The second half of the regular season is officially underway, and for the most part, I started off on the right foot at Pocono last Sunday. My best performance came in FOX Fantasy Auto Racing, where I picked the top three finishers and had all five of my picks finish in the top 15.
Vim and Vickers at Michigan
My worst showing came in NASCAR.com Fantasy Live courtesy of pole-sitter Denny Hamlin. Although he finished fourth, he only led four laps and didn't have the dominant performance I was hoping for. The other driver that let me down a bit was Tony Stewart. He probably should have won the race, but a pit road speeding penalty in the later stages turned what was an easy top-five finish into a 13th-place run. Overall, I had a solid afternoon at Pocono in all formats, but it could have been an ever better day.
Looking ahead to Sunday's race at Michigan, I have a few strategies at work. As I would any other week, I am going to anchor my lineups with a couple of drivers that have performed well at the track both throughout their careers and in the last couple of years since the track was repaved. However, my lineups will vary a bit from there as I cater my picks to each game's scoring system. Most weeks, a driver that works well in one format will work well in all of them, but Michigan has been an exception.
Two drivers in particular that have been polarizing are Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. In terms of results, Johnson has been pretty awful at MIS. He has six finishes outside the top 20 in his last 10 starts at the track. However, he also leads all drivers in several loop data categories, including laps led and fastest laps run. Kenseth, on the other hand, has been arguably the most reliable driver at Michigan when it comes to final results, but in terms of overall speed, he has been more of a top-10 option according to the loop scoring.
It is a little hard to believe, but even big names like Johnson and Kenseth can be great fantasy options and potentially poor options in the same week depending on the criteria being used. It is a reminder of just how important it is for you to know your league's scoring system inside and out if you want to succeed.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (A): If not for tire and engine failure at Michigan last year, Junior easily could have won three of the last four races at the track. Instead, he has one win, two top-four finishes and a series-leading 174 laps led at MIS since 2012. I have a hard time passing up a driver that is coming off a win and heading to a track where he has been running up front a lot the last couple of years.
Greg Biffle (B): Plain and simple, Biffle is one of the best in the business at Michigan. He is a four-time winner at the track and the defending winner of this weekend's race. Biffle also ranks first or second in most of the scoring loop categories, and in the past two seasons, no driver has been more reliable at MIS. His 172 points scored at the track since 2012 are 20 more than any other driver.
Brian Vickers (B): He has quietly been one of the more reliable options at Michigan throughout his career. He has finished in the top 15 in his last seven starts at the track, logging a 7.7 average finish in the process. Vickers has even won a race at MIS, so he also offers some upside to go along with his consistency. He should be a safe, solid play in this format.
Juan Pablo Montoya (C): Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon are by far the best C-List options available, but the season is 36 races long, and I can only use those two drivers a combined 18 times. With that in mind, taking advantage of Montoya being in the field this weekend is an easy choice. He finished in the top 20 in both races at Michigan last year, and he will make his 2014 Sprint Cup Series debut with Team Penske. For as well as that organization has been running in 2014, another top-20 doesn't seem out of the question.
NASCAR.com and FOX games next....
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.
Don't miss these great reports....