FANTASY: Only In Vegas
Kobalt 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, March 6, 2014
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will stay out West for the first cookie-cutter race of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday. This is Vegas's only race of the season, but it's not the drivers's only trip to Sin City.
They'll return for Champions Week after the season is all over. While that seems like a long way off right now, the best teams in NASCAR know that now is the time to lay the groundwork for a run to the Sprint Cup Championship.
The old saying goes that "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," but that's hardly the case for NASCAR. A win at LVMS will be something a driver can take with him in order to make the Chase in September. A strong performance could set the table for a good season on the 1.5-mile intermediate tracks, which are most common in Sprint Cup Series races.
Here's a look at some of the drivers that might do well this weekend and are worth consideration in Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing:
As alluded to above, Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile tri-oval. This type of intermediate track is referred to as a "cookie-cutter," because it is the similar shape and distance to several other tracks in NASCAR. This will be the first race of the season on such a track type, and it will be a building block for success later on in the year.
Last week, the X-Factor was new faces in new places. Kevin Harvick proved that it doesn't take too much familiarity with a team to win a race, as he took the checkered flag in just his second start with Stewart-Haas Racing. Likewise, Matt Kenseth won at LVMS last year in his third-ever start with Joe Gibbs Racing. However, that doesn't mean that all drivers are immediately successful with a new team, and it's up to the fantasy managers to figure out which ones will catch on faster.
With only one race a year at Las Vegas, there's less driver data about the specific track than many of the others on the schedule. However, its similarity to so many intermediate tracks allows for a lot of comparison. Certain drivers are great on the 1.5 milers and they should be the focus of this week's fantasy lineup.
- #18 Kyle Busch - The Las Vegas native has an impressive 7.1 average starting position at his home track. He hasn't always held that and his average finish drops to 14.7, but he does have four top-fives in 10 starts at LVMS. He can be a little feast or famine.
- #20 Matt Kenseth - He jump started a career-year in 2013 with a win at Las Vegas. It was his third win in 14 starts at the track.
- #48 Jimmie Johnson - Six-Time is a cookie-cutter superstar, which has a lot to do with his success in the Chase. That's no exception at LVMS, where he has four wins in 12 starts.
- #41 Kurt Busch - This might be his home track, but Busch has just three top-10s in 13 starts at LVMS. His early struggles should dissipate as he gets used to his surroundings at Stewart-Haas Racing, and fantasy managers can afford to patient considering the other talent on the A-list.
- #11 Denny Hamlin - He's only led three laps at Las Vegas in his career, but does have four top-10s in eight starts and a 13.1 average finishing position.
- #14 Tony Stewart - This could be an opportunity for Stewart to officially declare a healthy return to the Sprint Cup Series. He's second all-time with 482 laps led at LVMS and has picked up six top-fives and nine top-10s in 15 races.
- #39 Ryan Newman - The preview usually includes one dark horse driver from the B-list each week. Newman falls into that category because of his stats at Las Vegas, where an 18.1 average finish puts him well down the list. However, he has two top-fives in his last five starts at LVMS and looked quite comfortable in his new ride with Richard Childress Racing last week.
- #99 Carl Edwards - This is one of Edwards' better tracks. He has two wins and a 9.7 average finish across nine races in Sin City.
- #2 Brad Keselowski - He's started out the season with back-to-back third-place finishes, and also finished third at Las Vegas last year. But, that finish bumped his average finish at LVMS all the way up to (gulp) 25.0. That's not very reliable.
- #27 Paul Menard - Congratulations to the Menards, as he and his wife are expecting a baby within the next week. There's a possibility that means he doesn't race on Sunday, so he shouldn't be in lineups this weekend. (He doesn't have too much upside even if he does start.)
- #21 Trevor Bayne - He managed a top-10 at Las Vegas in 2012 and has a top-10 in all four Nationwide starts at the track, so he's a decent C-list option.
- #66 Jeff Burton - His part-time ride with Michael Waltrip Racing puts him in a similar boat to where Mark Martin was in recent years. Burton might be well out of his prime, but he's still a good enough driver to garner starts on the C-list when he's active.
- #51 Justin Allgaier - At the time of writing this preview, Allgaier is rostered on nine percent of fantasy teams. Why? Through his first six career Cup races in the No. 51, he has a 29.7 average finish. He's still developing, and the car itself doesn't have the funding to put him up front.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily rank order.
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