makes him a good option. There are better options in Fantasy Live and Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing.
Others to Consider
- Jimmie Johnson
- Jamie McMurray
- Kasey Kahne
- Kyle Larson
- Ryan Newman
If you like Fantasy NASCAR, LIKE my Fantasy NASCAR Tips Page on Facebook
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR