The car's been covered in the garage all winter, the cover's been collecting dust, but it's time to prepare for spring.
It's time to put away any boxes of Christmas decorations that might have been lazily placed on the hood in early January. It's time to pick up the jackets and gloves that were using the roof as a coat rack. It's time to move the sled that the kids leaned against the back bumper ... It's time to prepare the car to get back out on the race track.
Let's pull off the cover, wax the exterior, wash the interior and turn the key. Start your engines; the Daytona 500 is next week!
For the second year, New Hampshire Motor Speedway has teamed up with Yahoo! Fantasy Sports to create the "Fans of NHMS" racing league. To help get everyone lined up behind the pace car before the green flag drops, I've prepared a quick set of tips to prepare for the fantasy season.
Three Things You Should Do
- Set Your Lineup Early - The Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing settings require that you select your initial eight drivers by 5 a.m. on the morning of qualifying. Nothing will tank your team (and your interest) faster than missing this deadline and having to settle for drivers that either aren't starting or aren't good at the weekend's track.
- Adjust Your Team After Qualifying - You may swap your bench driver with your starting driver up until five minutes before the green flag drops. During the race, you only get points for your starters. Keep in mind that a driver gets 10 bonus points just for leading a lap, so if he's starting on the front row, he has a roughly 50 percent chance of achieving that bonus by Lap 2.
- Consider Your Allocations - Dale Jr. fans, I'm looking at you. Yes, he's your favorite driver, but you only get nine starts on him all season and there are 36 races. Make sure you're starting drivers at tracks where you know they'll do well. The idea is to get the maximum amount of points out of nine opportunities, not just to start your favorite guy at Sonoma and cross your fingers he magically learns to navigate a road course.
Two Things You Shouldn't Do
- Over-manage Your Allocations - If you end up with only three allocations on a driver with 24 races to go and he's at his best track, start him. As I said, the idea is to maximize a driver's points over nine races. It really doesn't matter when those races are run. I'm very guilty of this. I will save a few starts for the end of the season on a driver who is no longer doing well and/or isn't racing on a track where he usually does well.
- Assume an Expert Knows Best - Two years ago, I finished in the 98th percentile on Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing. (Expert!) Last year, I finished 69th percentile. (Average.) I'm sure NASCAR.com and Yahoo! Fantasy writer Dan Beaver has had similar results. You can look at the stats all day, but at the end of that day, it's racing. It's not baseball, and stats don't always tell the story. Don't be afraid to trust your intuition, even if the experts tell you otherwise.
The A-List has nine of the best drivers in NASCAR. You should feel comfortable starting whomever, whenever. If you run out of allocations on a driver, there are plenty of other options.
- Jimmie Johnson - The No. 48 is very good at a lot of tracks, and he led the fantasy game in points last year. He's someone you can almost always rely on when you're not sure who to start.
- Matt Kenseth - He was fourth in the game, and third on the A-List in fantasy points in 2012, and is a pick that often gets overlooked. This means that you might get a leg up on the competition by playing him often. He is changing teams to the No. 20, but only time will tell if that will change his performance. I don't think it will.
Because each team needs to start two drivers on the B-List each week, this list gets taxed quickly. This is an area where you'll need to watch your allocations and make sure you're starting the right drivers at the right tracks.
- Kyle Busch - There's no doubt about his talent, just his consistency. Busch was shifted from the A-List to the B-List after missing last year's Chase, which means that he's immediately one of the most valuable drivers on the list. You'll want to play him a lot more than the nine races you'll get. He tends to have good tracks and bad tracks, choose wisely.
- Joey Logano - If I told you a 22-year-old that won nine races in Nationwide Series last year just landed a new, full-time Cup ride with a big-name team, would you get excited for him? I think so. Sure, Logano has been a disappointment early in his Sprint Cup Series career, but he was probably in it too early. At such a young age, he's still following the progression of a great driver and the new team might turn him into a star. He will get discarded by most early in the season, but if he starts hot, don't be afraid to believe in him.
- Marcos Ambrose - He's a fantastic road course driver and should be on every roster at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Not only could he put up the best numbers of the week, but he'll provide an opportunity to save allocations on the rest of the list. He likely won't make your starting lineup on an oval.
The list is going to seem sparse on most weeks. Any time there's a part-time driver that should produce a point total that matches a full-time driver, the part timer should be considered. Trevor Bayne is a good example.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - As one of the only sure things on the C-List, the Roush Fenway Racing driver will likely be the bell cow of this list. You only get to start him nine times, so he should be considered each week there's nothing else on the table, yet avoided when there are comparable options.
- Danica Patrick - I realize there's a joke to be made by putting her under Stenhouse, but this placement is just a coincidence. The serious matter is that with the C-List seemingly even shallower than normal, there could come a time and place where Patrick become a driver that's regularly considered. Her success (or lack thereof) is worth tracking as the year progresses.
- The Generation-6 Car - Remember what I said about those experts crunching the stats? All those numbers we try to analyze could change with the new car model. It's hard to assume anything as fact with the noticeably altered Gen-6 design, and it's possible this handbook might be worth nothing more than kindling for a campfire come early summer.