Welcome to our first INDYCAR Fantasy Review. This is a more in-depth look at fantasy racing here at INDYCAR Nation. Whether your fantasy team is in deep trouble, you're looking to squeeze those last few choices from your fantasy picks, or you just enjoy fantasy racing, this is the column for you. For our first column, we're going to look at two different items.
Hares, Tortoises, and the Mix Approach
If your leagues are anything like the norm, you have teams employing a mix of strategies. I called the three main strategies we see (especially early on). Hares, Tortoises, and Mix n' Match.
Hares are fast out of the gate. They utilize the powerful Penske and Target Chip Ganassi teams, seemingly not caring that they can only use these prime drivers six times during the entire season. The plus side of this approach is generally scoring big points early in the year, but slowing down tremendously when you've used up Will Power, Dario Franchitti, and the other top-tier drivers after Texas.
Tortoises don't want to use those top drivers, as in ever, apparently. No, they're biding their time, bringing up entire rosters of backmarkers and staying away from the likes of Helio Castroneves or Scott Dixon. You'll see, they say; wait until the final third of the schedule when they blow everyone away with the Lineup of Super Awesomeness. Of course, besides digging themselves an early-season hole that can turn out to be insurmountable, this approach can cause waste as late-season chargers and oval specialists have to fight for space in their lineup.
The Mix n' Match strategy is a healthier compromise between the two. This team usually selects 2-3 Penske and Ganassi drivers, and augments from the best of the rest. It's an even approach, giving a team a chance to maximize their points and still have plenty of options available late in the season.
Honestly, if you're a Tortoise or a Hare, you're leaving points out on the track. A couple minutes of research can tell you how a driver deals with a particular race course historically, and waiting to pick your teams until qualifying groups are announced on the road and street courses can help you optimize points for qualification. That's usually cutting it close to the deadline, but doing your homework can be accomplished at any point leading up to the race.
We've still got Sao Paulo before Indy, and we've so far had a remarkable mix of teams up near the top. The Indy 500 follows and is huge on points, and a bad choice there (such as a driver not qualifying, Paul Tracy selectors of a year ago!) can severely impact your points total. We'll do another review before then. But for now, take advantage of the fact that we truly have some great parity near the top on the road and street courses. Don't be afraid to save a couple of your Penske and Ganassi drivers in favor of those hard chargers from teams like Newman/Haas (Servia and Hinchcliffe), Dreyer & Reinbold (Justin Wilson, who's usually a great add at any road course), and Sam Schmidt Motorsports (Alex Tagliani). Of course, with Mike Conway’s win at Long Beach, we also know Andretti Autosport can run up front this year as well.
At this point in the season, it's also good to remember there are no safe bets; some of your "locks" will likely get taken out early. You're going to lose 50 points here in there; take your lumps and move on. As we've seen, one dive-bomb on the first lap can ruin an entire fantasy team.
If you have an INDYCAR fantasy racing question or comment you'd like featured, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org; and thanks for reading. Remember, you don't have to be a hardcore fan or insider to win at fantasy racing; you just have keep your ears open, take a minute to look at your lineup, and make your picks. Until next time, have fun, and happy racing!
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-update INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate.