The spectacle which is the Daytona 500 is over and fantasy NASCAR players can now focus on more predictable racing.
While the Daytona 500 is determined by a driver positioning his or her car to be at the right place at the right time and hope for a lot of luck, the race this week at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) is determined by a driver’s ability to race the one-mile racetrack.
Last season the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers raced for the first time at PIR since the racetrack was repaved. Some drivers figured out the new racetrack, while others struggled. Picking the top finishers for the race on Sunday will be much easier than the Daytona 500.
Here are my picks for the Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game for the Subway Fast Fit 500 at Phoenix International Speedway…
Yahoo Group A is loaded with past winners at PIR, led by Jimmie Johnson who has four victories in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at the racetrack.
This week fantasy players must have their lineups selected before Friday morning. This means fantasy players will not have a chance to see any practices or qualifying before their teams must be selected.
There is a good chance the winner of Sunday’s race will come out of Group A. The problem is finding the one for your team that will be in victory lane.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A and stats from the NASCAR Media Center based upon the last four races at PIR….
Denny Hamlin has been very good in his career on the flat racetracks. He was the best driver last year at PIR after the racetrack was paved.
Hamlin won the race at PIR last March and finished second in the race last November. He had a series-high 6.5 average finish and led 116 laps in the last four races at PIR. His driver ranking of 105.6 is the fourth-best in the series.
Hamlin has finished half of his career starts at PIR in the top five. It would be a good idea to have Hamlin on your team this week.
Coming off his victory at Daytona, Jimmie Johnson will bring momentum into a racetrack where he has won multiple races.
The last time NASCAR debuted a new car, Johnson finished five of the first seven races in the top four. I look for the same domination from Five Time again this year.
Johnson’s stats are much better in the March race at PIR than in the November race. In the last six March races, Johnson’s average finish is 3.16. He has a series-best average running position of 7.1, series-best driver rating of 115.8 and a series-high 517 fastest laps run.
Johnson should be on every team this week.
Other good choices: Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski
Yahoo Group B will give fantasy NASCAR players many good drivers to choose from. Some drivers in Group B dominate at PIR, others have had success in the past and some would be good sleeper picks for your team.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. used to own PIR. He finished all of the races from 2002-05 in the top five with two wins. He only has one top-ten finish at PIR in his last eight races. Hendrick Motorsports will give him a good car, but I don’t think he will compete for the win.
Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya would be great sleeper picks if you want to take a gamble this week. Both drivers finished in the top 15 in both of the races at PIR last season. There are not many races to use these drivers, so if you feel lucky, roll the dice.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B and stats from the NASCAR Media Center based upon the last four races at PIR….
Kyle Busch has not won at PIR since 2005, but he was outstanding on the new pavement last season.
Busch finished the race last March in sixth place and the race last November in third place. He had a series-high 465 quality passes, the third-best driver ranking of 99.9, the fourth-fastest average green flag speed of 124.83, and the second-most laps in the top 15.
Wild Thing is my pick to win the race this week.
Greg Biffle is becoming the lead driver for Roush Fenway Racing. He is the team’s best bet to go to victory lane on Sunday.
In the last four races at PIR, Biffle has been good. His average finish of 10.7 is fourth-best and he has a driver rating of 88.9. His 276 fastest laps are fourth-most and his 687 green flag passes are the sixth-most.
Biffle will have momentum at PIR after a sixth-place finish in the Daytona 500. He would be a good choice this week at PIR.
This is the week to use Ryan Newman on your team. PIR is one of his best racetracks.
Newman has finished in the top five in five of the last six races at PIR. His average finish of 9.1 over the last four races is third-best and his 444 quality passes are the third-most.
Newman has four career poles at PIR and is my pick to win the pole this week.
Mark Martin is racing a limited schedule in 2013. It would be wise to try and get nine starts out of him this season. PIR is a great place to start.
When Martin raced for Roush Racing, he owned PIR. From 1992-2002 he finished every race but one in the top 10. Although he is not the driver he used to be, he still finished both races at the racetrack in the top 10 last year.
If Ryan Newman does not win the poll this week, there is a good chance that Martin will.
Other good choices: Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Hopefully you were able to get some points out of your Group C at Daytona. Now it will be a little easier to pick good drivers for your team from this group.
There are four drivers worth considering for your team this week: A.J. Allmendinger, Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Austin Dillon. Allmendinger and Dillon are running a limited schedule, so they would be excellent choices if you want to save starts with Patrick or Stenhouse, Jr.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C…
A.J. Allmendinger will be driving the No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing this week. Since it is so important to get quality starts from anywhere you can in Group C, it would be wise to consider Allmendinger for your team this year.
Allmendinger has great stats at PIR, but his success came while driving for Penske Racing. Although he will not have the top car this week, he still knows how to get around the racetrack.
In the last four races at PIR, Allmendinger has the sixth-best average finish of 11, sixth-best average starting position of 10.7 and the ninth-best driver rating of 92.2.
Allmendinger is not going to drive many races this season, so it would not be a bad idea to use him when you can.
Last week I predicted Danica Patrick to be the best Group C driver and she did not disappoint. I am staying on the bandwagon until it crashes.
Some fantasy NASCAR players will avoid her because they believe it does not take much talent to drive at Daytona. Now that the series moves to a “real racetrack,” Patrick will have problems. I do not believe that is the case.
Patrick raced in the Sprint Cup Series last year and she started No. 37 and finished No. 17. She will have a better car this year than the car she drove last season for Tommy Baldwin Racing.
Other good choices: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Austin Dillon
2012 Subway Fresh Fit 500 Pole Sitter: Mark Martin 136.815 MPH
2012 Subway Fresh Fit 500 Winner: Denny Hamlin
Most Wins at PIR Among Active Drivers: Jimmie Johnson 4, Kevin Harvick 3
Most Top 10s Among Active Drivers: Mark Martin 21, Jeff Gordon 19
Worst Starting Spot to Win: Ricky Rudd started No. 29
Races Won from the Pole: 4 of 33
Races Won from Top Five: 11 of 33
Races Won from Top 10: 16 of 33
Victories by manufacturer: Chevrolet (16), Ford (13), Pontiac (2), Toyota (2).
Victories by owner: Rick Hendrick (9), Jack Roush (6), Richard Childress (4), Robert Yates (3), all others (11).
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @HuskerMagic.
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