The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels to Watkins Glen, New York this week for the I Love New York 355 at The Glen. The race can be Sunday at 3pm ET on NBC Sports Network. Be sure to test your knowledge of NASCAR by competing in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing.
My picks for Fox Fantasy Auto Racing are currently 19th in the Overall Standings.
One of the mistakes many fantasy NASCAR players make is using the results from Sonoma for the race at Watkins Glen. The two road courses are very different. Sonoma is a finesse track that requires drivers to use a lot of braking and shifting to navigate the 12 turns. Watkins Glen only has seven turns and long straightaways that require a lot less technique. Drivers who run well at Sonoma do not necessarily run well at Watkins Glen.
Track position is important at Watkins Glen. Seven of the drivers who finished in the top 10 last year also started the race in the top 10. There is little room to make a pass on this track so where a driver starts the race will be important.
The scoring system for the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game rewards drivers who improve their position in the race more than the drivers who lead the most laps. You will not be able to score well by simply selecting all of the drivers who start the race in the top 10. Selecting drivers who start between positions 5-20 will be the best strategy.
Pick to Win
AJ Allmendinger ($8,600) desperately needs a win before the Playoffs begin. Watkins Glen could be the track where Allmendinger could win a race and really cause havoc to the NASCAR Playoff picture. Many fantasy teams will be scared off from Allmendinger because he burned them at Sonoma but he is a much better pick at Watkins Glen. Allmendinger has finished five of his last six races at the track in the top 10, including a trip to Victory Lane in 2014. I will be cheering for Allmendinger because I like chaos.
Kevin Harvick ($12,200) won the last race on a road course and he will be one of the favorites again Sunday. Stewart-Haas Racing is starting to figure out the new Ford chassis and the No. 4 car should be fast at Watkins Glen. Harvick has a 101.8 driver rating (5th best) at Watkins Glen since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick has not won at the track since 2006, but he only has one DNF in his 16 races at the track. Harvick is a safe pick this week.
Brad Keselowski ($10,700) is the best driver who has yet to win at Watkins Glen. Keselowski has finished four of his seven races at the track in the top three. He has also led laps in four of his seven races. This could be the year when Keselowski finally goes to Victory Lane at a track where he has been the most dominant driver.
Kyle Busch ($11,400) finally won a race and he could catch fire now. I was going to pick Busch to win this week but that would be too easy. He is one of the best drivers in the sport and his stats at Watkins Glen are very good. Busch has finished 10 of his last 11 races at the track in the top 10, including trips to Victory Lane in 2013 and 2008. Busch is the best pick in the field this week.
Denny Hamlin ($11,100) won the race at Watkins Glen last year. When you look at his stats at the track Hamlin is not very good. His average finishing position at the track was 20.7 prior to the 2016 race. Hamlin said Carl Edwards taught him how to race the track and it seemed to have worked. Hamlin qualified 6th and won the race last year. I expect him to be up front Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,200) has to be considered at every track, even road courses. Truex has never won a race at Watkins Glen but he has six finishes in the top 10. He finished 7th in this race last year and the No. 78 car has more speed now than they had in 2016. You cannot count out this team this season.
Value Picks (Drivers under $9,000)
Joey Logano ($8,700) is really hard to trust right now. The No. 22 team continues to find ways to beat themselves. Logano desperately needs a win to make the Playoffs and Watkins Glen is his best chance. Logano has been the best driver at the track the last two seasons. He won the race in 2015 and followed it up with a 2nd-place finish last year. His stats suggest he should be one of the top highest priced drivers in the game. You are stealing him at his current price.
Danica Patrick ($8,200) is really running well right now. She has finished 7 of the last 9 races in the top 17. Here average finishing position in the last four races is 13.5. Patrick has competed in four races at Watkins Glen and her worst finish is 21st. She is a safe pick for your team this week.
Michael McDowell ($7,700) is a sneaky play this week. He started off his career really struggling at Watkins Glen but he has seemed to have figured it out the last two seasons. McDowell qualified 31st and finished 20th in 2015. Last year the No. 95 car qualified 11th and finished 17th. The car should have more speed now that the team has full support from Richard Childress Racing. I expect another top-20 finish from McDowell this week.
Aric Almirola ($6,200) is a good value pick this week. He had a bad race last week but his price should be higher than $6,200K. Almirola usually qualifies outside the top 20 and finishes inside the top 20 at Watkins Glen. The No. 43 car is a good source of position differential points. Almirola is a good driver if you need to save some salary cap this week.
Here are my pre-qualifying picks for the I Love New York 355:
Driver 1: Kyle Busch $11,400
Driver 2: Brad Keselowski $10,700
Driver 3: Martin Truex Jr. $10,200
Driver 4: Joey Logano $8,700
Driver 5: AJ Allmendinger $8,600
I will have my picks updated on my website (Fantasy Racing Tips) Sunday after qualifying.
If you need any further advice with your team or want to see my updated picks after Happy Hour practice, look for me on Twitter (@MrFantasyNASCAR).