The 2018 NASCAR season will begin in less than a month. One of the biggest factors in Fantasy NASCAR is the manufacture of the car. We have seen it so many times… One manufacturer will start the season slow and another one will dominate the competition. If you want your fantasy team to start out hot, you must know which manufacturer will have the edge early in the season.
- Toyota (Camry)
Teams: Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row Racing and BK Racing
Drivers: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr. and Corey Lajoie
Toyota made a change to a new Camry chassis last year. At first it looked like the change may have been a big mistake. Toyota only won 2 of the first 17 races (Both won by Martin Truex Jr.). The team found the speed they needed after the All-Star Race at Charlotte. Toyota won 14 of the 19 remaining races and won the 2018 Manufacturer trophy.
The Camry does have an aerodynamics edge over the competition but it is not as great as some of the Ford drivers would leave you to believe. The shape of the nose on the car is more pointed and makes for faster speeds. The dominance of the Toyota in 2017 had as much to do with who was driving the cars as it had to do with the car itself.
Toyota only had six drivers to focus their engineering on (The four drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing and the two drivers from Furniture Row Racing). It is a lot easier to make fast racecars when your resources are not spread so thin. The drivers for these two teams are the best in the sport. That has to help separate them from the pack.
Toyota should be the No. 1 manufacturer in 2018 but it will be closer then it was last year. The five main Toyota drivers (Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr.) should dominate the start of the season. The Toyotas have more speed then the Fords and it will take a while for Chevy to catch up. Fantasy players will want to use as many of the Toyota drivers as possible early in the season.
- Chevy (Camero ZL1)
Teams: Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Leavin Family Racing, Germain Racing, JTG Daugherty Racing, The Motorsports Group, TriStar Motorsports and Rick Ware Racing
Drivers: Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Bubba Wallace, Kasey Kahne, Ty Dillon, AJ Allmendinger, Chris Buescher, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Cole Whitt and Ray Black Jr.
Chevy made the switch from the Chevy SS to the Camaro ZL1 chassis for the 2018. Next week will be a critical week for the Chevy teams. There will be a two day (Jan 31st – Feb 1st) test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This will be the first time that Team Chevy will get to shake down their cars. There was a tire test last month at Texas Motor Speedway but Goodyear took the tires so the teams could not get a clear read on the cars. Kyle Larson, William Byron, Ty Dillon, Bubba Wallace and Chris Buescher will be the Chevy drivers participating in the test session.
The Chevy teams will be looking to see how their speed compares to the Toyotas and Fords and how well the new Camaro ZL1 car wears out the tires. This information will be important because it will be the first chance for Fantasy NASCAR players to see what Chevy has for the 2018 season. Be sure to check FantasyRacingTips.com for updates on the practice sessions.
The new Camaro ZL1 car is expected to start slow and gain momentum once the teams figure out the car. That is usually the trend when a manufacture debuts a new car. There will be a lot of teams, crew chiefs and engineers looking at Camaro ZL1. This is good but it could be bad as well. All of these brilliant minds should be able to figure out the new car rather quickly. Getting all of the teams on the same page could take some time.
I expect Chip Ganassi Racing to be the first team to make speed in the new car. They brought over Doug Duchart (Engineer) from Hendrick Motorsports to lead the team in their car setups. They also brought over engineers from their Indy Series teams (Max Jones and Mike Hall) to help figure out the cars. Chip Ganassi Racing is all in for the 2018 season. I expect Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray to be the fastest Chevys in 2018.
Hendrick Motorsports should not be far behind Chip Ganassi Racing with the new car. There is a lot a smart people and a lot of money at HMS so they will be able to make speed too.
The rest of the teams may take until after the All-Star Race to generate the speed needed to compete on the Intermediate tracks.
The new Chevy Camaro ZL1 car might have some problems to start the season, but once the teams figure it out, they may dominate the second-half of the 2018 season.
- Ford (Fusion)
Teams: Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing, Wood Brothers Racing and Go Fas Racing and Front Row Motorsports
Drivers: Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Trevor Bayne, Matt Dibenedetto, Michael McDowell and David Ragan
The Fords will not win a race in 2018. Heck, the Fords may not even finish inside the top 10 in any races this year…. Well, that is what Brad Keselowski wants the leadership of NASCAR to think.
Complaining about one manufacturer having more speed then another is nothing new in NASCAR. Teams will take any edge that NASCAR is willing to offer them. Ford may be behind on speed this season but it is not nearly as bad as what some of the Ford drivers are saying.
Kevin Harvick had the second-best average running position last year. I use this stat because it paints a better picture of how fast a car actually is then the finishing position stat does. The Fords cannot be too far back on speed if Harvick can outrun every driver in the series except Martin Truex Jr.
The Fords will work hard over the offseason to find more speed. The Roush-Yates engine will generate the most speed at Daytona. It always does. Ford has won 9 of the last 10 restrictor-plate races. They will need to find more speed in the aerodynamics of the Ford Fusion chassis. That will be a challenge.
I expect Ford to win a handful of races in 2018 (Mostly on the Superspeedways, Road Courses and short tracks) and struggle on the Intermediate tracks (1.5-mile and 2-mile ovals).
Ford is expected to race a new car in 2019, so a more even playing field next year can be expected.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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