Fantasy NASCAR

Fantasy NASCAR: Taking Stock at the All-Star Break

Reviewing and previewing the 2012 Sprint Cup season
<p> Athlon Sports Fantasy NASCAR expert Jay Pennell reviews the Sprint Cup campaign as the circuit hits the All-Star weekend in Charlotte.</p>
2012

The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has hit the all-star break this week, with no fantasy racing on the schedule. With the brief break in action, now is a great time to assess your year up to this point in the season, examine a few trends through the first 11 races and look ahead to next week's Coca-Cola 600.

While this year has seen a number of surprises, it’s also been somewhat predictable.

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Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Talladega

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's race in Talladega
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.</p>
2012

Nine races in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and each team in approaching Sunday's Aaron's 499 with varying goals in mind. Often viewed as a “wild card” race, teams will be working on different agendas as the field jockeys for position inches away from each other — and the “Big One” — lap after lap.

The entire course of a race, not to mention fantasy weekend, can change in one instant, so choose carefully and look for those drivers that are good at avoiding trouble.

Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Talladega

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's race in Talladega
Two Right Sidebar Images
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.</p>
2012

Nine races in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and each team in approaching Sunday's Aaron's 499 with varying goals in mind. Often viewed as a “wild card” race, teams will be working on different agendas as the field jockeys for position inches away from each other — and the “Big One” — lap after lap.

The entire course of a race, not to mention fantasy weekend, can change in one instant, so choose carefully and look for those drivers that are good at avoiding trouble.

Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Talladega

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's race in Talladega
Two Right Sidebar Images
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.</p>
2012

Nine races in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and each team in approaching Sunday's Aaron's 499 with varying goals in mind. Often viewed as a “wild card” race, teams will be working on different agendas as the field jockeys for position inches away from each other — and the “Big One” — lap after lap.

The entire course of a race, not to mention fantasy weekend, can change in one instant, so choose carefully and look for those drivers that are good at avoiding trouble.

Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Talladega

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's race in Talladega
Two Right Sidebar Images
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.</p>
2012

Nine races in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and each team in approaching Sunday's Aaron's 499 with varying goals in mind. Often viewed as a “wild card” race, teams will be working on different agendas as the field jockeys for position inches away from each other — and the “Big One” — lap after lap.

The entire course of a race, not to mention fantasy weekend, can change in one instant, so choose carefully and look for those drivers that are good at avoiding trouble.

Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Texas

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's race in Kansas
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway.</p>
2012

Typically known for dealing with the thunderous roar of tornadoes, this weekend the Sprint Cup Series storms into Kansas for the STP 400.

Sunday’s race will be the 12th for the Sprint Cup Series at the Kansas Speedway, and the last on the current surface. Following the 400-miler, the track will be repaved prior to the series returning for its mid-October Chase date.

Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Texas

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Saturday's race in Texas
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.</p>
2012

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series shrugs off the much-needed weekend off and heads to Texas Motor Speedway for this Saturday night's Samsung Mobile 500.

Anytime the series makes its way to the high-speed, mile-and-a-half track in Fort Worth, the Roush Fenway brigade is the team to watch. Since the inaugural event in 1997, the Roush cars have been among the fastest and the “Cat in the Hat” is usually holding a trophy at the end of the day.

Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Bristol

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's race in Bristol

by Jay Pennell

It's Bristol, baby!

This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the hills of East Tennessee for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. NASCAR’s modern day Colosseum has been home to some of the most dramatic moments in the sport’s history, and always produces great racing.

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<p> Fantasy NASCAR predictions for the Food City 500 from Bristol Motor Speedway.</p>

This week’s darkhorse pick goes to Martin Truex Jr. out of the Michael Waltrip Racing stable.

The driver of the No. 56 NAPA Toyota is in a “put up or shut up” season, with contract negotiations on the books for later in the year. To say the New Jersey native has underperformed over the past few seasons is a bit of an understatement. Many expected big things from the two-time Nationwide Series champion, but with only one Sprint Cup Series victory in 228 starts, time is running out.

Yet, Truex entered the season optimistic about the newly remodeled and upgraded MWR. The addition of teammates Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and competition director Scott Miller has Truex pleased with fast race cars and the opportunity to run up front.

And run up front is exactly what Truex did in this race last season. Leading a total of 63 laps, it looked as if the No. 56 was set for a solid day until the handling went away and Truex faded late in the race. Learning from their mistakes, the team showed up prepared to finish the job in August, scoring a second-place finish behind race winner Brad Keselowski.

With Truex looking to quell the contract talk and get back to Victory Lane, Bristol might just be the place to make a statement. If he and crew chief Chad Johnston can avoid trouble and keep up with the changing racetrack throughout, I expect a solid day out of him.

Three Darkhorse Picks: Martin Truex Jr., Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray

Best of luck to all the fantasy NASCAR participants out there, and most importantly, don't forget to set your lineups!

Average Bristol Finish, Last Six Races (Wins)
1. Kyle Busch — 4.5 (4)
2. Ryan Newman — 8.8 (0)
3. Jimmie Johnson — 9.0 (1)
4. Kurt Busch — 9.0 (0)
5. Carl Edwards — 10.0 (0)
6. Matt Kenseth — 11.3 (0)
7. Jeff Gordon — 11.5 (0)
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. — 11.7 (0)
9. Brad Keselowski — 12.8 (1)*
10. Jamie McMurray — 14.2 (0)
* Four starts

@JayWPennell
 

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2012
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Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Las Vegas

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's race in Las Vegas

by Jay Pennell

While our 2012 fantasy season got off to a great start in Daytona, last weekend's race at Phoenix International Raceway proved even the hands-down favorite — in this case Kasey Kahne — can find trouble and ruin a fantasy day.

Anything can, and will, happen throughout the course of a race, making NASCAR one of the toughest fantasy sports to predict.

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<p> Fantasy NASCAR predictions for the Kobalt Tools 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.</p>

 

Another driver I have my eye on this weekend is five-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Like Stewart, the 2012 season has not gotten off to the kind of start Johnson or his Hendrick Motorsports team expected. Issues during the initial inspection at Daytona cost the No. 48 team 25 driver and owner points, a hefty fine, and the loss of crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec for six races (pending appeal).

Once in the race, a wreck on Lap 2 resulted in a 42nd-place — and his sixth straight finish of 27th or worse in the Daytona 500. The subsequent penalty from the failed inspection left Johnson heading to Phoenix with negative points in the championship standings.

While Knaus and Malec have been able to remain at the track as NASCAR and HMS work through the appeal process, the No. 48 team is in a huge hole. That said, the team was able to recover nicely in Phoenix, scoring a fourth-place finish on Sunday, but Johnson is currently 38th in the standings, 71 points out of the lead.

Sitting so deep in the standings, Johnson has set his focus on making the Chase — one way or another. Well out of contention for the points lead, the former champion understands that at this point, his best bet to make the Chase could be through one of the two Wild Card spots. That means the No. 48 team will be looking to win races early and often.

And if that’s the objective, Vegas is a good track for Johnson to meet the goal. His 48 team has four wins, four top 5s and five top 10s in 10 LVMS starts. With that track record and Knaus and Malec still at the track, I expect the 48 to be among the front-runners throughout Sunday’s race, leading to a strong day on the fantasy side of things.

For this weekend’s darkhorse pick, I’m looking towards Richard Petty Motorsports’ Marcos Ambrose. Although the driver of the No. 9 Ford has only three starts at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ambrose lists the track among his favorite on the circuit. During last year's event, Ambrose started from the outside pole and finished the day in fourth after showings of 14th in 2010 and 20th in ’09.

Already in 2012, Ambrose and the team have shown they are capable of running up front and contending for wins. After a strong run throughout the afternoon in Phoenix, engine issues late in the race ruined what looked to be an assured top-10 run. If Ambrose and his Todd Parrott-led team can avoid mistakes and engine issues, I expect a solid fantasy day from the No. 9 group.

Throughout the weekend, keep a close eye on practices and qualifying, as track position will be key in Sunday's race. Clean air and pit strategy will be paramount in determining the winner at the end of 400 miles in Vegas.

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2012
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