Fantasy NASCAR Picks – Watkins Glen
It’s time to turn left and right again, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup series takes on their second road course of the season, the 2.45 mile circuit at Watkins Glen International.
Unlike the road course at Sonoma, which is flowing and technical, The Glen is much more wide open, with longer straights, corners that are very similar to flat-track ovals and – of course – much higher speeds.
But while the Cup series’ two road courses may be different in character, the drivers that run well at either track are essentially the same, which makes picking your fantasy NASCAR roster a whole lot easier. Here are my bets-bet fantasy picks for this weekend’s race:
Five-year averages are listed next to each driver, including Average Running Position (ARP), Average Finish (AVG), and Driver Rating (RAT).
Favorites at Watkins Glen
1. Tony Stewart (ARP: 3.9 AVG: 1.4 RAT: 135.0): That is not a typo – Stewart’s average finish over the past five years is 1.4. Smoke’s other stats at The Glen are just as impressive; he’s finished either first or second in the past six races in upstate New York and has won five of the last eight races here. Tony also leads all active drivers over the past five years in ARP, Average Finish and Driver Rating, as well as laps led (145) and championship points scored (925). On top of that, Stewart is one of the hottest drivers in the garage right now, with top-10 finishes in eighth of the last ten races heading into this weekend. Make sure Smoke is in your lineup.
2. Marcos Ambrose (ARP: 13.8 AVG: 2.5 RAT: 106.9): Before his late race mistake cost him the checkered flag at Sonoma, Ambrose convinced everyone that he is capable of winning a Cup series road race. And the good news for Ambrose fans – he’s even better at The Glen than he is at Infineon. Despite starting dead last in his first Cup race here in 2008, Marcos finished third, and he followed that with a second place last year. He’s also won the past two Nationwide series races at the 2.45 mile road course (and may win a third Saturday afternoon). Ambrose has struggled since his heartbreaking loss at Sonoma, but don’t let that make you shy away – he is one of the favorites going into the weekend, and this is his best shot at a win before he leaves the No.47 car at the end of the season. Especially considering he could be a ‘B’ or ‘C’ category driver in many leagues, Marcos is another must-start.
3. Kyle Busch (ARP: 13.3 AVG: 10.8 RAT: 104.9): The younger Busch brother is not quite in the same league as Stewart or Ambrose, but he is not far behind, either. The Shrub currently has a string of four consecutive top-10 finishes at The Glen – including a win in 2008 – as well as being second over the past five years in laps led (67) and third in championship points scored (708). A 33rd place finish in his rookie season skews Kyle’s averages a bit, otherwise he has been a perennial contender at the New York road course. Busch has been a bit inconsistent this season, but he qualifies and runs well here – so it is safe to assume he’ll turn in a strong performance for your fantasy NASCAR team.
Safe Picks for a Solid Finish at The Glen
1. Juan Montoya (ARP: 10.6 AVG: 16.3 RAT: 101.4): Montoya would normally be a favorite at any NASCAR road course, but after fielding great cars the past two weeks and coming up with nothing to show for it, there is a chance that his confidence has been shaken a bit. Still, he is a great road racer, and Watkins Glen provides the perfect opportunity for a turnaround; like Busch, Montoya had a poor result in his rookie effort here (due to an accident) that skews his stats, but he has finished fourth and sixth at the 2.45 mile road course the past two seasons, and nobody will doubt that he has the road racing experience and a car that can win. It is just a matter of whether he can avoid the problems that have plagued him the past few weeks. One way or the other, expect Montoya to be in the mix.
2. Denny Hamlin (ARP: 9.8 AVG: 7.5 RAT: 104.6): Hamlin may not be widely though of when talking about the best NASCAR road racers, but he has been great at The Glen ever since he hit the track for the first time in 2006. Denny has never won a race here, but in four career races he has never started or finished outside of the top-10, and his stats line above reflects his proficiency on the 2.45 mile track. Hamlin has been struggled since winning five races earlier in the season, but has looked better the past few weeks, with top-10 finishes at Chicago and Pocono. Denny is an underrated road racer, and should be a contender Sunday afternoon.
3. Carl Edwards (ARP: 14.2 AVG: 8.8 RAT: 91.4): Edwards is another driver that doesn’t get a lot of publicity for his road-racing abilities, but he is actually quite good, especially at Watkins Glen. Cousin Carl has only finished outside the top-10 once in five races here, and comes into the weekend with four-straight finishes of ninth or better at the New York track. Edwards is also fourth in championship points (706) here over the past five seasons. Greg Biffle gets all the credit for breaking Ford out of their Cup series slump by winning last week at Pocono, but Edwards started the turn-around a month ago – with a streak of four straight top-10 finishes heading into this weekend. He’s running well and this is a good track for him, so it is once again safe to start a Ford driver and let Edwards score your NASCAR team some points.
Watkins Glen Underdogs
One of the most difficult things to do when picking a Fantasy NASCAR team is filling those last few slots – either “C List” drivers in category leagues, or low-budget drivers in salary leagues. Here are a few drivers that could present a good value for your team this weekend:
1. Robby Gordon (ARP: 20.2 AVG: 11.2 RAT: 89.2): It has been a while since Robby has won a race, but nobody will disagree that he is a great road-racer. He’s struggled the past few years at The Glen, but before 2008, Gordon rattled off top-5 finishes in seven of the previous nine races, including his one win here. If he has a good car and can stay out of trouble, Robby is fun to watch at Watkins Glen and perfectly capable of winning. Or, he may wreck and finish outside the top-30. Gordon is worth the risk, though, especially if you can get him cheap.
2. Boris Said (ARP: 18.6 AVG: 21.2 RAT: 77.6): Who Said? That’s right – Boris is back. Said has had a tough time trying to break through and finally get a Cup series win despite being a fantastic road racer, but this time around Boris has an extra advantage – he’ll be racing a good car. Said will be behind the wheel of the No.83 for Red Bull Racing, and it is arguably the best situation he’s been able to find for years as far as running with a competitive full-time team. Boris is racing everything in sight this weekend (Rolex, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series), so he’ll know the track inside and out by Sunday afternoon. Said is definitely worth a flyer this weekend.
3. Max Papis (ARP: 20.2 AVG: 25.5 RAT: 72.0): Papis is definitely a risk, because unlike the other drivers here, he’ll have to qualify his way into the race on time. But if last year is any indication, he’ll have little problem making the race – in his last trip to The Glen, Max started 16th and finished 8th. Max is another good road racer, and unlike some of the other ringers that will inevitably make the field, Papis will have the advantage of working with a team he’s been together with all season long. If you can set your starters after qualifying, you’ll be in a much better position to take advantage of what Papis may be able to offer to your fantasy NASCAR roster.
The road racing favorites at Watkins Glen are pretty easy to pick, but once your get past the big guns, making good selections for the bottom half of your roster is where you can maximize the points your fantasy NASCAR team scores. Keep in mind that the Cup regulars usually run better than the road course ringers, and you’ll have an edge in your fantasy NASCAR league.