The first half of the regular season came to a close last weekend at Dover, and although I did have eventual winner Jimmie Johnson in all of my lineups, I didn't have a great showing overall. My Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing team was plagued by bad luck. Brian Vickers suffered an engine failure and finished dead last while Ryan Newman had a transmission issue and finished 31st. Before they had trouble, both drivers were running in the top 10.
In NASCAR.com Fantasy Live, Kevin Harvick put up a solid score, but it would have been even better had he not cut a valve stem and spent most of the race two laps two after the unscheduled pit stop. Last but not least, a communication issue between Clint Bowyer and his spotter sent one of my picks, Kyle Busch, slamming into the outside wall, saddling my FOX Fantasy Auto Racing team with a 42nd-place finish.
Smoke should be hot this weekend
Overall, it was an up-and-down first half of the year. I currently rank in the 66th percentile in the Yahoo! game, the 71st percentile in FOX's game and the 79 percentile in NASCAR.com Fantasy Live. My low rank in the Yahoo! game has a lot to do with the fact that I have somehow managed to roster a driver that has finished dead last on two different occasions. Needless to say, I have some work to do in the second half of the regular season in all my leagues, and I'll try to start out strong this weekend at Pocono Raceway.
While part of me would love to be extra-aggressive with my lineups this weekend to try to gain some ground, I'm actually going to go with a more conservative approach. Pit strategy and fuel mileage often play a big role in deciding the outcome at Pocono, and the drivers with the fastest cars don't always end up finishing near the front. Meanwhile, the track was repaved prior to the 2012 season, so teams are still adjusting to the new surface. In general, there are just too many unknowns for my liking, and as a result, I will simply be sticking with drivers that have had success at Pocono in recent years rather than loading up my rosters with big names.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing
Jeff Gordon (A): It's tempting to pick Jimmie Johnson this weekend, but Gordon should be able to produce similar results. For his career, Gordon has a 10.0 average finish at Pocono to go along with a series-leading six wins. He also has a 5.0 average finish in his last three starts at the track and is the only driver with two wins at the track since the start of 2011.
Ryan Newman (B): He has finished in the top 15 in his last 11 starts at Pocono, and more importantly, he has finished in the top 12 in all four starts on the repaved surface. In fact, Newman has finished sixth or better in his last three starts at the track, logging a pair of top-five finishes in 2013. He can pretty much be penciled in for a solid finish whenever the series shows up at Pocono, and he has been a borderline top-five pick since the repaving.
Tony Stewart (B): Stewart has always been reliable at Pocono, and he has actually been better since the track was repaved. He has 10 finishes of 11th or better in his last 11 starts at Pocono, notching seven top-five finishes during the stretch. Meanwhile, his 5.2 average finish in four starts on the new surface is the best in the series.
Kyle Larson (C): I debated between Larson and Austin Dillon for this spot, but Larson recently tested at Pocono, so he already has some valuable seat time under his belt at a track that can be tough to figure out. Larson also ranks 10th in points entering Sunday's race while Dillon ranks 15th. When in doubt, I'll take my chances with the driver that has been better throughout the year.
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About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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