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FANTASY: Subway, Start Fresh

Thursday, March 1, 2012
After finishing 29th at Daytona, Kasey Kahne will be excited to return to a track where he won last November Photo: Getty Images

Subway Fresh Fit 500 Fantasy Preview

Ouch!  Unless you went with the Fords of Kenseth and Biffle, the fantasy team probably didn't fair too well at Daytona.  The race was every bit as unpredictable as expected, right down to Juan Pablo Montoya's night ending after he totaled his car into a jet dryer while under caution.

While some of the 550+ owners in the "Fans of NHMS" group fielded a comparable fantasy team, only 22 of them put up more than 300 points, an approximate cutoff for what would be considered a really good week.  That's not a very high percentage!

Any time you see three of last year's Chasers (and Yahoo Fantasy "A-Listers") finish 32nd or worse, it's probably a sign that things didn't go as planned.  Brad Keselowski ended up 32nd after a wreck, Jeff Gordon's engine blew to give him a 40th-place finish, and Jimmie Johnson was taken on just the second lap for a 42nd.

That Johnson wreck also essentially ended the night for everyone's C-List.  Trevor Bayne, Danica Patrick and David Ragan, who accounted for a large majority of C-List starts, were all swept into the fray.

The bright side is that it's just one race and no matter how poorly your team faired, at least you're not like Johnson.  After being docked 25 points for an unapproved adjustment, Johnson now sits at negative 23 points.  Assuming you started at least one driver, you at least have positive points, right!?

The truly good news, however, is that Daytona is one of the hardest races to predict.  It should get easier in the upcoming races to get a sense of who will do well and who won't, as drivers tend to be more consistent on certain tracks and layouts.  This week's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix should be an opportunity to start trying to make up ground on the owners that might have been luckier than good last week.

Strategy: Starting with the bad news, Phoenix was repaved and reconfigured last summer, so it still raises some wild card-type questions.  However, it is a mile tri-oval with moderate banking, so it's certainly not the most unique of track layouts (basically, a small "cookie cutter").  After last week's frenzy, I'd recommend looking for the most consistent drivers.  A bad week happens, but two bad weeks in a row can start to snowball the season.  Don't look for some Hail Mary, there's plenty of time left in the game!

A-List

Start

#11 Matt Kenseth - There was a lot of good luck and a lot of bad luck at Daytona last week, but there's no disputing Kenseth brought one of the weekend's best cars to Victory Lane.  While he doesn't have a strong history at Phoenix, his 12.8 average finish on intermediate tri-ovals ranks third in the field.  For what it's worth, he followed up his 2009 Daytona 500 win with a back-to-back victory (although that race was at California).

#14 Tony Stewart - Stewart is second only to Jimmie Johnson in average finish on a cookie cutter (12.2) and third in the field when it comes to driver rating at Phoenix (100.9).  He finished third on the redesigned course last November.

#99 Carl Edwards - Edwards finished second at Phoenix in November and boasts the second-best driver rating at the track (101.3).  The strategy is to look for a safe and consistent option this week, and Edwards is just that.  (Of course, he's also sponsored by Subway, if that counts for anything.)

Park

#48 Jimmie Johnson - All stats point to Jimmie Johnson being the favorite to win this race.  His 118.6 driver rating at Phoenix dwarfs the field and the intermediate tracks types are historically his bread-and-butter.  However, I wouldn't describe a driver with a suspended crew chief as "safe," so I'm waving the caution for you.  Proceed at your own pace, and be wary that this pick could end up hitting a jet dryer.

B-List

Start

#5 - Kasey Kahne - Kahne won at this track last November and now has the Hendrick machinery underneath him.  That's enough to make me consider him.

#16 Greg Biffle - The Biff is going to be a B-List star this year.  If you didn't start him for his third-place finish last week, fret not, I still wouldn't have recommended it in such a tough to predict race.  While five top-10s in 16 starts at Phoenix is nothing special, four top-fives in that span suggest that when he races well, he races really well.  Like Kenseth, I like Biffle to keep up the momentum.

#31 Jeff Burton - After starting 2011 with just a single top-10 in 31 starts, he's reeled off five top-10s in six races.  That includes a fourth-place at Phoenix in November.

#56 Martin Truex Jr. - Every year, Truex Jr. acts as that guy that's going to relieve the weight of using up all the starts on your top couple of B-Listers.  He's not going to be the cream of the crop, but, when he's racing well, he'll put up comparable finishes to anyone on the B-List.  I'm not saying he's a slam dunk, but if you wanted to think outside the oval (...wait, that's Infineon's motto), then he's not a bad choice.  His 88.9 driver rating at Phoenix is 12th-best and he looked good in a 12th-place finish to open the season.

Park

#51 Kurt Busch - Critics of the Busch brothers will tell me I got what I deserved for starting both of them at Daytona.  I don't think Kurt's going to have the equipment under him to compete in too many races, so stats like the fourth-best driver rating (100.4) at Phoenix should be disregarded.

#55 Mark Martin - Martin's 9.0 average finish at Phoenix is going to enter him into consideration. However, I'm not yet ready to trust the third car out of Michael Waltrip Racing.  I need to see a few more good finishes before I start considering Martin as an option.

C-List

Start

#34 David Ragan - Until further notice, the C-List is appallingly bad this year.  I don't have much faith in Ragan being the C-list's stud like last year, but I probably have less faith in much of the rest of the list.

#43 Aric Almirola - Almirola looked very much like the novice that he was expected him to be last week, and his day ultimately ended in a wreck on Lap 187.  However, of all the drivers on the C-List, his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford is probably the best machine, and he wouldn't be in the Sprint Cup Series if he couldn't drive it.

Park

#36 Dave Blaney - The No. 36 of Dave Blaney definitely led the Daytona 500 for the most time, albeit under a red flag, and finished with the most fantasy points on the C-List (although the two aren't completely related).  Don't get overly excited, though.  The team's main goal is to return an intact car to the hauler after every race and he rarely finishes much better than 25th.

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The picks in this blog are based around Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game and its standard scoring rules.  You can sign up and play for free, by visiting http://racing.fantasysports.yahoo.com

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