Fantasy NASCAR: Not just a road warrior anymore

by Brian Polking on September 4, 2012 @ 11:42:31 PDT


I've heard the argument that momentum doesn't really exist in NASCAR, and it would make sense. After all, no two tracks are exactly the same, and even those with identical distances have variations in the banking and the setup of the corners. However, I am a big believer in momentum. Whether it comes from finding a chassis that just runs well everywhere or from a boost in a driver's confidence that stems from one good run, random drivers just seem to go on hot streaks every now and then and outperform there career averages by a wide margin. Marcos Ambrose is in the middle of one of those runs right now, and fantasy owners need to jump on the bandwagon.

His recent surge can be directly tied to his unforgettable victory at Watkins Glen when he and Brad Keselowski traded the lead several times on the final lap at the oil-soaked road course. The two slipped, slid through the grass and banged off each other multiple times, with Ambrose emerging as the winner. The victory was his first of 2012, and more importantly, it gave new life to what had been a forgettable season. Ambrose is now a player for the final wild card spot in the fast-approaching Chase, and he is racing like a driver that wants to run for a championship.

Marcos Ambrose

Ambrose followed his win at The Glen with fifth-place finishes at both Michigan and Bristol. This was the same driver that didn't have a single top-five finish when the month of August began and then reeled off three straight. During the three-race stretch, no driver scored more points than Ambrose. He is up to 16th in points and is enjoying arguably the best stretch of his career. If there was ever a time to add Ambrose to your fantasy roster, it is right now.

If you are worried that Ambrose is due to flame out, don't be. While it's true that his three-race string of top-five finishes was something special, there are signs that he could sustain some degree of success for the long haul. Ambrose has quietly been improving since a slow start to the season, and all eight of his top-10s have come in his last 15 races. During that stretch, he has compiled a 13.4 average finish, which is nearly three spots better than his season average.

Wondering how he stacks up against some of the big names that fantasy owners usually rely on? Let's look at the past 10 races. During the span, Ambrose has accumulated the seventh-most points in the series and has outscored the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin. Those are some serious heavy hitters on that list, and Ambrose has been better than all of them. As important as it is for fantasy owners to pick drivers that finish well and pile up points, it is just as important to find the drivers that are running the best that a majority of the competition isn't using. The fact that Ambrose isn't a household name in fantasy leagues makes him that much more valuable.

Taking the past few months into account, Ambrose's win at Watkins Glen seems as much an exclamation point on a solid stretch of racing as a product of his road racing background. More importantly, the victory seems to be bringing out the best in him. Three races can be dismissed as a fluke, but 10-15 races of mostly solid performances are a trend. Ambrose has been a top-10 driver in terms of points scored for more than two months, and fantasy owners that are still only using him at the road courses are missing out. We are talking about a driver that scored more points than anyone in the Cup Series during the month of August. I think just every fantasy owner can make some room on their roster for that type of production.

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About Brian Polking

Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.

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