This week we get a little break from normal as we’re at Sonoma Raceway, the first of two road course races this season. Personally I like to watch the races on this type of track, but from a fantasy perspective they can be frustrating. Crew chiefs will be working backwards with fuel strategy as soon as the green flag flies, so this opens the door to take some chances with fantasy sleeper picks in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.
Fantasy Sleepers for Sonoma
A.J. Allmendinger – There’s a lot to like this weekend when it comes to A.J. Allmendinger, and there will be even more to like when we go to Watkins Glen later this year. Although the two road course tracks on the NASCAR circuit are quite different than each other, they’re both still road courses that require a lot of driver talent and crew chief strategy. A.J. won at Watkins Glen last season and led 35 laps here at Sonoma but finished 37th after playing bumper cars with some of his competitors. It’s safe to say that Allmendinger would have been a solid top 5 pick here last season if he didn’t run into those troubles. Four of the last five Sonoma races have ended with A.J. finishing 13th or better, so it’s definitely worth your time to keep an eye on that #47 Chevrolet here this weekend.
Jamie McMurray – I remember the 2013 race here quite well. Do you? Here’s what happened: Jamie McMurray (surprisingly) won the pole and looked great in practice all weekend. I went all in on him in the majority of my fantasy leagues, and then on Sunday he only led 2 laps and quickly fell back in the running order, ultimately finishing 25th. That’s when I stopped trusting Jamie Mac. Flash forward to 2014, and McMurray once again won the pole at Sonoma and looked good in practice. I wasn’t falling for it this time, though. Unfortunately. Jamie ended up 4th in this race last season, leading 9 laps in the process. It’s been his only top 10 result at this track since the 2004 season. So what can we expect out of Jamie and the #1 team this weekend? I’m quietly optimistic. This team has been running incredibly well in 2015 (McMurray has scored the 7th-most points in the series) and they showed that they can get a good finish at a road course last season.
Casey Mears – I really like Casey Mears as a sleeper pick at what I call the “other tracks”–specifically the restrictor plate venues as well as the road courses. I like him even more since this #13 team switched to Chevrolet. Looking at all of the races since the start of the 2013 season, the top tracks for Mears (when it comes to average finish) have been Daytona, Watkins Glen, and Sonoma…in that order. Casey hasn’t ended up worse than 20th at Watkins Glen since the 2006 season, which is pretty damn good for a guy that has pretty much had sub-par equipment every year. At Sonoma, Mears has finished 13th, 16th, and 15th in the last three events. For a lower tier driver like Casey, those type of finishes are great values in many fantasy leagues, so it’s definitely worth taking a look at the #13 this weekend.