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Fantasy Racing: Season Preview

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 12 2010

By Nick Bromberg | Senior Correspondent

Fantasy race fans were holding their breath for a while as ESPN.com’s fantasy racing game looked like it wouldn’t be returning in 2010, leaving Yahoo! as the only fantasy racing provider of the major sports websites.

However, ESPN’s “Stock Car Challenge” has returned, albeit with a few changes. Instead of players forming leagues and having a draft like fantasy football and baseball, ESPN’s format is very similar to Yahoo!’s in 2010.

Yahoo!’s format is basically unchanged for this year as drivers are grouped into A, B and C categories, while ESPN is only using A and B categories, and it looks like there are no usage limits for each driver. Helpful fantasy hint #1: Pick Jimmie Johnson nearly every weekend. The use of two categories by the Worldwide Leader is a little confounding given that drivers like David Reutimann and Jeff Burton are in the same category as Mike Bliss and Aric Almirola. Helpful fantasy hint #2: You’re not going to do well with start and park drivers in either of your two B slots. Also, ESPN hasn’t updated their driver roster yet. Most notably, Jamie McMurray and Martin Truex Jr. are still listed as with their 2009 teams.

So what can you expect this year as you struggle to decide between Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose?

–Be a little wary of the Kyle Busch bandwagon. It’s pretty full. Yeah, Busch is the Vegas favorite to win the Daytona 500, but he still doesn’t have much experience working with Dave Rogers and while he says that he’s going to be more aware of points racing this year, wait until you see Busch settling for top 10s before you consistently depend on him. Of course, there’s also the possibility that he wins the first three races of the year. You never know.

–Kurt Busch could be even better this year. Steve Addington has experience with Shrub, and if you’ve ever listened to the Busch brothers on the radio, you can tell that they’re cut from the same cloth. As long as Kurt and Brad Keselowski stay out of each other’s way, the Blue Deuce should easily be in the Chase again. I don’t think that being the only Dodge team will affect Penske Racing that much, but if there is a reason for concern, the lack of information relative to the other teams is it.

–Don’t discount Denny Hamlin just because of his knee. His ACL injury is going to impact him more outside of the car than it will inside of it. The ACL is the primary ligament involved in stabilization of the knee during flexion, and given the cocoon that drivers are in while driving, there’s not much room—or use—for knee flexion during the course of the race. It may be stiff as heck when Hamlin gets out of the car, but if he’s chasing down the leader with 20 laps to go, he’s not even going to feel it.

–Martin Truex Jr. should be your top sleeper. Truex is much closer to the caliber of driver that David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose are than Michael Waltrip was, and if Truex has the same quality of equipment as his two teammates—there’s no reason to expect that he won’t—he could easily finish in the top 20.

–Wait on Dale Earnhardt Jr. If Junior really is that much better in a car with a spoiler, wait to use him until after March when the spoilers are implemented. Sure, he’s probably a good bet at Daytona—assuming he doesn’t wreck the field again—but otherwise wait until Phoenix.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 12 2010
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