By KFFL Staff on July 26, 2011
NASCAR and DIRECTV are teaming up to inject some new life into the world of fantasy racing. Borrowing a page from March Madness' book, DIRECTV's NASCAR Head 2 Head Knockout will feature a single-elimination, bracket-style tournament.
The top 32 drivers in the Sprint Cup Series will be seeded to determine the matchups, and each week drivers will go head to head with the better finishing driver earning the right to advance on to the next week. It is a one-and-done format, and every driver is one bad pit stop or one cut tire away from being eliminated at any point. The first round kicks off August 7th at Pocono Raceway, and the championship race will take place August 27th under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway when the four remaining drivers battle it out.
What's in it for the players? How does a brand new truck and maybe the chance to win $1,000,000 sound? The player with the most accurate bracket wins a new truck courtesy of the winning driver's manufacturer. In other words, the lucky winner will take home a new Ford truck if Carl Edwards is the last driver standing. If someone happens to pick a perfect bracket, they will have a shot at $1,000,000 as well. The drivers themselves will also be competing for $400,000 that will be donated to their favorite charities. Remember, the action starts August 7th so click here to get signed up today.
Looking at the schedule, trips to Pocono, Watkins Glen and Michigan make up the first three preliminary rounds of the Head 2 Head Knockout. The obvious wildcard in the equation is The Glen, and the road course could be the site of several big upsets. The opening round at the tricky triangle won't be a walk in the park for drivers either. It is going to take a well-rounded wheel man and a little luck for drivers to reach the "Faster Four" and compete for the title.
In the Turn 1 portion of the bracket, No. 3 seed Tony Stewart looks like a strong option. He has finished seventh or better in nine of his last 12 starts at Pocono and has finished third or better in four of his last six. "Smoke" is a near lock at Watkins Glen in the second where he has won more races than any other driver in NASCAR history, and he should punch his ticket to Bristol with a solid run at Michigan - a track where he has finished seventh or better in three straight starts. Overall, he has a combined eight wins on the three tracks leading up to the championship race.
His biggest competitors figure to be No. 1 seed Jimmie Johnson or No. 2 seed Matt Kenseth. However, Kenseth struggles at road courses and should lose to Stewart in the second round. Meanwhile, Johnson could go down at The Glen to sleeper A.J. Allmendinger, who finished in the top five at the track last season. If Johnson does meet Stewart at Michigan, keep in mind that Johnson has never won at the 2.0-mile oval.
The Turn 2 portion should come down to No. 2 seed Jeff Gordon and No. 1 seed Carl Edwards fighting it out at Michigan. Edwards simply doesn't have much competition in the first two rounds, while Gordon's road course skills should get him by No. 3 seed Denny Hamlin in the second round. With five top-five finishes in his last six MIS starts, Edwards has to be considered the favorite to advance to the Bristol.
The biggest sleeper of the tournament may come out of the Turn 3 portion of the bracket where everything could fall in place for No. 4 seed Juan Pablo Montoya. Pocono is arguably his best oval track, and he is the defending winner at Watkins Glen. His road course racing prowess should carry him to an upset of No. 1 seed Kevin Harvick at The Glen. Montoya will likely face No. 2 seed Kyle Busch at Michigan, and while Busch certainly has the edge, Montoya has the talent to deliver a gem at any moment.
Ryan Newman could be a sleeper in this portion of the bracket as well. He owns solid numbers at all three tracks leading up to Bristol, and with a path that figures to include Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya, his opponents may wreck themselves out of contention. Newman's steady results could outlast the boom or bust numbers of some other drivers in the Turn 3 portion.
The weakest portion of the bracket appears to be Turn 4 where Dale Earnhardt Jr. has the top seed. He just has to avoid a motor issue to get by David Gilliland in the opening round, and for as much as he struggles at road courses, his potential second-round opponents are even worse. Not to mention the fact that he runs pretty well at Michigan and could end up cruising to Bristol for a shot at winning it all.
That being said, No. 2 seed Kurt Busch has to be considered the favorite. He is a two-time winner at Pocono, he won the road course event at Infineon earlier this year, and he is a two-time winner at Michigan. Busch is also running as well as any driver heading into this stretch of races. Busch should advance to Bristol, and considering his five wins at the track, he could end up winning it all.