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Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times -- well, then we know we have a problem. Owners of Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game can relate to that saying right about now.
For three straight races the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has not looked, well, champion-like. Behold the carnage: A 40th-place finish in Michigan, a 36th-place showing at Bristol, a 28th-place piece-de-la-P.U. in Atlanta.
An optimist might say there's improvement shown in those numbers, but we're fantasy owners, where the glass is seemingly always half empty. We want more fantasy points, especially from the highest-price driver in the game, and he's not giving them right now.
Therefore, is it finally time for the great J.J. sell-off to begin? His price has stabilized at $28.75, perhaps indicating that like the hill climber on the Price is Right we might be set for a tumble.
But the difficult thing about Johnson is knowing when to pull the plug. His numbers at most tracks are usually some of the best in the game.
And there has been a good amount of randomness to this streak of bad races. After all, a teammate (Kasey Kahne) ran into him on a restart where another teammate (Jeff Gordon) couldn't get a grip last night at Atlanta. A betting man would probably tell you stuff like that won't happen every day -- or night as it were.
With Richmond ahead, it's not a bad time to take a break from Jimmie -- you know, get a little time away so the relationship can heal. His numbers are solid at the short track, but they aren't dominant. His Driver Rating is in the top 10, but it's ranked ninth. His average finish is 15.5. Not bad, but not badass, either, like the lightly bearded driver usually appears on race day.
And since everyone is cheaper than Johnson in the game, a penny saved from dumping him is a penny earned elsewhere on your roster. You can always come back to him, and if our thoughts are correct and the sell-off does begin in earnest, you'll be able to get the No. 48 back on your team for a reduced price.
Now that's something you won't feel foolish about.
Key Fantasy Moment: Clint Bowyer looked like he had the car to beat in the middle of the race and was leading 48 laps when his engine blew up and he had to go to the garage for the rest of the night. Bowyer finished 39th and his fantasy score sunk to only 20 points thanks in large part to a minus-27 in place differential. Bowyer wasn't the only marquee fantasy driver to experience engine problems, as Brad Keselowski also felt a couple of cylinders go down late in the race. Bowyer finished 29th in fantasy points while Keselowski was 18th. Neither was worth his high price.
Biggest bargain: Joey Logano didn't win the race in Atlanta, but he was the top scorer by far in fantasy, raking in 143.5 points and finishing well ahead of race-winner Kyle Busch, who had 104.5 fantasy points. Logano did better than Busch in all categories except for finishing position. The biggest disparity came in fastest laps, where Logano had a race-high 26.5 fantasy points to Busch's six points in that category. And although Logano's team had problems on pit road, it paid handsomely to get the No. 22 car on your team, especially at a reasonable price of $22.75.
Biggest bust: A chain reaction on an early restart led to Kahne getting into the back of Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, with Jeff Burton crawling up the back of Kahne. The result was smoke emanating from the No. 5 car because of radiator problems. Kahne went to the garage for repairs and did not return until he was 31 laps down. Kahne finished in 36th place and ended up with minus-4 fantasy points for the race. That was not what owners bargained for when they ponied up $25 (up $0.50 from last week) for Kahne, who was coming off a second-place showing at Bristol.
Tip to take forward: According to NASCAR's Statistical Services, the following drivers lead in the significant fantasy categories for the past eight years at Richmond International Raceway: Laps led, Denny Hamlin (1,390); Quality passes, Kevin Harvick (575); Fastest laps, Hamlin (582); Average finish: Kyle Busch (6.5). But this is an example of where fantasy owners should not evaluate these numbers merely on face value. Although Hamlin has done well at Richmond historically, he's still a boom-or-bust pick given the way he has struggled this season.
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