Vito Pugliese · Thursday April 18, 2013
We are nearing the quarter-pole of the season with race No. 8 at Kansas this Sunday. That means by now we’ve seen drivers at enough tracks to pretty much know who’s going to contend most weeks and who is not. Even if your favorite driver has been disappointing, he or she can still be your favorite driver — but in terms of picking them regularly in your fantasy lineup, it may be time to look in another direction.
Kansas also brings us another intermediate track, and tracks like these 1.5-milers are what the new Gen 6 car was supposedly built for. That’s because with the old Car of Tomorrow, we had way too many snooze fests at these types of tracks. It wasn’t the driver’s fault, or the crew chiefs or engineers fault; while the COT was super safe, there were some places it just didn’t race well. Hopefully we can see a good race with plenty of passing, especially inside the top 10, Sunday. But there are no guarantees of that and the jury is still out on just how much better the Gen 6 car will be.
But the question you want to know is just who is best for your fantasy lineup, so here we go for this week.
LOOKING FOR SOME ACES
Last week I took a bit of leap of faith picking Tony Stewart as my winner. The problem here is not that he not didn’t win, but that he was completely out of the ballpark and never even close to being a contender. You can deal with a top 10 or even top 15 finish from your supposed best driver in your picks, but you can’t deal with a 20-something and expect to do well. So for now, Stewart is staying on my bench until he proves otherwise worthy, even though he does have two wins in 14 races at Kansas.
Here are some guys I do like heading into the Land of Oz.
Brad Keselowski hasn’t won yet this season, but he’s been a contender in several races. Kansas just may be the place for him to break through and, hey, he visited the White House this week, so there’s that. In six starts there, he has a win, a top five and a top 10 for an average finish of 9.83. He’s got to win sometime, so I’m making him my pick to win this week — he still has his crew chief, car chief, and engineer on board after appealing Wednesday’s 25-point fine and loss of his core raceday braintrust.
You can pick Jimmie Johnson at just about any of these races and Kansas is no exception. He has two wins in 13 races there and has led an astounding 547 laps, 201 more than the next best driver. So hate him or not, the question is if you are on race limits is to use him now, or save him for later?
If you’re in need of a victory, another place to look among the drivers considered in the elite is Matt Kenseth. He has one win at Kansas and has also led 316 laps there in his career. Kenseth, known for his consistency of the years, has been kind of a hit or miss pick so far this season. Kansas could be a place where he hits.
Another driver on the top list to consider is Jeff Gordon. He’s had his share of bad luck over the past two seasons, so there’s that to keep in mind. However, he has two wins at Kansas and has certainly been a contender in races this season before his luck has went astray.
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD
At the beginning of the season, and probably because he didn’t make the Chase last year, Kyle Busch wasn’t listed as being an elite driver. But there’s no doubt he belongs there now. Much like Johnson in the top group, Busch is one of those guys you can pick to win in about any week. His record at Kansas is not good, with no top five finishes in 11 races and an average finish of 21.0. But with the way he’s been driving, I would throw that record out the window. This may be the week to skip Busch and don’t be surprised if he breaks his trend.
One driver in this second group that is pretty much a must pick is Greg Biffle. He has two wins at Kansas and has led the second-most laps behind Johnson. Biffle has also finished in the top five in five other races at Kansas and has an average finish of 9.46, also second behind Johnson.
As for the other driver that could come out of this second tier, there was a big sign of life from Martin Truex Jr. last week with his second-place finish at Texas. Kansas has some similarities with Texas and Truex has also led 205 laps in his nine races at Kansas. Truex also hasn’t won since 2007 at Dover, so you know he and his team are hungry for a victory, particularly after being docked six points on Wednesday from the car missing post-race height requirements.
Carl Edwards broke his winless streak earlier this year, and made a remarkable comeback during the Texas race to finish third. That may be a sign of more good things to come for him. Edwards does have an average finish of 10.82 in 11 races at Kansas and has four top-five finishes. So, you have to give him a look this week.
Also, don’t forget about Brian Vickers in the No. 11 car either. We know the car is capable of winning and Vickers has proven he deserves a shot at a full-time ride with somebody next season. And he may have already proven he deserves a spot in your fantasy lineup when he’s entered.
There’s always the weekly Ricky-Danica debate for what is considered the bottom tier. However, if you are on race limits like the two Yahoo! Frontstretch fantasy leagues, then that means you can’t pick them every week.
With the Roush-Fenway cars having success here in the past, Stenhouse is one of those guys who can be considered here.
Then, it’s always worth a look to see who is driving the No. 51 car, and this week it’s Regan Smith.
But two guys driving their first Sprint Cup race this season are entered at Kansas in Elliott Sadler and Sam Hornish, Jr. And one of these two would be likely picks for this week, since they are on very limited Sprint Cup schedules.
Hornish is the guy I like the most here. I thought he deserved the No. 22 ride over Joey Logano this season. Now that they will be both be in the same race with the same team, let’s see who is better this week.
We have a new overall leader in the two Frontstretch fantasy leagues on Yahoo! SiLo Sounds Racing has the most points among the 63 entries with 1,797. The leader is followed by cdakost at 1,792 and RWO Motoring and 6_99RFR each at 1,785. The dethroned leader, which has been at the top since the second week of the season, was team Hurtubise, which now sits sixth overall with 1,783 points.
The top entry from last week came from the team Nobody Rides for Free, which had race winner Kyle Busch, second place Martin Truex Jr., 11th-place finisher Kasey Kahne and then Trevor Bayne in 18th for 344 total points. The top weekly score so far this season is a 359 by team Hurtubise in Week 2.
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