Go Pro at Michigan – 8 Drivers for Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing

If I ever get the opportunity to return to Michigan International Speedway I’m going to jump all over it.  The drive to Brooklyn is breath taking and there’s no better place to camp during a race weekend than the Irish Hills.  Yes, I’m the type of NASCAR fan that likes to jump out of my tent, grab a cooler, and head straight to the track.

I have been to three races at Michigan.  In 2006, while Kasey Kahne celebrated in victory lane, I was rescued from a torrential down pour by a group of race fans from Canada.  They offered me shelter and a Labatt’s while the rain subdued.  In 2007, the night before the race, my friend Mike jumped out of his fold up chair and sprinted over to the next camp site to save a man from choking. Then in 2008, just a few minutes before leaving the campsite, my friend Eric snapped his leg like a twig tossing a football around. Lucky guy got to watch the entire race from the infield care center!

I have had blast every time I’ve been to Michigan, but I honestly can’t remember any of the races being all that exciting.  Hopefully that will change now that the track is repaved.  For the second week in a row the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers will see a refinished racing surface.

The changes that were made to Pocono Raceway definitely made for a better race.  I saw more passing at Pocono last week than I can ever remember.  The new surface produced more side by side racing and, as Kase Kahne’s fantasy owners know, more contact. Hopefully the changes made at MIS last fall can increase level of excitement during Sunday’s race.

Just like last week, NASCAR has scheduled a day of testing prior to the weekend’s regular schedule of events.  Fantasy NASCAR owners will have an extra set of data to use when choosing their drivers this week.  Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing owners can take advantage of both testing sessions on Thursday as well has Friday’s practice runs before the deadline to select their 8 drivers expires.

Last week Joey Logano was at the top of the speed charts heading into qualifying.  He was able to convert strong runs in testing and practice into a victory from the pole position.  Even though I didn’t endorse a starting role for Logano, I did suggest Yahoo! players grab him for additional qualifying points.  The same theory applies this week that applied at Pocono.  Starting position matters.

Courtesy of Jayski’s Silly Season Site:

• The [Michigan] race winner has started from the pole 16 times, the most productive starting position. Brian Vickers (August, 2009) was the last driver to win from the pole.
• 66 of 85 races have been won from a top-10 starting position, including 46 from the first four spots.
• The deepest in the field a race winner has started was 32nd, by Mark Martin in the June race of 2009.

Based on what we know from historical data, I am recommending the following setup for your Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing at the Quicken Loans 400.

Matt Kenseth was one of five drivers Goodyear invited to test their tires on the repaved racing surface at MIS back in April.  PHOTO CREDIT: Todd Davis, LAT USA & thefinallap.com

A Drivers

Matt Kenseth #17 – Kenseth is one of only two active drivers to average a top ten at Michigan.  Only Carl Edwards (8.2) has a better average finishing position than his Roush teammate’s (9.5).  They both have 2 wins at MIS, but in case you haven’t noticed, Matt Kenseth is the current points leader.

In 25 career races at MIS, the 2003 Sprint Cup Champion has 11 Top 5 finishes.  Kenseth was the runner-up in last year’s race and finished 10th at the race in August.  He has been a model for consistency at Michigan, which is why I am picking Matt Kenseth to win his second race of the 2012 season.

Denny Hamlin #11 – If Denny dominates the speed charts during testing and practice, I will be hard pressed not to start the two-time Michigan winner.  Hamlin has 7 Top 10 finishes in 12 career starts at MIS.

The other consideration for the 2nd A spot is Jimmie Johnson. Despite the fact that Michigan is one of only five tracks Johnson has never won on, I like the five time champion’s chance to grab a top 5 finish.  Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, seem to have figured things out the last go around when they finished runner-up behind Kyle Busch at the Pure Michigan 400.

B Drivers

Mark Martin #55 – This will be the last race Martin will be running until he returns at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Last week’s runner-up has 31 Top 10 finishes including 5 wins in 52 career starts at MIS.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 – Currently 2nd in the standings, Junior is steadily finding his groove.  His last win came at Michigan back in 2008.  He has 7 other Top 10 finishes on his Michigan resume.

Kasey Kahne #5 – Kahne was poised to make his 8th consecutive Top 10 finish last week, until he hit the wall a few laps after making contact with Denny Hamlin. (I hate when my drivers wreck each other!)  Kahne has 6 Top 5 finishes at Michigan including a victory at the rain shortened race I attended back in 2006.

Greg Biffle #16 – Biffle has been an integral part of Roush Racing’s dominance at Michigan.  In 18 career starts, he has 7 Top 5 finishes including 2 wins.  Biffle started from the pole in the last race at MIS, but finished 20th.

C Drivers

Aric Almirola #43 – A.J. Allmendinger finished 13th and 11th at MIS in the #43 car last season.  Almirola has the shown fantasy racers that he has the talent to match those finishes in 2012.  The testing and practice sessions will be priceless for Alrmirola, who makes his first career Sprint Cup start at MIS this Sunday.

Bobby Labonte #47 – Labonte has 16 Top 10 finishes including 3 wins in 39 career starts.  He finished 22nd and 16th at MIS in 2011. I’ll be checking testing and practice to see if Trevor Bayne #21 presents himself as a better option than Labonte this week.

Michigan International Speedway Sprint Cup Race Stats

Over to you…

Do you use testing and practice data to tweak your race setup?

Let me know in the comments & thanks for reading!

If you want to discuss your Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing strategy, you can also email me at goprofantasysports@gmail.com or find me on Google+ and Twitter @GoProFS24.