I'd apologize that I wasn't able to write a preview last week, as I was on vacation in California. However, I saw three of the four cars I started in Yahoo fantasy head behind the wall at one point or another and scored an embarrassingly-low 157 points. I really don't feel like missing my advice was detrimental last week.
It's been a tough fantasy season. I rank in the 70th percentile on Yahoo, which is about the same as my standing when I first got into the sport in 2009. It's a far cry from last year's near perfect run to the 98th percentile. I honestly look at the No. 99 of Carl Edwards each week (when he even makes it on TV), as he runs somewhere outside the top-10, and know exactly how he's feeling.
Last year was great. I finished so close to the top and had a lot of optimism entering the season.
This year has been the exact opposite. From an opening week bomb out in Daytona (176 points), which was only topped in terms of disaster at Phoenix last weekend, it's been a "that's racing" season for sure. For both myself and Cousin Carl.
As I enter Homestead, I'm basically in the same boat as every driver not named Brad Keselowski. There's not a whole lot left to win and at this point, it's about pride and respect. I hope that I can rekindle a little of the fire that I had burning in 2011. Perhaps I could carry that flame through the cold winter and get it going again in 2013.
This season is a lost cause, but that doesn't mean there isn't one more opportunity to pick up the week's win. There's plenty of space left on this year's near-empty trophy shelf for medallions and ribbons, and it's going to look pretty bare this winter if I can't put a little something more up there.
So here we go, fantasy advice from the guy that's probably done little better and possibly far worse than you have this season. Thanks for reading and I promise to do better next year!
Strategy: Homestead-Miami Speedway is an odd track from the standpoint that drivers only race there once a season and it's always the very end of it. The fact that the season is more or less over for most adds an element of inconsistency that can't be calculated. By this, I mean that some drivers might be trying to figure something out for next year, some might be on their way out with a team or crew chief, some might be trying to win one for the Gipper and others might just have a vendetta with the No. 15 car, although we'll have big problems if that wasn't settled at Phoenix.
Luckily, from a statistical standpoint, Homestead is a 1.5-mile cookie cutter, and thus there's plenty of intermediate track data to call on from throughout the season that helps fill in the blanks at a once-a-year track that has only ever hosted 13 Cup races.
#29 Kevin Harvick - He was Mr. Irrevelvant much of the Chase and didn't pick up a top-10 in the postseason until Texas two weeks ago. However, he surprised with a win in Phoenix and has nine top-10s in 11 Homestead races, so he could be a guy that starts 2013 a few races early.
#48 Jimmie Johnson - Why start the No. 48 at one of the few tracks he's never won? Because Homestead is one of the few tracks he's never won, that's why. With only an outside hope of overtaking Brad Keselowski for the Chase, Johnson will likely put it all on the line to make sure he gets as many points as he can. He's baked his bread on intermediate tracks during his career, so there's no reason he can't win at this track.
#99 Carl Edwards - Ugh. If you read what I wrote earlier, you can see why I'm pulling out this sympathy pick. He has just two top-10s during the Chase, of which he's not a part of, but he has two wins in Miami and a 5.2 average finish that should impress. Maybe he puts it all together this week ... maybe I do too.
#2 Brad Keselowski - I'm staying away from the presumptive Cup champion for no real concrete reason. I've always viewed him as a guy that pushes to the front for a win, so I question whether a change in mentality to the 2012 Harvick method of cruising around in 11th or 12th is a benefit to him. It never seems to work in any sport when a team plays too cautiously defensive.
#5 Kasey Kahne - Not much has been made of Kahne, but he has five top-fives in the nine Chase races. If you have a start left on him, you should use it. He's been really good lately.
#16 Greg Biffle - He's tailed off late in the season to the point of being an afterthought in the Chase. The Biff is feast or famine at Homestead with three wins but just one more additional top-10 in 10 starts. If you can close on a league championship and have a Biffle start left, he's worth the risk. If you're comfortably in first, he's probably not.
#56 Martin Truex Jr. - If I'd realized Truex was this strong at Homestead, perhaps I wouldn't have wasted his final start on a 43rd at Phoenix last weekend: he has a 109.7 driver rating and five top-10s in seven starts and that was before this season's career year. He's had a few wins robbed from him this year, so he has one coming his way sooner than later.
#78 Kurt Busch - In the interest of picking out a driver with whom most have a start or two left, Busch looks appealing. He has back-to-back eighth-place finishes and seems to be getting comfortable with the No. 78 team.
#20 Joey Logano - He hasn't finished better than 19th in three Homestead races, so it's unlikely that his time with Joe Gibbs Racing ends in anyway other than disappointment.
#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - People like me that have one Dale Jr. start left are going to feel obligated to use it. Without so much as a top-10 in 12 Homestead starts and a 23.1 average finish, I ask myself this: why?
#6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - This is the final dress rehearsal for the possible Nationwide champion before he moves full time to the Cup level in 2013. He's a great driver and I can't argue against the Roush Fenway Racing technology he drives.
#43 Aric Almirola - It's unlikely many have a start left for the No. 43, but if you do, there should be zero hesitation using it as he has a fourth-place finish in one of two career starts at Homestead and has had some strong showings on the intermediates this season.
#22 Sam Hornish Jr. - He has an average finish of 27.3 in three starts at Homestead and a best of 21, so it's unlikely he ends up being the value pick this week.
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.