I was expecting the worst heading into last weekend's race at Daytona, but even I was a little surprised at the carnage that unfolded. An early 16-car wreck eliminated several contenders, and a 26-car wreck later in the race left just 17 just cars on the lead lap and put 23 cars multiple laps down. It may have been a good thing that rain ended up stopping the race with 48 laps to go, or there might not have been any cars left to finish the race.
Needless to say, I didn't have a great showing in any of my fantasy leagues. In the Yahoo! game, my B-List tandem of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jamie McMurray finished 41st and 30th, respectively. Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson saddled my NASCAR.com Fantasy Live team with a 42nd-place finish. On the plus side, I picked Denny Hamlin as my team captain in the FOX Fantasy Auto Racing, so I doubled my points on his sixth-place finish. Also, Austin Dillon delivered a top-five finish for my FOX team and was my pick in NASCAR.com Streak to the Finish. Overall, I came out ahead in the FOX game but lost ground in my other two leagues.
Smoke will billow this weekend
I'll try to begin the recovery process this weekend at New Hampshire, and unlike last weekend at Daytona when I mainly avoided big names, I'll be using a much more aggressive strategy this weekend. Flat tracks like New Hampshire tend to be dominated by a smaller group of drivers from a consistency standpoint. Other drivers may win on occasion, but guys like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart have been staples of the top 10. With that in mind, I am going to make sure to anchor all of my fantasy lineups with a big name or two.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing
Jeff Gordon (A): I was debating between Gordon and Jimmie Johnson for this spot, and I ultimately went with Gordon for a couple of reasons. For one, I have six starts remaining from both him and Johnson, and I want to make sure I have plenty of starts left for Johnson in the Chase when he usually runs his best. Meanwhile, Gordon has been every bit as reliable as Johnson at New Hampshire. In fact, Gordon's 8.6 average finish at the track since 2004 is the best in the series, and he has finished in the top 15 in his last 17 starts.
Denny Hamlin (B): Hamlin's 9.0 average finish at New Hampshire is the best in the series, which makes him a valuable asset in a format that puts heavy emphasis on final results. He also ranks in the top five in average running position, driver rating and average green flag speed at New Hampshire so Hamlin has been earning his solid finishes.
Tony Stewart (B): New Hampshire has been one of Stewart's best tracks throughout his career, and among his 13 top-five finishes at the 1.0-mile oval are three wins and five second-place finishes. Stewart also owns the top driver rating at New Hampshire and ranks third in laps spent in the top 15. He is a safe bet for a strong finish this weekend.
Jeff Burton (C): Burton is a no-brainer pick in this format. Not only will he save me a valuable start from either Austin Dillon or Kyle Larson, but he also has great numbers at New Hampshire. Burton's four wins at the track are the most of any driver, and last year, he finished third and eighth in two starts.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Jimmie Johnson ($27.25): He is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, and Johnson has been the best in the business at the track the past couple of seasons, compiling a series-best 4.8 average finish in four starts since 2012. He also ranks second in fastest laps run at New Hampshire since 2005, which boosts his value tremendously in this scoring system.
Brad Keselowski ($26.75): Keselowski has never won at New Hampshire, but he has been as good as any driver in the last five races at the track. In fact, his 5.6 average finish and 197 points scored during the stretch are both the best in the series. Keselowski has also been the best qualifier in the series this season, and given the importance of track position at New Hampshire, I love his chances of delivering another strong run at the track.
Tony Stewart ($23.00): For the price, Stewart offers enormous potential in this game's scoring system. After all, laps led and fastest laps run are the two categories where a driver can really pile up bonus points, and since 2005, Stewart ranks third in fastest laps run at the track and first in laps led. In fact, Stewart's 971 laps led over the span are 491 more than any other driver.
Jeff Burton ($15.25): He will be making just his second start of the season this weekend, and his part-time status has him priced below most of the series regulars. However, Burton's career numbers at New Hampshire put him among the elite at the track. He finished third and eighth at NHMS just last year, and he is a four-time winner at the track overall. Burton is a steal this weekend at his current price.
Reed Sorenson ($7.00): I need a cap-friendly option to round of my roster, and Sorenson is about as cheap as they come. He has also had a little success at New Hampshire in the past. In 11 starts at the track, he has seven top-25 finishes. If Sorenson can sneak into the top 30, he will be more than worth his minimal price tag.
NASCAR.com Streak to the Finish
Brian Vickers: Vickers is the defending winner of this weekend's race, but more importantly, he has four top-10s in his last five starts at New Hampshire, including three straight. During the five-race stretch, he has a rock solid 7.4 average finish at the track. Vickers offers me a legit chance to extend my streak while allowing me to save big names like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon for another week.
FOX Fantasy Auto Racing
Jimmie Johnson (captain): I wanted to anchor my roster with either Johnson or Jeff Gordon, and since I have already used up two of my starts from Gordon and just one from Johnson, I opted for Johnson. He has finished in the top 10 in 12 of his last 14 starts at New Hampshire, and his 4.8 average at the track the past two seasons is the best in the series.
Denny Hamlin: His 9.0 average finish at New Hampshire is the best in the series, and in the last five races at the track, Hamlin's 343 laps led are by far the most of any driver. He is a safe bet to at least crack the top 10, and he is also a proven winner at the track. The combination of reliability and upside makes him a great fit in this format.
Clint Bowyer: He is a two-time winner at New Hampshire, and more importantly, Bowyer has been dependable at the track lately. He has six finishes of 13th or better in his last nine starts at NHMS, and over the same stretch, he only has one finish worse than 17th. He has also led the second-most laps at the track since 2005 so he brings plenty of upside to the table.
Kyle Busch: There aren't a lot of tracks during the summer portion of the schedule that Busch has dominated in his career, but that being said, he is too good of a driver not to use up all four of his starts. With that in mind, I'll use Busch at New Hampshire this weekend. He is a former winner at the track, and he finished second in both races a year ago.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne has been running well at New Hampshire for a while, but his numbers have really spiked since he joined Hendrick Motorsports. He has six top-15s in his last seven starts at the track and three finishes of 11th or better in four starts with Hendrick Motorsports. In fact, Kahne has two top-five finishes in four starts with the organization, including a win.
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.