The second race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship takes place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a.k.a. ‘The Magic Mile’, and it is the second stop of the season at the New England flat track. The winner of this race receives a lobster. Yes, a real, live lobster is the unique ‘trophy’ pictured with the driver after winning the race. It sure isn’t a grandfather clock like the winner receives at Martinsville, but it might be a lot more delicious than Martinsville’s famous hot dogs.
In recent seasons it has been a haven for Toyota, especially Joe Gibbs Racing, while Ford has also notched a couple of victories. A Chevrolet hasn’t been to Victory Lane since July 2012, a span of eight races.
Can he do it again? That’s what they’ll be asking of JGR’s Matt Kenseth ($10,100), who enters with two straight victories in Loudon. Over the past five races he has a Driver Rating at 112.9, leading just 77 laps over the past five stops, but again he has those two wins. Not only has he been great in finishing races, his pit crew and chief have used the perfect strategy when it comes to fuel. These races often are fuel-mileage games, and lately Kenseth’s chief Jason Ratcliff has been a master at getting his driver to the finish line on fumes while others fall by the wayside.
(DraftKings.com salaries in parentheses)
Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski ($9,900) leads all drivers with a 121.0 Driver Rating over the past five runs at the Magic Mile, leading 321 laps while running 92.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. His 7.4 Average-Finish Position (AFP) during the span is second only to Kenseth. Kes took checkers at the July 2014 race in a caution-filled race, and those are usually the type races he excels. Like Kenseth’s team, crew chief Paul Wolfe is another excellent fuel-mileage wizard who gets the most out of every drop of Sunoco, especially in races with plenty of yellow flags and restarts. The Blue Deuce is one of the best with very little gas near the end, and if someone is to break up Kenseth’s run it will be Keselowski. He just might not have enough gas for a celebratory burnout in the end, though.
Teammate Joey Logano ($9,600) hasn’t been as dominant this season as last year, at least earlier in the schedule, but NHMS will always hold a special place in the New England native’s heart and you can expect a strong performance. His first Cup win came back in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 in June 2009, and he picked up another ‘Lobstah’. Over the past five runs he has a 107.1 Driver Rating, leading 88 laps while running 85.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Logano struggled at Pocono in late July, but has since rattled off six straight Top 10 finishes, including a pair of runner-ups. Another Top 10 is in the offing this weekend. At $27.75 and $27.25, a one-two Penske strategy in NASCAR’s Fantasy Live isn’t a bad way to start building your lineup.
JGR’s Denny Hamlin ($9,300) leads all active drivers with a 10.2 AFP in 21 career starts at New Hampshire, posting a pair of wins, although his last win at the track was Sept. 2012, and he ranks sixth in Driver Rating at 104.7 over the past five starts while posting a mediocre 14.0 AFP. His overall body of work at the track is good, though, and he cannot be overlooked. He has 13 Top 10s in 21 starts while leading 495 laps and not one DNF. Teammate Carl Edwards ($9,800) has never won at the track in 24 tries, but he ranks eighth in AFP at 13.5, posting 23 finishes inside the Top 20. In fact, his only career start finishing outside of the Top 20 was a 25th-place finish, and even that isn’t terrible. He isn’t dominant at the track, but he is very consistent and Fantasy NASCAR owners love that.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Tony Stewart ($8,400) makes his final appearance at the track, and he sure would love to finish with a win to enhance his championship possibilities. He has been to Victory Lane three times at Loudon with the most recent in the Sylvania 300 back in Sept. 2011, the year of his last Sprint Cup Series championship. However, he was runner-up in the mid-July race earlier this season. While he doesn’t rank in the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five stops at the track, he is fifth overall among active drivers with a 12.2 AFP in 34 career starts. Smoke has 15 Top 5s and his 1,302 laps led is second only to Jeff Gordon, who is not available again this weekend.
Another SHR driver, Kevin Harvick ($10,700), has been running hot at NHMS lately. He has a 117.0 Driver Rating over the past five runs, second only to Keselowski, while leading everyone with 379 laps led and 96.9 percent of his laps turned inside the Top 15. Unfortunately, he has a 12.2 AFP during the span, as he has been losing the fuel-mileage game. Last September Harvick dominated by leading 216 laps, but ran out of fuel with less than 3 to go, and he looked on longingly as Kenseth celebrating with the lobster. Crew chief Rodney Childers hasn’t been great at the fuel-mileage game, but the No. 4 team will be working hard to rectify their problems. Harvick is expensive in DFS, but a great Fantasy play across the board, especially for fastest laps and laps led bonus points.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,400) always seems to be overlooked because he isn’t on a ‘big-name’ team. However, the Furniture Row Racing driver just continues to pile up wins and impressive performances. He won for the second time in three races last weekend in Chicago, and he has been third or better in each of the past three. During that impressive stretch he has recorded 43 or more fastest laps, leading the pack for 253 total laps. MTJ is a solid five-figure play in DraftKings this weekend based on his dominance lately, and in recent runs at Loudon. He has no wins in 21 starts at the track, but he is 10th in AFP among drivers with at least six starts and he has been inside the Top 20 on 18 different occasions.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson ($9,500) has not been ticking off wins this season like he normally does, and you shouldn’t expect a celebration in New Hampshire. He has really missed having a dominant teammate in Dale Earnhardt Jr., perhaps more than J.J. and crew chief Chad Knaus will admit. While Chase Elliott ($8,700) is in the Chase, and has been good, Kasey Kahne ($7,400) is not nearly consistent enough, and the turnstile in the 88 machine lately hasn’t help team continuity. Alex Bowman ($7,700) is back behind the wheel of the 88, and doing his best, but this isn’t a championship-caliber team right now. Johnson is outside the Top 10 in Driver Rating in the past five starts at New Hampshire, and Chevy hasn’t won in eight races at NHMS. You can avoid the Hendrick stable for Fantasy purposes, at least for this week.
Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman ($8,000) might not be in the Chase, but he could crash the party at Loudon. In 29 career starts he has a 13.3 AFP with three wins, and he has 18 Top 10 finishes while leading 722 laps. His AFP is slightly better than the likes of Harvick, Edwards, Truex Jr., Logano, etc., and he comes with a much cheaper price tag. Using Newman in cash games or GPPs is a sound strategy, as his ownership percentage might be rather smallish compared to the more heralded Chase drivers. He was seventh at the first race in New Hampshire in mid-July. Teammate Austin Dillon ($8,200) has four Top 20s in five career starts and is also a strong mid-tier play. Dillon finished 13th in the first race at the track this season.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson ($9,100) hit a rough patch at Chicagoland last weekend, slipping to 18th, but he still has a 6.0 AFP over the past four races, totaling 75 fastest laps during the span. He has just five starts at New Hampshire under his belt, but two have resulted in Top 5s, and he has finished outside the Top 20 just once, posting a 14.0 AFP. At this price level he is a strong low-end No. 2 or must-have No. 3 driver for DFS and Fantasy purposes.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle ($7,200) was fifth at the track in mid-July, and he has a win with 11 Top 10s and 21 Top 20s in 28 career starts all-time, posting a respectable 15.3. You shouldn’t depend on Biffle as one of your top drivers, but he could exceed salary expectations with a repeat performance of what he did back in July. Clint Bowyer ($7,000) is another low-priced guy with a strong history in Loudon. He has two wins in 21 tries, posting 13 Top 20s with 516 career laps led. As No. 5 or 6 drivers in DFS, they’re options with a little upside.
If you need to save even more salary, look to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,700). He has seven starts in New Hampshire, finishing in the Top 10 twice while posting four Top 20s and an AFP of 20.9. One of those Top 10s came in mid-July when he just missed a career-best at the track, bringing it home in the 10th position. Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola ($6,100) tumbled to a 32nd-place finish last week, but is a nice contrarian play this weekend. He has 12 starts at NHMS, posting a Top 5, two Top 10s and five Top 20s with a 21.1 AFP. He exceeded that mark slightly in mid-July, finishing 19th.
SHR’s Danica Patrick ($6,500) surprised with a 14th-place in mid-July at Loudon, and she is working on a string of 10 straight races finishing 24th or better. If she can keep the streak alive she isn’t a bad No. 5 or 6 driver for Fantasy purposes at this low-level salary, allowing you to stock up with another sure-fire option up top.
Tommy Baldwin Racing’s Regan Smith ($5,200) did not race in Chicago, as he left late for the birth of his child. Among the lowest-priced drivers, he has shown the most consistency lately, posting four straight finishes inside the Top 30 with five fastest laps and three laps led sprinkled in. If you are in a salary crunch at the bottom of your roster, Smith is your best bet among the lowest-priced drivers.
NASCAR FANTASY LINEUPS FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE
|No.||Driver||DraftKings Salary||No.||Driver||Fantasy Live Salary||No.||Yahoo! Sports Driver|
|1||Matt Kenseth||$10,100||1||Martin Truex Jr.||$27.00||1||Matt Kenseth|
|2||Brad Keselowski||$9,900||2||Matt Kenseth||$26.50||2||Martin Truex Jr.|
|3||Joey Logano||$9,600||3||Ryan Newman||$21.50||3||Ryan Newman|
|4||Tony Stewart||$8,400||4||Tony Stewart||$16.75||4||Chris Buescher|
|5||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||$6,700||5||Regan Smith||$8.00|