Either by choice or circumstance, several Sprint Cup drivers will be running the series on a part-time basis this season. Smaller teams use their limited budgets to focus on specific races. Due to a slumping economy, many companies have stopped or reduced their investments on sponsoring NASCAR teams. In recent years, the smaller supply of sponsorship money has triggered numerous mergers to consolidate teams and pool resources.
When it comes to part-time drivers, road course specialists may be the first group that comes to mind. At the top of that list are Boris Said and Ron Fellows. Both are accomplished in many driving disciplines and are called upon by part-time Cup owners for the events at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International. In fact, Said has made 19 Cup starts on road courses with eight different owners. Although they have the skills to compete, the quality of the rides has been an issue, making them risky picks. In his last four Cup series road races, Said has two DNFs due to equipment failures.
Max Papis could also garner attention this season by owners for use on the road courses. Last season, Papis made 15 starts with Germain Racing, with an average finish of 10.0 at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, but the team has been unable to secure a sponsor for the Italian thus far.
One driver going part-time by choice is Michael Waltrip. The veteran signed Martin Truex Jr. to his team, Michael Waltrip Racing, to focus more attention on his role as owner. Waltrip plans to run the four restrictor plate races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. He could get behind the wheel for other races, but that remains uncertain. In his 24-year career, all four of Waltrip's Cup victories have come at those tracks, the last in 2003, but his fantasy value in minimal.
Bill Elliott, 1988 Cup series champion, will be running part-time with Woods Brothers for the third straight season. In 12 starts last season, Elliott started 16th or better in six straight attempts and finished with five top-20 finishes, decent for a low-end fantasy option. Elliott can offer decent value at numerous tracks.
Some teams head into this season hoping to string sponsors together in order to run the full schedule. At least some of these drivers will likely become unwilling part-timers:
Finally, there are some established teams that could run an additional part-time car. Joe Gibbs Racing put David Gilliland in a ride three times last season and could run four again on occasion this season, if they find a sponsor. Hendrick Motorsports is capped at the four-car maximum but could run a fifth if it's a rookie driver and for no more than seven races.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts.
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