It was an exciting 2012 Budweiser Shootout Saturday night, as Kurt Busch cracked up two cars over the weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson smacked up their rides, Jeff Gordon was doing a little bit of roof surfing, and Kyle Busch was swerving and sparking all over the Daytona International Speedway before somehow righting the ship each time and finishing on top.
During the action, we held the inaugural RotoExperts.com vs. the World Fantasy Experts Draft. The format is rather simple. In a serpentine draft, we selected four drivers and we were not allowed to have the same guy (or girl) as another team. You must start three drivers each week, and the points system is the same as the Sprint Cup Series – one point per place, etc.
It was interesting, and very challenging, especially as we got into the third and fourth rounds. The talent pool is not as deep in the Sprint Cup Series, and a lot of start-and-park guys dot rosters of the experts.
Representing the RotoExperts, there is yours truly, competing in the World Division. FSWA Hall of Famer member and Managing Director Scott Engel, Associate Editor Roy Daniel, Fantasy Racing Editor Adam Ansell, Staff Writer Adam Zdroik and Racing Analyst Sean Engel comprise the RX division.
Representing the “World” is Brian De Los Santos of CBSSports.com (@BrianDLS), Mike Forde of NASCAR.com (@mforde), Brian Polking of KFFL.com and Johnny Rosenstein of FOXSports.com (@JohnnyR119). I have the unenviable task of trying to snatch a division title from this talented group to face one of my fellow writers at RX for the title. It won’t be easy.
KFFL snagged Carl Edwards, a consensus No. 1 ranked driver in most circles, and Zdroik was more than pleased to have five-time Sprint Cup Series champ Jimmie Johnson fall into his lap at No. 2. Forde tabbed Kevin Harvick at No. 3, as he shuttered his operations in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series to concentrate on his Sprint Cup Series endeavors. That might end up being one of the better picks of the first round. De Los Santos snared the 2011 champion Tony Stewart with the fourth selection, and I followed with Jeff Gordon at No. 5, although I was a bit unnerved seeing the No. 24 upside-down at the tail end of Saturday’s Shootout.
In the second half of the opening round, Sean Engel picked up Kyle Busch, the Shootout winner, with the sixth pick. Say what you want about Rowdy, but he is a tremendously talented driver, and he showed that Saturday with several skillful maneuvers. Daniel picked up Matt Kenseth at No. 7, and this is one of my favorite picks of the round. Kenseth isn’t flashy, but he just gets it done. You won’t see his mug on aspirin ads, or car company commercials, etc. But you will see him on Victory Lane – frequently. Rosenstein plucked Brad Keselowski with the eighth pick, and was rather happy to add that up-and-comer to his Fantasy garage. The King picked up 2010 Sprint Cup Series runner-up Denny Hamlin at No. 9, and felt great to get that kind of talent so late. Rounding out the first round, Ansell selected Kasey Kahne, who looks to do big things in his initial campaign with Hendrick Motorsports.
My favorite pick of the round: I liked Daniel’s pick of Kenseth, as he is a driver that just gets it done without a lot of pizzazz. It’s refreshing in this day and age to see a guy just go about his business and not worry about all of the other ancillary things which come with being a Sprint Cup Series driver. That being said, it’s no wonder that he is such a big name, yet struggles to secure sponsorship. Sometimes, you have to play the game and act the part to get the corporate love. That’s one of the things about big-time racing that I personally dislike.
Ansell kicked things off with another member of the Hendrick stable, tabbing Dale Earnhardt Jr. with the 11th pick overall. Perhaps this is the year Little E returns to the winner’s circle. The King picked up Greg Biffle at No. 12, and Rosenstein added Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman at lucky 13. Daniel made another nice selection with A.J. Allmendinger, who many see as a dark horse for a Chase berth in 2012. Sean was pleased to add Phoenix Racing’s Kurt Busch at No. 15, cornering the market on Busch brothers.
I kicked off the second half of Round 2 by going with Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer, hoping he has a lot more than five hours of energy and can return to The Chase. This is when the talent level started going a little downhill, too. Each of the guys from Bowyer on have some question marks, but are certainly capable of stringing together nice runs. De Los Santos picked up South Boston, Va. native Jeff Burton with the 17th pick overall, and Forde nabbed Martin Truex Jr. at No. 18. Rounding out the second round, Zdroik picked Marcos Ambrose and KFFL selected Paul Menard.
My favorite pick of the round: Sean’s addition of Kurt Busch to pair with “Shrub”, or little brother Kyle, was a nice add. The elder Busch will certainly tumble down the overall standings this season, but he has the talent to make inferior equipment better than most that could jump in that driver’s seat. He’ll be a factor for checkers, especially on select flats, short tracks and road courses. Zdroik’s addition of Ambrose was a close second for favorite pick. He is a king on road courses, but proved he has the talent to compete regularly on ovals, too.
At the top of the third round, KFFL took Juan Pablo Montoya, a pick which made many unhappy. JPM was a great addition at that point of the draft, and he can be a Chase contender if someone reins him in and he can figure out a way to earn some dance partners when it counts. Zdroik picked up Joey Logano at No. 22, and this has the potential to be a nice sleeper. He has a lot of talent, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him during burnouts one or more times in 2012. Watch him at Kentucky. NASCAR.com ended up with Mark Martin at No. 23, while De Los Santos absolutely crushed me with his selection of Jamie McMurray at No. 24, one pick before mine. I settled on Regan Smith at No. 25, while Sean followed with the talented and slightly irritating to others, Brian Vickers, with the 26th pick. Roy was at it again, picking up Aric Almirola at No. 27, another tremendous pick, especially at this late juncture. Rosenstein added Front Row Racing’s David Ragan at No. 28, The King was pleased with David Reutimann at No. 29, and Ansell wound up the third round with Bobby Labonte at 30.
My favorite pick of the round: De Los Santos caused me to mutter several foul words, snatching Jamie Mac right in front of me. The driver of the No. 1 showed a lot of promise in 2010, and has the potential to be a Chase contender while winning several races. Smith won last year, at Darlington no less, but I don’t think he can be as productive week in and week out. Hope I am wrong and I look back on this and laugh.
Ansell hopes lightning strikes twice, as he added 2011 Daytona champ Trevor Bayne at No. 21. The King added Dave Blaney at No. 32, and Rosenstein made it an official Tommy Baldwin Racing run with Danica Patrick at No. 33. Roy selected Casey Mears at No. 34, and Sean picked up David Gilliland with the 35th pick. Again, just one pick earlier and I would have had my guy, as I like the potential of Gilliland, especially on the superspeedways. I settled for Travis Kvapil at No.36, and he won’t make his season debut until the second race of the season at Phoenix. De Los Santos picked up Tony Raines at No. 37, Landon Cassill went to NASCAR.com, Zdroik tabbed J.J. Yeley at No. 39, and Mr. Irrelevant of our draft was Andy Lally with the 40th and final selection.
My favorite pick of the round: While I am not a big fan of hers, Danica certainly gives Rosenstein a fourth notable racer to his Fantasy stable. If he picks and chooses the correct spots to insert her into the starting lineup, this could be a steal late in the game.