Sunday, February 18, 2018

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: 2018 Season Opener at Daytona


by Carol D'Agostino

The Daytona 500 is always an exciting race. Drivers get to shake off the rust from the off season and begin what they hope will be a championship-winning one. The challenge is there's at least 39 other drivers who have the same idea. NASCAR Fantasy players have been chomping at the bit as well. This year we've lost a mainstay game as Yahoo Sports Fantasy Auto Racing has been discontinued. However, a new game called Driver Group Game has emerged which mirrors that Yahoo game.

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion is here to help you make your weekly picks so you can earn bragging rights at the water cooler come Monday morning. This year, I am adding a new section called "Second Look Driver" for that driver who may not be on your radar, but should be. Here's my take on this week, although it's only fair to warn you at Daytona anything can and will happen. Good luck!

Drivers with Most Top 10s in the Last 5 Years:
By Race
All with 3: Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson
All with 2: Regan Smith, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Austin Dillon 
A.J. Allmendinger - 1

By Track
Clint Bowyer - 6
All with 5: Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon
Both with 4: Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Michael McDowell
Regan Smith - 2

Last Year's Race Winner: Kurt Busch

The Likely Suspects:  The Daytona 500 is not for the faint of heart fantasy players. It's a restrictor plate race folks, so pickem' and pray. My focus will be on these drivers: Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon and Michael McDowell.

My 2 Cents: The Daytona 500 is an amazing race because you can draft from the back to the front in a mere lap, so don't count out those eight drivers who are being sent to the back after mangling their primary cars in the Duels on Thursday. It's the one race where a relative unknown can win. It is also notorious for making fantasy players a little crazy.

My no-brainer pick is Denny Hamlin. My next choices are Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. I'll round out my fantasy team with Michael McDowell and Brendan Gaughan. 

Second-Look Driver: The first Second-Look Driver of the season is A.J. Allmendinger. A.J. has had some consistency issues, but when he's on, he's on. Last year he finished third at the Daytona 500 and has an 11.25 average finish in the last four races at Daytona International Speedway.

My Final Four: Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Michael McDowell

Points to Ponder:
  • The pole position is the most proficient starting position in the Daytona 500 field, producing more winners (nine) than any other position; followed by second-place (seven wins) and fourth-place (seven wins).
  •  Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in Daytona 500 top-five finishes with seven. (Johnson is tied with NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen for ninth most-all-time). 
  • Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty each posted a series leading 16 top 10s in the Daytona 500. Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers in Daytona 500 top-10 finishes with eight. 
  • The Wood Brothers have won 15 races at Daytona, more than any other organization.
If you are planning Driver Group Game remember to make your picks by 2:30 p.m. on race day (February 18).  

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Come play Fantasy NASCAR with us!

by Carol D'Agostino

Here we are at the opening of a new race season. New rules. New drivers. New car numbers. And even a new NASCAR Fantasy racing game. A mainstay in the NASCAR Fantasy world for nearly two decades, Yahoo Sports Fantasy Auto Racing, has officially been discontinued.

Never fear. Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet, a statistical tools web site, has taken on the challenge of introducing the "twin" of the Yahoo game. Kinda an almost identical twin. Close enough for this NASCAR Fantasy racing fan. The game is called Driver Group Game.

You can play along with Skirts and Scuffs in a Private League. Check out my weekly column for tips and picks suggestions.

Good luck!


Trackin’ Trucks: Johnny Sauter wins at Daytona

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

by Courtney Horn

Johnny Sauter held off GMS Racing teammate Justin Haley by .098 seconds to win the season opener Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.

Sauter led 39 laps to earn the third Daytona victory of his career. Sauter, who won Stage 2 of the NextEra Energy Resources 250, regained the lead on Lap 92 and stayed out front for the remainder of the night.
Sauter celebrates in Victory Lane
Credit: Brian Lawdermilk
“I felt like we executed flawlessly,” Sauter said. “I don’t even remember the pass for the lead. We had good track position and we lost it a couple times. I’m just so thankful to be driving this truck. This is the best group of guys I’ve ever been around, and it’s great to start the season off like this.”

Sauter dedicated the victory to his crew chief Joe Shear, whose wife passed away in December.

“This is very, very, very special,” Shear said. “I don’t know if a lot of people know, but I lost my wife in December. She’s looking down on us. She was in love with racing just as much as I was.

“She was looking over us and helped us to this win. And I’m so grateful to be in the position that I’m at and have these people around me. This means so much. I’ll never forget this one.”

Haley finished second in his first Daytona event. The 18-year-old was not able to run the 2.5-mile track a year ago because he was too young.

“Those final laps were crazy,” Haley said. “I finally got shuffled back a little bit there on the last lap, and there wasn’t that much energy on the high side.”

Veteran driver Joe Nemechek finished third, followed by Ben Rhodes and Scott Lagasse Jr.

Grant Enfinger and Dalton Sargeant earned top-10 finishes after being involved in a multi-car crash on Lap 55 when Enfinger’s Ford got loose in Turn 4.

John Hunter Nemechek blew a tire on Lap 73 and collected five other drivers, including Myatt Snider, Brett Moffitt, and Stewart Friesen.

A Look Ahead 

The Camping World Truck Series head to Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 24, 2018. Christopher Bell dominated a year ago, while Matt Crafton finished in the runner-up position.

Can Crafton earn an early season victory? Find out next Saturday, February 24th at 4:30 p.m ET on Fox Sports 1.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

TV Schedule: Feb. 15-18

Kurt Busch wins the 2017 Daytona 500. Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Start your engines! The NASCAR season officially gets underway this weekend with the Super Bowl of racing, the Daytona 500.

Speedweeks continues at Daytona International Speedway with the Can-Am Duels on Thursday, which helps complete the starting lineup for the Daytona 500. The Camping World Truck Series starts its season Friday and the XFINITY Series on Saturday.

The Great American Race kicks off the Monster Energy Cup season Sunday. Who'll be hoisting the prestigious race trophy at the end?

The following is a handy guide to track events and TV coverage at Daytona. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Thursday, Feb. 15:
2:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1
5:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
7 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series: Can-Am Duels at Daytona, FS1

Friday, Feb. 16:
3:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series: Can-Am Duel at Daytona (re-air), FS1
Noon XFINITY Series practice, FS1
1 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
2 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
3 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series qualifying, FS1
7 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
7:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250, FS1

Saturday, Feb. 17:
2:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 (re-air), FS1
4:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
5:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
7:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 (re-air), FS1
9:30 a.m. XFINITY Series qualifying, FS1
Noon Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, FS1
2 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY, FS1
2:30 p.m. XFINITY Series: PowerShares QQQ 300, FS1
5 p.m. XFINITY Series Post Race, FS1

Sunday, Feb. 18:
1 a.m. XFINITY Series: PowerShares QQQ 300 (re-air), FS1
3:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
11 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FOX
1 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Pre Race, FOX
2:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series: Daytona 500, FOX

Travel Tips: Speedweeks at Daytona – Feb. 15-18, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media
The 2018 NASCAR season kicked off Sunday with Brad Keselowski winning The Clash at Daytona and Alex Bowman claiming the pole for the Daytona 500. This week, Daytona International Speedway continues to host Speedweeks at Daytona, culminating with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18. This weekend, fans will see the season-opening points races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series.

Fans heading to Daytona for Speedweeks will want to check out the UNOH Fanzone for off-track activities, including garage tours, driver and team appearances, live music and the kids’ area. Find out more about the UNOH Fanzone here.

The annual Hot Rods and Reels charity fishing tournament, benefitting the Darrell Gwynn Quality of Life Chapter of the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, takes place Friday, Feb. 16, at 8 a.m. ET on Lake Lloyd at the track. Find out more about the event here.

Key on-track times for the second weekend of Speedweeks at Daytona:

Thursday, Feb. 15 –
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 11:35 a.m., 2:25 p.m. and 4:35 p.m. ET
  • Can-Am Duel qualifying races for the Daytona 500 – 7 p.m. ET
Friday, Feb. 16 –
  • Xfinity Series practice – 12:05 and 2:05 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 1:05 and 3:05 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 4:30 p.m. ET     
  • Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 – 7:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, Feb. 17
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 9:35 a.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 12:05 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series PowerShares QQQ 300 – 2 p.m. ET
Sunday, Feb. 18
  • Pre-race show on pit road featuring Rascal Flatts – 1:45 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 – 3 p.m. ET
Get information about and purchase tickets for Speedweeks at Daytona, and find a complete schedule for Speedweeks, including scheduled driver appearances, at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Monday, February 5, 2018

Travel Tips: Speedweeks at Daytona – Feb. 10-14, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media
The “off-season” is over: It’s time to head back to the track and kick off the 2018 season at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL, home of Speedweeks at Daytona beginning Saturday, Feb. 10, and culminating with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18.

During six days of on-track action, fans will see the season openers for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series, plus the ARCA Racing Series. Fans will also see the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona and Daytona 500 qualifying during the opening weekend.

Fans heading to Daytona for Speedweeks will want to check out the UNOH Fanzone for off-track activities, including garage tours, driver and team appearances, live music and the kids’ area. Find out more about the UNOH Fanzone here. Fans can also check out the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, located in the Daytona Ticket and Tours building.

Key on-track times for the first weekend of Speedweeks:

Saturday, Feb. 10 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 10:35 a.m., 1:05 and 3:05 p.m. ET
  • ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire – 4:45 p.m. ET
Sunday, Feb. 11 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 qualifying presented by Kroger – for the front row of the Daytona 500 and for starting positions in the Can-Am Duel – 12:15 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona – 3 p.m. ET
While there are no on-track activities for the NASCAR teams Monday-Wednesday, Feb. 12-14, the NASCAR Racing Experience Ride-Along Program will run each day from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. ET. Find out more here. A number of Daytona Tours are available from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. ET Monday-Wednesday, and you can learn more here.

Get information and purchase tickets for Speedweeks at Daytona and find a complete schedule at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Fast Facts: 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Ken Squier

credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Ken Squier is now a two-time member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame – only fitting for a man who has meant so much to sport. Squier and fellow 2018 inductees Robert Yates, Red Byron, Ray Evernham and Ron Hornaday Jr. were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Here are the Fast Facts on this legendary broadcaster.
  • Kenley Dean Squier was born April 10, 1935 in Waterbury, VT. His father, Lloyd, owned radio station WDEV in town, and Squier began working on-air at age 12; Squier remains principal owner and CEO of the station.
  • At age 14, Squier called his first stock car race at a Vermont dirt track, and went on to announce at numerous tracks around Vermont.
  • In 1969, Squier co-founded the Motor Racing Network (MRN), announcing there for several years before moving to television in the 1970s. He served as a pit reporter for the first live “flag-to-flag” race covered on ABC in 1971 and joined CBS Sports that same year.
  • Squier went on to cover the sport as a lap-by-lap commentator for both CBS and TBS in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s before moving to a job as studio host from 1997-2000. He announced every Daytona 500 from 1979-1997.
  • Squier has most recently been part of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 throwback broadcasts since 2015, working with Ned and Dale Jarrett.
  • Squier was already a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame: in 2012, he, along with fellow journalist Barney Hall, received the very first Squier-Hall Awards, created to honor media contributors of the sport.
  • Find out more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and its inductees at www.nascarhall.com

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Fast Facts: 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Ray Evernham

The dynamic duo of Jeff Gordon (l) and Ray Evernham in the 2018
NASCAR Hall of Fame portraits
credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Ray Evernham’s list of “hats worn” during his career is more than impressive: Modified driver, chassis specialist, crew chief, team owner, race analyst, television show host – and now member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Evernham and fellow 2018 inductees Robert Yates, Red Byron, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday Jr. were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Here are the Fast Facts on this multi-faceted personality.
  • Ray Evernham was born Aug. 26, 1957 in Hazlet, NJ. He began working on short-track race cars as a teenager, and eventually found his way into the driver’s seat of northeastern Modifieds. Along the way, he also worked with the International Race of Champions (IROC) as a chassis specialist and worked with Alan Kulwicki – a relationship that lasted only six weeks as their personalities clashed.
  • A racing injury took Evernham from the driver’s seat, but his chassis setups for a young Jeff Gordon in 1990 impressed both Gordon and Ford executives, who teamed the pair up at Bill Davis Racing in the Busch (now Xfinity) Series in 1992. Evernham followed Gordon to Hendrick Motorsports at the end of that season, making their driver/crew chief debut in the Cup Series in the 1992 season finale.
  • Evernham – leader of the “Rainbow Warriors,” as Gordon’s pit crew was nicknamed – remained as Gordon’s crew chief through the 1999 season, combining to win 47 races and three Cup Series championships (1995, 1997 and 1998). In 2006, Evernham was voted on by media as the greatest crew chief of all time.
  • Evernham left Hendrick Motorsports following the 1999 season to become a team owner in the Cup Series, bringing Dodge back into the NASCAR fold in 2001 with another Cup Series champion, Bill Elliott, behind the wheel. Evernham Motorsports would eventually field teams in all three of NASCAR’s top-tier series as well as the ARCA Racing Series.
  • Evernham has worked as a television analyst on a number of occasions, including three stints with ESPN/ABC and currently for NBCSN. He is also the host of the show AmeriCarna on Velocity.
  • Evernham married former driver Erin Crocker in Aug. 2009. They have a daughter, Cate Susan, born in July 2015; Evernham also has a son, Ray J., from his previous marriage.
  • Find out more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and its inductees at www.nascarhall.com.



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fast Facts: 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Robert Yates

Davey Allison (l) with team owner Robert Yates
credit: ISC Archives via Getty Images
It will be a bittersweet celebration of a racing career for the family of 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Robert Yates this weekend, as the long-time team owner and engine builder passed away in Oct. 2017, just a few months shy of the induction ceremony. Yates and fellow 2018 inductees Ray Evernham, Red Byron, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday Jr. will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Here are the Fast Facts on this Cup Series championship team owner.
  • James Robert Yates was born April 19, 1943 in Charlotte, NC, one of nine children along with his twin brother, Richard. He lived with his sister’s family in Wake Forest as a teenager, graduating from high school there in 1961 as a straight-A student; he graduated from Wilson Technical College in 1964 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
  • Yates’ association with Ford dates back to 1967, when he landed a job with Holman-Moody; he later moved to positions with Junior Johnson and DiGard Racing. He jumped into team ownership after purchasing Ranier-Lundy Racing, which he had worked for, and formed Robert Yates Racing with Davey Allison as the driver.
  • Yates was rewarded with a Cup Series championship in 1999 with Dale Jarrett behind the wheel of the No. 88. Yates retired from team ownership following the 2007 season (son Doug took over the reins of the team), but stayed in racing as part of Yates Racing Engines (now Roush Yates Engines).
  • In addition to his Hall of Fame induction, Yates was given the Bill France Award of Excellence in 2000 and the Buddy Shuman Award for Lifetime Achievement in NASCAR in 2007. He was named on 94-percent of the ballots on Hall of Fame Voting Day in May 2017.
  • Yates was diagnosed with liver cancer in Aug. 2016 and began treatment in November of that year; he passed away from the disease on Oct. 2, 2017.
  • Find out more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and its inductees at www.nascarhall.com


Monday, January 15, 2018

Travel Tips: NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Fan Appreciation Day – Jan. 19-20, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media
This weekend, the NASCAR Hall of Fame – located at 400 East Martin Luther King Blvd. in Charlotte, NC – will bring the sport’s legends, heroes and up-and-coming stars together with fans as part of its 2018 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Fan Appreciation Day. Hall of Fame activities begin on Friday, Jan. 19 with the Induction Ceremony, followed by NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day at the Hall on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Schedule for the weekend (all times ET):

Friday, Jan. 19
  • 8 p.m. – NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center
Select tickets are still available for the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – click here for more information.

Saturday, Jan. 20 –

Visit the Hall of Fame for free from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and celebrate Fan Appreciation Day with your favorite NASCAR drivers.

High Octane Theater question-and-answer sessions (tickets not required) –
  • 9:00 a.m. – Paul Menard, Cole Custer, Justin Haley
  • 10:00 a.m. – Kyle Larson, Matt Tifft, Noah Gragson
  • 11:00 a.m. – William Byron, Elliott Sadler, Michael Annett, Vinnie Miller
  • 12:00 p.m. – Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Spencer Gallagher, Cody Coughlin
  • 1:30 p.m. – Ryan Blaney, Ryan Reed, John Hunter Nemechek
  • 2:30 p.m. – Alex Bowman, Ryan Truex, Dalton Sargeant
  • 3:30 p.m. – Corey LaJoie, Tyler Reddick, Joey Gase
NASCAR Next driver question-and-answer sessions (tickets not required) –
  • 10:20 a.m. – Harrison Burton, Hailie Deegan, Chase Purdy, Zane Smith
  • 11:20 a.m. – Chase Cabre, Todd Gilliland, Riley Herbst, Cayden Lapcevich, Ty Majeski
NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 question-and-answer sessions (tickets not required) –
  • 10:40 a.m. – Ron Hornaday Jr., Ray Evernham, Ken Squier
There will also be a number of autograph sessions with the aforementioned drivers and personalities – tickets are required for many of these sessions, and some are sold out. Tickets are still available for a few of the sessions – click here to see the driver autograph session schedule and to find out which sessions are available.

Find out more about the Hall of Fame and the Induction Ceremony at www.nascarhall.com