NASCAR: Beginners Guide To Fantasy Racing In 2017

 Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

A new NASCAR season is here, which means, now is the time to jump into a NASCAR fantasy racing league and put your skills to the test.

Why play fantasy racing in 2017? For starters, there’s a brand new group of rookies ready to make a name for themselves. Carl Edwards, a final four driver from a year ago, retired which makes two big names to leave the sport after Homestead. The other was Tony Stewart. Last but not least, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is finally back after missing half of the 2016 season.

We didn’t even mention all of the shuffling of teams and drivers during the offseason. But guess what? None of that really matters when you’re ready to play fantasy racing. You know why?

Fantasy racing doesn’t car about car number, team, or manufacturer, it only cares about where the drivers you selected finishes. That’s right, drivers. Depending on the platform you play in, you can choose anywhere from four to six drivers to start each week. That makes your fantasy racing experience that much better.

If it sounds like selection overload, it’s not. Here’s a look at your top fantasy racing options.

May 15, 2016; Dover, DE, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) leads driver Matt Kenseth (20) during the AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

May 15, 2016; Dover, DE, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (88) leads driver Matt Kenseth (20) during the AAA 400 Drive For Autism at Dover International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing

Probably the most popular option among racing fans, Yahoo! Fantasy is a free, season-long fantasy racing game. Not only is it one of the most popular options, it is also one of the easiest to learn.

Lineup

The drivers are divided into three different groups, A, B and C. You can choose one active driver and one bench driver in Groups A and C. In Group B, you can choose two active drivers and two bench drivers.

The bench spots are important because each team will accumulate points for drivers who qualify in the four best starting positions after qualifying, regardless of whether or not you start them. More on that later.

You can choose a driver nine times throughout the season. Once you reach nine, you can’t start them any longer or leave them on your bench as they won’t accumulate any points.

Scoring

  • The winning driver gets the maximum 90 fantasy points.
  • The other drivers receive two fewer points for every spot they finish behind the leader. So, the second-place driver will receive 88 points, the third-place driver gets 86, and so on.
  • The top qualifier receives 10 bonus points, the second receives five, the third receives three and the fourth receives one. Qualifying points aren’t given for the Daytona 500.
  • An additional 10 bonus points are awarded to each driver who leads at least one lap during a race.
  • The driver leading the most laps during a race will also earn another 10 bonus points.

Strategy

Choosing drivers based on a combination of track history and fantasy points per race is the key to success. Yahoo! provides both of these sortable statistics through their fantasy racing game.

A good example of why fantasy racing points per race is Jimmie Johnson’s season from a year ago. Johnson was ultimately the champion after reaching the final four at Homestead. But his fantasy racing points per race were the lowest of the four drivers at 69.86. In comparison, Joey Logano, and Kyle Busch both scored more than 78 fantasy points per race last year.

Choosing drivers who qualify well is an easy way to earn bonus points. Fantasy racing players should select their bench drivers in each group based upon their ability to qualify well at the current track they are racing at. For example, Denny Hamlin qualified inside the top four 13 different times last year.

Tips

Don’t beat yourself by leaving drivers in an active position after they have reached their maximum of nine starts.

Pay attention to which drivers are racing each weekend. Injuries, just like with any other sport, play a factor in NASCAR, so it is important to stay up to date with any changes.

Don’t save one driver for the playoffs “in case they get hot” during that stretch. If a driver is performing well during the regular season, use them then. One of the worst things to do is reach Homestead and have a handful of top-level Group A drivers with five or more starts still available.

Jul 2, 2016; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski (2), driver Kyle Larson (42), driver Joey Logano (22), driver Kyle Busch (18), and driver Kyle Larson (42) cross the restart line with three laps to go during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 2, 2016; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski (2), driver Kyle Larson (42), driver Joey Logano (22), driver Kyle Busch (18), and driver Kyle Larson (42) cross the restart line with three laps to go during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

DraftKings NASCAR Leagues

DraftKings is making their presence known in fantasy racing realms by offering multiple daily fantasy racing options for the NASCAR fan. With so many options to choose from and different dollar amounts for each contest, we will focus our time on the structure of the salary cap contests.

Lineup

Fantasy racing players can choose a total of six drivers, who must stay at or below the salary cap of $50,000. Each driver has a set salary for each week, and those salaries can change week

by week. Remember, your lineup will reset each week and you will have to start with a new roster.

Scoring

DraftKings does their scoring a little differently compared to the Yahoo! version of fantasy racing. Drivers have a couple different options to accumulate points.

  • Points: The winning driver receives 46 points. Second place receives 42 points, third place 41 points, and so on.
  • Place Differential: A drivers starting position is subtracted by their finishing position, resulting in points given for place differential. For example, if Kyle Busch qualifies 15th and finishes 5th, he is given 10 points. If Martin Truex Jr. qualifies 1st and finishes 11th, he will have 10 points subtracted from his total. Note that starting position is not the same as qualifying position.
  • Fastest Laps and Laps Led: Drivers are given .5 fantasy points for setting fastest laps and .25 fantasy points for leading a lap.

Strategy

This is where the season-long and daily fantasy option formats differ the most. In DraftKings, you have to pay attention to starting position the most.

If a driver qualifies in 1st, you need to make sure to do your homework and consider whether or not that driver can finish inside the top 10. If not, you are already giving up a possible nine points right off the bat.

However if a driver starts mid-way through the field or lower, make sure to give them a good look before placing them in your lineup. At tracks like Talladega and Daytona, the strategy of starting drivers from the back of the field will pay off the most.

It is important to have a balance between high priced drivers, mid-tier drivers and lower priced drivers. Realistically, most lineups see the biggest bang for their buck coming from the mid-tier drivers.

Lastly, the more laps in a race can be a bonus. If the race is at Bristol and you want to start a driver inside the top-five, go for it. You could cash in on some easy laps led bonus fantasy points..

Tips

Pay attention to drivers salaries, track history and a drivers average fantasy points under this format. Stay away from the high-priced drivers who are underperforming.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance on the mid-level priced drivers who are outperforming their high-priced counterparts. Lastly, brush up on some notes from their 2016 playbook.

May 1, 2016; Talladega, AL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick (10) and driver Matt Kenseth (20) crash during the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

May 1, 2016; Talladega, AL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick (10) and driver Matt Kenseth (20) crash during the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR Fantasy Live

If you want the experience of DraftKings without having to put any cash on the table, then NASCAR Fantasy Live is one of two options. NASCAR Fantasy Live provides updates as the race unfolds. This is the only system so far to incorporate stage points into their format.

Lineup

Fantasy racing players will choose a team of five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers on a weekly basis and keep them under the $100 salary cap.

Scoring

NASCAR Fantasy Live follows a traditional approach compared to DraftKings but provides some unique twists for bonus points and stage points.

  • Points: The winner receives 40 points. Second place gets 35, third place gets 34, and so on. 36th-40th place earn 1 point.
  • State Points: Drivers who are running 1st through 10th at the conclusion of Stage One and Stage Two of the race receive stage points, starting with 10 points for first place, nine points for second place, and so on. down to one point for 10th place. Their Stage One and Stage Two totals will be added together for total stage points for that race.
  • Fastest Laps and Laps Led: Total number of fastest laps by a driver and total number of laps led by a driver will both be divided by two.
  • Place Differential: A drivers starting position is subtracted by their finishing position, resulting in points given for place differential. Note that starting position is not the same as qualifying position.
  • Bonus points for car manufacturer: There is a ten point bonus for picking the winning car manufacturer for that race.
  • Bonus points for winning driver: There is a 30-point bonus for picking the race winning driver.

Strategy

In this format, many of the same principles from DraftKings apply here. Paying attention to starting position, choosing a driver who has the capability to lead laps and managing driver salaries will pay off each week.

The bonus points provide a unique twist to this format. Ten points are up for grabs for choosing the winning manufacturer and when Chevrolets and Toyotas dominated for a majority of the 2016 season, that could be an easy ten points.

Choosing the winning driver is a bit more tricky with upwards of 40 to choose from on a weekly basis. At the same time, choosing the correct winning driver can erase a bad lineup selection for that week, or add to an already stellar weekly performance.

Tips

Don’t forget to choose a winning car manufacturer and winning driver. Leaving these blank each week is leaving possible points on the table that could result in your team winning or losing.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

FOX Fantasy Auto

FOX provides another alternative to the daily fantasy format with their version of NASCAR fantasy racing, with fewer bonus points options than NASCAR Fantasy Live for a more simpler approach. FOX Fantasy Auto provides live updates as the race unfolds.

Lineup

Fantasy racing players can choose a total of five drivers, who must stay at or below the salary cap of $50,000. Each driver has a set salary for each week, and those salaries can change week by week.

Scoring

FOX’s version of scoring is very similar to DraftKings and NASCAR Fantasy Live. However, FOX is one of the few fantasy racing platforms that mentions the newest changes to NASCAR rules having an impact on their scoring structure.

On their website they state: “We will be deciding over the next couple weeks how this will impact our Fantasy Auto scoring rules. Stay tuned!”

For the time being, this is how the points are scored.

  • Points: The winning driver earns 43 fantasy points, second place receives 39 fantasy points, third place receives 38 fantasy points and so on.
  • Most Laps Led and Laps Led: A driver will earn one bonus point for each lap led and the driver who leads the most laps will earn an additional bonus point.
  • Place Differential: A drivers starting position is subtracted by their finishing position, resulting in points given for place differential. Note that starting position is not the same as qualifying position.

Strategy

This version is the most straightforward of the daily fantasy format trio. Drivers are not scored on fastest laps and only receive a single point for leading a lap or an additional point for leading the most laps. This means, you want to stick with the drivers who will finish up front.

Place differential will be a way to get ahead of your competition each week, so paying attention to qualifying position will be key.

Tips

This is a copy and paste from DraftKings for the most part.

Pay attention to drivers salaries, track history and a drivers average fantasy points under this format. Stay away from the high-priced drivers who are underperforming.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance on the mid-level priced drivers who are outperforming their high-priced counterparts.

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