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NASCAR Draft Kit: 2017 Track Specialists

Mark Taylor

Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A five-time FSWA award winner, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year each of the last two years. He is also a military historian, specifically the World War II U.S. Navy in the Pacific.


The Monster Energy Cup Series presents as diverse a set of tracks as any racing series in the world. From intermediate ovals to winding road courses, each track has its own special configuration and special set of characteristics. This lineup of tracks is designed to test the NASCAR driver's ability in virtually every racing condition.

From the fantasy racing standpoint, it helps to know which drivers succeed at certain facilities. Recent historical information gives us an edge, but we also need to be mindful of current trends and past statistical information in context. We've taken a long look at both and come up with the drivers you need to have at certain style tracks in 2017 for fantasy racing success.

Here is our breakdown of track specialists to watch closely this season. This analysis is particularly helpful for weekly lineup leagues.

SHORT-TRACK SPECIALISTS

These stats are based on three-quarter-mile tracks or shorter, including Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.

Kevin Harvick

Car: 4
Owner: Stewart Haas Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Bristol32211115
Martinsville3110314
Richmond32311120
Career95622549

Last season Harvick amassed the most points of any driver in the Monster Energy Cup Series on the series' short tracks. The driver of the No. 4 Ford won the Bristol night race for his second-career victory at the Tennessee short track, and he also claimed three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes for a very successful campaign on the short tracks. Those accomplishments only add to his career-long excellence of racing on the NASCAR bull rings. Harvick now boasts six total victories on these small ovals and his career Top-10 rate is approaching a lofty 52-percent. When it comes to weekly fantasy lineup selection you can never go wrong with Harvick with NASCAR's top division visits a short track.

Joey Logano

Car: 22
Owner: Penske Racing
Manufacturer: Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Bristol162136
Martinsville160346
Richmond161258
Career48361220

Logano is very quickly becoming one of NASCAR's best drivers when it comes to short track racing. He's won three victories and six pole positions in just under 50-career starts on these small tracks. The Penske Racing star didn't collect a win on these style tracks last season but he was the series' most consistent driver on the bull rings. Logano was the only driver to claim five Top-10 finishes in the six races held at Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond. Those efforts boosted his career Top-10 rate at these tracks to nearly 42-percent. That is a number which will surely be on the rise during the 2017 season. Logano just gets better each time we visit these NASCAR short tracks. Expect more Top 10s and maybe even a win or two this season.

Denny Hamlin

Car: 11
Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Bristol2213610
Martinsville22531217
Richmond2133812
Career65992639

With the departure of Jeff Gordon, Hamlin has now practically become NASCAR's version of "Mr. Short Track." Year-in and year-out the driver of the No. 11 Toyota shows up and posts strong finishes at these small ovals. In the latter half of last season Hamlin came on strong and grabbed a victory at Richmond and a pair of third-place finishes at Bristol and Martinsville. He finished the season with one win, three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes to go along with 257 laps led on these three tracks. It doesn't seem to matter if it's up or down season for Hamlin and his JGR team. They always line up each season and storm the circuit's short tracks. That is a tidbit to remember on fantasy draft day and throughout this season.

Kyle Busch

Car: 18
Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Bristol2351813
Martinsville23111112
Richmond23411517
Career691033442

Busch may have come up short in his quest to repeat as champion last season, but it wasn't for a lack of performance on the circuit's short tracks. He led off the year with his most dominant Martinsville performance of his career. Busch led a whopping 352 laps at the Virginia short track in the spring and claimed his first-ever win at the paperclip. He would return to Martinsville during the Chase and grab an impressive fifth-place finish. Those efforts went into a record that reflected three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes for the year between the three tracks. At 689 laps led, we saw a lot of the No. 18 Toyota out front at these three ovals. We're sure to see a lot of the that same green Toyota Camry up front on the short tracks in the 2017 season.

Jimmie Johnson

Car: 48
Owner: Hendrick Motorsports
Manufacturer:Chevrolet

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Bristol30111017
Martinsville30931924
Richmond3032712
Career901363653

Earlier in his career Johnson used to be nearer the top of this ranking. However, as the world turns so does NASCAR. Younger drivers have come in and pushed the Hendrick Motorsports star down this list, but that doesn't diminish the excellence he projects each time we visit Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond. Johnson circled the wagons last season and especially on the circuit's short tracks in order to win his seventh championship. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet won a key ninth-career Martinsville victory during the Chase for the Cup which propelled him to last season's championship. Johnson also nabbed a pair of Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes on these three ovals during the amazing 2016 season. The stats above are starting to look like Hall of Fame type numbers for Johnson. His 13 victories make him the active wins leader at these three ovals, and his stunning 59-percent career Top-10 rate at these tracks is tops in the series.

Martin Truex Jr.

Car: 78
Owner: Furniture Row Racing
Manufacturer: Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Bristol220022
Martinsville220127
Richmond220027
Career6601616

Truex has really failed to be relevant on the short tracks up until this point in his career. The last two seasons have seen a pretty dramatic turnaround in his performances on these small ovals. Truex nabbed a pair of Top 10s at Richmond last season, won the pole position at Martinsville during the Chase and even won on the one-mile oval of Dover. In his last four starts of last season on bull ring type tracks, Truex piled up 527 laps led. We believe that this driver and team are ones to watch closely this season on the short-track circuit. Clearly they have found the missing ingredients to success on these style ovals, and Truex should continue to be strong on them in 2017.

ROAD COURSE SPECIALISTS

Although road courses are a small percentage of the overall schedule, they can be a huge factor in a fantasy racing championship. The circuit's road courses include Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

Joey Logano

Car: 22
Owner: Penske Racing
Manufacturer:Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Sonoma80124
Watkins Glen81035
Career161159

Logano has quickly become our most proficient driver on the twisting road circuits. In just the last two seasons alone the Penske Racing star has grabbed a win and runner-up finish at Watkins Glen and fifth- and third-place finishes at Sonoma. The No. 22 Ford has become the team to beat each time we visit Sonoma or Watkins Glen. Right now Logano has just the one victory in his 16 combined starts on these tracks, but he's now in position to pile up the wins over the next few years. It wouldn't surprise us to see Logano sweep these tracks in the 2017 season. It's been several years since this feat was last accomplished in NASCAR's top division, and it was by Kyle Busch in 2008. Logano is that good on these style tracks.

Kyle Busch

Car: 18
Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer:Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Sonoma122024
Watkins Glen1221510
Career2441714

With the retirement of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart over the past two seasons, Busch has now ascended to the grizzled veteran status on the series' road courses. His four victories and 14 Top-10 finishes place him among the best in NASCAR's top division. His success has also been recent on these winding circuits. Busch won his second-career event at Sonoma in 2015, and he has won and finished runner-up in two of his last four starts at Watkins Glen International. The Joe Gibbs Racing star was a bit of a boom-or-bust fantasy racing pick on these style tracks earlier in his career, but he's showing his maturity now at 31-years-old. Patience is the key to winning at these challenging tracks.

Kurt Busch

Car: 41
Owner: Stewart Haas Racing
Manufacturer:Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Sonoma161178
Watkins Glen160137
Career32121015

While he lacks the victories that some other drivers boast on these style tracks, Busch has the consistency and finishing down pat at these two road circuits. His 31-percent Top-5 rate at Sonoma and Watkins Glen is nearly unparalleled. Busch also offers a near-50-percent Top-10 rate at these challenging tracks. With Top-10 finishes in four of his last six combined starts at the Glen and Sonoma, the Stewart Haas Racing veteran is about the safest bet going for a Top-10 finish on these two tracks. Again, the No. 41 Ford isn't likely to finish in victory lane at these tracks this season, but Busch is about the closest bet to a sure Top-10 finish at these facilities.

Denny Hamlin

Car: 11
Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer:Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Sonoma110023
Watkins Glen111025
Career221048

Hamlin's patience and persistence finally paid off in 2016 with his first-career win on these style tracks. The Joe Gibbs Racing star grabbed a win in August's Cheez It 355k at the Glen. That victory capped years of struggles at the facility and showed just how good the driver of the No. 11 Toyota was at turning both left and right. Sonoma was equally rewarding for Hamlin as well as he nabbed a career-best runner-up finish at the California road course. You could say that 2016 was a bit of a “bolt from the blue” for the No. 11 Toyota team, but we like to think of it more of this team finally getting the overdue breaks they deserve on the road courses. Hamlin should pile up more success at these two tracks this season.

A.J. Allmendinger

Car: 47
Owner: JTG Daugherty Racing
Manufacturer:Chevrolet

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Sonoma80102
Watkins Glen81135
Career161237

The JTG Daugherty Racing veteran is razor sharp on the series' road courses. His average finish at these tracks is nearly six positions better (15.1) than his career average across all NASCAR tracks (21.0). Allmendinger claimed his first Monster Energy Cup Series win at Watkins Glen in 2014. He returned in 2015 to claim the pole and lead 21 laps in that event. Last year he raced well and claimed a strong fourth-place finish at the Glen. Allmendinger is a serious threat to upset the larger teams each time we visit the New York road course. He's had less success at Sonoma, but last year he won the outside pole and led 20 laps before bad pit strategy saddled him with a 14th-place finish. Allmendinger has plenty of upside at these two tracks, especially in weekly lineup leagues.

Clint Bowyer

Car: 14
Owner: Stewart Haas Racing
Manufacturer:Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Sonoma111068
Watkins Glen110014
Career2210712

After a struggle-filled transition year at HScott Motorsports, Bowyer should be ready to get back to the business of busting pavement on these winding circuits. When he left Michael Waltrip Racing two seasons ago, he was one of the best veteran drivers in the series at Sonoma and the Glen. He'll return to that level once again at Stewart Haas Racing. Let's not forget the No. 14 team that Bowyer is taking over helped Tony Stewart to victory lane at Sonoma last season. That experience and those notes will surely come in handy for an experienced road circuit racer like Bowyer. He could be one of the biggest surprise drivers this season, and we believe the road courses will be a big part of this rebound effort.

SUPERSPEEDWAY SPECIALISTS

As with the road courses, the superspeedways represent a small portion of the overall schedule. However, these tracks are raced twice a season, so the stakes are much higher. The circuit's superspeedways include Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

Brad Keselowski

Car: 2
Owner: Penske Racing
Manufacturer:Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Daytona151034
Talladega164069
Career3150913

It's become quite clear over the last two seasons that the horsepower and speed on these huge ovals has shifted into the favor of the Penske Racing camp. Keselowski dominated in three of these four events last season and claimed a pair of victories, one at Daytona and one at Talladega during 2016. The driver of the No. 2 Ford combined to lead 252 laps in these four races. Were it not for an unfortunate engine failure in the October Talladega race, Keselowski would have likely won three of these four events. Now a five-time winner between Daytona and Talladega, this veteran driver has moved to the head of the list of superspeedway drivers and has replaced Dale Earnhardt Jr. from his former position as top performer at these two ovals.

Joey Logano

Car: 22
Owner: Penske Racing
Manufacturer:Ford

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Daytona161046
Talladega162046
Career3230812

Logano has been equally strong as his teammate Keselowski on the big ovals of Daytona and Talladega. He's the 2015 Daytona 500 winner, and he picked up a pair of Top-10 finishes at the historic Florida oval in 2016. With victories in two of his last three starts at Talladega, the driver of the No. 22 Ford is becoming the driver to beat each time we visit the 2.66-mile track in central Alabama. All this success on the restrictor plate race tracks has been quite sudden for Logano. It's practically been a 180 turn overnight. Now that Penske has the speed on these style tracks, Logano is setup for much more success to come. He is a driver to rely on in weekly lineup fantasy leagues when it comes to racing at both Daytona and Talladega.

Kyle Busch

Car: 18
Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer:Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Daytona231178
Talladega231056
Career46211214

Busch suffered through years of inconsistency at Daytona after his big 2008 summer victory at the track. However, signs from last season point to a big change for the Joe Gibbs Racing star. Busch snapped a four-season Top-10 drought at DIS with brilliant third- and second-place finishes at Daytona. He was equally as impressive at Talladega in the spring with a strong runner-up finish. The fall start at Talladega during the Chase was a throw-away as the driver of the No. 18 Toyota just made laps at the back of the pack, with advancement in the Chase taking precedent that weekend. All-in-all last season was a very impressive performance at these huge ovals. We don't expect that speed to evaporate in 2017. We look for Busch to continue to challenge for wins on these very large and fast tracks.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Car: 88
Owner: Hendrick Motorsports
Manufacturer:Chevrolet

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Daytona34411319
Talladega33601216
Career671012535

Due to a wreck-filled and injury shortened 2016 season, we saw Earnhardt take a few steps back from his usual excellence on these super speedways. Poor finishes at both Daytona and Talladega interrupted what has been outstanding performance at these ovals the last four or five years. However, Earnhardt still boasts the career-long numbers at Daytona and Talladega that make him dangerous each time the series visits these tracks. The concussion specter will likely hang over Earnhardt's fantasy racing value in 2017. Head injuries can flare up at any given moment if a crash is bad enough. Therefore, Earnhardt's season-long value takes a bit of a hit in 2017. However, in weekly lineup leagues, you'll likely want to consider Earnhardt because he's on an entirely different level than everyone else whenever we visit Daytona and Talladega in the schedule.

Denny Hamlin

Car: 11
Owner: Joe Gibbs Racing
Manufacturer:Toyota

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Daytona221067
Talladega221058
Career44201115

With his big victory in last season's Daytona 500, Hamlin has finally etched his name into NASCAR history. At the same time, he's also elevated his resume on the superspeedway tracks. Hamlin has always been a consistent and good performer at both ovals, he's just lacked the victories to make him an elite driver at these facilities. Now that he's scratched the win column at both, Hamlin is worthy of top consideration at these huge tracks. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota ended his superspeedway campaign in 2016 with a brilliant third-place finish at Talladega in October. That is likely a good indicator of where this driver and team will pick up in the season-opening events at Daytona in 2017.

Austin Dillon

Car: 3
Owner: Richard Childress Racing
Manufacturer:Chevrolet

COURSERACESWINSPOLESTOP 5sTOP 10s
Daytona70115
Talladega70012
Career140127

The driver that is just a tad off the radar screen, but is coming on strong at the super speedways is Dillon. After a 13 Top-10 finish campaign in 2016 there are finally some signs of life in the No. 3 Chevrolet team. The big ovals have been a big part of the success and the turnaround this team. Dillon has been very consistent at both Daytona and Talladega. Five of his seven starts at Daytona have netted Top-10 finishes and that includes the last three-straight events. Talladega has been a bit trickier for Dillon, but signs point to a big improvement there. He claimed a pair of Top-10 finishes at the central Alabama speedway in 2016. That boosted his career Top-10 rate at these two facilities to 50-percent. That's a strong mark considering the high stakes type of racing this has proven to be over the years. Dillon is a big-time sleeper pick on the restrictor-plate race tracks this season.
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