The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series took a week off after a wild race at Martinsville Speedway. This week, the series moves to Texas Motor Speedway for the Samsung Mobile 500.
Texas Motor Speedway is one of the fastest racetracks on the NASCAR circuit. It was tough for NASCAR fans to have a weekend without racing, but a fast Saturday night special in the Lone Star State should more than make up for it.
The lineup was good enough for 337 points (1,750 total points for the season) and moved me back up to the top 99 percent of Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing players (Ranked No. 776 overall out of 202,000).
For the Fantasy Live game, I started Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers and Aric Almirola.
My strategy of selecting drivers who would lead many laps in the 500-lap race paid off. My team scored 445 points. Most of my score came from Gordon’s 231 points. My team has 1,517 points for the season, which places me No. 702 overall in the Fantasy Live game.
After a week off to celebrate Easter, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is in Texas for the Samsung Mobile 500.
The most important thing to know about this week’s race is that it is run on Saturday night.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing lineups must be selected by Friday morning. The good news is that fantasy players will be able to watch the NASCAR practice on Thursday before selecting their team for the week.
The fantasy players who analyze the data from the Thursday practice before selecting their team will have a significant advantage over their competitors.
If you are unable to watch practice, simply head over to my Fantasy NASCAR Tips page on Facebook for all of the updated information. You can also see 11 other experts’ picks for the race as well.
All intermediate racetracks are not created equally. Texas Motor Speedway is a unique racetrack.
The racetrack is one of the fastest on the circuit. There are bumps and turns that flatten out quickly. It will be important for teams to be able to work on their cars during the race to keep up with the change from the daylight to the night-time finish.
Here are my selections for the Yahoo! Group A:
Tony Stewart is the one driver who should be on every fantasy NASCAR team this week.
Stewart has won both races at the intermediate racetracks this season (Las Vegas and Fontana) and has won six out of the last eight races on the intermediate racetracks dating back to the start of the Chase in 2011. Until someone proves they can beat Stewart on an intermediate racetrack, he must be on your team.
Stewart also won the last race in Texas last November.
Some fantasy NASCAR players have asked me if it would be wise to save their starts with Stewart, since each driver can only be used nine times during the season. Stewart is a driver who can get on hot streaks and immediately change to a cold streak. I suggest using Stewart while he is hot. There are plenty of other skilled drivers in Group A if you run out of allocations with Stewart.
Just in case something happens to Stewart in practice, you must have another good driver on your team. The next-best driver in Group A is Matt Kenseth.
Kenseth broke his 76-race winless streak last year in the spring race at Texas. Kenseth started the race in the No. 4 position and led 169 laps on his way to the victory.
Roush Fenway Racing has had a strong history at Texas Motor Speedway. Last year, all four Roush Fenway Racing cars (Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and David Ragan) finished the race in the top seven.
Kenseth has the second-best career average finish at Texas out of all of the drivers in the race Saturday night. Kenseth’s average finish at Texas is 8.7. He has also led 765 laps in his career at the track.
If Stewart is not holding the Texas pistols in victory lane Saturday night, there is a good chance Kenseth will be.
Other good picks: Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick
Like the drivers from Group A, there are many good drivers to select from in Group B this week. After practice on Thursday, it will be very easy to select the best four for your team. (Do not forget to check out my picks Friday night on my Fantasy NASCAR Tips Page.)
Here are my selections for Yahoo Group B:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been one of the best drivers this year on the intermediate racetracks. His average finish in the two races this year is 6.5 and he led 70 laps.
Earnhardt has had a good history of being competitive of Texas Motor Speedway. His average start at TMS is No. 11, and his average finish in No. 14.
Could this be the week that Earnhardt gets back to victory lane? It is definitely one of his best racetracks, so I would not bet against him.
Who has been the best driver so far in 2012? An argument could be made that it is the points leader, Greg Biffle.
Biffle has gotten off to a hot start this season. Most of his success has come at the intermediate racetracks. Biffle has an average finish of fourth at the two intermediate racetracks this season. The only driver who has been better is Tony Stewart, who won both races.
Over the past four races at Texas Motor Speedway, Biffle has the best average finish. His average finish in those races is No. 6. He also led 267 laps and won one pole in that time frame.
Biffle will be one of the drivers to beat Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Some people wondered what the move from Richard Childress Racing to Michael Waltrip Racing would mean to Bowyer’s career. So far, Bowyer has not missed a beat. Bowyer currently is in the No. 9 position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings.
The drivers for Michael Waltrip Racing (Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin and Brian Vickers) have been the surprise of the 2012 season. I do not think they will slow down any time soon.
Bowyer’s average finish in the two races at the intermediate racetracks this season is 9.5. Last year, Bowyer finished second in this race to Matt Kenseth. Bowyer will finish in the top 10 in the race on Saturday night.
Coming off of his victory at Martinsville, Ryan Newman will have momentum going into the race this week.
Newman has been good this year at the intermediate racetracks. He finished fourth at Las Vegas and seventh at Fontana. He should easily finish inside the top-10 this week.
Although Newman is a past winner at Texas Motor Speedway, I do not plan to use him in my starting lineup this week. I want to save Newman for other races, but I think there is a good chance he will win the pole and give me 10 bonus points for the race.
If something happens to the other Group B drivers on my team before the race, I will have no problem using Newman as a replacement. My goal, though, is to keep him on the bench.
Other good picks: Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin and Paul Menard
Mark Martin will be replacing Brian Vickers in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota this week. It would be nice to be able to use Vickers each week as a driver in Group C, but so far, his plans have not changed: Vickers is only scheduled to drive the No. 55 car on a limited basis.
Trevor Bayne is the only good choice for Group C this week. Bayne will be driving the No. 21 car for Wood Brothers Racing.
Bayne has raced three times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway. He finished all three of the races in the No. 17 position. If Bayne were to finish near the top 15 this week, I think most fantasy NASCAR players would take it.
The driver who brought the No. 6 car to a seventh-place finish last year at Texas Motor Speedway was David Ragan. Ragan is no longer driving for Roush Fenway Racing, but he is still a decent choice for the race this week.
In his last four races at Texas Motor Speedway, Ragan has an average finish of 10.75 with 11 laps led and one pole position.
The obvious goal is to use Bayne as your driver this week, but if for some reason you must use another driver, Ragan will be the next-best pick.
Other good picks: None (I would not recommend using a start with Aric Almirola at Texas Motor Speedway. Richard Petty Motorsports has struggled on intermediate racetracks this year.)
Last week’s team: Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers and Aric Almirola
My plan to start drivers who would lead the most laps almost paid off for me at Martinsville. Jeff Gordon led 328 laps, which resulted in 164 bonus points. The caution with two laps left in the race ruined my day. Gordon spun out and then ran out of gas. This proves you have to be both lucky and good to win in Fantasy NASCAR.
This week, my strategy will be to select a lineup of drivers who will race up front most of the race and drivers who will come from the back to finish up front.
Since the Fantasy Live game rewards drivers who improve upon their starting position in the race, it will be important to have at least two drivers who start in the middle of the pack or further back and make their way to the front.
Unlike the Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing game, Fantasy Live allows players to change their drivers up to the start of the race. I will give my selections for my team now, but I suggest looking at where each driver qualifies in the race before setting your team.
My updated selections will be on my Fantasy NASCAR Tips Page on Facebook Saturday morning (The race is Saturday night this week).
Here are my picks for NASCAR Fantasy Live:
Tony Stewart $26.00
Tony Stewart has been so dominant at the intermediate tracks since the start of the Chase last season that it would be foolish not to have him on your team.
The last time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced at Texas Motor Speedway, Stewart started the race in the fifth position, led 173 of the 334 laps and won the race.
If Stewart’s hot streak on intermediate tracks is not enough to convince you to select him for your team, his career results at Texas Motor Speedway should. In his 20 career starts at Texas Motor Speedway, Stewart has 11 top-10 finishes, led 727 laps, won one pole and two races. Stewart is the driver to beat Saturday night.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. $24.50
One of the most surprising parts of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is the fact that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is second in the point standings and it is not the biggest story of the year.
Usually, when the most popular driver in the sport is competing for the top spot in the point standings, the story dominates the headlines. I think it is good for Earnhardt that there are bigger stories in the sport right now.
It will not be long before Earnhardt breaks his winless streak. I would not be surprised if it happens Saturday night. Earnhardt has been very good in his career at Texas Motor Speedway.
In his 19 career starts at Texas Motor Speedway, Earnhardt has 10 top-10 finishes, led 448 laps and has won two poles and one race. Earnhardt should have no problem finishing in the top 10 Saturday night.
Carl Edwards $22.50
Carl Edwards is having a hangover from his disappointing second-place finish last year in the point standings. I am betting that the week off will help Edwards as much as any driver in the field.
Edwards is No. 11 in the point standings. While some drivers would be happy to be in position for a spot in the Chase, Edwards expects to be at the top of the point standings.
The one thing Edwards has going for him this week is that he has been good on the intermediate racetracks this season. Edwards has two top five finishes this year, and both of them came at intermediate racetracks.
Texas Motor Speedway is one of Edwards' best racetracks. In his 14 career starts at the racetrack, Edwards has six top-10 finishes, led 493 laps and won three races.
Edwards is one of my picks to start in the middle of the pack Saturday night and finish up front.
Clint Bowyer $19
Clint Bowyer is quietly putting together a solid season in 2012. Bowyer is No. 9 in the point standings and has finished half of the races in the top 10.
In this race last season, Bowyer finished second to Matt Kenseth.
Bowyer has been a good pick at the intermediate racetracks this year. He finished No. 6 at Las Vegas and No. 13 at Fontana. His finish at Fontana may have been better if the race had not shortened by the rain.
One of the reasons I am selecting Bowyer for my Fantasy Live team this week is because of his price. You will have a hard time finding a better driver for less than $19.
Trevor Bayne $7
I am taking a gamble with Trevor Bayne this week. I hated to sell Aric Almirola, but the Richard Petty Motorsports teams has been horrible on the intermediate racetracks this season.
Bayne has raced well when given the opportunity. I think he will perform well again this week.
Bayne has raced in three races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway. He finished each of the races in the No. 17 position. For only $7, I will take a 17th-place finish from Bayne in Saturday night’s race.
Total budget: $99
Good luck this week!
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @HuskerMagic.
If you like Fantasy NASCAR, LIKE my Fantasy NASCAR Page on Facebook: