Fantasy NASCAR: 7 Secrets to Winning Your League

Chad Robb@@MrFantasyNASCARCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2013

Fantasy NASCAR: 7 Secrets to Winning Your League

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    The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is only a month away. It will not be long before the cars are lined up at Daytona for the start of the 55th running of the Great American Race. For many fans, the start of the NASCAR season also means the start of a new fantasy NASCAR season.

    Fantasy NASCAR has become very popular over the past decade when many of the major NASCAR websites (ESPN, nascar.com and Yahoo) started offering free NASCAR games. What makes fantasy NASCAR so popular is the fact that you will have bragging rights over your friends if you win your league.

    Is there a secret to winning your fantasy NASCAR league or is it just luck?

    Anyone can pick a set of drivers and finish at the top of their fantasy NASCAR league standings for a week. If you want to finish at the top of your league standings at the end of the 2013 fantasy NASCAR season, follow these eight steps and you will be well on your way.

Pay Attention to Testing

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    Currently the drivers are testing the new Gen-6 car in preparation for the 2013 season. This is a unique opportunity for fantasy NASCAR fans to get a sneak peak at what drivers may dominate at the start of the season.

    NASCAR has rules preventing teams from testing on the racetracks used during the season. With the introduction of the new Gen-6 car, NASCAR decided to change the rules this season and allow teams to test at Daytona, Charlotte and Las Vegas.

    It is important for fantasy NASCAR players to look at who has the fastest cars during the practice sessions. Drivers who figure out how to get speed out of their cars in practice usually are the same drivers who are fastest when the NASCAR Sprint Cup series returns to the racetrack.

    A great source for testing speeds is at Jayski.com.

Know Your League

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    There are many fantasy NASCAR games available to fans. Each game has different rules, so it is important to know the rules of the game you are playing.

    Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing puts each driver into either Group A, Group B, or Group C. Players must select two Group A drivers (the top drivers in NASCAR), four Group B drivers (the mid-level drivers in NASCAR) and two Group C drivers (the not so well-know drivers).

    Players can only use a driver nine times during the season. The key to winning in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing is to use your drivers at the right time to gain the most points throughout the season.

    The Nascar.com Fantasy Live game is the only game with live scoring. Teams can go to the site and watch their fantasy team move up or down their league standings as they gain points throughout the race. This year Fantasy Live will also be using pit crews in their game.

    Fantasy Live is a salary cap game where each driver is assigned a price. Teams must select five drivers and stay under the salary cap (usually one million dollars). Each week a driver’s price is adjusted.

    Because of the scoring setup in Fantasy Live, the secret is to use drivers who start up front on the short racetracks and use drivers who start in the back on the 1.5-mile racetracks and the Superspeedways.

    The ESPN Stock Car Challenge is the easiest of the popular fantasy NASCAR games on Internet.

    Stock Car Challenge is a salary cap game where teams are awarded points for where their driver finishes the race. You will not have to worry about saving drivers and choosing drivers who will come from the back and finish up front in the Stock Car Challenge game.

    The key is to pick the drivers who will finish up front each week.

Do Not Save Drivers

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    Some fantasy NASCAR games have limitations on how many times a player can use a driver during the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The most popular game to have this rule is the Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game.

    In the Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game, teams can only use a driver nine times during the season. Since there are 36 races throughout the season, most fantasy NASCAR players believe they must save their drivers so they will have starts remaining at the end of the season.

    Do not use that strategy!

    NASCAR drivers go through hot and cold streaks. In order to dominate your league, you must find the drivers who are hot and continue to use them until they cool off.

    Last season Dale Earnhardt Jr. started the season hot.

    He had 12 Top 10 finishes in the first 15 races. It was not hard to figure out Earnhardt was the hottest driver in the sport. Many Fantasy NASCAR players refused to use Earnhardt because they wanted to have him during the Chase. Earnhardt was injured and only had two Top 10 finishes in the Chase.

    You never know what is going to happen throughout the NASCAR season. If a driver is hot, do not hesitate to use them even if it means you may not be able to use the driver at the end of the season.

Use Top Teams Early and Often

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    The best way to predict future success is to study the past.

    History tells us that any time NASCAR switches to a new car, the teams with the most money and resources dominate at the beginning of the season.

    When NASCAR changed to The Car of Tomorrow in 2007, Hendrick Motorsports was the first team to figure it out. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon won seven of the first 11 races. Look for the same to thing to happen this year.

    Teams like Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing have the resources to help their drivers figure out the new Gen-6 car early in the season. The best drivers to use early in the 2013 season include: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.

Know Your Road Ringers

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    A myth in fantasy NASCAR is that it is easy to gain ground on your competition at the road courses. Fantasy NASCAR players think that they will dominate with a lineup filled with road course specialist like Marcus Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon.

    The problem with this strategy is that most of the people competing in your league will have the same drivers. Anyone who pays attention to NASCAR knows Marcus Ambrose must be on all fantasy NASCAR teams when the series goes to the Road Courses.

    The secret is to get other drivers on your team who perform well on road courses that your competition may not know about. These drivers include Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and A.J. Allmendinger.

Avoid Top Drivers at Superspeedways

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    Earlier in this article I wrote that you should not save drivers throughout the season. The Superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega) are the exceptions to the rule.

    Racing on a Superspeedway is a total crapshoot. The drivers do not control their own destiny at Daytona and Talladega. All a driver can do is to try to put their car in the right place at the end of the race and hope for the best.

    The last thing you want in fantasy NASCAR is to lose a start (in games that limit starts) with a top driver when the driver is caught up in “The Big One.”

    In last year’s Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson was one of the first drivers involved in a wreck. Johnson finished the race No. 42. Fantasy NASCAR players who used Johnson in this race probably wished they had that start with Johnson later in the season.

Pay Attention to Happy Hour

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    In most fantasy NASCAR games, your final lineup does not have to be set until the start of the race. Before you set your lineup be sure to check out the practice speeds at NASCAR.com.

    Before each race NASCAR allows at least two practice sessions. The last session is called Happy Hour. It is a one-hour practice to allow teams to fine tune their cars for the race.

    By checking out the practice times in Happy Hour, you will be able to gauge which drivers will have the best cars in the race.

    My strategy is to focus on the 10 lap average speeds, instead of the fastest speeds in practice. Drivers who have a car that can maintain a fast speed is the car you want on your fantasy team. Jayski.com is a great website to see the 10 lap averages for Happy Hour.