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FANTASY: Getting Back on Track

Thursday, August 16, 2012
Not sure if the news made it to Siberia, but Dale Jr. won here in June. Photo: Getty Images

Pure Michigan 400 Fantasy Preview

Last week turned out to be a far tougher week than expected.  Usually road courses are rather predictable and I even went as far in last week's preview to say that only bad luck would create unexpected fantasy results.

Jinx!

The only reason I wasn't totally distraught was that I know many people suffered the same bad luck I did.  Why not start the pole-sitter in Montoya?  Or, the part-time, C-List ace in Vickers?  Or, five-time Watkins Glen winner Stewart?  As I said, bad luck happens.; that's racing.

The good news is that the cars go to Michigan International Speedway this week, and as they get back on an oval track, I can hope to do the same with my fantasy team.  The two-mile, D-shaped oval tends to reward the fastest cars, as they have the space to spread out from the field and speed away to a victory.  That should make it easier to put up a strong fantasy week than at a less predictable track.

Strategy: The car tends to be important, and for whatever reason, Fords seem to be very strong at Michigan ... and Dale Earnhardt Jr.  It's unlikely that a "dark horse" comes on to win this race.  The driver in victory lane is likely going to be someone that has run well most of the year.

A-List

Start

#17 Matt Kenseth - The Ford driver is third in points and averages a 9.3 finish at Michigan.

#48 Jimmie Johnson - Would you believe that Jimmie Johnson has never won at MIS?  A 105.0 driver rating suggests that he should have, especially when you consider his propensity for visiting victory lanes around the country.

#99 Carl Edwards - He's definitely not a driver that has run well most of the year, as I suggested for a strategy.  However, he has two Michigan wins and his 8.4 average finish is best among active drivers.  Plus, he needs a win to make the Chase.

Park

#2 Brad Keselowski - I expect the Michigan Man to break out for a win at some point at his home track, but he only has a single top-10 in six career races at it.

B-List

Start

#5 Kasey Kahne - He only has seven top-10s in 17 Michigan starts, but six of those are top-fives, so when he's good, he's very good.  He's certainly been good the second half of the season.

#16 Greg Biffle - He sports the highest driver rating (108.1) in the field and could definitely put up a great run in his Ford.

#55 Mark Martin - I kind of beat a dead horse in talking about Martin every time he races.  However, he has a long history of doing well at most tracks, and that's no different at Michigan.  His 13.6 average finish is sixth among active drivers.

#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Junior's last two race wins, split up by four years, have come at Michigan.  Statistically, he's not actually that strong at this track, but it's hard to argue with Junior Nation when he wins here.

Park

#9 Marcos Ambrose - Last week's race winner might still be hanging on to a roster spot since he won the pole here earlier this year.  The bottom line is he has just a single top-10 in eight Michigan starts, so he should be skipped.

#20 Joey Logano - There was a time Logano appeared ready to put himself in contention for the 2012 Chase, but that was short lived.  He's now finished outside the top-10 in four consecutive races and isn't really any sliced bread at Michigan either.

C-List

Start

#21 Trevor Bayne - While he's no better than any of the other drivers worth considering on the list, his part-time status usually makes him appealing when he starts.  That and the Ford that he's driving at Michigan.

#22 Sam Hornish Jr. - Don't get too excited, but Hornish has a top-five at Michigan in one of his six starts!  That's at least worth considering when you're scouring the C-List, especially since he finished fifth last week as well.

Park

#34 David Ragan - Yes, he's in a Ford and has done well at Michigan in the past, but he's not with Roush Fenway Racing anymore.  He finished 23rd in the June race here and I'd expect about the same this time around.

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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.