Welcome back, fantasy-baseball-player-who-is-intrigued-by-fantasy-NASCAR! Today, we explore which NASCAR drivers are which NL MLB Teams to bridge the gap between your existing knowledge (baseball) and racing knowledge.
If you missed the American League drivers, check that out here to get an overview of this completely necessary exercise. For the National League, we’ll start in the NL East for those fans since it might be past their bedtime before we’re done.
National League East
Kurt Busch – #45 Toyota
MLB Team: New York Mets
We talked a lot about younger brothers during the AL section of this series, but here we get to talk about the older ones a bit. While Kyle embraced his role as the heel of NASCAR, Kurt has put together a solid, storied career. He won the Cup Series in 2004 and performs well at almost any track (including winning last week). But no one can tell you much about him, and he quietly goes about his business. I like to think he scoffs at Kyle’s shenanigans, and I assume they did not do Thanksgiving the year this happened, but he is absolutely the Mets to his brother’s Yankees.
Martin Truex Jr. – #19 Toyota
MLB Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Truex is a star and an absolute monster on short tracks. Short tracks, for those who don’t know, would be like if, instead of running all the way around the bases, the batter would have to sprint from second to home and start right over again…. While every other teammate of his also ran the bases with him. There are corners on these tracks where 45 mph is considered “taking it pretty fast,” and Truex manages these beautifully. The Phillies are an NL team that excels at strange things. For instance, their best hitter is currently a slugger without a primary ligament in his elbow. They have three players best suited to be designated hitters playing defense, and one of their best pitchers is somehow excelling at pitching beneath his expected metrics. And yet, when it all comes together, you question how you could have ever doubted them. Truex and Philly are a match made in heaven.
Erik Jones – #43 Chevrolet
MLB Team: Miami Marlins
Last year, Jones became a free agent in the middle of the season as Joe Gibbs Racing cut him loose, and then Petty GMS Motorsports picked him up to let him drive an iconic car. This reminds me of how, at any given moment, about two-thirds of the Marlins lineup is available on waivers. And you consider dropping some FAAB on them, but then you wonder if Jorge Soler will hit a hot streak, if Brian Anderson might be okay, or if Joey Wendle really plays for them (or you made that up in your head). That is Jones every week in DFS. He’s there. You can have him. He is having a decent season overall. Yet there will always be someone more attractive to pick up, and you will always, ALWAYS pick that person instead.
Chase Briscoe – #14 Ford
MLB Team: Atlanta Braves
Briscoe won in Phoenix this year and had a memorable finish against Tyler Reddick on the dirt at Bristol. He famously apologized for crashing into Reddick. While we won’t hold our breath waiting for anyone in Atlanta to apologize for anything, I feel like the Braves’ persona is currently based on good players mainly doing good things and not wigging out in anger over perceived slights. (Yes, there are definitely exceptions to this on the roster, but we’re ignoring that.) Briscoe is a fun driver who never finishes where you project him to be, reminiscent of the 1990s run of Atlanta teams that always won the NL East division and never finished where you expected them to.
Tyler Reddick – #8 Chevrolet
MLB Team: Washington Nationals
Speaking of Reddick, he gives Christopher Bell a run for his “aren’t-you-excited-for-your-junior-prom” appearance money. When Briscoe said he was sorry, Reddick shook his hand, and then both boys returned to recess, later winning the sportsmanship scholarship given out to the best the high school had to offer. He races well above his experience level (second year), and he will eventually be a constant force to reckon with… at which point, the other drivers will just intentionally walk him because he doesn’t have any lineup protection, thereby robbing fans of one of the most extraordinary talents in the sport. Not that the Nationals have any idea what that is like.
National League Central
Alex Bowman – #48 Chevrolet
MLB Team: Chicago Cubs
Me: “Aw, Alex Bowman donates a ton of money to rescue dog organizations. I’m going to make him the Cubs for that.”
My wife: “Do the Cubs donate a lot of money to dog rescue organizations?”
Me: “Well, no. But they’re my favorite team. And donating to dog rescues is my favorite.”
My wife: “I don’t think that’s how this is supposed to work.”
Me: “You do know I’m the one making the rules, right? And I can do what I want to here?”
My wife: “Yes. I know, and it is in the article as it is in life.”
In reality, Bowman is the fourth wheel in the Hendrick Motorsports’ power team. He isn’t as dominant as his teammates, but he is successful and is a fun car to cheer for, especially after calling into work sick to catch a 1:20 p.m. start on a Friday. He is also driving the #48 car, an iconic number in the racing world with a lot of history, so I guess, in this metaphor, Jimmie Johnson will play the role of Wrigley Field? We’ll roll with it.
Michael McDowell – #34 Ford
MLB Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
McDowell went 358 races without winning and then took home the victory in the 2021 Daytona 500. Of course, there was a crash that took out 16 cars in the first stage of the race and then another that took out the two leaders at the very end of the competition. So this comparison is perfect in two primary fashions: (1) 358 races is approximately 10 years, which seems the appropriate amount of time before the Pirates will win (or call up Oneil Cruz). (2) If 18 other MLB teams were to crash out of a season, the Pirates could maybe sneak into the playoffs…. Assuming it’s a 12-team playoff.
Ryan Blaney – #12 Ford
MLB Team: Milwaukee Brewers
I promise I’m not just making this pair because Blaney drives for Menard’s, and Menard’s is based out of Wisconsin. Cross my heart. If you told me right now that Ryan Blaney and Christian Yelich were cousins, I wouldn’t argue. Based on his sunny disposition and fun interviews, Blaney might be one of the most accessible guys to cheer for. He is the more down-to-earth, sincerely affable detective in the Joey & Ryan Show and is unassuming to the point where he is overlooked on race days. In this way, he is the Corbin Burnes of NASCAR.
Also, he is sponsored by Menard’s, and Menard’s is based in Wisconsin, dontchaknow.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – #47 Chevrolet
MLB Team: Cincinnati Reds
You know that picture of Pete Rose when he’s diving into any base? Where he’s wild and completely out of control and just scorching into yet another of his 5,752 career total bases? This one:
That is Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (Other drivers have even nicknamed him Wrecky Spinhouse.) If you like to walk on the wild side and live or die with announcers saying, “Here comes Ricky Stenhouse, somewhat out of control on the outside…” then put the No. 47 car in your lineup every week. He is every member of the Big Red Machine spun into one Chevrolet.
Denny Hamlin – #11 Toyota
MLB Team: St. Louis Cardinals
I don’t know if Hamlin’s fans are the Best Fans in Racing or anything, but I know that he is wildly successful and super easy to dislike, so, obviously, he’s the Cardinals. [Some people say St. Louis isn’t super easy to dislike, but those people are Cardinal fans, so we’re ignoring them.] If you do a YouTube search for “Denny Hamlin fights,” you’ll get a sense of what we’re talking about here concerning the winning-in-the-most-annoying-way-possible general state of being.
Basically, the Cardinals would be the Evil Empire without the Yankees. And Hamlin would be the Most Infuriating Driver without Kyle Busch. Just trust me.
National League West
Cole Custer – #41 Ford
MLB Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Custer is a dirt specialist, which is a bit of a problem since NASCAR has exactly one dirt race on its calendar every year. Still, he is an economical lineup builder and will typically give you one or two great moments per season. The Diamondbacks will occasionally trot out a small stack on a Thursday night that can win you a DFS contest or two. And they will have one or two moments per season that even non-Arizona fans (which is mostly everyone) will remember. Unfortunately, in 2022, the D-backs had an Opening Night walk-off homer by Seth Beer on National Beer Day. It’s been downhill since. Custer won the pole at Bristol for the dirt race. Same story.
Joey Logano – #22 Ford
MLB Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
My all-time favorite baseball player is Clayton Kershaw. Clayton Kershaw wears #22. I – a grown-up, middle-aged woman – bought a “deuce-deuce” Joey Logano hat and wear it on race days. If I had to pick one, he’s probably my favorite driver, but am I picking him because of his number? The psychologist in me says, “Sure.” But it is also highly possible that I just enjoy walking around saying “deuce, deuce” all day. Joey can be a bit of a jerk, but he’s a talented guy with a great smile, a fun car, and a buddy detective storyline (see: Blaney, Ryan) worth learning. He is typically an excellent DFS play and carries an air of “Hollywood” around with him. His driving is no 12-6 curveball, but he’s popular for a reason, and one of the first guys NASCAR newbies will like.
Kevin Harvick – #4 Ford
MLB Team: San Francisco Giants
There are years that I watch the Giants play, and the entire team looks like a scene from “Cocoon.” (Follow me @thewonkypenguin for more totally relevant cultural references!) It’s like their scouts get lost on the way to the rookie-ball fields, catch a game at the retirement home, and sign half the guys they see there. So many players find career rejuvenation in San Francisco and remind you of why they were once just the best there was.
Harvick has been racing since 2001, and while he’s lost a mile-an-hour or two, he is the wily veteran who moved to San Francisco and changed his pitching arsenal to be a junk thrower who gets it done in the NL.
I’m not sure I’ve ever used more words to avoid straight-up calling a guy “old,” but there you go.
Harrison Burton – #21 Ford
MLB Team: Colorado Rockies
I had Burton in a DFS lineup a few weeks ago, which is the first time I paid attention to him. At one point, I yelled at the TV, “What are you doing?!?” when he made a weird maneuver that cost him a ton of track position. Since every Rockies fan I know has yelled, “What are you doing?!?” at Dick Monfort multiple times, it seemed an appropriate match. As far as I know, though, no other racing team is paying Wood Brothers Racing $50 million to have Burton drive for them. Therefore, we’ll give Harrison the benefit of the doubt for being knowledgeable about his job.
Also – he was born the same year that Kevin Harvick started racing, and I brought that full circle for no reason.
Ross Chastain – #1 Chevrolet
MLB Team: San Diego Padres
Ross Chastain is the Fernando Tatis of NASCAR. He is so energetic and so talented, seemingly fearless on the track. He’s won twice in his first year driving full-time. After the requisite burnout (nee “bat flip” for those of you who only speak baseball), he smashes a watermelon from the roof of the car onto the track. Do I know why he does it? Not even a little! Could I be a good journalist and look it up? I’m sure, but isn’t it more fun to just come up with the multitude of possibilities as to why? After each home run, I could totally see Tatis smashing a watermelon in the dugout. When Tatis is healthy, the Padres become must-see TV. When it’s race day, so is the No. 1 car.
Pretty sure Chastain is a much better driver than Tatis, though. (Ba-boom ching!)
There you go, baseball fans! Look for my DFS article on All-Star Sunday and put in a NASCAR lineup, just for fun. I’ll link to a free contest you can participate in, and we can be the pit crew changing the lug nuts of our fantasy hearts together. Or something.