NASCAR FANTASY LIVE PICKS, 2015 PHOENIX, QUICKEN LOANS RACE FOR HEROES 500

After the tire issues at Texas, you were left feeling very happy or not satisfied with the results last week. Those who went with the pole sitter Brad Keselowski had a shot in the arm in the standings. We now move back west to Phoenix, and seven Chase eligible drivers will be fighting for the final three spots. Phoenix is a track that benefits the top drivers, as the top five active drivers in average finish position over the past five Phoenix races are Chase eligible. My recommendation would be to front-load your lineup with Chase drivers unless you are in a desperate situation in your standings.

Even though the numbers show a high probability of success from the top drivers, you can take under-the-radar options if you need to gain points in the standings. Harvick should dominate the race. If you have been playing fantasy racing a while, you know to expect the unexpected. The season is almost over so there is little risk to swing for the fences if you need to gain ground.

Kevin Harvick has better numbers at Phoenix than any driver at any track. He should find his way onto most Fantasy lineups this week due to his dominating numbers. Harvick has won four of the last five races at Phoenix. Over this same stretch, Harvick has led 782 laps. To put that number into perspective, the 2nd best driver is Brad Keselowski with 159. In the 2015 race, Harvick led 224 laps on this way to victory. If those numbers are not convincing enough, Harvick has led the most laps of any driver in 2015 and has 20 top-5 finishes through 32 races. Harvick has also led the most laps on flat tracks in 2015 with an average finish position of 10.7 on this track type. You will likely not gain too much ground on your competition by inserting Harvick into your lineup, but you will not lose ground either. Harvick is on the bubble to advance, and this should keep his team from taking unnecessary risks.

There are four other drivers that will need to find your roster. By comparison, no other driver’s number will be close to Harvick’s. Joey Logano has the best average finish position of any driver in 2015 and has decent numbers at Phoenix. Over the past five races at the track, Logano has an average finish position of 10.6 and has four top-10 finishes. Earlier this season, Logano led 35 laps on his way to a 7th place finish. Logano has the best numbers on flat tracks this season. In nine races, Logano has eight top-10 finishes on flat tracks and an average finish position. Logano is closing strong as the season comes to a close and is expected to be a valuable fantasy contributor this week. It is all or nothing this week for Logano, and this could make him a surprise win this week.

Even though I can make arguments for a few non-Chase drivers, I want to have Chase-eligible drivers for the top three roster spots. Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, and Jeff Gordon all have impressive track data. Unless there is a convincing effort in practice or qualifying to change my mind, the 3rd roster spot will go to Brad Keselowski. The #2 car finished 6th at the track earlier this season and led 52 laps. Over the last five Phoenix races, Keselowski has four top-10 finishes and has spent 97% of his laps inside the top-15. He has been solid, but unspectacular for much of the season and maintains an 11th place average. Narrowly, Keselowski is a choice for my roster this week. I regret missing out of Keselowski last week. Like Logano, he will be going to broke this week.

There is little room for the remaining roster spots and no budget drivers I particularly like this week. Unfortunately, when a track favors top drivers as much as Phoenix, the flip side is that there are rarely good drivers at the bottom to pick from. Landon Cassill finished 22nd earlier this season and maintains a 31st average finish position in 2015. David Gilliland narrowly beats out David Ragan for the other budget spot. Gilliland finished 29th earlier this year and has been finishing in this range all season. I will likely switch these picks to low qualifiers in hope of gaining start-to-finish differential points because I do not like Cassill or Gilliland too much. I would be surprised to have the #38 car and #40 car on my roster when the race starts.

FANTASY NASCAR LIVE SALARY CAP

Fantasy Live on nascar.com uses a scoring system that combines fast laps, laps led, finish position, and start-to-finish differential. In order to keep us from starting the best drivers every week, Fantasy Live uses a salary cap format. Our formula first calculates the average number of points earned by each driver over the past five Phoenix races. Next, we divide that number by the salary cap figure to determine how much value to expect from each driver. Jeff Gordon has been solid at Phoenix, but was beat out by Keselowski for the 3rd roster spot. As a consolation prize to the retiring driver, we will use his Phoenix numbers to further illustrate our formula. There is hope for the #24 team as last week’s consolation prize won the race in Texas.

JEFF GORDON AT PHOENIX

  • Average finish position last five Phoenix races: 7.8 equals 36.2 fantasy live points
  • Start-to-finish differential: Negative One equals (-1) fantasy live points
  • Laps led: 53 equals 5.3 points per race
  • Fast laps: 75 equals 7.5 points per race
  • Fantasy Live points per race: 50
  • Fantasy Live salary cap figure: $25.50
  • Fantasy Live points per salary cap dollar: 50 divided by $25.50 equals 1.96

Below you will find the numbers for each driver at Phoenix with my picks in bold.

GROUP A ($25.00 or higher)

  • Kevin Harvick 5.69
  • Brad Keselowski 2.37
  • Carl Edwards 2.31
  • Jeff Gordon 1.96
  • Joey Logano 1.90
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. 1.75
  • Kurt Busch 1.08
  • Denny Hamlin 1.00
  • Kyle Busch 0.52

GROUP B ($20.00 – $24.99)

  • Kasey Kahne 2.07
  • Jimmie Johnson 1.54
  • Ryan Newman 1.51
  • Jamie McMurray 1.49
  • Aric Almirola 1.41
  • Martin Truex Jr. 1.19
  • Kyle Larson 1.16
  • Paul Menard 1.07
  • Clint Bowyer 0.90

GROUP C ($15.00 – $19.99)

  • Greg Biffle 1.79
  • Austin Dillon 0.83
  • Erik Jones 0.16 *
  • Sam Hornish (-0.55)

GROUP D ($10.00 – $14.99)

  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2.59
  • AJ Allmendinger 2.56
  • Casey Mears 1.82
  • Tony Stewart 1.68
  • Trevor Bayne 1.66
  • Danica Patrick 1.07
  • Cole Whitt 1.04

GROUP E ($9.99 or lower)

  • Joey Gase 4.00
  • JJ Yeley 3.64
  • Jeb Burton 3.40
  • Timmy Hill 2.80
  • Landon Cassill 2.60
  • Brett Moffitt 2.57
  • David Gilliland 2.10
  • Michael Annett 2.03
  • Justin Allgaier 1.68
  • David Ragan 1.47
  • Alex Bowman 1.25
  • Matt DiBenedetto 1.20

* Driver has no track data, and we are using his 2015 numbers.

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