The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Cars roll into my neck of the woods this weekend for the AGCO Jackson Nationals from Jackson Motorplex in Jackson, Minnesota.
With the event being three days long, and considered a crown jewel event by some, us #FantasyDirt folks get to navigate the events unique format each day. There doesn't appear to be any press releases related to the format for this event. Nonetheless, we can look at last year's format and the Huset's High Bank Nationals format (Huset's Speedway and Jackson Motorplex are both owned by Tod Quiring, who is also the car owner of the Big Game Motorsports #2 driven by David Gravel) for guidance on what to expect.
Thursdsay and Friday will likely consist of single flight qualifying with an 8 car invert (or 6 car, if the format resembles the HBN) for heat races. Drivers will accumulate points through qualifying (higher the better) and heats (finishing position points), with the top 8 point earners making up the pole dash. The Feature field will consist of the following:
Top 8 point earners in the pole dash - who will make up the first 8 rows
4 Heat winners (who were not in the dash)
9th - 16th point earners after the pole dash, who were not in the pole dash
Top 4 finishers in Last Chance Showdown - Fastest non-qualifer starts on the pole of LCS, btw.
Thursday and Friday points are cumulative, but each show is run individually. Points are accumulated as follows:
Qualifying: 1 point drop (100, 99, 98, etc.)
Heats: 5 point drop (100, 95, 90, etc.)
Saturday's Feature will consist of the following:
Top 4 point earners from Thursday and Friday
Top 4 from Qualifier races (Winners go to King of the Hill)- Qualifying races lined up by accumulated points
Top 4 in Last Chance Showdown
Now that we understand the format a bit, its worth exploring how we can use this format to our advantage.
Thursday & Friday Strategy: Fast and Not So Fast, My Friend.
In a straight-up format (fastest qualifiers on the pole, top X in each heat transfer), the fastest qualifiers have the easiest path to make the Feature. Making the Feature is where drivers accumulate fantasy points. So naturually, rostering as many of the top qualifiers as possible is a sound strategy.
For the Jackson Nationals, that may not be quite as sound. Rather, we are trying to strike a balance between solid qualifying points and the likelihood of accumulating sufficient heat points to lock in to the Feature. This is especially true given the weighting of qualifying and heats in the points formula and the fact that Heat winners automatically transfer regardless of points.
As such, it makes sense to have some roster diversity between fastest qualifiers and those qualifying 24th-36th (as they will start in the first two rows). This strategy provides the opportunity to roster those drivers who have earned higher points via qualifying and those who have the possibility of transfering via heat win.
Ideally, I'd like to have a roster consisting of at least two of the top 8 qualifiers and at least two of the 25th-32nd qualifiers. This way I've got drivers who are ahead of the game on points via qualifying and will accumulate points as they move forward in the heat and drivers who need only pass, at most, one car to win their heat. All of this is easier said than done, of course. Nonetheless, it is always advisable to go into qualifying with a plan and deviate where necessary.
Saturday Strategy: Who's got points? I want 'em.
Come Saturday, the top 4 point earners are going to carry some hefty salaries. That's fine! They are in the show and starting somewhere in the first 3 rows! That means fantasy points! After those 4, anyone starting in the first two rows of a Qualifier race is of high interest, as they are starting the race in a transfer position.
Who to Watch?
The Obvious Choices:
Donny Schatz - Won the Knoxville Nationals, obvi, and has been getting hot as of late.
Logan Schuhart - Defending, back-to-back, winner of the Jackson Nationals
David Gravel - Something of a home game, given his car owner and sponsors
Brad Sweet - Current WoO Season Points Leader and has a couple Jackson Nationals to his name (2017 & 2019)
Knoxville Regulars/Regional Stars
Brian Brown - Has had a solid year to date and familiarity with the track
Kerry Madsen - Won both Prelim nights last year
Kaleb Johnson - Has a 2nd and a 17th (where he started 3rd) at Jackson this year
Ayrton Gennetten - Has a 3rd at Jackson this year and shown some speed throughout the season
Brooke Tatnell - This is purely a homer pick. I've seen him win a Jerry Richert Memorial or two out at Cedar Lake. Plus, he knows his way around this track.
Matt Juhl/Lynton Jeffrey - Both have some decent finishes this year at Jackson.