Daniel Hemric will compete for the team that finished 17th in the points standings last year. That was the best possible for any team that failed to make the playoffs and they had a sizeable lead over the 17th-place Roush Fenway Racing No. 17.
Hemric is not the same driver as Ryan Newman and fantasy players should not expect the same results. That is not to say he will be without value, however.
The Rookie of the Year classes have not been overly productive in terms of points potential in recent seasons and there is no reason to believe Hemric, Ryan Preece, Matt Tifft, or Tanner Berryhill will change that in 2019. The charter system that boils the field down to 36 guaranteed starters among a field of – on a good week – 40 drivers has made it at once more difficult to predict which teams will suddenly become solid dark horse performers and who will wind up with high-30s results.
Next year, it is only going to get worse.
Fantasy players cannot ignore the potential of an enthusiastic driver in strong equipment. This team – renumbered No. 8 for 2019 – had the potential to make the playoffs last year. Newman failed to find Victory Lane and with several unique winners at the end of regular season, his consistency was not enough to get him into the playoffs.
It is highly unlikely that Hemric will win next year either, but the new rules package is going to tighten up the competition. There are going to be several surprise contenders among the top 16; the points spread from 17th through 36th is also likely to be much closer.
One of the positives about the RCR teams is that they have the potential to run well on unrestricted, intermediate speedways. While many of the drivers already profiled and ranked below 22nd are going to be good values on restrictor-plate superspeedways, road courses, or other wild card tracks, Hemric has the potential to run well on the 1.5- and two-milers. That will make him much more valuable in the long run.
Watch him closely in practice for signs of speed.
One of the two races Hemric made last year as a pre-rookie was the fall Richmond event. RCR obviously expected him to run well on that track and he qualified 22nd before losing three laps in the race. In Week 5, Auto Club Speedway might serve as a predictor to Richmond. If Hemric shows some promise there and finishes in the low- to mid-20s, consider staring him four weeks later on the .750-mile short track. If that turns out well, he could become a sleeper on the upcoming intermediate tracks.