Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen Fantasy Preview
I know our fans from upstate New YOrk can agree with me that when it comes to traveling from NHMS to that area, it's like accessing most parts of Maine: "ya' cayn't get the'ya from hey'a."
You end up on a windy road through Vermont, climbing the Green Mountains behind some truck that can't get it above 34 mph, watching the minutes roll by faster than the miles. Yep...I did that trip as recently as late June when I went to a Brad Paisley concert in Saratoga Springs. It...took...for-ever!
Once you get to Albany, you have a pretty straight shot on I-90 across the state Buffalo, but should you choose to get off that highway (I did not when I drove cross country in 2010), you'll quickly find yourself winding into the wilderness. Seriously, ask any St. Lawrence University grad the fastest way to Canton, N.Y., and his/her first answer will likely be a chuckle.
Far better than our flat track situated in the foothills of the White Mountains, the track in upstate New York embodies its region's topography. Watkins Glen International is one of just two road courses on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. The 2.45-mile, seven turn course keeps the drivers twisting and weaving, just like the fans on their commute to that track.
I've always had an interest in heading to this race, but the seven hour drive through the state highway region I just described make it a trek for sure. Road course races aren't quite as fan friendly from a spectators points of view, but they're the kind of courses that truly show a driver's ability to race his car.
When you look at an international series, like Formula 1, they don't even touch ovals. That's not to write off the product we have at NHMS or elsewhere on the circular circuit, but it's certainly a different perspective of racing when NASCAR takes to a road course. For fantasy team owners, it tends to make your selections relatively easy.
Strategy: The two road courses (the Glen and Sonoma) are by far the tracks most predictable by statistics. Bad luck might hit anywhere, but good luck really only happens on the ovals. It's very rare to see someone that hasn't shown the ability to race a road course pull out a horseshoe and win a race. Fantasy owners should manage this one by the books.
#14 Tony Stewart - "Smoke" has a 9.0 average finish on road courses and 7.1 at the Glen. His 124.8 driver rating tops the field at this track.
#18 Kyle Busch - It hasn't been the season Busch has wanted and Gordon's win last week knocks him out of a Wild Card spot (for now), so it's go time. With six top-10s, including a win, in seven starts at Watkins Glen, Busch should have the chance to climb back in it.
#24 Jeff Gordon - He's better at his home track of Sonoma than here, but that's more splitting hairs. Gordon has four wins at the Glen in 19 starts, and his win last week finally gives him some 2012 momentum.
#17 Matt Kenseth - With just three top-10s and no top-fives in 12 races at this track, he's not a good bet to take over the points lead this weekend. (He only trails by five points.)
#9 Marcos Ambrose - If you're not starting the Aussie this week, you have a few too many screws loose. In his four starts at the Glen, he has a win, a second, and two thirds. 'Nuff said!
#42 Juan Pablo Montoya - Like Ambrose, JPM comes from a road course background. Both of his career NASCAR wins have come on road courses.
#51 Kurt Busch - Despite a terrible season, the older Busch nearly pulled off an improbable win at Sonoma earlier this year. That run reminded all of us that when it comes down to the actual driver talent, Busch is still one of the series' best.
#56 Martin Truex Jr. - He has two top-fives and another top-10 in six starts at the Glen, and he's been a much better driver this year than in years past.
#5 Kasey Kahne - Zero top-10s in eight starts at Watkins Glen. Need I say more?
#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Junior is not a road course racer. He averages a finish of 22.2 on the track type and has just three top-10s in 25 career road course starts.
#22 Sam Hornish Jr. - He's never been strong on road courses during his NASCAR career, but his history in INDYCAR makes him as good a candidate as any to put up a good weekend from the C-List.
#55 Brian Vickers - I kicked myself for not starting him at Sonoma. He's by far the best driver on the C-List when he starts. When you consider he's not going to make nine starts, he should be in your lineup every week he's out there.
#32 Boris Said - This was the guy I started over Vickers at Sonoma and I was reminded that the road course specialist is a thing of the past. Said hasn't recorded at top-10 in the last five race at Watkins Glen and has an average of 26th place in that time.
The picks in this blog are based around Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game and its standard scoring rules. The preview is designed to provide suggestions, while still encouraging managers to make their own decisions. Once sorted into Yahoo's A, B and C-Lists, they are organized based on car number and not directly associated with a rank value.
You can sign up and play for free, by visiting http://racing.fantasysports.yahoo.com. If signed up, the "Fans of NHMS" group may be joined by clicking here.