The Frontstretch: Fantasy Insider: Best Bets To Bank On At Bristol by Jeff Wolfe -- Thursday August 22, 2013

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Fantasy Insider: Best Bets To Bank On At Bristol

Jeff Wolfe · Thursday August 22, 2013

 

There were some answers this week when we found out just who will be driving the No. 14 car for the rest of the season. If you were hoping you could still use Tony Stewart for the last six or eight races of the year, well, Stewart’s doctors apparently waved the red flag on that idea.

That left Stewart-Haas team looking to fill the rest of the season and that started a domino effect that may also affect your fantasy picks. First, Mark Martin will be in Stewart’s seat for the rest of the season, with the exception of the race at Talladega, where Austin Dillon will step in again. With Martin exiting his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing, that opened the driver’s seat for Brian Vickers, who had been on a limited schedule, to step in full-time for the rest of the season.

So what does this mean for your fantasy team? Well, if you have had Stewart, you may be able to now pick Vickers, who is probably a bit of a cheaper or less frequent option to fill in that gap. And that may not be a bad thing at all considering Vickers’ performance this year, which includes a victory.

Whether the new ride will help Martin’s performance or not remains to be seen. If he is able to win one more race this year, it might be a good way for the 54-year-old to end his storied career and would make many in the garage area happy for one of the most well-liked drivers ever.

So, with these moves in mind, here are this week’s picks, which I’m not sure if you’ll like or not.

LOOKING FOR SOME ACES

Defending champion Brad Keselowski is still looking for that first win of the season. Even though he sits eighth in the points at the moment, a win would likely lessen his anxiety some as it would be insurance for making the Chase for the Championship.

The good news for Keselowski and his fans is that in just seven races at Bristol Motor Speedway he has two victories and another top five finish. Keselowski has already led 409 laps on the half-mile bull ring and he’s one of the favorites for Saturday night’s race.

Kyle Busch has come alive in recent weeks, and since we’re at his best track this weekend, you’d be a fool not to pick him.

Another driver whose name has a “K” in it is another favorite, too, in Matt Kenseth. He’s got four wins this season and in his 27 career starts at Bristol, he has two wins among his 17 top 10 finishes. Kenseth has led 1,007 laps at Bristol, the fifth most of any active driver.

And continuing with the “K” theme, another driver who has had recent success at Bristol is Kasey Kahne He has a win and two other top 10 finishes in his last five trips to the Tennessee track.

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD

At the beginning of the season this driver was probably considered a mid-level option, but he’s really turned into an elite pick over the past month or so, and this is one of the weeks you may want to use him. That would Kyle Busch, yet another driver with a ‘K’ in his name. Busch has a more impressive record than Keselowski at Bristol, with five wins among his 12 top 10 finishes in 17 races there. Busch will also be doing triple-duty this week, driving in the trucks and Nationwide races — and with his win Wednesday night, might this be another Bristol-sweep in the making? Some might think that may be too much for him, but Busch actually excels in such situations. Partly because, whether you like him or not, he’s a good driver, and there’s no question that he simply loves to race — and win.

OK, so that brings us to the aforementioned Vickers. In his last five races at Bristol, he has one top five finish and two other top 10s. He’s also led 126 laps and when you’re looking at the mid-level type of pick here, Vickers is certainly a solid choice. He was in contention late in the going last August in his part-time gig in the 55, which is now his alone.

Another driver who needs a win this season and who is starting to creep closer to the 11th spot in the standings in Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked like he was a lock to make the Chase, win or no win. But now Junior is just 20 points ahead of the 11th place Kahne and if Junior slips out of the top 10 he doesn’t have a win to fall back on and into a wild-card berth. There is some hope here, too, for Junior Nation as he has one win at Bristol among 13 top 10 finishes in 27 races there. Junior also has an average finish of 11.59 at Bristol, second best to Busch’s 9.82 among active drivers.

Greg Biffle has Top 10s in over half his career starts at Bristol, and he will need a good run following a disappointing Michigan performance. Mark Martin gets his first try in Smoke’s ride. He posted a Top 10 in his other sub role this year for Denny Hamlin at Martinsville.

Two other drivers you shouldn’t forget about here are Greg Biffle and Mark Martin. Biffle has never won at Bristol, but in 21 races there he has 11 top 10 finishes, including six top fives. He also has an average finish of 12.14 and has led 438 laps. Martin has two wins at Bristol and 23 top 10 finishes in 46 career races there. Whether this will be his last Sprint Cup race at the famed oval remains to be seen, but if you think he might get a bit of a boost from driving the No. 14, then he might be worth a look here.

DARK HORSES

First of all, we’ve got a new name on the list for this one week in the young Ryan Truex. He will be driving the No. 51 car and just how many more races he will be in this year is an unknown. So if you’re looking for that cheap option Truex could be your pick. But Bristol can be a tough track to learn at too, so don’t go in with big expectations here. A top 20 finish by Truex here would be a major accomplishment.

After that, the picking looks a bit slim. As usual there is Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Danica Patrick. Stenhouse did finish 16th in the spring race at Bristol, so if you still have some races remaining for him, or a little more room in your budget, he is a decent pick here. Patrick has finished 28th and 29th in her two Bristol races, so if you think she can reach the top 20, then maybe she is an option.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. had a decent 16th-place run in March at Bristol, while Danica Patrick impressed in last year’s night race before getting turned by Regan Smith late in the going.

Lastly, an experienced driver who does have one top 10 finish and four top 20 finishes at Bristol is Casey Mears. He has raced 21 times at Bristol in the Sprint Cup Series, and the experience will be helpful. Just whether he can bring home a top 20 finish and be helpful to your fantasy team is the question you have to ask here.

REARVIEW MIRROR

It’s not been the best of seasons for the racinjake team, but for one week the picks were among the best we’ve had this season among the 63 entries in the two Frontstretch Fantasy leagues on Yahoo! The racingjake team, which is well off the pace for the overall lead, had 363 points at Michigan, tied for the best weekly score this season, by choosing race winner Joey Logano, Kurt Busch in third, Brad Keselowski in 12th and Austin Dillon in 14th.

The overall leader in the two leagues is RWOMotoring with 5,921 points, cdakost at 5,901 and Underbird at 5,850.

The summer segment, which has just three races left, is being led by Mark Martin Motorsports at 2,963 and djarum racing at 2,619.

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