The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to Hampton, Georgia this week for the Quick Trips Folds of Honor 500.
The Atlanta Motor Speedway is a rough, worn out race track. The tires wear out quickly at Atlanta, forcing drivers to move around the race track to search for a place where their car can run fast.
Last season the Sprint Cup Series raced in the summer heat at Atlanta. This year the race will take place on a much cooler race track. The cooler air should provide more speed, causing the tires to wear out even more than they did last August.
Kevin Harvick dominated the last race at Atlanta. He won the pole and led 195 of the 335 laps. He was involved in a wreck on the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish and ended the race in No. 19 position. On the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Kasey Kahne powered his way past Matt Kenseth to win the race and lockup his spot in the Chase.
This will be the first race which NASCAR will fully implement the 2015 rule package. The horsepower will be reduced and the down force on the cars will be limited. Fantasy teams will get their first look at which drivers may compete for the championship in 2015.
Fantasy teams should focus on drivers who are good at searching the race track for the perfect place for their car to run. Some of the drivers who excel at this type of racing include Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart.
Here are my picks for the Quick Trips Folds of Honor 500 at Atlanta…
Yahoo Group A Picks
Lastweek Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing did not award bonus points for qualifying because of the qualifying procedures for the Daytona 500. This week fantasy teams will be rewarded 10 points for a driver who wins the pole position, five points for qualifying second, three points for qualifying third and one point for qualifying fourth.
This is a unique week for the Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game. Since the this is the first race where the 2015 rules package are in play, NASCAR are allowing teams two testing sessions on Thursday. This will allow fantasy teams to see the cars on track before their selections must be in Friday morning. It will be important to check my Fantasy NASCAR Facebook Page for my updated picks for the race.
There are many drivers in Group A who have had success at Atlanta. The lack of testing in the offseason along with the new rules package should really benefit the teams with the most money. It should take a few weeks for the less funded teams to catch up with the teams with all of the resources to build fast cars. It will be important to select drivers from Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske.
My sleeper pick for Group A is Ryan Newman. He finished seventh in the August race at Atlanta and he has a series-best average finishing position in the last seasons at the race track.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A…
Atlanta is one of Harvick’s best race tracks. He has finished six of his last eight races at Atlanta in the top 10. The only races he did not finish in the top 10 came last season when he won the pole, and led the most laps before getting caught up in an accident at the end of the race. The other came in 2010 when his engine let go. Harvick’s second-place finish in the Daytona 500 shows that he is picking up where he left off last season.
Gordon won two races on the intermediate race tracks last season and had a series-best 8.5 average finishing position in the races. In the race last August, Gordon had the fastest car on the long runs. No driver in the series has more wins at Atlanta then Gordon’s five wins. He is a good pick to win the pole and finish up front Sunday.
Other good choices: Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman
Yahoo Group B Picks
Fantasy NASCAR players should have no problem finding a good driver this week from Group B. There are many drivers in this group who have won races at Atlanta. The problem is that some of them have not been to Victory Lane at the race track in quite some time.
My sleeper pick for Group B this week is Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He usually performs well on worn out race tracks. Stenhouse won the pole at Atlanta in 2013 his rookie season and he has never finished outside the top 20 on the race track. This is a good week to take a chance with Stenhouse for your team.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B…
Edwards used to dominate the races at Atlanta. This is the race track where Edwards won his first Sprint Cup race, so it has to be a special track to him. Edwards has three wins and scored 11 top-10 finishes in his 17 starts at the race track. Last season he qualified 11th and finished fifth. His Joe Gibbs Racing car will provide him an opportunity to get back to Victory Lane at Atlanta.
If you are looking to wager which race track Larson win his first Sprint Cup race at, Atlanta is a good bet. Larson has only competed in one race in the Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta, but it did not take him long to figure it out. Last season Larson started on the second row and finished the race No. 8. He will be running next to the wall all day and it may prove to be the best way around the race track.
Kahne is the defending race winner at Atlanta. Last season he needed to win the race to make the Chase and he did it. Kahne is another driver who excels at searching for the perfect line for his car to run. I expect Hendrick Motorsports to bring fast cars to the race track this week. Kahne will have a good chance to finish up front in Sunday’s race.
Stewart used to be the driver to beat when the series traveled to Atlanta. He has three wins and scored 15 top-10 finishes in his 27 starts at the race track. Stewart is at his best when the race track forces drivers to search for a good grove for their cars. Stewart has been a risky pick the past two seasons, but the race on Sunday will prove that Smoke is on the rise.
Other good choices: Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Yahoo Group C Picks
It is a terrible what happened to Kyle Busch at Daytona last week and unfortunate what happened to his brother Kurt Busch. While we hate to capitalize on other’s misfortunes, losing the Busch brothers will provide fantasy teams so much needed help in Group C.
Regan Smith and Matt Crafton filled in nicely last week for the Busch brothers. This week it will be smart to remember the No. 41 and No. 18 teams when you select your Group C drivers.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C…
If you were ever going to use Patrick for your team, this is the week. Atlanta is one of Patrick’s best race tracks. Last season she started No. 27 and finished sixth. She is a good pick for a top-20 on Sunday.
Smith will once again be in the No. 41 car for Stewart Haas Racing. Smith is on baby watch, but all indications are he will be driving at Atlanta. He is a more competitive on the superspeedways, but he should still be able to get the job done at Atlanta. He is a great pick for Group C this week.
Other Good Choices: Michael Annett,David Ragan, Justin Allgaier and David Gilliland
Fantasy Live Picks
Last week the best strategy for Fantasy Live was to select drivers who started in the back with a good opportunity to improve their position in the race. This allowed fantasy teams to capitalize on the bonus points rewarded for finishing differential. The strategy this week is different.
Track position at Atlanta is more important than it was in the Daytona 500. It will still be important to take a couple of drivers who start from the middle of the pack to the back, but teams should not overlook the top drivers in order to get bonus points. Try to fill your team with two of the top drivers (any driver from Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing or Kevin Harvick), a cheap driver starting in the back and fill in the rest based upon the budget for your team.
Here are the five drivers I selected for Fantasy Live for the race at Atlanta:
Driver 1: Kevin Harvick
Driver 2: Jeff Gordon
Driver 3: Kasey Kahne
Driver 4: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Driver 5: Regan Smith
Pick to Win: Kevin Harvick
Fox Fantasy Racing
Since Fox Fantasy Racing changed their format for this season, many fantasy players are still trying to figure out the best way to build their championship team. The $50K salary cap allows fantasy to consist of five drivers with a realistic chance at running up front. Instead of trying to select drivers who I think will work their way from the back, I am selecting drivers who I think will have a great chance to finish in the top.
Here are my selections for Fox Fantasy Racing for Atlanta:
Driver 1: Kevin Harvick $12,900
Driver 2: Jimmie Johnson $10,500
Driver 3: Matt Kenseth $11,800
Driver 4: Carl Edwards $9,400
Driver 5: Regan Smith $5,200