Fantasy NASCAR: Silly Season Review

by Eric McClung on February 18, 2013 @ 10:58:39 PDT

 

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As it pertains to NASCAR, the Silly Season refers to hectic activity that goes on during the second half of each season and spills into the offseason. Teams replace drivers, new sponsors join the sport while old sponsors leave, the schedule is tweaked and rules are adjusted. From a fantasy perspective, it's important to keep up with these changes and how they impact your view on the upcoming season.

For 2013, the new Generation-6 car design has been rolled out. In addition to a sleek and unique look on the outside for all three manufacturers, the machines feature more downforce and grip on intermediate tracks for closer racing. In the restrictor plate races, the cars are setup for less downforce to eliminate the two-car tandem. The rear suspensions have also been adjusted in order to squash "crabbing," a popular setup that skewed the rear of the car to the right in order to improve speed off the corners.

BK Racing | Toyota

No. 83 David Reutimann

No. 93 Travis Kvapil

BK Racing was created a year ago from the pieces sold off by the former Red Bull Racing organization. For this season, the team named veteran crew chief Mike Ford their director of competition in hopes of taking the next step.

After failing to agree on a new contract, Landon Cassill is out of the No. 83 car. Reutimann, who drove primarily for Tommy Baldwin Racing last year, takes over, along with veteran crew chief Pat Tryson.

Kvapil scored BK's lone top-10 of 2012 and was the team's best driver, with an average finish of 25.7.

If the enhancements pay off in the garage, Reutimann becomes a lower-tier option to consider on 1.5-mile tracks like Charlotte. In a span of five races from 2009 to 2011, while at Michael Waltrip Racing, Reutimann recorded an average finish 7.8 at CMS.

Brian Keselowski Motorsports

No. 92 Brian Keselowski

Keselowski will attempt to make the Daytona 500 in a one-shot deal using the No. 52 and Hamilton Means Racing. However, the elder Keselowski brother could attempt a few races on his own after missing the show in five of his six attempts last year. He's a non-factor in all fantasy formats.

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing | Chevrolet

No. 1 Jamie McMurray

No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya

Unfortunately, the only sparks produced by EGR last year was Montoya's fiery Daytona 500 crash into a jet dryer. In fact, both JPM and Jamie Mac have been off the radar much of the past two seasons.

McMurray won three races in 2010 (including the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400) but has been very inconsistent, even during the best of times. McMurray was a restrictor plate maven at one point, so he's worth a shot at Daytona and Talladega. He's also shown some life at Bristol and Indy.

Montoya made the Chase back in 2009 but is coming off his worst season as a Cup driver. The Colombian managed just two top-10s and finished on the lead lap only 13 times. Over the last four races on road courses, Montoya's typical bread and butter, he has finished outside of the top 20 three times.

Despite two straight disaster seasons in NASCAR, IndyCar wiz Chip Ganassi is sticking with both of his drivers and their respective crew chiefs in what has to be a make-or-break campaign for all involved. However, he now has engines from Hendrick Motorsports under the hood, moving on from Earnhardt-Childress Racing equipment.

FAS Lane Racing | Ford

David Ragan

No. 32 Timmy Hill, Terry Labonte, Ken Schrader

Hill, the 2011 Rookie of the Year in the Nationwide Series, will be running for the same award this year in Cup while competing in 18-20 races.

In three starts with FAS last year, the 19-year-old Hill qualified near the back each time but finished 22nd at Kansas Speedway and 29th at Phoenix International Raceway.

Labonte will run the four restrictor plate races with Schrader suiting up for the remaining dates.

Over the last two seasons FAS-owned cars have made a total of 72 starts with an average finish of 30.2. They've yet to field a car that finished in the top 10.

Front Row Motorsports | Ford

No. 26 Josh Wise

No. 34 David Ragan

No. 38 David Gilliland

Owner Bob Jenkins will keep all three of his drivers from a year ago. However, he wants to get Wise more involved after start and parking for all but one race in 2012.

Gilliland is making his fourth tour of duty with FRW. He has been decent in restrictor plate races and is perhaps a little underrated on road courses.

Two seasons ago Ragan finally showed some of the ability that nearly placed him into the 2008 Chase, but was ultimately let go by Roush Fenway Racing. He landed at FRM last year, finishing seventh and fourth, respectively, at Talladega Superspeedway.

Furniture Row Racing | Chevrolet

No. 78 Kurt Busch

Kurt Busch turned the career lifeline thrown to him by Phoenix Racing last year and has now supplanted Regan Smith out of the No. 78 car. Busch made the final six starts of 2012 with this team and finished inside the top 10 each of the last three.

Despite taking a big demotion for character issues, Busch still blew up on several occasions last year and served a one-race suspension. His fiery attitude makes him a risky option in a season-long format given the still limited equipment Busch is driving.

Furniture Row is basically a fourth car for Richard Childress Racing. In fact, incoming crew chief Todd Berrier has spent much of his career at RCR.

Germain Racing | Ford

No. 13 Casey Mears

Mears has been driving for Germain since 2010 and has seen his average finish improve slightly each of the last three seasons. After struggling during an abbreviated scheduled in 2010, Mears has made 71 starts with 12 finishes on the lead lap and an average finish of 28th over the last two seasons. The No. 13 car recently made waves during the January test session at Charlotte, placing third on the speed chart among the 33 cars that took the track.

Hendrick Motorsports | Chevrolet

No. 5 Kasey Kahne

No. 24 Jeff Gordon

No. 48 Jimmie Johnson

No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

All four of the Hendrick machines will return in 2013 with the same drivers and same crew chiefs as last year. Every HMS driver scored at least one win a year ago, led the Johnson's five victories. Gordon and Kahne each found victory lane twice, while Earnhardt scored one win.

Johnson is an obvious choice, every week in every format. He's the top dog driving for the top team in NASCAR.

Gordon continues to hang on the fringe of elite driver status and just needs to cash in more of his near-wins.

Earnhardt carries a ton of name value but is certainly capable of improvements over last year's solid efforts. He is started so frequently in restrictor plate races that he runs the risk of being overvalued, however.

Opinions vary on Kahne, going as high as possible title contender. Avoiding misfortune and dominating on more than the 1.5-mile tracks is what it will take.

Joe Gibbs Racing | Toyota

No. 11 Denny Hamlin

No. 18 Kyle Busch

No. 20 Matt Kenseth

In addition to locking up Hamlin and Busch with contract extensions, JGR brought in championship pedigree by adding Kenseth. Rather than wait for Joey Logano to develop, the long-time Roush driver will now pilot the No. 20 car. Kenseth won a combined six races in the last two years and should continue to be among the most consistent drivers on the circuit. Last year's average finish of 11.1 is among the best of Kenseth's career.

From 2008 to 2011, Busch totaled 19 wins and scored a minimum of three a year. However, he has missed the Chase each of the last two seasons and won only a single race last year. Rowdy still managed to be one the best performers during Chase and just needs a taste of Kenseth's steadiness to become a championship contender.

After experiencing the championship runner-up curse in 2011, Hamlin won five races last year, recorded a career-best starting position of 11.9 and registered an average finish slightly better than during the near-title run.

JTG Daugherty Racing | Toyota

No. 47 Bobby Labonte

Labonte, the 2000 champion, enters his third year with JTG. The team would like to add a second car at some point, but nothing appears imminent right now, and no driver's name has surfaced.

Under the new qualifying process Labonte's championship provisional makes him a safe, lower-end fantasy option. With JTG he has finished inside the top 15 three times at Daytona and no worse than 23rd at New Hampshire.

Leavine Family Racing

No. 95 Scott Speed

Speed attempted 19 races last year, failing to qualify twice. Other than the two road course races, Speed was a start-and-park driver in all but one other start.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's 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. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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