When Joey Logano won the Coors Light Pole in a record speed of 203.695 mph at Michigan International Speedway, the first thought that might have run through fantasy owners' minds was to stay away from him in fear of a poor score in place differential. When you're at the top, sometimes there's only one place to go, and that's down, which would have meant a big loss in fantasy points.
But Logano managed to come through with a victory in the Pure Michigan 400 that delighted fantasy owners that didn't shy away from the No. 22. In fact, Logano was the top-scoring driver in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game, pleasing a slight uptick in ownership after winning the pole. (His price increased by $0.25 due to more demand.)
Even with the increase, Logano was still priced at a manageable $22.25 and provided plenty of bang for the buck. Logano tallied 95.5 fantasy points, edging Kevin Harvick, who scored 93. Kurt Busch was third with 91 points, followed by Michigan favorite Greg Biffle with 90 and the red-hot Kasey Kahne with 86.
For a Penske-driven Ford to do well at Michigan was not a big surprise, but it still marked Logano's first win of the season and only the third win of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. So even if you pegged Logano for a good showing, the amount of the payoff was still bigger than expected.
Now the question is whether Logano can continue to provide good value for the remainder of the races leading up to the Chase for NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Looking back, Logano's win at Michigan was his fourth straight top-10 finish. And it was his 10th top-10 finish in the past 13 races. But Logano also had back-to-back 40th-place finishes at Daytona and New Hampshire that could have shaken the nerves of even the most confident fantasy owners.
Looking ahead, NASCAR Statistical Service's Loop Data shows us that in the past eight seasons at Bristol Motor Speedway Logano ranks 22nd in driver rating. His average finish there has been 21.6, and in the spring he was 17th after a dust-up with Denny Hamlin.
So at least for the immediate future, it could be time to cash in your winnings with Logano and move to another mid-priced driver. Might we suggest Kurt Busch? His historical data is better at Bristol, and as you'll see by reading on, the price is right, too.
Key Fantasy Moment: When Jimmie Johnson felt a couple of cylinders drop in his engine early in the race, fantasy owners' hearts dropped as well. Although Johnson has never won at Michigan International Speedway, many owners stuck with him even though he was starting from the back after a crash in final practice that forced him to go with a backup car. But for the poor souls who were looking for another big day from Johnson, it wasn't meant to be at a track that continues to be the No. 48's bugaboo. Johnson had a league-worst minus-23.5 fantasy points on the day.
Best Value: On a point-per-dollar basis, Logano was a better value than Kurt Busch, but since we already talked about Logano in this column, pairing him with the No. 78 was an ideal situation. Both drivers were moderately priced at $22.50 for Busch and $22.25 for Logano and paid off handsomely with 93 and 95.5 fantasy points, respectively. Busch was no sure thing after finishing 35th at Michigan in June, but his third-place finish extended his run to six top-10s in the eight races since the first trip through Michigan. Kudos to fantasy owners who hopped aboard with Furniture Row Racing driver for this one.
Biggest Bust: Besides Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the biggest name closest to the bottom of the fantasy standings on Sunday. Junior tallied just 4.5 fantasy points and came in 37th among 43 drivers. That was a hard pill to swallow given that he cost fantasy owners $26.25 to have on their teams. It was doubly difficult given that Junior has done well at Michigan and was running up front when he got a flat tire and smacked the wall in Turn 2 on Lap 135. He finished 36th after leading 20 laps earlier in the race.
Tip to take forward: The Sprint Cup Series switches from the two-mile track at Michigan to the close quarters of the 0.53-mile coliseum at Bristol. That means it's time to bone up on the short-track bargains and busts for your fantasy team. Funny thing is, with the way Michigan played, it was almost as unpredictable as some of the situations that come to pass at Bristol. Kasey Kahne won the spring race in Bristol, but we'll see how it goes the second time around. Kyle Busch comes in with the highest driver rating (103.0) at the track, according to NASCAR Statistical Service's Loop Data. Logano's rating of 75.1 over that same span ranks him 22nd.
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