Fantasy NASCAR Article – TicketGuardian 500 at Phoenix

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Kevin Harvick – He got busted for cheating at Las Vegas. Everyone expected him to win at Atlanta, but Las Vegas was a surprise. Phoenix used to be Harvick’s best track, but after a goodyear tire change, Rodney Childers admitted that they lost their edge. It shows. Harvick almost won every time from 2012-2016. He hasn’t been a hog since the change.

Martin Truex, Jr. – This isn’t his track, but he ran well at Phoenix last fall.

Kyle Busch – He’ll be popular this week. He led a bunch of laps at Phoenix last spring. His car was the second best at Las Vegas. The biggest concern is that this is a race where things can go wrong for the leaders, and Kyle Busch has a history of shooting himself in the foot.

Kyle Larson – Go watch the last Phoenix race on youtube. You’re going to have a hard time not picking Larson this weekend.

Brad Keselowski – This isn’t his track. The most laps he’s ever led in a race in the desert is 52.

Joey Logano – “The car is good in the street stock division, but we’ve got to get to the late models. We’ve got nothing for Harvick.” For non-racing nerds, he’s saying that his car isn’t even in the same class as Harvick. Logano is in a truck and Harvick is in a Monster Cup car.

Chase Elliott – He scored the second most fantasy points in both Phoenix races last year.

Denny Hamlin – He lived up to his short track reputation by scoring nearly 75 hog points last fall at Phoenix.

Jimmie Johnson – Please God, do not let Johnson screw up qualifying and force us to roster him. The new Chevy Camaro ZL1 isn’t handling well and it’s slower than the Fords and Toyotas.

Ryan Blaney – Great average running position at short tracks last season, but something always went wrong.

Kurt Busch – His 5 race top 10 streak at Phoenix was snapped last year. He’s a low ownership play as long as there aren’t multiple hogs and huge place differential plays. Gun to my head, there will be multiple hogs and place differential plays.

Erik Jones – He ran well at Phoenix last year. He’s running well this year. He’s underpriced.

Clint Bowyer – He sucks at Phoenix. Just listen to his pre-race interview. He’ll tell you, if he’s going to suck or not.

Ricky Stenhouse – he tested at Phoenix in 2017. He says he figured some things out. He went from a 23rd place car to a 19th place car. Wow, he figured it out! Stenhouse is the reason you do not look at finishing position. His average positions in last year’s Phoenix races were 20th and 18th. That’s mediocre. He finished 8th and 4th in those races. Stenhouse is the reason you need to look at finishing position. There will be a late race caution and an undeserving value pick will sneak away with a top 10.

Aric Almirola – Ricky Stenhouse Phx Lite. He hung onto the lead lap and made big gains after the last caution. Now that he’s in a real car, he may be on the other end of the stick. If someone undeservingly gains spots, then someone undeservingly loses spots.

Alex Bowman – He proved the DFS world wrong when he scored almost 70 hog points at Phoenix in the fall of 2016. That’s nice, but try to do that in a terrible Chevy.

Austin Dillon – He’s a 15th place driver. That’s exciting at Phoenix. He’ll be on the lead lap when the last caution flag flies. He’ll skip the pits and stay on the track and get a 5th place finish. His teammate Ryan Newman used this strategy and stole a win at Phoenix last spring. What does DIllon have to lose? He’s already qualified for the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him gamble every week. That would be bad for DFS because dumb gambles could mean losing 10 spots in the blink of an eye. That’s 20 fantasy points.

Ryan Newman – He’s priced the same as Dillon. The car is the same. They start and finish every race in similar spots. If you say their last names really fast, they almost sound the same. The one you don’t pick will be in the optimal lineup. Newman won this race last year, but it was as flukey …or wrecky as they get. On the last restart, Larson was going to fly by Newman before turn 2, but Stenhouse tried to dump him. It wasn’t completely intentional, but when you drive a car with old tires into the corner too hard, you know you will push tight and wreck the outside line. A novice racer knows that. It wasn’t a move of pure evil by Stenhouse, but it was dirty.

Jamie McMurray – Let last week go. McMurray looks like he’ll repeat a solid 2017 season. In the last 6 Phoenix races, his average running position is 11th (33 fantasy points). Rarely, do we get a driver with a high level consistency at this price.

Daniel Suarez – He looked like the smart low owned play to win the GPP last week. Unfortunately, he got one of the bad pit guns. His pit road issues put him several laps down in a green race. Game over. Just wait until the pit gun whammy hits the chalk. Twitter will burn. Slack chats will disintegrate. Suarez hung onto the lead lap in both Phoenix races last year. In the spring race, he skipped the last pit stop and earned a 7th place finish. The way his pit stop luck went last week, they should probably skip pit stops whenever they can.

Paul Menard – It’s so nice to see things finally working out for Paul. He’s had such a tough life being the son of the 41st richest man in America. Menard has finished better than he’s raced at Phoenix, but that seems to be a theme at Phoenix.

William Byron – Eventually he’ll figure it out, but he’s going to burn a lot of money before he does. That won’t be my money. If routinely rostering Byron and losing money meant someday he would be in your winning GPP lineup, then go for it, but that’s not the way it works. You’ll only roster him in all of his lap down glory. It’s going to be tough to avoid Byron starting near 30th, but we have to stay strong. Byron is a wet behind the ears rookie for a struggling team that wasn’t strong in 2017 and is dealing with adjusting to a new car body. This is Ricky Stenhouse at Roush in 2013.

Bubba Wallace – We’ve got Bubba pegged as a 20-25 car at intermediate tracks. He’ll be fine at the plate races, but now we have to figure out his short track performance. Looking at his lower series data is useless. In the Truck series he had the best truck (Kyle Busch Motorsports). In the Xfinity series he had a top tier ride (Roush). For the first time in his career, he’s racing against better drivers with more experience, money, and better cars. At intermediate tracks, you either have the car or you don’t. Most of the field is turning laps. The braking points, rolling the center, and when to get back on the throttle are not that challenging compared to short tracks. Pocono is not a short track, but its 6 unique turns are challenging. Bubba struggled in the Monster cup car at Pocono last year. That being said, he finished 26th, it wasn’t terrible, but you can’t finish terribly anymore. Look at the field. The worst you can do is 36th. It was 43rd two years ago. Look at the Jalopies starting 30th through 36th. They’re not passing Bubba. Throw in a couple wrecks and Bubba defaults to 26th every week. For that fact alone, you cannot throw him out, but I have a hard time believing that Bubba will hang onto the lead lap. If he struggles early he will get lapped on the first run.

Will cars get lapped early?

The spring race had a caution on lap 29 (76 lap stage). The top 31 cars stayed on the lead lap. Lucky dog to the 32nd place car.

The fall race was completely green throughout all of stage 1 (76 laps). Only 21 cars were on the lead lap. The #43 car got the lucky dog.

It’s early in the season, I expect that someone will make a mistake and we’ll get a caution at some point in stage 1, so the top 30 should be safe.

First caution:

  • Fall 2017: lap 76 (end of stage) – Bad sign for slow cars
  • Spring 2017: lap 29 (wreck by backmarkers) – Good sign for slow cars
  • Fall 2016: lap 2 (wreck), but not another caution until lap 83 – Bad sign
  • Spring 2016: lap 53 (wreck) – Bad sign for slow cars
  • Fall 2015: lap 41 (competition), then 149 green flag laps – Bad sign
  • Spring 2015: lap 2 & lap 15 (wreck) – Good sign

In the last two years, the average green flag runs was about 30 laps. A driver can turn a lap at Phoenix in around 30 seconds. If you’re one second slower than the leader, you’re going a lap down on every run. In practice #3 of last fall’s Phoenix race, cars 25 through 40 were a half a second or more slower than the leader. These drivers are in the danger zone. On a 30-40 lap run they’re going to get lapped. They’ll need an excessive amount of cautions to get laps back, and NASCAR went cold turkey on debris cautions last year. They’re still fighting the good fight. They did not fall off the wagon at Atlanta and Phoenix. Those races were green flag, lap turning, snooze fests. That’s a trigger for NASCAR’s debris caution addiction, but NASCAR waited 5 minutes for the miracle to happen, and guess what – no debris cautions at Atlanta and Las Vegas. Don’t get too confident. Once an addict, always an addict.

Ty Dillon – Last fall, he finished 11th, but practiced in the 30s. His poor practice times and decent average running position (17th) is a typical Ty Dillon move. Jumping all the way to 8th is a product of Phoenix racing. You won’t feel comfortable about rostering him after practice, but it usually works out, and he’s a little cheaper this week.

Kasey Kahne – The #95 car crew chief said that the new Chevy Camaro ZL1 is slower than the other manufacturers and it handles worse than the other manufacturers. That’s not good for an already average car with a passed his prime driver. Lead lap confidence is low here.

Trevor Bayne – Average running position at Phoenix over the last 6 races: 28, 23, 29, 24, 31, 32. He’s been starting in the mid 20 in the last 4 Phoenix races, so it’s safe to stay away. He’s only finished on the lead lap once in 7 career races in the desert, last spring.

A.J. Allmendinger – The flat track theory does not carry over here. The Dinger is good at road courses and Martinsville because the heavy braking and rythm is similar to his days in Indycar. Phoenix is a short, flat track, but it races like an intermediate track, too. Turns 1 and 2 are banked, drivers can build a lot of speed in the front stretch and the back stretch, and then trail brake into the turns. Martinsville and road courses require heavy braking and then quickly jamming the throttle. The Phoenix technique requires trail braking, rolling the center, and easing onto the throttle. I have around 30 iRacing wins at Phoenix (I know you don’t care, but I am proud of it like just like a 12 year old is proud of his KDR on PUBG (I know what the first acronym means, but I have no idea what the second one means). Phoenix is somewhere between a short track and an intermediate track.

Chris Buescher – After last week’s solid race & DFS performance, Buescher will be popular, but tread lightly. His best average running position in his 4 Phoenix races is 27th. In the Xfinity series, his best Phoenix finish was 12th. This is not his track. He can’t lean on his teammate for help because Allmendinger struggles at Phoenix. In every Phoenix practice, Buescher is consistently 25th or worse. Allmendinger is 21st or worse. The odds are stacked against JTG Daugherty racing this week.

David Ragan – In terms of current form, Ragan is an attractive punt with the price decrease. The track history will scare some away. Over his last 6 Phoenix races, his average running position is 26th. That’s not bad at $5,400, as long as he qualifies worse than 26th. Ragan has started 26th or worse in 9 of his last 10 small team rides at Phoenix (discluding his Phoenix race filling in for Kyle Busch in 2015). In 22 Phoenix races, his average finish is 28th, again, that’s not bad for a punt. What might be getting overlooked this year is that Ragan is in a Ford. A low budget Ford team is going to hold their own with average Chevy teams in the new body (Kahne, Ty Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Almendinger, and Buescher).

Michael McDowell – I say it every week, he’s David Ragan with a better qualifying spot. McDowell’s Phoenix track history is almost the same as Ragan’s track history. McDowell is the cute play that works two times a year. He may not be cute at all this week. Over the last 4 Phoenix races, his average starting position is 28th and his finishes were 22, 24, 34, and 26. That’s 30, 21, 2, and 25 fantasy points. I’ll take 3 of those scores at $5,200.

Matt DiBenedetto – With a sub 5K price tag, he’s chalky, and fading chalky punts works both ways. The likelihood of DiBurrito failing to hit value is higher than a normal driver. The issue with fading him is that it limits your lineup flexibility. Going away from Matt D is a clever way to differentiate, but with Ragan and McDowell at a similar price points, you’re not going to deviate that much. Here is how it works. Either Ragan, McD, or Matt D will score 25-30 points. If you pick the right one, then you win. A lot relies on practice and qualifying. DiBenedetto’s Phoenix numbers are good for a punt, but they’re similar to the Front Row Motorsports drivers. Dibenedetto is in a Ford as well. As predicted last week, DiBenedetto got the new crew chief bump. He could ride that for a couple weeks. That could be the separating factor, but ultimately the public is going to go with the driver starting the furthest back, and that will likely be DiBurrito.

Corey Lajoie – No Cole Whitt this week. LaJoie takes over the #72 car. Last year at Phoenix, Lajoie wrecked on lap 28. In the fall race, he finished 31st (9 laps down). Just pay a little more for your punt. Lajoie will need to start close to dead last and you’re praying for a wreckfest.

Ross Chastain – Ross the Double-Duty Boss. At Atlanta, he finished 16th (Xfinity) and 30th (Cup). At Las Vegas, he finished 18th (Xfinity) and 29th (Cup). He’s been a top 25 car in the Xfinity series at Phoenix, that’s not bad for a small team. Double duty at a short track leads to a lot of reps. Think of all the Xfinity practice laps, the Xfinity race, and the Cup practice laps. Last year at Dover (short track), Chastain performed double duty and he was in the optimal lineup.

Jeff Earnhardt – This play is going to require a lot of wrecks, so let’s just look and see how many wreck outs/DNF/way off the lead lap drivers we get each race at Phoenix.

  • 17f – 6
  • 17s – 6
  • 16f – 4
  • 16s – 5
  • 15f – 3 (rain shortened)
  • 15s – 5

It’s safe to assume that as long as the punt doesn’t wreck or suffer a part failure, they could gain 5 spots. That’s not a guarantee because some of those wreck outs/DNF/way off the lead drivers were cars starting in the back. Unless Jeff E. starts last you cannot guarantee 5 place differential spots. Let’s pretend he does start in the back, and he does not wreck. That’s 37th to 32nd for 17 points and an fppk of 3.8. That’s not going to get it done. Let’s get crazy and give him a 30th place finish and 21 points. That might be enough points, and is only really an option if you are trying to squeeze in a top dollar place differential play. You’ll likely need Ragan, McDowell, and DiBenedetto to fail for this to work. That’s not likely. Earnhardt scored 21 points last fall at Phoenix (23rd most fantasy points). That’s impressive for Jeff, but 3 punts scored more points, and the optimal lineup didn’t even require a punt.

D.J. Kennington – He was one of those punts that outscored Jeff Earnhardt. He drove from 37th to 26th and was 5 laps down, but cars wrecked, failed, or were worse punts. His 6.3 fppk wasn’t needed in the optimal lineup because the 6K drivers pulled the Phoenix Place Differential Dance. Last year, Kennington was in the #15 Chevy car, this week he’ll be in the #96 Toyota with Gaunt Brothers.

Gray Gaulding – Start and park.

Justin Marks – Not racing. Timmy Hill is racing the #51 car for Rick Ware, but he was not in the original player pool. This is the crappy Chevy #51, not SHR Ford #51.

One more thing, and this was taken from Dale Jr.’s podcast (I highly recommend), much of what the Chevys are learning each week is not going into the cars. This won’t happen until the end of the west coast trip, when the teams and cars are back in their home garages in North Carolina.

Xfinity in a Sentence

  • Kyle Busch – Hog.
  • Brad Keselowski – Hog.
  • Jamie McMurray – Car is fast enough to be a hog, and will be popular because the Busch/BK combo won’t fit.
  • Ty Dillon – An Xfinity driver will return better value.
  • Elliott Sadler – Top 5-10 car, but it’s hard for Sadler to fit into the optimal lineup.
  • Justin Allgaier – He snuck into the optimal lineup last week and he won at Phoenix last spring.
  • Christopher Bell – He’s the 2018 Xfinity champion and he’s too cheap.
  • Cole Custer – Won’t lead laps, starts inside the top 10, and finishes there.
  • Matt Tifft – He was just ok in better equipment at Phoenix last year.
  • Tyler Reddick – We’ll know in practice, if his JRM teammates shared their notes.
  • Daniel Hemric – Underrated driver having a good season and he was good at short tracks last year (top 5 DFS score in both Phoenix races).
  • Ryan Truex – This car has been a top 15 car at Phoenix over the last 2 years, but that could be a Blake Koch thing (he crushed me several times at Phoenix in iRacing).
  • Ryan Reed – In his last 6 Phoenix races, he has 5 top 15 finishes.
  • Michael Annett – This is a good track for JRM, Annett finished 9th and 16th at Phoenix in 2017.
  • Brandon Jones – He’s cheap for a JGR driver , but he was terrible at short tracks last year (finishes of 15, 20, 33, 29, 34, 20, 23, 39, 15).
  • Ross Chastain – Too expensive for a small team driver.
  • Austin Cindric – He’s in the #60 Roush car, not the Penske car – pass.
  • Ryan Sieg – And I thought Ross Chastain was too expensive.
  • Kaz Grala – Until he’s priced below his experienced teammate Dylan Lupton, it’s a pass.
  • Spencer Gallagher – Always around 10th to 15th.
  • Alex Labbe – The Pinty’s series (minor league NASCAR in Canada) is almost all short tracks and he won the championship last season.
  • Garrett Smithley – Starts 25th, finishes 25th, doesn’t help.
  • J.J. Yeley – The RSS cars are start and parking every week.
  • David Starr – He had an engine failure last week, this is very risky.
  • Jeremy Clements – His worst finish at a short track last season was 23rd.
  • Vinnie Miller – If he qualifies in the back and has a decent practice, then everyone will heavily own a driver with 5 career races, again.
  • Dylan Lupton – DraftKings hates him, but he’s good as long as he doesn’t qualify to close to the front and wreck on the first lap.
  • Joey Gase – He’s never finished on the lead lap in 11 Phoenix races.
  • Josh Williams – The Mario Gosselin driver that you can still afford raced one short track last year – 22nd at Bristol (he’s Labbe’s teammate).
  • Stephen Leicht – Newbies, JP Motorsports, are running the races and their cars are holding up.
  • B.J. McLeod – Laps down, but running at the end (avg. finish of 27th at short tracks in 2017).
  • Spencer Boyd – Broken right front caliper last week – poor teams = poor parts.
  • Tommy Joe Martins – Team BJ and last week’s “close your eyes and pray” optimal punt.
  • Chad Finchum – Made it 140 laps before a part failure last week – poor teams = poor parts.
  • Matt Mills – The JD Motorsports cars are trying to run the races (finished 30th at Phoenix last spring for Team BJ).
  • Josh Bilicki – JP Motorsports will be running at the end.
  • Timmy Hill – Another Carl Long part failure (Finchum was the other).
  • Mike Harmon – DNQ’d the first two races, went from 38th to 31st via attrition last week (PHX 2017 – start & park and a 31st place finish).
  • Morgan Shepherd – Start and park legend.
  • Jeff Green – start and park