FANTASY: The Vegas Business Trip
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Cookie-cutter winners usually aren't big surprises.
Photo: Getty Images
When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hosts the annual awards banquet in Las Vegas in late November, it's all about fun and smiles. But, not when it visits for its annual race each March. This early in the season, it's all about business.
The "cookie-cutter" of Las Vegas Motor Speedway will set the stage for the most abundant racetrack style on the circuit. The teams will be hoping that a strong performance here can help parlay them into a contender to sit at the champion's table when the series returns in almost nine months.
As we do each week, let's preview the race by setting our Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing lineups for the Kobalt Tools 400.
As mentioned in the preview, the 1.5-mile tri-oval is the standard "cookie-cutter" for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The series only races here once a season, and while statistics aren't as prominent as tracks with two races a year, the layout makes it easier to predict which drivers will succeed. Data from other intermediate tracks can be used to help the predictions this week.
Like last week, it's still the Gen-6 car. We can crunch all the data we want from every intermediate race over the last decade, but the only experience these cars have had on an intermediate came from a couple of test sessions at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It's going to take several races before we see if certain drivers or manufacturers run better at certain track layouts in the new car.
On the cookie-cutters, I suggest going with the best drivers from the best teams. Short tracks bring out driver skill, but the larger (non-restrictor plate) tracks are all about speed and a little less about skill. Most of the drivers running up front are going to be from teams that bring top of the line equipment for them to run.
- #14 Tony Stewart - His 106.4 driver rating at LVMS ranks third in the field. He's been somewhat of an afterthought in the first two races, but I remember thinking the same thing last year before he won this event.
- #20 Matt Kenseth - The transition to the No. 20 seems to be coming along quickly. Kenseth was the class of the Daytona field before an engine problem and finished seventh last week. He has two career wins at Las Vegas, and a 12.5 average finish at the track ranks him fourth in the field.
- #48 Jimmie Johnson - Four wins in 11 LVMS starts; need I say more? What's that? You do want me to say more? Okay, he's finished first and second in the first two races of this season. If that's not enough to consider him, I'll just turn my podium around and preach directly to the choir.
- #2 Brad Keselowski - As good as he's been racing, it's hard to endorse someone whose best finish in four LVMS races is 26th-place.
- #16 Greg Biffle - He got shuffled back to 17th at Phoenix, but did lead 39 laps before that. He has six top-10s in nine career Vegas races.
- #18 Kyle Busch - Las Vegas's own hasn't had the best luck there with just four top-10s in nine starts, but a win and a 100.9 driver rating suggest he's capable of taking the checkered at his home track.
- #55 Mark Martin - The No. 55 looked great in leading the first 75 laps at Phoenix, and Martin continues to be of value each week. If you're not sold on the cream of the B-list crop, he's a safe option.
- #99 Carl Edwards - With two wins in eight LVMS starts, last week's race winner should continue to reverse the bad fortune that plagued him throughout 2012.
- #31 Jeff Burton - He has as strong track record at LVMS; his 10.9 average finish is third in the field, but he's not the same driver he once was and more reliable options exist elsewhere.
- #56 Martin Truex Jr. - Something doesn't seem quite right with this team right now. With just one top-10 in seven starts at this weekend's track, it doesn't seem like the race where Truex turns it around.
- #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - This is one of those cases where the superior equipment is going to come in handy. Stenhouse is the clear favorite on the C-list.
- #21 Trevor Bayne - He was the best performer in 2012 among a smattering of unexciting C-list options in 2013. It's unlikely the No. 21 gets a top-10, but it should outperform most of this group, except for Stenhouse.
- #10 Danica Patrick - Last week's qualifying position of 40th is scary. She wrecked out, which is just bad luck, but she certainly wasn't turning heads when she was running. After a great performance at Daytona, it looks like the prominent rookie still has some growing pains to overcome in NASCAR's top series.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily in rank order.
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