Fantasy NASCAR: Rookie Outlook
by Bryce McRae
on January 8, 2009 @ 01:00:01
This year's rookie pool features only three rookie drivers; substantially less than previous years and possibly because of the decline of the economy. Two of the drivers have previous experience in Formula One racing while the other might be the best thing since sliced bread.
Logano, 18, will be replacing long-time JGR driver, Tony Stewart, in the No. 20 car. Luckily for Logano, he will also be inheriting experienced crew chief Greg Zipadelli, which should ease his transition. In 10 Nationwide starts last year, Logano finished outside the top 10 only three times; he managed one win, two poles and three top-fives. With an eye toward the future JGR gave Logano three starts at the end of the season. His average start and finish in those races was a disappointing 37th with his best finish coming at the Sylvania 300 (32nd). It is hard to question his talent, but his lack of experience (highlighted by his struggles in his brief Sprint Cup stint last year) and the expected growing pains make him a risk as anything more than a low-end No. 4.
Speed will be taking over for A.J. Allmendinger in the No. 84 car, though it will run as the No. 82 car in 2009 - all car owner points will transfer from the No. 84. In Speed's five starts during the 2008 Sprint Cup, his best finish was 16th in the season-ending Ford 400. Speed won't have to worry about qualifying for the first five races as the No. 84 car finished in the top 35 in car owner points last year. Speed's primary action came on the Truck Series last year as he finished in the top 10 in nine of his 16 starts. He has experience on professional circuits, but most of that has come outside of the oval; he ran his first race on an oval circuit just one and half years ago (September 2007). The lack of testing at all NASCAR-sanctioned tracks this year could make Speed's lack of experience on the oval even more glaring. View Speed as no more than a low-end No. 4 driver this year.
"Mad Max" will be getting his first regular crack at the Sprint Cup this year. The journeyman driver will take part in at least 18 races with his first coming at the Shelby 427 (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) on Sunday, March 1. He won't have the monetary backing of the other two rookies while the testing ban at all NASCAR-sanctioned Cup tracks will hurt his chance at getting a feel for these tracks. Papis made only two Sprint Cup appearances last year, both on the road races, finishing 35th (Toyota/Save Mart 350) and 43rd (Centurion Boats at The Glen). Most of his experience in NASCAR has come in the Nationwide Series, though he has just seven starts in three years with one top-five finish in that time. Given all the questions surrounding him, Papis is only a midrange No. 5 driver.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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