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Fantasy NASCAR: Polking's Picks for Las Vegas
The 2014 Cup season rolls on, and this weekend at Las Vegas, I'll try to improve upon what has been a solid but unspectacular start in my fantasy leagues. Last weekend at Phoenix, Denny Hamlin proved to be the squeaky wheel that prevented any of my teams from having an elite afternoon, and Tony Stewart didn't do me any favors in NASCAR.com Fantasy Live. Still, four of my five drivers in my Fox Fantasy Auto Racing lineup finished in the top eight, including race-winner Kevin Harvick. Meanwhile, Kyle Larson proved to be a useful sleeper addition in multiple formats.
As for Sunday's race at Las Vegas, I will remain aggressive for the second week in a row. The heavy hitters in the series tend to dominate the 1.5-mile tracks anyway, and early in the year, I don't mind buying some time to get a better feel for which mid-level drivers are going to be the most reliable during the year. With the hefty purse at Vegas, there are also a few part-time drivers in the field that bolster the list of available sleepers. I will be taking full advantage.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing
Matt Kenseth (A): I can't help but trot out Kenseth in the first race of the year at a 1.5-mile track. After all, he finished in the top 15 in all 11 races at "cookie-cutter" tracks last year, compiling a series-leading 5.7 average finish and winning a series-best four races. One of those victories came at Las Vegas where he is a three-time winner overall.
Carl Edwards (B): He has been very reliable at Las Vegas, and his 9.7 average finish is actually the second best in the series. Edwards has also reeled off three straight top-five finishes at Las Vegas, including a victory in 2011. I have a hard time passing on a guy that has been so reliable at Vegas, especially when he is a B-List driver.
Tony Stewart (B): I'm used to saving Stewart's starts for the summer months, but now that he is a B-List driver this year, I don't mind using him at Las Vegas. After all, he has a 5.3 average finish in the last four starts at the track and has led the most laps twice in the last three races there.
Jeff Burton (C): I will definitely take advantage of Burton's 2014 debut to save a start from the full-time C-List drivers, especially at Las Vegas. After all, his 11.9 average finish at the track is actually the fourth best in the series, and in 16 starts, he has 12 top-15 finishes.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Jimmie Johnson ($28): With an emphasis on laps led and fastest laps run in this scoring format, I like to try to keep Johnson on my roster as often as possible, especially at tracks where he has been particularly strong. At Las Vegas, Johnson leads all drivers in just about every scoring loop category, and his 9.5 average finish and four victories are also tops in the series.
Kasey Kahne ($26): Kahne does his best work at the 1.5-mile tracks, and while he didn't win at Vegas last year, he did have the dominant car and led a race-high 114 laps. Meanwhile, he ranks fourth in the series in laps led and points scored in the last 10 races at 1.5-mile tracks.
Tony Stewart ($22.75): Las Vegas has been kind to Stewart lately, and in his last four starts at the track, he has a 5.3 average finish. More importantly, he has led the most laps in two of the last three races at the track, which adds to his value in this format.
Trevor Bayne ($12): I'll take advantage of Bayne being in the field this weekend to save a little salary while still giving me a shot at a decent finish. Bayne has a 17.3 average finish in three starts at Las Vegas, and he even has a top-10. This weekend, I'm just hoping for a top-20 run.
Parker Kligerman ($11): Kligerman is my wild-card pick this week in order to field a roster with three drivers that I could see leading a lot of laps and piling up a ton of points in this particular scoring system. He hasn't shown much in 2014, but in two starts at 1.5-mile tracks at the end of last season, he notched a pair of top-25 finishes, including an 18th-place run at Texas. At his current price tag, I'll be very happy with a top-25 run Sunday.
NASCAR.com Streak to the Finish
Carl Edwards: I got my streak started last weekend at Phoenix, although getting a top-10 finish out of Jimmie Johnson isn't really worth bragging about. I'll try to keep it rolling this weekend with Edwards. He is one of just two drivers to average a top-10 finish at Las Vegas, and he has finished in the top five in three straight races at the track.
FOX Fantasy Auto Racing
Jimmie Johnson (captain): I'm rolling out the heaviest hitter in the series for the second week in a row, but he has been strong enough at Vegas to justify the start. He leads all drivers in just about every statistical category at the track, including driver rating, average finish and wins.
Joey Logano: He has always been pretty good at Las Vegas, and in five career starts, he has a 14.0 average finish. In four of his starts at the track, he has finished 16th or better, and he finished 12th last year in his first start at the track with Team Penske. Add in his strong start to the 2014 season, and I just have a feeling a breakout performance at Vegas could be on tap this weekend.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior has been incredibly consistent at Vegas lately, reeling off six finishes off 11th or better in his last seven starts at the track, including three straight top-10s. Throw in his hot start to the 2014 season, and I view him as a low-risk option with top-five upside.
Matt Kenseth: He is the defending race-winner of Sunday's race and a three-time winner at Las Vegas in for his career. Kenseth was also the king of the 1.5-mile tracks in 2013, winning four races and compiling a 5.7 average finish. The numbers speak for themselves for this pick.
Carl Edwards: I'm using up another start from Edwards already, but I like his upside this weekend. He is a two-time winner at Las Vegas, and he has finished in the top five in the last three races at the track.
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