Fantasy NASCAR at Atlanta 2014: Picks, Top Drivers for Oral-B USA 500
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Hampton, Georgia, this Sunday, Aug. 31, for the Oral-B USA 500.
The only bad thing about the race this week at Atlanta Motor Speedway is that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series only visits the track once during the season. Atlanta brings back an old-school type of racing. The surface eats up tires and has multiple grooves. Drivers are forced to move around and find the groove that works best for their car.
The teams who can do this will run up front Sunday night.
Roush Fenway Racing dominated qualifying at Atlanta last season. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the pole and his teammate Carl Edwards started next to him on the front row. The chances of the team taking the top two spots in the race Sunday are slim. Roush Fenway Racing has not shown the speed to keep up with Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports.
Joe Gibbs Racing is the team to watch this week. The team has finished either first or second at Atlanta 17 times (with seven total wins). Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin won the event the last two years. Their teammate Matt Kenseth could use a win this week to give him momentum heading into the Chase.
Here are my picks for the Oral-B 500 at Atlanta.
Yahoo Group A Picks
There is a good chance that the winner of the race Sunday night will come from Group A in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing. Any of the drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have a good chance to visit Victory Lane. Add in Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch from Stewart-Haas Racing and there are eight good picks for your fantasy team this week.
The race at Atlanta usually comes down to horsepower. Although Joe Gibbs Racing has won the last two races, the team has not shown the horsepower to keep up with the drivers using Hendrick Motorsports engines.
Jimmie Johnson has the event two times, but his last two races have not been very good. He finished No. 34 in 2012 and No. 28 last year. Johnson does not have much momentum going into the race. He will be much better when the Chase begins.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick have won races at Atlanta before. Both drivers have been very fast in each race this season. They bring momentum into the race Sunday night and should be considered for your team this week.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A, with the number of allocations I have left with each driver in parentheses.
Jeff Gordon (2)
Jeff Gordon has been too good on the intermediate race tracks this year to keep off your team. He has finished in the top 10 in seven of the eight races this season on race tracks similar to Atlanta. The only race he finished outside the top 10 was when he finished No. 13 at Fontana. Gordon has five wins at Atlanta in his career (winning this event three times).
Do not be surprised to see him add another win Sunday night.
Kevin Harvick (2)
If Gordon is the best driver in NASCAR right now, Harvick is a close second. He has finished in the top 11 in the last five races. The only problem Harvick has had recently is getting to Victory Lane, but that could change this week. Harvick won his first race at Atlanta and has finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven races at the race track. He should easily make it seven of eight Sunday night.
Other good choices: Earnhardt Jr., Johnson, Kenseth and Kurt Busch
Yahoo Group B Picks
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series gets closer to the Chase, selecting your Group B drivers becomes more difficult. Most fantasy teams at the top of their league standings do not have many, if any, selections left with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.
My team falls under this category. My strategy the rest of the way is to use the Team Penske drivers for qualifying points and find two other drivers for the race.
Finding the other two drivers for your team will be tough. This week there are four drivers to choose from. Paul Menard, Edwards and Ryan Newman have performed well on the intermediate race tracks this season. Denny Hamlin has had the most success at Atlanta in his career.
These four drivers are good picks for your team, and pairing two of them with Team Penske will give your squad an advantage over your competition.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B.
Brad Keselowski (2)
After finishing the race last week at Bristol in the top two positions, Team Penske is too good to ignore right now. Keselowski consistently qualifies, runs and finishes up front. If you have any remaining allocations with him you should select use one for your team Sunday night.
Joey Logano (1)
Logano does not have the best stats at Atlanta, but he is on a hot streak right now. Logano has finished the last five races in the top six, including one win and two front-row starting positions. He is just too good right now to leave off your team. If you have an allocation left with Logano, you should use it. There is no guarantee he will be this hot later in the season.
Denny Hamlin (3)
Hamlin is very good at Atlanta. He won this race in 2012. The problem with Hamlin is that the Joe Gibbs Racing cars have not had as much speed this year as they did last season. As a result, Toyota Racing Development is trying to figure out a way to create more speed for its cars, per Bob Pockrass of Sporting News.
Hamlin finished seventh at Michigan, so maybe the team did find some speed. He will run well Sunday night.
Ryan Newman (6)
Newman has a good chance at making the Chase on points, but he could use a win at Atlanta to take the pressure of his team next week at Richmond. Newman has run well this season on the intermediate race tracks. He finished six of the eight races in the top 15 with a third-place finish at Kentucky. The No. 31 team will be a good pick this week.
Other good choices: Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray and Brian Vickers
Yahoo Group C Picks
As the other groups begin to get tougher, more choices begin to appear in Group C. Some NASCAR teams are beginning to focus on the 2015 season, so drivers who have not raced much this season will start to show up at the race track. Add to that the drivers who filled in for Tony Stewart in the past month, and depending on Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon is no longer the only way to navigate this group.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C.
Austin Dillon (5)
I have no idea how I have five starts left with Dillon.
It is time to start using the rookie driver for your fantasy team. Dillon has run well this season on the intermediate race tracks. He has finished five of the eight races in the top 20. The race at Atlanta will come down to horsepower, and the Richard Childress Racing drivers have had no problems finding horsepower this season.
Jeff Burton (7)
I am going to make the decision now to pencil Burton into my lineup for Atlanta. There is no guarantee Stewart will miss the race this weekend, but there are no signs he is coming back, either. Burton is too good of a driver with too good of a car to leave off your team if he races. If he misses the race, I would use Larson in this position.
Other Good Choices: Larson, Danica Patrick and Justin Allgaier
Fantasy Live Picks
Fantasy Live Picks: Gordon, Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth, Michael Annett, Reed Sorenson
The advice for NASCAR.com's Fantasy Live last week was to choose drivers who started up front because track position was so important at Bristol. That is not the case for Atlanta. Fantasy teams should select a mix of drivers who start up front and some who start in the back and have an opportunity to finish higher than where they started the race.
Gordon should qualify up front and lead many laps Sunday night. Earnhardt Jr. and Kenseth are good picks to finish higher than where they qualify. Both drivers should earn bonus points for your team.
Michael Annett and Reed Sorenson are good picks for their price this week.
Fox Fantasy Racing
Fox Fantasy Racing rewards team for selecting drivers who will start in the back and finish up front. It will be hard to predict a team without knowing the starting position of each driver, but here are some who should be good selections for your team Sunday night
Captain: Earnhardt Jr.
Driver 2: Kenseth
Driver 3: Hamlin
Driver 4: Kyle Busch
Driver 5: Menard
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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