Fantasy NASCAR: Silly Season Review
Michael Waltrip Racing | Toyota
No. 15 Clint Bowyer
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr.
The runner-up curse shouldn't apply to Bowyer as he entered the final race of the season fourth in points and didn't think he'd end up where he did. Bowyer is an extremely well-rounded driver and is a contender on every type of track offered on the schedule. Some may view last year as a flux; it's up to Bowyer to prove MWR does indeed produce championship equipment.
Another sign of MWR's legitimacy was the overdue emergence of Truex. After years of underperformance coupled with bad luck, the No. 56 has been a top-10 threat since Chad Johnston came aboard 14 races into the 2011 season. Truex still looks snake bitten at times, so he remains a middle-tier driver with room for improvement.
The No. 55 is split three ways again this year. Martin doesn't do Bristol, Martinsville, Loudon, Talladega or road courses. He also takes part of the summer off so the Daytona race in July is out, as is Kentucky.
Vickers will man all those races, minus the three plate tracks. The former focal point of the defunct Red Bull Racing was very impressive with an average finish of 13.2 in eight races with MWR last year. That figures jumps to 9.0 in seven starts if you rule out the immediate engine failure suffered at Watkins Glen.
Waltrip, the owner, will hitch ride in the Daytona 500 with the No. 30 Swan Racing car. Able to work out successful midrace alliances, Waltrip is as good as any lower-tier driver in plate races.
NEMCO-JRR Motorsports | Toyota
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
Nemechek will likely continue to start-and-park most weeks. He typically fields a second car in the restrictor plate races.
Penske Championship Racing | Ford
No. 2 Brad Keselowski
No. 22 Joey Logano
During last year's title run, Keselowski won five races, including two in the Chase, and registered 10 of his 23 top-10 finishes after qualifying 19th or worse. Keselowski won in a variety of ways on a variety of tracks but is hoping to avoid the title hangover of 2011 champion Tony Stewart.
Despite all the success that came in a Dodge, the Blue Deuce will now be powered by Ford engines from Roush-Yates. Crew chief Paul Wolfe has mastered the fuel mileage game and typically calls a great race. Given how quickly be adjusted from Nationwide to Cup, the new Generation-6 car shouldn't slow him down.
At age 22, Logano enters his fifth season in the Cup series after being let go by Joe Gibbs Racing this offseason. It's too early to think Sliced Bread has already gone stale, but rather than ride through the inconsistences of a young driver JGR opted for a veteran and prior champ, Matt Kenseth.
Logano a middle-tier option, best limited to a handful of tracks. His top sites include Daytona, Charlotte and New Hampshire.
Sam Hornish Jr. will enter a handful of races in the No. 12 car, but that schedule has not been announced. He challenged for top-20s on a consistent basis last year in the No. 22 following A.J. Allmendinger's suspension.
Phil Parsons Racing | Ford
No. 98 Michael McDowell
This car was a start and park much of last year. They did manage to run the distance in both Bristol races, both Charlotte races and some of the restrictor plate races, but still offer no fantasy value.
Phoenix Racing | Chevrolet
No. 51 multiple drivers
The plans that have been announced thus far for the No. 51 car only include the first six races. Regan Smith will drive in the Daytona 500 and Austin Dillon will make a start at Las Vegas. The four other races, Phoenix, Bristol, Fontana and Martinsville, will have A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel.
Owners playing in a one and done or similar formats should take note of this low-end team given the mix of drivers already involved.
Richard Childress Racing | Chevrolet
No. 27 Paul Menard
No. 29 Kevin Harvick
No. 31 Jeff Burton
In 2011, Menard won for the first time in the Cup series and totaled four top-fives and eight top-10s. Last year, his average finish improved from 18th to a career-best 15.5 despite only scoring a single top-five. While the ceiling remains limited, Menard is a safe, middle-tier selection on the right track.
Harvick is entering a lame-duck season at RCR before jumping to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. He was a very mediocre performer last year, but made the Chase by rarely finishing outside the top 15. In a draft format, Harvick's name value could cause him to be overvalued.
Burton, 45 years old, has only managed four top-fives and 11 top-10s over the last two seasons.
Austin Dillon made one start in the No. 33 last year, a 24th-place finish at Michigan, and will get a few more shots in 2013.
Richard Petty Motorsports | Ford
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose
No. 43 Aric Almirola
Ambrose, winner of the last two races at Watkins Glen, is a must-start on road courses but continues to improve on ovals. He's also looked especially good on the concrete surfaces of Bristol and Dover.
Almirola posted a respectable average finish of 20th in his first full-time campaign in the Cup series last year.
Owner-driver Robby Gordon has his hands in many other endeavors, and his Cup plans for 2013 are unknown, including a car number and manufacturer. It's possible he shows up for one or both of the road course races.
Roush Fenway Racing | Ford
No. 16 Greg Biffle
No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
No. 99 Carl Edwards
Biffle is coming off his best season since winning six races back in 2005. In fact, last year's average finish of 10.2 marked a career best, as was his average starting position of 9.9. With the departure of Matt Kenseth and Edwards' sudden disappearance in performance, The Biff now appears to be the focal point at RFR.
Stenhouse won the championship in the Nationwide Series each of the last two years. He'll move to the Cup series as a full-time driver to replace Kenseth and will continue to work with crew chief Scott Graves. The pair made four starts last year with mixed results. Stenhouse placed 20th in the Daytona 500 and 12th in the Chase event at Dover but ended the year with two DNFs. His lone threat for Rookie of the Year honors is girlfriend Danica Patrick.
Edwards is coming off his worst season as a full-time driver and showed no improvement in the second-half after longtime crew chief Bob Osbourne was replaced. The No. 99 team is now in the hands of Jimmy Fennig, Kenseth's former crew chief. Even though Edwards has only won three races over the last four years, he's too good to struggle for two straight seasons and is a prime bounce-back candidate.
Stewart-Haas Racing | Chevrolet
No. 10 Danica Patrick
No. 14 Tony Stewart
No. 39 Ryan Newman
Patrick will run the entire Cup schedule for the first time after a respectable showing in the Nationwide Series and 10 disappointing Cup starts. She was a consistent top-15 threat in NASCAR's top developmental series and finished 10th in points. Patrick crashed in two of her Cup races and finished a career-best 17th in her final start of the year at Phoenix.
Stewart was an all-or-nothing driver for much of 2012 and is now fielding three cars for the first time as an owner. Smoke won three races with 12 top-fives, yet finished outside of the top 20 11 times. Winning the 2011 championship showed Stewart is able to make sudden turnarounds, so don't undervalue him heading into the season.
With Kevin Harvick signed for 2014, Newman is entering a pivotal contract year. If he misses the Chase for the third time in five seasons at SHR, Newman could be looking for work. Newman has won a race each of the last three years and is strong on most intermediate tracks, plus some of the flat tracks, but is another otherwise mediocre performer.
Swan Racing | Toyota
No. 30 David Stremme
Stremme will take over for the rest of the schedule after Michael Waltrip runs the No. 30 in the Daytona 500. Stremme start and parked this car last year under the Inception Racing banner. New owner Brandon Davis stated that under his watch the team will run the distance each week but still makes Stremme a bottom-tier driver with minimal expectations.
Tommy Baldwin Racing | Chevrolet
No. 7 Dave Blaney
No. 36 J.J. Yeley
The No. 7 replaces the No. 36 as the primary car at TBR and uses the points from last year's No. 10 machine that was driven primarily by David Reutimann and Danica Patrick. Blaney will begin his third stint as a full-time driver for TBR.
Last year, Yeley was a start-and-park driver for another team and has performed that duty often in recent years.
Each car has limited sponsorship so the degree of their limited fantasy values will hinge slightly from week to week.
No. 21 Trevor Bayne
Bayne has sponsorship for at least a dozen races, some intermediate tracks, the two plate tracks and Indy. The team was able to run 17 races in 2011, 16 last year, and will add more once again if sponsorship can be found. In those starts, Bayne managed three top-10 finishes. His lone top-five was a victory in the 2011 Daytona 500.
No. 19 Humphrey Smith Racing
No. 37 Max Q Motorsports
No. 44 Xxxtreme Motorsports
No. 74 Turn One Racing
No. 79 Go Green Racing
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. Follow @EricMcClung
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