SYLVANIA 300 Fantasy Preview
It's race week here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway! For the second time this year, the NASCAR circus will roll into the small town of Loudon at New England's only Sprint Cup Series track.
At NHMS, we focus on providing the best experience possible in just two weeks of the year, and it's our time to shine. Riding the golf cart around the facility on Thursday, I could tell a difference even from morning to afternoon. This place has sprung to life!
Bring it on NASCAR fans, we're ready for you. And, so is the Sprint Cup Series.
The NSCS started off the Chase for the Sprint Cup last weekend in a predictable fashion: Jimmie Johnson ran up front, few of the non-Chasers seemed of much relevance, and no one was willing to take any risks at the expense of falling back in the standings.
As usual, there was one Chaser that took a first week dive and it came in the form of Jeff Gordon. After clawing tooth-and-nail to get into the postseason, his throttle stuck and he plowed into the wall, finishing the day in 35th-place.
The chess match continues this weekend in the SYLVANIA 300 and drivers like Gordon or Denny Hamlin, who ran out of gas on the final lap, know they need a strong finish to gain some ground on leader Brad Keselowski.
NHMS isn't a wreck fest, never is, never will be. It's a driver's track that rewards track position and demands patience to move up through the field. The key to setting a Yahoo Fantasy lineup this weekend will be to go with the driver's that perform well at "The Magic Mile" and readjust the lineup Saturday based on qualifying.
Strategy: Expect the expected. Drivers that know how to get around NHMS usually finish up front, while those that don't, fall back. Due to the generally clean nature of the race, there's not as many uncontrollable factors as other tracks, so this is a time to use a coveted allocation on someone if he's likely to register a top-10.
#11 Denny Hamlin - Despite issues with fuel the last two races, Hamlin has still looked strong for the last several weeks. He was dominant here in July, but was cost the win by taking four tires in a late pit stop. He's owed one here and with four top-three finishes in the last five NHMS races, he could cash in this weekend.
#14 Tony Stewart - If Smoke is going to leverage a title defense, this is the track to get it going. He won last year's SYLVANIA 300, his third win at "The Magic Mile", and has a series-best 112.0 driver rating here.
#48 Jimmie Johnson - After watching the race get away from him in the last round of pit stops of Chicagoland last week, you have to assume that "Five-Time" will be looking for a win. He has a nifty 9.9 average finish at NHMS, which includes three wins.
#99 Carl Edwards - Like Kyle Busch who I discussed last week, it's hard to expect that the only other non-Chaser on the A-List will be of much relevance the rest of the way. He's struggled mightily at NHMS, and I can't see him being a factor in this race.
#5 Kasey Kahne - The No. 5 went to Victory Lane in July and considering Hendrick Motorsports' strong history at the track, he should be in contention for a season sweep this weekend.
#15 Clint Bowyer - He has this flat track figured out. He won the SYLVANIA 300 in 2010 and led last year before running out of gas two laps short of the finish line. He finished third at NHMS in July.
#39 Ryan Newman - The Rocketman staked his claim by taking both poles last year, which included a win in the 2011 LENOX Industrial Tools 301. I always say he's a driver's driver, so this is his kind of track.
#56 Martin Truex Jr. - While Truex lacks a lot of history at a lot of tracks, his three top-fives in 13 NHMS starts speaks highly to his ability here. Considering how much better he's been in 2012, I would predict a top-10 for the No. 56.
#16 Greg Biffle - The Fords don't run well here in general. Biffle isn't the end of the world at "The Magic Mile", but a 16.3 average finish means he'll probably have better weeks than this one in the Chase.
#20 Joey Logano - Despite this being his home track and the site of his first Cup win, Logano has been a non-factor the last few months, so it's hard to expect a great day.
#22 Sam Hornish Jr. - It's hard to go away from Hornish with the way he's raced recently. This will be his second go-around this year at "The Magic Mile" (third, if you count Nationwide), and the first time the No. 22 team gets to call on previous track experience with Hornish.
#55 Brian Vickers - The part-time driver has been a C-List ace each time he's raced this year (expect when he failed to complete a lap at the Glen last month). He started 15th at NHMS in July and finished in the same spot 301 laps later; that's about the best you can expect from the C-List anyway.
#43 Aric Almirola - The driver of the No. 43 hasn't finished better than 18th at NHMS in four starts. Considering most fantasy owners are in a crunch on starts for him, he should be avoided.
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.