DraftKings Fantasy NASCAR picks: New Hampshire

I’m playing DraftKings this season and will be posting my picks here each week. Disclosure: If you want to play and sign up using this link, DraftKings will give my website a commission.

Last race’s results: Played $4 Brake Pad contest. Finished 185th of 1,200. Won $8.

Season results: $88 wagered, $103 won in 22 contests.

This week’s contest: $1 Happy Hour contest.

New Hampshire picks:

— Kyle Busch ($10,700): I’m pretty much in the habit of picking the polesitter every week now. It seems like the polesitter drives off and leads a large chunk of laps — sometimes the entire first stage — which will really add up with the amount of laps available at New Hampshire.

— Joey Logano ($8,700): Expensive pick, but he starts last and will gain you a lot of points as he works his way up through the field. Even if he finishes 15th, that’s a lot of points from position differential.

— Ryan Blaney ($8,000): Though his starting position is too high (fourth), there’s a chance he could lead a chunk of laps. He had the fastest 10-lap average in final practice — which was closest to race conditions — and has shown good speed all weekend.

— Erik Jones ($7,800): Toyotas still seem fast every week, so I like to try and get them into the lineup however possible. Jones was the second-fastest non-playoff driver in 10-lap averages for final practice (12th overall); his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez was the other one (sixth overall). So I picked both.

— Daniel Suarez ($7,500): See above.

— Austin Dillon ($7,000)I only had $7,300 left, so it was a tough choice here. I would have loved to pick Kasey Kahne ($7,400), since it seems like he is having a good weekend — but I was $100 short. So it was tempting to go with Ryan Newman ($7,200), since he’s had a lot of success at a track where he also runs the Modified race. But Dillon has seemed to have speed lately and was 19th in 10-lap average for final practice, so perhaps he can provide decent value here.

Joey Logano forced to sit in virtual penalty box at New Hampshire

At one point, as Joey Logano served a full-practice penalty in his car on pit road, his pregnant wife Brittany approached the car.

She leaned over the pit wall and put her hand up to the window net, which was within reach. Her husband did the same from inside the car.

“She was laughing (and said it) was like I was in jail, you know?” the driver said afterward. “I said, ‘It’s kind of like that, actually.'”

Logano said he had “time for a lot of thoughts in there” during his 50-minute penalty for failing pre-qualifying inspection four times on Friday — “mainly that it’s a total joke.”

NASCAR requires drivers serve their “practice hold” penalty in the car on pit road, buckled into the car with full safety equipment — and several other drivers had 15- or 30-minute punishments on Saturday.

But a driver had never missed the entirety of final practice before this. It made it look like Logano was serving a time out with a virtual dunce cap on his head as the other cars drove by.

And maybe that’s the point. NASCAR has ratcheted up the penalties as teams continue to mess around in inspection and not present their cars that are within the rules from the start.

But this penalty in particular seemed absurd because it wasn’t just a chunk of practice — it was all of it. So Logano just sat there and never turned a lap.

“I just think it makes the sport look dumb,” Logano said. “It’s kind of a joke. I don’t get it, personally. I think we can accomplish the same thing in a more professional manner.”

Logano said he understood the reason for a penalty, but said there was “no reason to sit out there.”

“Keep us in (the garage) or something,” he said.

He laughed.

“But coming from the guy who just sat in the car for an hour, sweating, it might not be the best thing to say,” he said.

Logano said he wasn’t too uncomfortable in the car — he ran his helmet fan and had several bottles of water — but wished he could have done something more productive with his time.

“I would have signed autographs or something,” he said of the fans milling near pit road. “I had nothing better to do. I was looking to get something out of it.”

But Kurt Culbert, NASCAR managing director of integrated marketing and communications, tweeted the penalty was fitting of the infraction.

 

Video: Dale Earnhardt Jr. sounds off on post-race tire blowouts

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been outspoken on the intentional tire blowout issue recently, and he responded to a question at New Hampshire with a rant on the topic.

Here’s a video of his comments, which are transcribed below:

What is your feeling about the burnouts after the race for post-race celebrations where it can blow out tires and damage quarterpanels? If you win, what is your burnout going to be like?

Well that would be like all the other burnouts. I have never blown out a tire on purpose. But we have been doing burnouts for 30 years it seems like. It just seems like the Gen 6 car, once everybody started figuring out how to trick the underbody and things like that, everybody blows the tires out.

It is just hard for me to see the logic in suspending a crew chief, car chief for some tape flapping on the spoiler when the winner drives into Victory Lane with the rear of the car tore all to hell. I don’t see how that doesn’t come across anybody’s conscious or common sense. I don’t understand.

It doesn’t make any sense to me. And it never has. I have been kind of waiting all this time for NASCAR to eventually say, “Look, we would just rather you guys not blow the tires out.” They talk about not wanting to be the “fun police” — being the “fun police” is not on the radar of their damn problems. That is a cop out in my opinion.

But I think you can do burnouts without blowing the tires out. That happened for years. I don’t remember it too much with the COT, but can anybody tell me who the last guy is who didn’t blow his tires out?

(Several media members responded by saying Ryan Blaney.)

The first Pocono race. I mean, will they blow them out at the end of every race during the playoffs? Is that just the new norm? It didn’t really bother me until I thought about it and I’m like, “The 24 is going to get suspended — crew chief, car chief — for this tape mess and the winner of the race is riding into victory lane with the damn rear of the car tore all to hell.” You can’t even tech it.

And I love Martin (Truex Jr.) and it’s not about Martin. I mean every guy out there has done it. I don’t know that will be a very popular opinion about it, but that is how I feel.

Why is it a cop out?

I just feel like that they should step up. They’re the governing body. It’s obvious it’s done intentionally. It’s not unintentional. And you cannot tech the race car. They have to jack it up and put tires on it. If you’re watching the video of these crewmen trying to fix that tape on that spoiler of the 24 car, imagine what the hell’s going on with the car that gets to jack it up and put tires on it before it can go across the (laser platform).

We could go on and on about it. It’s something I don’t really got to worry about no more after the end of this season. But I’ve been feeling this way about the blowouts for a long time. It’s like, “Damn, why don’t they just tell them to stop?” You can do a damn burnout without blowing the tires out. Look at pretty much every win from 2000 all the way through the COT, you know?

There are a lot of burnouts. You have to deliberately do that. It’s not like, “Oh, my bad. Blew my tire.” I mean, it’s deliberate. So it tells me there’s some purpose behind it. I don’t know why it’s so hard for NASCAR to say, “Look, man, do some donuts. You can do donuts without blowing the tires out. But you don’t have to blow the tires.”

But until they tell them not to do it, it’s fair game. It just upset me with what happened to Chase (Elliott) and how they sort of got zeroed-in on when all this is sort of going on right under everybody’s nose. It doesn’t make sense.

Social Spotlight with Jenna Fryer

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community about how they use social media. Up next: Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press.

It’s fascinating to me how much you take on the haters. I feel like sometimes you embrace it and are like, “Bring it on” and sometimes you’re like, “I can’t believe people are getting mad.” So how do you deal on a day-to-day basis with those people on social media?

I recently made a really big change with my Twitter settings in that I changed it to where I only will see your tweet now if you have confirmed your email address (through Twitter). So I think that has cut down on the trolls, which I really enjoy. I really felt it liberating. I noticed it within a day; I noticed the traffic cut down. And it’s unfortunate, because maybe some legitimate people (were cut out) if they haven’t taken those steps with their accounts, but I did open my DMs — which has been a little weird.

The thing about the haters is I can’t believe some of the things people say. I think people think I’m being whiny or thin-skinned or I can’t take it, but sometimes I just think people are inappropriate or mean. One of the things I learned from (13-year-old daughter) Sydnee’s age group is there are certain things that just aren’t tolerated — like body shaming or woman-on-woman shaming. They just think it’s deplorable, like it’s the worst thing in the world. So you get on Twitter and you’ve got people who are just mean.

And sometimes it’s the most innocuous things. You retweeted a link of mine yesterday and said you thought my lede (a writer’s introduction paragraph) was “spicy.” And the mentions just deteriorated into this battle between IndyCar and NASCAR fans — and I don’t want any parts of that anymore.

But when you’ve crossed the line — even if it’s my imaginary moral line — I’m going to call you out on it. I am. Because even if you’re anonymous and we can’t tell who you are because you’re an egg (as a profile picture) or you’ve got a fake name, you deserve people to know what kind of person you are.

But do you enjoy it some days? Do you ever enjoy the back-and-forth and retweeting these people? Because sometimes I just feel like, “Oh, Jenna is from New Jersey, so she doesn’t mind ripping these people right back.”

Sometimes I rip them right back. But like I’ve really been quiet all week on the Danica (losing her ride) thing; I’ve really been offended by all the traffic I’ve seen. I don’t want to attack people to attack them, but I kind of want to shake people and say, “How many of your dreams did you follow? What did you make of your life? How dare you criticize or attack or disparage what this woman has done.” She may not have been the greatest race car driver ever, but she was a tremendous businesswoman who parlayed that into a multi-million dollar career while following her dreams. For people to just tweet nasty, angry things — and I got a particularly bad email this week — I don’t understand why people are like that.

I’ve seen through social media that jealousy is so ugly. And so sometimes I fight back. Sometimes I just can’t take it. Sometimes it’s not worth the headache, but sometimes you wake up and you’re just in that kind of mood and you’re like, “Alright. I’m going to fight back today.” And other days, you’re like, “I’m not even going to look at Twitter today.”

I think your biggest controversy was when you wrote your Fernando Alonso column in the spring (about how he wouldn’t have that big of an impact on the Indy 500) and there were so many people getting mad. Were there days during that time when you decided not to look at social media or were you always checking what people were saying?

No, I stopped looking at it after awhile. You can’t argue with people who don’t want to have healthy debate. You see that all across our country right now, and social media has really deteriorated conversation and debate. They just want to say what they want to say, and they just want to label me with whatever label fits their argument — as someone who is uneducated or doesn’t know or respect Alonso.

That wasn’t it. The issue I always had was, “What is Alonso going to do for this race and this series?” And what’s been difficult for me is I was right! I was right. Everything I said, I was right. The television ratings were not up. He did nothing in this country for the race or the series. Now, he was charming, he was wonderful, he was a delight to watch, he was a delight to cover. He would be a delight if he were here all the time — but that’s a different story. And that was the point. So it’s been very hard for me not to crow and say, “I told y’all.”

I use my column in different ways for different things. I’ve used it in political ways lately, and you get a lot of people who just don’t agree with you. I think there’s certain places for sports and certain places for politics, and NASCAR really stepped into a big hole by inserting itself into politics — and now you can’t really get out of it. You can’t pick and choose. And as a result of me trying to stay true to my moral conscience and true to the obligation I have to my daughter to show her how you must take stances, you just invite this attacking army on you on social media. So some days, I just don’t look.

Personally, I’m super reluctant to say anything I know is going to bring an avalanche of haters. Because it really can bring me down or be deflating. But it seems like you’re more willing to do it — it’s not going to deter you from speaking out if you feel strongly enough about it.

Well, there’s sometimes when I just feel like enough is enough and somebody’s got to say something. We as the auto racing media corps in general, we spend so much time on the nuts and bolts and encumbered finishes and this and that. We don’t tend to look at the bigger picture very often. And a lot of people don’t want to or they get annoyed.

I just think when Brian France took his stand on the Confederate flag, he started down a road where he has kind of cherry-picked where he wants to be involved. And at a time of tumult in this country and when you’re looking for good leaders and you’re looking for the JJ Watts of the world or the Jimmie Johnsons and these guys who step up, you would hope the leadership of the series would step up. But I think they’ve gone backward based on fan reaction, because not everybody cares as much about doing what’s morally right. And they’d rather just stick to their beliefs and keep sports and politics and entertainment and keep them all privately, and I just think NASCAR lost that right.

You’re probably the reporter who is most tied in to both NASCAR and IndyCar — I don’t know somebody else who has mastered having one foot in each as well as you have. So what’s your philosophy in managing that on social media? Sometimes you’ll tweet a picture of you with somebody from a series — is that part of letting people know, “Hey, I’m an insider?”

No. So I really have embraced Instagram and started to enjoy that more —

Is your Instagram public?

No, my Instagram is private, and the reason is it’s a lot of my daughter on there. But I started this thing called #100HappyDays. So unless you follow the #100HappyDays, you don’t really know about it. But in the beginning, it was really great, because it really forced you to look at every day differently. You would look at things and they would be small, minor, little things and you would say, “Oh, this made me happy today.” But then everything started making you happy, so you couldn’t post a picture too soon in the day, because what if something happier happened later in the day?

So as it went on, Chip Ganassi started to get annoyed by it. He started to literally get annoyed by it.

He was trolling you.

He was trolling me. And at a race, he did a media session. At the end of the media session, he asked to go off the record. And we went off the record, and he said everyone in the room had to agree to be honest with him and we had to do it by a show of hands. And he says (in Ganassi imitation voice): “Be honest. How many people are sick of Jenna Fryer’s #100HappyDays?”

How many hands went up?

There were some hands. But from that moment on, I said, “You know what? Now I’m doing #365HappyDays,” and a lot of them are dedicated to Chip. So I’m kind of trolling Chip now back with it. Like I posted a picture with Jamie McMurray the other day just so I could tag Chip. And whenever I have the opportunity to get Chip in a happy day (photo), I do it.

But it’s not to show I’m an insider. I just think I’m an asshole sometimes. Like when that guy wrote me that really mean email the other day and I wrote back, “I think your caps lock button is broken.” Or today, I bought a Marco Andretti shirt at the IndyCar (souvenir) hauler because why not? Like I just think I do things (to mess with people).

So it sounds like what happens is you’re doing something that’s a normal action to you, because you’re so tied in with all these people. But I feel like it’s coming across as, “Wow, Jenna is such an insider because she knows all these people.” But it’s normal to you.

I do get that, and part of that is because I’ve been in racing at a fairly full-time level since 1998, ’99, 2000. What I am seeing is much like Matt Kenseth and all these other guys, everybody that I do know so well, we’re all aging out. Like we all grew up together,  to a degree. Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman and Marty Smith and some of the people who work for Jimmie Johnson — we were all rookies together. Jamie McMurray, too. Well now, as they’re aging out — Dario (Franchitti) has gotten older and Helio (Castroneves) and Tony Kanaan are in their 20th years — we’re getting older. And I don’t know the younger drivers the way I do (the older ones). I’m fortunate I’ve built a little bit of a relationship with (Ryan) Blaney —

And Kyle Larson, I feel like.

Larson, yeah. But I’m not going to roll up on Josef Newgarden and be like, “Josef! Be in my #100HappyDays!” Because I don’t know him that well yet, you know? So there’s a changing of the guard that affects everybody that people don’t realize.

Is that a threat to your career or something you can adjust to? Like when you see younger drivers interacting with younger writers on social media, do you see it as a whole new class of writers that could be a challenge to the current generation of media?

No. I do see what you’re saying and it is a challenge because you have to learn. So much of what we do — yeah, it’s racing, but you have to understand these people. The most fun part of what we do is like dissecting why Kevin Harvick was mad about something or why did Kyle Busch do this. I just think it’s part of the job — we just have to learn new people and build new relationships. I don’t think it’s threatening. That’s a skill you have to have. You have to learn your subjects. It takes time.

Tony Stewart and I went two years without speaking to each other. You go through peaks and valleys and you get to know people and they get mad at you and stop talking to you for a little while or you work things out. It’s just part of the challenge. I’m not threatened. A huge part of it is still try to be professional and be fair and be honest and don’t get weighted down in all the muck. And the younger guys will figure out who you are.

But isn’t it tough to avoid being baited into that sometimes? Because that’s what social media often is — the muck.

I had a good time this past weekend on social media because (Brad Keselowski) and Denny (Hamlin) and Kyle sparring back and forth. I was like, “This was what social media is meant for. This is what I liked about Twitter when I joined it seven, eight, nine years ago.” And we’ve gotten so far away from that, where Twitter is just everybody attacking everybody. I like that, and that’s why I think I’ve migrated more toward Instagram, because you can get out of the muck.

It’s just your mood if you get baited. If somebody catches you or you see something at just that right time, then you’ve opened the hole and down you go and you’re fighting with everybody and you kind of have to step away.

What’s the future for you on social media? You talked about changing your Twitter settings. How do you see this evolving for you and your reporting as you go forward?

I’ve already changed a lot from when I first was using Twitter. I almost used it in lieu of taking notes. Because you would say, “Caution, Lap 145” and you would be able to go right back into your Twitter feed. Well now, everybody is tweeting “Caution.” A few years ago, I stopped doing it. There was such a race to tweet everything, and everybody was tweeting the exact same thing. And if you’re a reader or a consumer, when you open your Twitter account and see nine consecutive tweets and all they say is “Caution,” why are you following these people? Wait until you have the information and wait until you have something to report.

So I’ve already scaled down — I did that a few years ago. I also cherrypick quotes now so that I’m not part of that instant timeline where everybody is just tweeting what Dale Jr. said at exactly the same time.

I think social media is still a good tool. This is a great example: I woke up the other day and was like, “Why is Ted Cruz trending? Who is Sergio Dipp?” And within just a few keystrokes, you’re able to figure out exactly what you missed overnight by scrolling through Twitter.

But I also think for me, I don’t need to do a 24/7 update. There’s enough people who are doing that. I’d like to be a little more of myself, I’d like to be a little more sarcastic and of course tweet the links and the news.

One thing, while I have this (microphone): I think media-on-media crime on social media is the most disgusting thing. It’s awful. Media should not be fighting with media on social media. I think it makes the whole profession look bad. We all have to live together, we all have to work together and when people are critiquing, criticizing, roasting, dragging, complaining about other media, it’s such bad form. And it’s so ugly.

Yeah, we want more driver-on-driver crime — not media-on-media crime.

Correct. (Laughs) More driver-on-driver crime, starting now.

This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place next weekend (!!!) at Dover. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).

12 Questions with Scott Dixon

The series of 12 Questions interviews continues this week with four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, who came up short of his quest to win another title Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. Dixon, who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing, is fourth on the all-time IndyCar wins list with 41 victories.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

I think it’s always a compromise, but it’s a team sport, so it’s definitely across all platforms of the good people on the team — engineers, mechanics, strategists — so it’s never just one person. I think that’s the most important thing, is you gotta work together as much as you can. And for myself, yeah, some of it is natural ability, but I think to keep consistency and win championships and so on, it takes a lot of hard work.

2. What’s your pitch for people to become fans of yours?

I think across the board, the Verizon IndyCar series has so many different personalities. There’s so many people from different countries, different backgrounds, so everybody has someone they can kind of relate with, and I think that’s pretty cool. But I don’t know — because I’m a ginger, maybe? 

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

I think the separation sometimes from family life to racing life can be tough, but it’s also been really nice to have kids, because it helps you mentally kind of disconnect and helps you to not overthink things. So I think actually my outside family life is very important to how my racing career has progressed.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah, absolutely. Whatever they need. I’ll get their meal, too. (Smiles)

5. What’s a story in IndyCar that doesn’t get enough coverage?

Probably this Aussie guy, Will Power (who was walking by at the moment). He’s always moaning about being sore or a bad leg.

I don’t know. I think the racing is the best in the world. I think once people tune in, they’re hooked, and it is the diversity between the short tracks and the superspeedways, road courses, street courses — it’s just getting the person engaged, and once they’re engaged, they’re hooked.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Probably Tony Kanaan, my teammate.

You frequently text him?

Group messages, yeah, there’s quite a few. Yeah, that was probably him. He was probably the last, or Dario (Franchitti). He’s an ex-driver, but we text a lot.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Some of them for sure are very big entertainers. Helio (Castroneves). (James) Hinchcliffe did pretty well on Dancing with the Stars, so sure.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

On the racetrack? Use it at will.

What happens if you get it done to you?

I’ll probably do something back, probably the same thing. Maybe two of them.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

No, only a list for bad things. (Smiles) You know, I don’t keep any kind of lists. Depending on what it is, you have memories of what stands out, but I think you should be nice to people.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

Probably Marco Andretti. (Grins)

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

I should probably stop biting my nails.

Is it a long time habit?

My wife hates it.

12. The last interview I did was with Chris Buescher.  His question is: What makes you crazy enough to strap into one of those things?

I don’t know. It’s just natural, man. He needs to try it out, then he’ll understand.

He said he can’t do it.

Yeah he can! Come on.

The next interview I’m doing is with Jimmie Johnson. Do you have a question that I can ask Jimmie?

What kind of underwear does he wear? It is briefs, boxers or tighty whities?

This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place NEXT WEEKEND(!!!) at Dover. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).

News Analysis: Chase Elliott docked 15 points, Alan Gustafson suspended for spoiler modification

What happened: Chase Elliott was penalized 15 points and crew chief Alan Gustafson and car chief Joshua Kirk were suspended for one race apiece — plus a $25,000 fine for Gustafson — after NASCAR ruled the No. 24 team illegally modified the spoiler at Chicagoland using tape. In addition, the race was ruled to be an encumbered finish — meaning Elliott will not get credit for the playoff point he earned at Chicago if he makes Round 2.

What it means: On Monday, several teams sent pictures and video around the industry of the No. 24 team appearing to have tape hanging off the spoiler and down the sides of the car. This photo evidence was sent to NASCAR and also ended up on Reddit, where it became public. It’s interesting the teams, who have photographers shooting high-resolution images of every car during the race, became sort of a second set of eyes for NASCAR after studying the pictures (Elliott had passed at-track inspection after the race). This shows if there’s a visible part of the car that is illegally modified, teams themselves are likely to catch it and report to NASCAR and/or the media in order to keep a level playing field for themselves. Ultimately, though, the penalty might not harm Elliott that much; he was a comfortable 33 points inside the cutoff, but now falls from sixth place to eight place — 18 points head of the final playoff spot for Round 2.

News value (scale of 1-10): Three. This isn’t very big in the grand scheme of things, but it’s newsworthy in the sense that the NASCAR community — namely the teams, but also Reddit by proxy — sniffed out an act of cheating.

Three questions: Teams privately have said the tape added a significant amount of downforce to the car, but how much of a difference did it really make? Is there any way this could actually cost Elliott in terms of making the next round? What else will the garage be able to find in future weeks by examining the photo evidence each team takes during races?

News Analysis: Kasey Kahne to drive Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 car

What happened: Leavine Family Racing, which currently fields the No. 95 car with Michael McDowell, announced Kasey Kahne will take over as its full-time driver in 2018. Kahne and Hendrick announced last month they would part ways after this year, but Kahne was ultimately able to remain in the Cup Series with another team.

What it means: Though his new home is certainly a downgrade from powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports, this is a good move for both Kahne and family-run Leavine (pronounced “leh-VINE”). Kahne is only 37 and has some prime years ahead of him, and this will allow him to race in an environment without the pressure that comes with being part of Hendrick. At the same time, Leavine’s performance has been improving over the years — McDowell has been the best car in the Richard Childress Racing alliance at numerous races this year — and figures to only get better with an 18-time race winner in the seat. In addition, Leavine should be able to build a sponsorship program around a driver whose loyal fan base has continued to support him through several miserable seasons at Hendrick.

News value (scale of 1-10): Five. This move was expected for awhile, so it’s not a surprise. It also involves a team that isn’t well known to many fans, though Kahne’s part of the announcement makes it notable enough to get a decent amount of media coverage.

Three questions: Will lowered expectations actually allow Kahne to improve his results (McDowell’s average finish is only one spot behind Kahne this season)? Why did Leavine remain part of the RCR alliance instead of working a deal with Hendrick? Will McDowell be able to remain in NASCAR in some form?