This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Las Vegas for the Kobalt Tools 400.
The year of uncertainty is starting to take shape. No one knew for sure how the Gen-6 car would affect the racing in 2013. Now that the teams have competed on a restrictor-plate and short one-mile racetrack, fantasy NASCAR players are getting an idea of which teams will be strong in 2013.
This week’s race in Sin City will tell even more about how the 2013 season will be determined. The majority of the NASCAR Sprint Cup races are on the 1.5 mile racetracks like the race in Las Vegas. Fantasy NASCAR players will get to see which teams are the first to figure out the Gen-6 car on the “cookie cutter” racetracks.
NASCAR teams will be allowed to participate in two testing sessions Thursday to obtain more information about the Gen-6 car. The teams that participate in the testing sessions will have an edge on the competition. Be sure to check practice times Thursday night before you select your team.
Here are my picks for the Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game…
Group A is made up of drivers who are almost sure bets to finish up front and drivers who have questions coming into the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
While Joe Gibbs Racing has looked good in qualifying, their engine problems are a cause for concern for fantasy players. Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin would be good selections this week, but can you trust their engines over 400 miles?
Brad Keselowski looks to be ready to defend his championship in 2013. Las Vegas is one of his worst racetracks though. Keselowski’s best finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is No. 26, although he was running second last year when he had problems with his car.
The question fantasy NASCAR players will have to answer this week is, how long should they ride Jimmie Johnson’s hot streak? I would consider using Johnson until another driver proves he is more worthy of a start.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A and stats from the NASCAR Media Center based upon the driver’s career stats at Las Vegas….
Tony Stewart won the last race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and finished No. 2 in the 2011 race.
In his career Stewart has one win, six top-five finishes, and nine top-10 finishes. His 185 fastest laps run are the second most and his 1,666 laps run in the top 15 are the third-most in the series.
Stewart seems to be the only driver from the Stewart Haas Racing stable worth using right now.
Jimmie Johnson is on a hot streak right now and has had success at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Johnson has four wins at the racetrack and finished second in last year’s race.
Some people may want to save Johnson for later in the season. I suggest using him while he is hot.
In his career at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Johnson has a series-best driver rating of 110.9, series-high 283 fastest laps run and the second-best average finish of 9.8.
If Stewart were to qualify poorly or look horrible in practice, it would be great to have Johnson as a backup driver for Group A.
Other good choices: Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick
The selections for Group B will depend on how your team has performed in the first two weeks.
If your team is at the top of your league standings, it may be smart to take a gamble with a driver. If you had two poor weeks, it is time to select the top drivers and try to make your way back to the top.
Two drivers who would be worth a gamble this week include Marcos Ambrose and Paul Menard. Ambrose finished No. 13 in last year’s Kobalt Tools 400 and No. 4 in the 2011 race. Menard finished No. 7 last year and No. 12 in 2011. Both drivers may be worth the risk.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B and stats from the NASCAR Media Center based upon their career stats at Las Vegas….
Every year a Group B driver outperforms most of the drivers in Group A. I think Carl Edwards will be that driver in 2013.
Edwards had a hangover in 2012 after almost winning the championship in 2011. I think the hangover is over. Edwards broke his 70-race winless streak last week at Phoenix. Now he will race at one of his best racetracks.
In his career at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Edwards has two wins, three top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes. His driver rating of 98.2 is sixth-best, his 303 quality passes are second-most and he has a series-high 524 green flag passes.
Edwards should be up front at the end of the Kobalt Tools 400.
The word in the garage is the Gen-6 car drives like the car that was used early in Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s career. Earnhardt had much more success in the old car than he had in the Gen-5 car used from 2007-2012.
Earnhardt has never won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but he has finished races up front. In his career, Earnhardt has two top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes.
Earnhardt is a driver who can get on a hot streak. Currently he is No. 2 in the point standings. I would suggest using him while he is hot.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is one of Greg Biffle’s best racetracks. He is one of my picks to qualify up front on Sunday.
Biffle has not had much success at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the last two years. His average finish is 15.5, but he does have the third-best driver rating of 113.6. The driver rating is a more accurate gauge of how the driver performed in the race.
In his career Biffle has two top-five finishes, six top-10 finishes and one pole. His average running position of 9.7 is second-best and his 1,690 laps run in the top 15 are the second-most in the series.
If Biffle looks good in Happy Hour practice, use him on your team.
Marcos Ambrose is my sleeper pick this week. Everyone knows that Ambrose must be on their team at the road courses, but most people do not realize that Las Vegas Motor Speedway is one of his best oval racetracks.
In the last two races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ambrose has the fourth-best average finish of 8.5. He also has the fourth-best average starting position of 8.5 and a 92.1 driver rating.
There will not be many opportunities to use Ambrose throughout the season. This is one of them.
Other good choices: Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Martin Truex, Jr. and Joey Logano
One thing I noticed about the Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game—People have been using Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse a lot. Last week Patrick and Stenhouse were on 50 percent of the rosters.
My strategy has been to use drivers who will not race every race this year and save Patrick and Stenhouse for later in the season.
I used Trevor Bayne and A.J. Allmendinger for my two Group C starts this season. Bayne finished No. 27 in the Daytona 500 and Allmendinger finished No. 11 last week.
Since Patrick and Stenhouse will be around all season, it is a good strategy to save them until they get more experience.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C…
I am going to try and pull off another solid start in Group C using a driver on a limited schedule. The plan for Bayne is to fill in here and there for the Wood Brothers in their No. 21 car. When he is in the seat, he should be on your team.
Bayne had two solid finishes in the last two races run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Bayne finished No. 9 in last year’s race and No. 20 in the 2011 race.
Bayne is a good driver on the cookie cutter racetracks. It would be wise to have him on your team this week.
Austin Dillon will drive the No. 51 Phoenix Racing car this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This is the same car Allmendinger was able to drive to an eleventh place finish last week.
Dillon does not have the experience to compete for a win, but what driver in Group C does?
Last year Dillon started No. 3 and finished No. 7 in the Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He also has a win in the truck series at the racetrack.
It would be worth the gamble to put Dillon on your team and see how he qualifies and performs in Happy Hour.
Other good choices: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and David Reutimann
2012 Kobalt Tools 400 Pole Sitter: Kasey Kahne 190.456 MPH
2012 Kobalt Tools 400 Winner: Tony Stewart, Started No. 7
Most Wins at Las Vegas—Active Drivers: Jimmie Johnson 4
Most Poles at Las Vegas—Active Drivers: Kasey Kahne 3
Most Top 10s at Las Vegas—Active Drivers: Mark Martin 10
Most Top 5s at Las Vegas—Active Drivers: Mark Martin 6 and Jeff Gordon 6
Worst Starting Spot to Win: Matt Kenseth 2004, started No. 25
Races Won from the Pole: 1 of 15
Races Won from Top Five: 5 of 15
Races Won from Top 10: 7 of 15
Victories by manufacturer: Ford (7), Chevrolet (6), Toyota (1), Dodge (1)
Victories by owner: Rick Hendrick (5), Jack Roush (7), Stewart Haas (1), Joe Gibbs (1), Chip Ganassi (1)
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @HuskerMagic.
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