NASCAR continues its run through the summer months, coming to my backyard (kind of) in New England, going racing at the relatively flat, just-over-a-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Last week, we went Saturday night racing at Kentucky. Early in the week, I gave Kevin Harvick the nod because of his dominance on 1.5-mile tracks this year. Harvick finished eighth, which is really worth keeping an eye on. This was the first race on an intermediate track with a newer aerodynamic package, and the Hendrick/Stewart-Haas cars didn't show the strength they had the majority of the season on the intermediates. Keep that in mind when this package is run again.
On the other hand, the Gibbs and Penske cars were clearly the class of the field, taking up the top six finishing positions. I gave Brad Keselowski as a "driver to watch" originally, and then made him my top pick over the weekend, with Kyle Busch as the top steal. Both those guys were the only drivers to top 70 fantasy points at Kentucky, and they both hit triple digits.
New Hampshire is an interesting track. I went looking for similar tracks to compare for fantasy performance, even checking with former New Hampshire pole winner and XFINITY Series race winner Ricky Craven, but there's no apt comparison. The closest we can come is Phoenix, another flat 1-mile track, but with a different configuration.
So I'm going to focus more on this track's history when setting my Daily Fantasy NASCAR lineup this week. Who am I looking at?
I'm starting my team with . . .
Brad Keselowski. He had a strong race last week, much stronger than his sixth-place finish indicated, and he dominated this race last year as well, leading 138 laps, putting up 93 fastest laps and winning from a seventh-place starting position. The 142.75 DraftKings fantasy points Keselowski would've put up (you know, had this existed last year) would have been the third-highest at the track since NASCAR began tracking the scoring category stats in 2005.
Keselowski followed up the strong July race with another strong race there in the Chase, with 72.25 fantasy points. In fact, he has topped 50 points in each of the past seven New Hampshire races.
I think you can ride a bit of momentum with Keselowski, whose crew cost him more positions than his speed. He had a race-high 81 fastest laps, and his performance at the other flat tracks on the schedule this year (Phoenix and Martinsville) makes me think he'll be a threat to win on Sunday.
Keep an eye on these four . . .
Denny Hamlin: In the past three seasons, Hamlin has had the second-best fantasy points per race number at New Hampshire, at 64.7 (behind only Keselowski's 75.5). But his numbers weren't as nicely consistent as Keselowski's.
Hamlin actually put up minus-13 in the previous New Hampshire race, and just eight in the July race in 2013. But in 2012, he put up 127.5 and 180.25 in the two races combined. Hamlin's best work typically comes on flatter tracks, especially Martinsville and Pocono. Although those tracks aren't exactly similar to New Hampshire. I think Hamlin's worth taking a chance, especially if you're playing multiple entries.
Kyle Busch: I'm going to keep backing Busch, given the situation he's in. He needs to pile up points to make the Chase, and he has responded well to the pressure. In 2013-14, only Keselowski and Matt Kenseth had more fantasy points at New Hampshire than Busch, who has had three runner-up finishes and an eighth. It has been a great turnaround at Loudon for Busch, who averaged less than 20 points per race there in 2011-12.
Kyle Larson: I won't trick myself into taking Larson from the pole again; he put up the worst score of the week, and his hitting the wall sent me tumbling out of the money. But don't give up on him; he likely will be a very affordable option, someone who has never finished outside the top three at New Hampshire. In this race last year, he had 13 fastest laps run, the fifth-highest mark in the field.
Austin Dillon: I'm going to back Dillon again as another affordable option, but I also like Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray, depending on their price and who gives the best option to move up based on qualifying performance. I wouldn't take any of them starting in the top 15.
Dillon gets the nod for me pre-qualifying because he has put together an ideal, low-cost fantasy race in his two starts here. He qualified outside the top 20, and finished at least nine spots better than he qualified in each race. That's good for more than 40 points each time. If that's what you're getting from the bottom of the roster, you stand a good shot at cashing.