There are my different types of fantasy NASCAR games out there. Each one provides different challenges and forces players to use specific strategies unique to the particular games in which they play.
Yahoo.Com offers one of the most challenging and popular forms of fantasy NASCAR. Yahoo Fantasy NASCAR breaks down the pool of Sprint Cup drivers into three groups called the A List, B List and C List. The A List consists of ten drivers who are thought to be the best ten before the season starts. The B List is made up of drivers a tier below the A List, but is a much bigger pool of drivers. The C List is everyone else that is left over. Make sure to note that these groups are selected before the season starts. As a result, you have drivers like Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the B List, even though they've been running very well in 2008.
Each week, you select a team of eight drivers before qualifying that consists of two A List drivers, four B List drivers, and two C List drivers. After qualifying, your roster is locked and you are not able to swap out any of your eight drivers. Of the eight drivers on your post-qualifying team, you select one A List driver, two B List drivers, and one C List driver that will be active for the race. These are the four drivers on your team that will receive points for how well they run in that weekend's race. Yahoo Fantasy NASCAR is unique due to the fact that you can only activate each driver a maximum of nine times throughout the season. This adds an interesting wrinkle to the game and forces you to change your strategy if you expect to be successful.
A List Strategy
As I mentioned earlier, the A List consists of 10 of the best drivers that the Sprint Cup Series has to offer. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are perennial A List drivers. Because there is so much talent here, you can afford to select the best possible A List drivers each week because the group is so deep.
There are situations, although rare, where you'll want to save an A List driver for certain racetracks. So far in 2008, Carl Edwards has absolutely dominated the 1.5 mile intermediate tracks, as well as the 2 mile super speedways like Michigan and Auto Club Speedway. Because the Sprint Cup schedule is loaded with races at these types of tracks, there is no reason to have Edwards on your team at a road course or at flat tracks like Richmond and Phoenix. Edwards might run well at the flat tracks, but why would you want to use one of your nine starts with him there when you know he has favorable tracks coming up?
B List Strategy
In my mind, managing your B List is the key to Yahoo Fantasy NASCAR success. Each week you start two drivers from this list, meaning you need 72 total starts over the course of the season. Because the B List drivers are a tier lower than the A List drivers and you need double the amount of starts over a 36 race season, you will have weeks where you are not starting the best possible team for that race. This is where Yahoo Fantasy NASCAR strategy changes from most other games. Many forms of fantasy NASCAR, including salary cap games, only focus on that weekend's race. There are no limits on driver starts over the course of the season, so your only concern is scoring as many points as possible for that specific race. So what changes should you make to your strategy to be successful in this style of fantasy NASCAR game?
My B List philosophy is much like a fantasy football draft philosophy. Fantasy NASCAR, just like fantasy football, is all about getting good value. For example, Jamie McMurray has not had a very good season so far in 2008. Because of this, McMurray is not a guy that fantasy players will look at on a week in and week out basis. At the Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway in March of 2008, McMurray posted a very solid 8 th place finish while Dale Earnhardt Jr., another B List driver, finished 6 th. I know that Earnhardt Jr. had a better finish and therefore scored more fantasy points for that race. But remember, this is all about value. How many more Top 10 finishes can you expect out of McMurray for the rest of the season? Aren't we all in agreement that it would be easier to score a Top 10 finish out of Earnhardt Jr. later in the season than it would for McMurray? So even though we didn't score as many points at Martinsville with McMurray, we saved a start with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will outperform McMurray by a larger margin most weeks. So the key here is finding sleepers at certain racetracks and getting as much value out of them as possible.
There is a friend of mine who plays in my Yahoo Fantasy NASCAR league and calls me every Sunday morning to get advice on which drivers he should start. And every Sunday morning he'll argue with me (even though he called me) about certain drivers because he and I have strategic differences. One of these discussions that we had took place before the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan and fully illustrates these strategic differences. He could not decide whether to start Kyle Busch or David Ragan as his second B List driver. I told him to start David Ragan because Roush Racing dominates Michigan and it is Ragan's best track. He ignored my advice and started Kyle Busch because in his opinion, Kyle Busch has a chance to win this weekend and you have to start a driver if he has a chance to win. Ultimately, Busch ended up finishing 2 nd while Ragan finished 3 rd. For that race, Busch scored more points than Ragan. Even though I didn't score as many fantasy points as my friend, I got more value. I was able to get a Top 5 finish out of Ragan while also saving a start with Busch, who has been the best fantasy NASCAR driver so far this season.
If you need help organizing your B List starts, make sure to download our B List calculator.
C List Strategy
C List strategy is very similar to the A List strategy. The only difference is that instead of having the cream of the crop, you have drivers who are much further down in the points standings. But every once in a while, there will be one C List driver that comes out of nowhere and takes the group by storm. This year, Brian Vickers is a C List driver, yet is running extremely well. Just like Carl Edwards, Vickers is a driver that has run so well on the large tracks that there is no reason to start him at Bristol or Martinsville. Remember, it's all about value, and you'll get the most value out of Vickers at the 1.5 mile tracks.
Because many C List drivers are so far down in the points, you need to be aware of whether they are locked into the field and will have an automatic starting spot at that weekend's race. According to NASCAR rules, the Top 35 cars in owner's points are guaranteed a starting spot. Remember, this changes week to week and can really burn you if your two C List drivers are out of the Top 35 and don't qualify for the race.
How should I pick my drivers each week?
There are many different schools of thought here and everyone does it their own way. I select my pre-qualifying drivers by:
1. Looking at past performance at this racetrack Some drivers and teams thrive at certain racetracks. Look at Jeff Gordon at Martinsville, Tony Stewart at road courses, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at restrictor plate races.
Remember, the new car (or Car of Tomorrow) is much different from the old car, so don't put too much of an emphasis on driver performances in the old car.
2. Looking at past performance at similar racetracks Some racetracks can be grouped together because they are similar. Talladega and Daytona are both restrictor plate races, Michigan and California are sister tracks, and Atlanta, Lowe's and Texas are all 1.5 mile intermediate racetracks.
3. Looking at current momentum Just because someone was good at a track last year or in recent history, doesn't mean they'll be good there this year. Jeff Gordon is one of the best road racers in NASCAR history and has always run well at Watkins Glen. This year he was absolutely horrible. Did he all of a sudden forget how to drive at a road course? Gordon had yet to win a race and that team had not been performing up to their ability before heading to Watkins Glen and therefore didn't have momentum.
On the other hand, Kyle Busch had never won at a road course in the Sprint Cup Series, but he swept both races this season. Did he all of sudden learn how to run at a road course? No, that team had momentum coming in which is a sign that their cars are dialed in right now.
In conclusion, you're looking to select drivers who have a good history at that week's racetrack as well as a good history at similar tracks, while also carrying momentum into that race.
After qualifying and practices are over, I select my active drivers by looking at where they qualified and how well they ran in practice. Remember, qualifying is just a starting spot and it's much more important to select drivers who feel comfortable in their cars and are fast in race trim.
If you're having problems selecting drivers at any point over the course of the season, head over to our Fantasy NASCAR Forum where there are many other knowledgeable fantasy NASCAR players who are willing to offer their advice.
If you have any questions regarding fantasy NASCAR strategy, driver selection, or anything fantasy NASCAR related, you can contact us at FantasyNascarPreview@gmail.com.