Fantasy NASCAR: Evaluating league formats

by Richard Garcia on January 13, 2011 @ 12:34:00 PDT

 


Pick 'em

This type of format is relatively self-explanatory: Pick the drivers you think will win from of a group of 10 prearranged matchups. The point scale isn't necessarily universal in every league, but the goal of outscoring your opponent is the same. Pick more winning drivers than your opponent and victory will be yours, if for only one week.

This kind of game caters to the novice because it simplifies each race as much as possible. Choosing three drivers based on their matchups is easier than choosing a handful of drivers and having your team's fate determined by their ability to compete against all of the remaining drivers. The straightforward nature is good for a rookie, but a pro is likely to find this style of game unchallenging.

Salary Cap

In this version, every fantasy owner has a set salary cap. The job is to put together the best team possible while staying within the parameters of the cap. The team size may vary, but they normally have between four and six drivers making up a team. Multiple teams can own the same drivers, and driver salaries may fluctuate throughout the season depending on the driver's performance.

The scoring system in each league may vary, but the table below illustrates a common scoring system. Most scoring formats use the Sprint Cup Series scoring system like the one below.

Finish
Points
Finish
Points
1
185
23
94
2
170
24
91
3
165
25
88
4
160
26
85
5
155
27
82
6
150
28
79
7
146
29
76
8
142
30
73
9
138
31
70
10
134
32
67
11
130
33
64
12
127
34
61
13
124
35
58
14
121
36
55
15
118
37
52
16
115
38
49
17
112
39
46
18
109
40
43
19
106
41
40
20
103
42
37
21
100
43
34
22
97
--
--

Additionally, a bonus could be added for every lap led, and another bonus could be added for leading the most laps during a single event.

Some leagues only allow you to use a driver once throughout the season, making every decision that much more important, while other leagues allow you to hold onto your drivers throughout the year.

This type of game is a little more challenging for fantasy players. The restriction of a cap requires more thought and analysis. Building a roster around the track style and taking into account a driver's past success at a track is important and takes more research on a weekly basis. This style of game keeps a tally of overall points scored among a big group and doesn't match up two opponents each week.

Head-to-head/Total points

Leagues vary in size, but most have between four and eight teams. The typical draft format breaks drivers into three categories based on last year's Cup points standings. Fantasy owners typically select one driver from Group A, two from Group B and one more from Group C. Some head-to-head and total points leagues opt to use the serpentine style of draft.

Owners will pick three drivers from a roster of four to go head-to-head against another team each week or against the field for total points. The winner for the week is the team that has the most fantasy points. There are different variations on how the champion is decided. Some head-to-head leagues have a playoff, which usually comes down to the final 10 races, coinciding with the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Other formats include no playoff structure. They carry on the same head-to-head style with the team that accumulates the best record at the end of the season being declared the winner. The total points leagues reward the fantasy owner with the most overall points after 36 races.

The scoring system in standard formats is identical to those mentioned in salary cap leagues, including the one shown in the table above. They can also include bonus points for total laps led and if a driver led a lap. In head-to-head formats there are customizable options that allow fantasy owners to score more points. Some of those options include bonus points for finishing amongst the top three in the event, qualifying position, finishing position, total laps led, win from the pole, position gained and total laps completed. Some leagues will penalize teams with laps-behind penalties, did not finish (DNF) penalties or actual points penalties accessed by NASCAR during the season.

Overall, playing this format is the most challenging. Each league is different, but the traditional format doesn't allow for multiple teams to carry the same drivers. This makes the drafting process that much more important, allowing for you to take a driver away from another fantasy owner. Drafts are usually before the first race has begun, leaving fantasy owners to draft their drivers without seeing them on the track for a few months. That ability to field a team without much more than last season's totals and analysis of offseason developments to go on makes the need to do research prior to the draft that much more important.

Summary

Through all this writing, remember not to get away from the fact that fantasy NASCAR is one of the simplest games to play. Here are a few tips when picking your drivers come race day:

  • Check the driver's status - If you have a driver active and he doesn't race, your team will be left with a big fat zero. Reasons why a driver may not race could come down to whether or not he qualified or if there is a "split-time" situation, where two drivers share time in the same car.
  • How many starts does your driver have? - Some leagues only allow you to activate a driver for a certain number of races. If the set limit is seven and he has been active for seven, he will not be able to score your team any points in the eighth race and beyond.
  • Who are the Buschwhackers? - Traditionally, there is a Nationwide Series race the day prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race. Many racers compete in both events, leaving them with a distinct advantage. Drivers who finish well in the Nationwide race usually have similar results in the big race the following day because they have get a good feel for the track.
  • Know your driver on the track - Do some research and see how your driver has fared on the upcoming track. Another good way to get an idea of whether or not he will be successful on a track is to compare other tracks that may share the same shape, length and banking. You can check out the driver's history at any track through a number of online sources.
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About Richard Garcia

Garcia served as a managing editor for KFFL. Prior to his time with KFFL, Richard worked in managerial roles with both Frito-Lay Inc. and UPS. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in public relations from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona and fulfilled his internship requirements with the Los Angeles Kings Hockey organization in 2001.

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