Fantasy Racing: Is Winning Based on Lucky Guesses?

Every year, fans of every sport join fantasy leagues, where they "play" against other league members using the stats of the real professional athletes. NASCAR is no different. Racing fans put together "teams" of drivers, and win or lose each week based on the results of those drivers.

I take part each year in a league put together at called "The Ultimate Fantasy Challenge". When you join, you are placed in a "league" with five other fns. The six of you then "draft" the drivers, until you each have four team members. At this point, you already have had to take some guesses. You have to guess which drivers are going to do well consistently during the season, and win you the most points. You could base your guesses on how the drivers did the previous year, but that doesn't always follow through. Plus, there are rookies that you have no previous season to go by. And when a driver changes teams, you really have no clear indications of what kind of success they'll have. And even those that are staying with the same team may not do as well as the year before. You basically have to pick four of your favorite drivers, and hope they have good years.

Then each week, you're pitted against one of the other five members of your league. You have to pick three of your drivers as "active". The points earned that week by those three drivers are added up, and compared to the three drivers for the player you are up against. The one with the most points wins that week. So how much of this is based on lucky guesswork? Well, the only decision you have to make is who to bench. And any given week, that particular driver could end up having their best finish of the year, meaning you guessed wrong. Or they could have their worst finish, making you look like a genius. But either way, it's almost all guesswork.

Last year, I won my fantasy league by quite a wide margin. I was lucky in the draft, and started the season with a couple of drivers who were somewhat "iffy", but they ended up having seasons filled with consistent finishes.

This year is a different story. My team seems to be plagued by bad luck. Several times this year, my drivers were in positions near the end of the race that would bring me a victory. But in the closing laps, or on the final round of pit stops, one of my drivers would have a problem - running out of fuel (twice!), being caught up in a wreck, losing an engine, or receiving pit-road penalties, that would cause them to lose just enough points that I would end up losing that week.

So did I guess wrong and bench the wrong driver each week? Well, not really. My benched driver hasn't done much better than my active drivers.

Did I guess wrong during the draft and pick up not-so-good drivers? Not really. (My team consists of the defending champion, two Rookie of the Year candidates, and one driver who was in the Chase last season)

So where did I go wrong between this year and last year? I didn't really. Because I don't have control over what "my" drivers do on the track. I'm not in the pits. I'm not in the car. I'm certainly not in the owners' seats. I can only do what every other fan does: root on the drivers on my team, and hope.

The rest is all a matter of luck.

Published on July 23, 2006 in