In 2011, we launched The Granite Stripe blog.  While fellow blogger Travis Barrett focused on regional racing, I spent my time mainly discussing the Sprint Cup Series, since that's what I knew best in the motorsports world.  Each week throughout the season, I'd provide a comprehensive look at my Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing team for the week in hopes that I could introduce the game to NHMS and its fans.

It's 2012 now and it's a big time for me as we have officially launched a Fans of NHMS group on Yahoo.  In today's world of social media, fans have a closer interaction with NASCAR and, in our case, a speedway than ever before. 

By creating this league, we've bridged what little gap there is left between fans and track.  NHMS Exec. VP/GM Jerry Gappens will have his own team, along with other track employees, like myself (*, and fans will have the chance to prove their knowledge against those of us in the industry.

Participation in Fans of NHMS will also hopefully build up an even stronger base of knowledge than you already have for the sport.  We'll be giving out prizes to season winners, so fantasy team owners will have to be on top of their game and pay attention on a weekly basis to make sure they're starting the best drivers.

I can attest that as someone that began playing in 2009, it was amazing last year how often the drivers I set before looking at any stats ended up being the drivers I rolled out in my active lineup on Sunday.  Sure, you always hear about some drivers being great on short tracks or cookie cutters or road courses. However, it's not until you're actually put in a decision making position that you really pay attention to just how well (or poorly) some drivers do on certain tracks.

There's a good amount of pit strategy involved as well, because you can only start a driver nine times.  This means that you can't just roll out your favorite driver for all 36 races and hope he wins every week.  Can you imagine if you'd already used up Tony Stewart's nine starts before last year's Chase (when he didn't win any races) and missed out on his historic five-wins-in-ten-races run to the Championship?

This is going to be fun!  The first year I played, I finished in Yahoo's 71st percentile, but slipped to just the 62nd in 2010.  However, like Carl Edwards, who was Yahoo's top point getter in 2011, I flashed consistency with a 98th percentile finish last year.  (And, like Carl, I was just a hair shy of being at the top.  I feel you pain, buddy.)

I'm looking forward to competing against all the fans and figuring out which ones are more expert than a self-promoting blogger like me that spends far too much time each week pouring over stats and writing a report on the best options.  I'm excited to watch as some of our smartest fans take a look at what I wrote and then figure out how to one-up my plan.

Getting Jerry involved will be a great opportunity as well.  This will be his first foray into the fantasy side of a sport that's been a reality to him for so long, and I'm excited to help him get up to speed on how it works.  While I dig through obscure stats to try to get an edge, Jerry simply has instincts when it comes to racing and he seems to have a knack for picking winners.

If you're not signed up yet, be sure to check out the article on how you can do so.  (The league ID is 2853 and the password is simply nhms.)  The green flag drops at the same time the pack rolls off pit road in Daytona on Feb. 26, and when it comes to these standings, we'll all be racing each other for a top finish!