By KFFL Staff on July 3, 2011
Prior to the start of the 2011 season, NASCAR introduced a few major changes. The point system was simplified, the Chase format was altered to add a pair of wildcard spots, and drivers were told to police themselves on the track with a boys have at it mentality.
While the mathematical impact of the new point system on fantasy owners has been talked about at length, the impact of the two other changes has been flying under the radar. However, it is these last two changes that have been silent killers in fantasy circles.
The seemingly innocent addition of the wildcard spots to the Chase have completely changed the way races have been run this season. With the two drivers outside the top 10 but inside the top 20 with the most wins earning trips to the playoffs, crew chiefs have been gambling on fuel mileage more than ever before. The new strategy has already produced victories by Regan Smith and Brad Keselowski as well altered the finishing order of races at the last minute.
There have been countless examples of drivers with fast cars dominating 95 percent of races, only to finish outside the top 10 as drivers that hadn’t been factors all day stretch their fuel an extra lap or two. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, there isn’t really a way to compensate for the new approach many teams are taking. Picking mediocre drivers in the hopes that fuel mileage falls in their favor is a recipe for disaster, but it is equally frustrating to pick a bunch of drivers with fast cars and have little to show for it when all is said and done.
Going forward, owners are just going to have to except that teams are going to gamble on fuel mileage and that it is going to pay off every now and then. For the Cup teams sitting outside the top 15, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by gambling on wins. The same cannot be said for fantasy owners. Picking a few random sleepers that end up winning won’t offset all the points lost on the weeks when the sleeper picks don’t pay off.
Equally frustrating for fantasy owners has been the boys have at it law introduced by NASCAR. Drivers are trading paint constantly, and payback is becoming the rule rather than exception. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Keselowski have all been on both ends of retaliation, and two weekends ago at Infineon, Tony Stewart saw a top-five run disappear when Brian Vickers decided to pay him back for an incident in the early laps in the race.
Retaliation is nothing new in NASCAR, but it has never been on this type of scale. It is bad enough when two drivers take each other out of the race, but other drivers are often involved as collateral damage. Bumping and banging is part of the sport, but out of control retaliation can devastate a fantasy roster. With little or no punishment coming from NASCAR, drivers have no reason not to continue this type of behavior for the rest of the year.
Whether it is a driver running out of fuel or a driver getting caught up in someone else’s mess, it has been a long year for fantasy owners. Unfortunately, these were the cards that were dealt, and owners have no choice to adjust and deal with the new rules.