How to play fantasy NASCAR

by Richard Garcia on January 8, 2010 @ 00:00:00 PDT


If you are already a fan of the sport of NASCAR, then it's really simple. There have probably been plenty of conversations with your buddies at the bar about which drivers would make the ultimate NASCAR team. Hendrick Motorsports arguably has that in place for 2010. Now, it seems funny writing this, but in the world of fantasy NASCAR, it would be nearly impossible to get a team that consists of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr., so don't count on it.

The newbies, however, have to deal with getting acquainted with the sport. You could pick up a book, something like "NASCAR for Dummies," or you could do a little research on the Net. That's where KFFL comes in. Researching about the drivers' past successes and failures will go a long way toward picking a diverse roster of drivers. There is no perfect formula on how to gauge who is going to win every week, especially with the threat of "The Big One," but a little research is every fantasy player's best bet, and we're here to help.

A little advice for anyone playing fantasy NASCAR: Don't get in over your head, especially if you're new to the game. Join a league that you feel comfortable with. Whether it's a basic pick 'em game, head-to-head challenge, total points or salary cap format, the formula is the same. Be prepared and you will be more successful than your opponents - you may find yourself in Victory Lane.

Where do I go from here?

If you aren't a fan of NASCAR, odds are that you have this common misperception: It's just a bunch of cars going really fast and making left turns all afternoon. Conversely, the sport is much more than just high speeds and cars with bright decals advertising their favorite detergent brands.

Knowing who has the edge

While money makes the world go round, the same can be said for NASCAR. Those strategically placed advertisements are what pay the bills in the sport. The more sponsors you have, the more money there is to hire the best crew chiefs and the best drivers as well as build teams that put the fastest cars on the track.

In this sport there is a reason why the same drivers are able to compete on a weekly basis. They have the financial support backing their every need, unlike teams that have a single car. Such teams are often left without the best resources to qualify and to compete with teams that have multiple drivers. The ability to share information and resources among teams plays a vital role in the success of the individual driver.

Some teams are better off than others heading into the 2009 season. The top 35 cars in ownership standings at the conclusion of the 2008 season are given a five-race exemption. This exemption guarantees that they qualify for the first five races. No matter how poorly a car does in qualifying, it's assured to be one of the 43 that gets into the race.

In case you're not a math major, like many of us, this leaves only eight spots available for cars that didn't finish in the top 35. Subtract the past winner exemption that allows for the last Cup series winner to get into a race if he fails to qualify, and that leaves just seven spots. In NASCAR, speed is the name of the game, and when it comes to qualifying, that is how cars get their pass into the race. What makes those final seven spots so difficult to land are that cars are engineered very similarly, which means that teams are often bumped out of the race by hundredths of a second.

NASCAR decides its champion with the playoff-style Chase for the Cup. After the first 26 races, the top 12 drivers in the points standings make the Chase. The points for these drivers are recalculated, and the 12 drivers duke it out over the final 10 races to determine the Sprint Cup champ. Equipment, engineering, crew chiefs and many other factors play a part in the success of a NASCAR driver. Understanding these aspects is essential, and, as with any fantasy sport, preparation is the key.

KFFL will break down offseason developments in each of these areas as well as give detailed Driver Analysis in our NASCAR Preseason Guide! Don't forget, too, that the way to maintain success in fantasy NASCAR is to recognize trends and stay up on the news. KFFL's in-season NASCAR content and NASCAR Hot off the Wire will help you accomplish each of those things!

Earning fantasy points

Getting into the race is the hard part. Once a spot is assured, it's about completing the race in order to score ownership points, Sprint Cup Series points and fantasy points. Fantasy points are awarded based on such simple things as driver points. Many leagues also give points for categories like laps led, your driver's place in the race, top-five finishes or top-10 finishes. Some even deduct points for things like not finishing a race.

Remember, too, that the way to win in fantasy NASCAR is to focus on the tracks - kind of like focusing on matchups in fantasy football. The top drivers, like Johnson or Gordon, seem to consistently earn points, and you aren't likely to sit them. When you get into lower tiers of drivers, though, their histories at certain tracks are something to take into account. There are essentially four types of racetracks: short, intermediate, superspeedway and road course. It's vital to know which drivers fare well at which kinds of tracks. At KFFL, we'll look to assist you in that process with our weekly driver rankings and race-by-race previews. Remember, when picking a roster of fantasy drivers, keep in mind which cars have the ownership exemption. If your fantasy driver doesn't qualify for the race, he can't register any fantasy points.

League types

For people who aren't too familiar with fantasy formats, there are a few ways that you can get your NASCAR fix. Public leagues are an option, and they are readily available on just about any of the major sites that host fantasy sports leagues. The benefit to this is that you can select what league you want to join and you usually have the ability to see what type of scoring system that it will be using prior to signing up.

You can compete in public pick 'em contests, salary cap challenges or head-to-head leagues. These public leagues are less formal, and you are more susceptible to playing with people who lose interest midway through the season, potentially leaving you with a bad experience. You can also join or start a private league with friends for one of these kinds of games, and some hosts will allow you to adjust the fantasy scoring rules a bit.

If you feel that no one knows their NASCAR like you do, then grab hold of the reins and start your own league. Several fantasy sites that specialize in league software offer fantasy NASCAR games. RealTime Fantasy Sports is offering what is believed to be the first full fantasy NASCAR commissioner service, with complete customization and many features available. Being commissioner has its advantages, including whether or not you want bonus points added for things such as positions gained or deducted for laps not completed. Different hosting sites offer their own commissioner options, so you will have to explore each of them. Private leagues allow for you to invite who you want to play in your league, normally resulting in a more competitive game among friends.

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About Richard Garcia

Garcia served as a managing editor for KFFL. Prior to his time with KFFL, Richard worked in managerial roles with both Frito-Lay Inc. and UPS. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in public relations from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona and fulfilled his internship requirements with the Los Angeles Kings Hockey organization in 2001.

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