Past Performance at Current Racetrack
The first factor to consider when picking your weekly fantasy racing team is how well a driver has performed at the current racetrack. Whether it’s driving style, car setup and/or equipment, certain drivers run well at specific racetracks.
For example, when the Sprint Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are the drivers to beat. Knowing which drivers historically run well at the current racetrack will help you get a solid starting point for the week.
Past Performance at Similar Racetracks
Not only is the week’s racetrack important, but knowing how drivers perform at similar racetracks will also help when attempting to select your fantasy racing team.
Racetracks can be grouped together because they are similar in length, banking and other track characteristics. For example, Talladega and Daytona are both restrictor plate racetracks, Michigan and California are sister tracks, and Atlanta, Charlotte and Texas are all 1.5-mile intermediate racetracks.
Listed below are the categories of similar racetracks:
Restrictor Plate Tracks: Daytona, Talladega
2-Mile Superspeedways: Auto Club, Michigan
Flat Tracks: Phoenix, Martinsville, Richmond, New Hampshire
Highly Banked Concrete Tracks: Bristol, Dover
1.5-Mile Speedways: Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicagoland, Kansas, Las Vegas, Texas, Kentucky, Homestead
2.5-Mile Non-Restrictor Plate Superspeedways: Pocono, Indianapolis
Road Courses: Infineon, Watkins Glen
Certain drivers run better at specific track types, like those listed above. For example, Carl Edwards has a knack for the 1.5 mile racetracks. Knowing these track types and where drivers historically run well will also help you each week.
Once you’ve identified who runs well at a certain racetrack and those similar in configuration, it’s important to also consider how well a driver has performed over the last 4-6 weeks.
Just because a driver was good at a track last year or in recent history, doesn't mean he will automatically be good there this year.
Improvements in technology and specification changes to the actual racecar made by NASCAR make some statistics virtually useless.
For example, in 2008, the Sprint Cup Series began running the Car of Tomorrow (COT), or new car, full-time. As a result, all statistics prior to 2008 are irrelevant because the new car is significantly different than its predecessor.
For those interested, every week, we post Fantasy Racing Driver Rankings on our Blog and a Yahoo Fantasy Racing preview, specific to that week's race.
Weekly Practice Sessions
Each week, there are multiple practice sessions held to allow teams to get track time and attempt to fine tune their racecars.
Most practice sessions are broadcast on television and speeds are posted on multiple websites, making it easy to find the results of each session.
When looking at practice speeds, pay particular attention to the final practice session, which is also called Happy Hour. This final practice is the last chance for teams to dial in their cars for raceday. Additionally, it is often the practice session run closest to actual green flag weather conditions on raceday.
Weather has a very significant role on how fast a car will be during a race and setting up the car for certain conditions can make all of the difference.
As track temperatures drop, tires grip the racetrack easier, allowing the cars to handle better and run faster lap times. Conversely, as temperature rises, the tires get hot and slick, causing the cars to slide around the racetrack. A car that is sliding is tougher to drive, resulting in slower lap times.
Practice times are the single best indicator of who will run well and who will struggle during the race. Not only are fastest laps times important, but average speeds are also available, singling out cars that may not be able to run one fast lap, but will be fast deep into race runs.
Qualifying is important when identifying selecing your raceday roster because it has a real effect on the actual race. Starting position is valuable, but the level of importance is relative to each racetrack.
For example, Martinsville Speedway is a one-groove racetrack. The groove is the line on the racetrack that cars run to be fast. Therefore, one-groove racetracks bottle cars up and make it hard to pass because drivers are fighting for the same line on the track.
Because it’s difficult to pass at one-groove racetracks, having a good starting position means drivers don't have to overwork their cars to make passes and can "save their stuff" for later in the race.
On the other hand, races run at larger racetracks, like Auto Club Speedway and Daytona International Speedway, put less of an emphasis on starting position because they offer multiple grooves, making it easier for drivers to pass and overcome a bad qualifying position.
Pit stall selections are also based on qualifying and are just as important as where a driver starts a race. The driver who wins the pole gets to pick his pit stall first, then the second place qualifier picks his stall and so on.
This is significant because each racetrack has some pit stalls that are better than others. Most pole winning teams select the first pit stall at the end of pit road. That is advantageous because their drivers won't have any cars pitting in front of them and can drive straight off as soon as their service is complete.
Just like starting position, having a good pit stall is more important at some racetracks than at others. Martinsville is notorious for pit road accidents because the stalls are small and there is very little room to maneuver.
Conversely, Pocono Raceway has a very wide pit road, allowing drivers to maneuver more easily, therefore decreasing the probability of a slow stop or accident.
After qualifying and the final practice session concludes, we post a practice breakdown on our Blog, complete with analysis and driver rankings.
Every raceday, we also host a Live Fantasy Racing Chat where we unveil our rosters for the race and answer fantasy racing questions submitted by readers.