As mentioned in the Fantasy NASCAR Favorites article earlier this week, Auto Club Speedway rarely sees the same drivers finishing up front on a consistent basis. This is good and bad for fantasy players. Those who like to take a few risks with their rosters should have some good opportunities on Sunday in the Auto Club 400, as has been the case pretty much for the entire 2015 season thus far. I think the new rules package has leveled the playing field by quite a bit, allowing the mid-tier drivers to shine.
Fantasy Sleepers for Fontana
Brian Vickers – Editor’s note: it was announced on Friday that Brian Vickers is sidelined again for health reasons. Brett Moffitt will race the #55 Toyota at Fontana on Sunday. Vickers missed the first two races of the season because of health problems, but he didn’t miss a step once he got back into the #55 Toyota: at Atlanta, Brian qualified 28th but rallied for a 15th-place finish when the checkered flag flew. Looking at the other intermediate track race this season, Brett Moffitt wheeled this car top an 8th-place result at Atlanta, so it’s safe to say that crew chief Billy Scott isn’t entirely incompetent. Vickers is coming off of a disappointing 41st-place finish at Phoenix last weekend but he should be looking forward to Sunday’s race at Fontana; over his last nine starts at this race track, Vickers has just one finish worse than 12th, and he ended up 7th in this event one year ago. In The Showcase, the driver of the #55 Toyota will receive 6 handicap points at Fontana this weekend, which isn’t terrible for his tier. However, when you have guys like Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski getting 5 and 7 handicap points (respectively) it’s hard to go with Vickers–unless you want to go against the popular picks.
Jamie McMurray – Jamie Mac is coming off of a 2nd-place finish at Phoenix and an 11th-place result at Las Vegas so his confidence has to be pretty high right now. With that being said, you should always use quite a bit of caution with guys like him because inconsistency would probably be his middle name if his mom had to do it all over again. Now, looking into Fontana, McMurray finished a solid 6th here last season, which was great. However, that was his first top 10 result since the 2006 season (not a typo). Ouch, that’s definitely going to make some fantasy players shy away from him…but that puts the advantage in your favor. McMurray should be a solid fantasy pick this weekend because he was super fast at Atlanta and pretty strong at Las Vegas. These Ganassi cars also have Hendrick engines in them and Jamie has really turned into a nice little intermediate Sprint Cup racer over the last six months. In The Showcase, Jamie McMurray will get you 9 very valuable handicap points this weekend because of his rocky results here at Auto Club over the last six races. This means that it will take only a 14th-place finish for you to get top 5-like fantasy points out of McMurray. Not too bad…
Paul Menard – The driver of the #27 Chevrolet is kind of getting overlooked in this young 2015 season, but when you look at his finishes, Paul Menard has actually been one of the most consistent drivers in the series. Paul ended up 13th at Atlanta after the season-opening Daytona 500 and then finished 12th at Las Vegas before posting a 14th-place finish at Phoenix last weekend. Not great, but not terrible either. Now that we’re at Auto Club Speedway, there’s going to be some fantasy players on the Menard bandwagon because he finished 9th here last season and 8th in 2013. The hard part with picking Paul, though, is that he rarely has a great performance. A typically Paul Menard race will be one where he runs around 12th through 18th all race and then, at the end, he might sneak into the top 10. In The Showcase, Menard will also receive 6 handicap points like Brian Vickers. Personally I don’t think this is good enough value to consider him (at least heading into the weekend), but with a handicap like that, an 11th-place finish out of Menard would give you top 5-like fantasy points, so I can’t blame you for keeping the #27 in mind on Sunday.