To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s nine-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.
Far removed from the glitz and glamour — and the restrictor plates and multi-car crashes — of Daytona International Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to the far northeast for Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The "Magic Mile" is a tight, flat oval that's largely a big version of Martinsville Speedway. Sunday's race marks the first of two visits to the track with the second serving as the second race in this fall's Chase for the Sprint Cup. Here are the picks for the weekend:
B-List (pick four, start two)
1. Jeff GordonThis pick may seem a bit peculiar thanks to Gordon's last win at New Hampshire coming in 1998. Gordon, however, has been markedly consistent at the flat oval. His worst finish since 2005 is 15th, and he's picked up three top-5 finishes in the last six NHMS races. Further, Gordon's averaging running position (7.2) at NHMS in the last eight years is the best in the circuit. He'll be a solid choice Sunday.
2. Denny Hamlin
The only driver with a better average finish than Gordon in the last 16 races at NASCAR's lone New England stop is Denny Hamlin. Hamlin, trying to bounce back from consecutive weeks that ended in crashes, comes to NHMS with a win and four top-5 finishes in his last six starts. Last year, Hamlin dominated New Hampshire by leading 343 of 601 laps which resulted in a win and a runner-up finish.
Also consider: Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart
B-List (pick four, start two)
1. Ryan Newman
Newman has three career wins in his career at New Hampshire (he won his first career race there in 2002 and then won again in ’05 and ’07) and figures to be in the running to at least trigger another free Bloomin' Onion giveaway from his sponsor with a top-10 finish. Driver No. 39 had a chance to sweep both NHMS races in 2011, but lost a tire and finished 26th in the September race. Without that failure, Newman would be riding a streak of seven straight NHMS top-10 finishes.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. The No. 88 hasn't been consistently stellar at NHMS in recent years, but Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s average running position of 11.9 on the one-mile track ranks best among B-List drivers in the last eight races. In 2012, Earnhardt finished fourth in the July NHMS race and 13th in September. On the downside, Earnhardt hasn't led at Loudon since 2008.
3. Jeff Burton
Burton's NASCAR legacy includes being the last driver to lead every lap in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race — a feat he accomplished at New Hampshire when NASCAR slapped restrictor plates on cars for one race in 2000 after the tragic deaths of Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty. Thirteen years later Burton doesn't seem like a win threat, but he's the guy to go with if you're looking for a B-Lister with plenty of starts left to score a top 15. Six of Burton's last seven New Hampshire finishes have been between 12th and 16th.
4. Joey LoganoYou'll remember Logano's first career win came at NHMS in 2009 when he stayed out during a late caution for rain that wound up ending the race. He's back at New Hampshire this time in a bid to restart his quiet streak of six straight finishes of 11th or better that ended in a crash at Daytona. Logano was 14th and eighth last season in Loudon and has a career average finish of 15.3 at the track.
Also consider: Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch
C-List (pick two, start one)
1. Casey MearsQuietly this season Mears has become a steady performer in the C-List loaded with drivers who never seem to break 25th. Now 24th in points, Mears hasn't finished worse than 23rd since a crash at Darlington eight races ago. He's also scored three straight top-20 finishes. Most telling for the improved Germain Racing camp is that Mears ran 14th at Phoenix earlier this season — a track that has many crossover characteristics with NHMS.
2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
If you like what Mears has done this season, you certainly like what Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has accomplished as a C-Lister in 2013. He doesn't have a single DNF and has finished on the lead lap of all but four races. Still, Stenhouse is looking for his first top 10 of 2013. New Hampshire might be a good place for that, seeing as Stenhouse recorded a pair of top-5 finishes at the track in his last two Nationwide Series starts. Like Mears, his 16th-place run at Phoenix may be indicative of a solid day, too.
Also consider: AJ Allmendinger, David Ragan
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter:@GeoffreyMiller
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.