|12/03/15||The Champion By NHMS Numbers|
|11/20/15||The Championship Four Preview|
|11/13/15||Phoenix: Three To Watch|
|10/30/15||Martinsville: Three To Watch|
|10/18/15||Kansas: Three To Watch|
|10/05/15||Charlotte: Three To Watch|
Stakes Raised in Texas
Yesterday, Texas Motor Speedway sent out an email likening the matchup between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart to a heavyweight boxing fight.
Myself? I prefer to stick to the stereotypical poker reference to Texas Hold 'Em, as we prepare for the AAA Texas 500.
At this point, it's down to a small Final Table. Kevin Harvick might have a few chips left, maybe even Brad Keselowski, but the system should blind them out of it soon and leave a heads-up match between Edwards and Stewart.
Like in poker, the two drivers have risen to the top through vastly different tactics. Edwards, who currently leads by eight points, has gone the conservative route. He's been up near the top much of the Chase (and most of the season) and hasn't seen a need to take a chance and risk toppling his stack.
Edwards has just one win to his credit, the third race of the season, and has preached consistency over domination. He's the kind of guy that if he joined your poker game at home, he'd be satisfied cleaning up $5 here, $5 there, instead of going all-in for the big $50 hand.
The approach has gotten some criticism, as many people think he's zapping the excitement, but keep in mind that he won nine races in 2008, but no championship. His focus now is winning that title. His current approach seems to be working, even if it isn't bringing the crowd to its feet.
Tony Stewart, on the other hand, is the aggressive player that's willing to call everything under the sun, bluff you out of a hand and pillage your stack when you believe he has nothing. After limping into the Chase, he's playing with house money, and he knows it!
He won the first two races of the Chase to build himself up from a short stack to a powerful force that can strong-arm opponents. However, his luck leveled him off with a 25th and 15th to drop him to seventh in points. Since then, he's posted three top-10s, including his third Chase win in the most recent race.
Whereas Edwards is sitting quietly, Stewart is the talker at the table. He's let Edwards know that he better not sleep too much and that he's coming for him. It's the perfect dichotomy of personalities and bound to keep us focused and guessing on who will win right down to Homestead's checkered flag.
Will it be the calm and collected Cousin, Carl Edwards? Or, will it be the aggressive and fiery Smoke that's Tony Stewart?
And, relevant to us averages Joe's trying to turn into a digital Joe Gibbs, who should we put in our fantasy field for the weekend?
*In case you're new to this segment, check out my first fantasy post on how the system works.
Strategy: Texas Motor Speedway is your stereotypical cookie-cutter, intermediate track. It's a 1.5-mile oval with high banking in the turns (up to 24 degrees). In many cases, these tracks are very easy to predict, as they tend to race the same, but TMS doesn't have too many high driver ratings, which makes it hard to pinpoint a favorite. Also, keep in mind this time of year where drivers are in the standings and how that will affect their approach.
#14 Tony Stewart - Smoke will be pushing for another win. He's close enough to Edwards with three races left that he doesn't need to visit Victory Lane, but he's not going to waste time sitting around in the back. You can expect to see him at the front, looking for bonus points for laps led and hoping that he can register at least a top-five finish. Could he be too aggressive? Sure. But, if its a risk he's willing to take for a championship, it's one a fantasy owner can take as well.
#17 Matt Kenseth - Kenseth took a nose dive last week from second in the standings to fifth. His 31st-place finish dropped him 36 points back and reminds us of the adage: "You can't win the Chase in a week, but you sure can lose it." He should have a bounce back race this weekend, though. His 105.2 driver rating and 9.0 average finish top the field at Texas and he has two wins and 12 top-10s in 18 starts.
#99 Carl Edwards - Edwards will need to continue to focus on consistency this weekend. He has three wins in 13 starts at Texas, but has just two other top-10s in those and three DNFs. I expect he'll make sure to fill up his belly at what has been a feast or famine track for him.
#18 Kyle Busch - Rowdy always seems to struggle in the Chase. A big part is that he just doesn't have any of his best tracks in the final 10 races. His five top-10s in 13 starts is a familiar, uninspiring stat for most of these Chase tracks.
#31 Jeff Burton - It seems odd to give any sort of recommendation for Burton, but he has two top-10s in the last two races after registering just one (on a road course, no less) in the first 31. If you're struggling for someone to play, he offers some sort of upside.
#33 Clint Bowyer - Bowyer's 92.4 driver rating at Texas puts him second on the B-List. He has six top-10s in 11 Texas starts, including a second earlier this year.
#56 Martin Truex Jr. - Truex is still sticking around as that second-tier B-Lister you'll start if you run out of the top-tier. He has two consecutive top-10s this year and races well at Texas. In 12 career starts at the track, he has five top-10s. He also has three DNFs, which means if he doesn't suffer from bad luck, he usually finishes well.
#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Junior tops the B-List in driver rating at Texas with a 93.1. That doesn't make him an obvious choice, but if you saved your No. 88 allocations for the Chase and now can't figure out if you'll ever use one, this track presents a positive outlook.
#5 Mark Martin - Over the last 11 races at Texas, Martin tops the B-List in average fantasy points. However, he's had much better seasons and has a current streak of three consecutive races with a finish of 20th or worse.
#83 Brian Vickers - Not that most people would plan on starting Vickers, but keep in mind that just because you've started hearing his name this week, it isn't a good thing. He was involved in several wrecks last week and you can bet that with him out of it and many others out of it, someone's going to make solid contact with the No. 83 this weekend.
#27 Paul Menard - Menard has put up the best C-List stats since the Chase started. Last week's 24th-place finish was the only time in seven races he finished outside the top-20.
#78 Regan Smith - Smith is still one of the only C-List options outside of Menard or David Ragan, so if you need to use him, do so before moving on down the list.
#6 David Ragan - Ragan's been down recently. I wouldn't recommend him over Menard this week and will hope he gets some momentum back before I use my final allocation on him.
My Preliminary Roster
A - EDWARDS (3), Stewart (8)
B - BOWYER (2), KESELOWSKI (3), Kahne (1), Truex Jr. (6)
C - MENARD (1), Smith (1)
*Number in parenthesis are allocations remaining.