Jeff Wolfe · Thursday November 14, 2013
It’s the final race of the season and if many of you have been counting on Jimmie Johnson to be a prime scorer for you in your fantasy league this year, then you’ve probably done pretty well, depending on your format. It looked like until this past week at Phoenix, that having Johnson in the final race of the season would be fine. He had just a seven-point lead over Kenseth heading into Sunday’s race, and barring a disaster by Kenseth, the two would actually have to race for the title at Homestead. Well, Kenseth did have a disaster race and now with Kenseth 28 points behind, all Johnson basically has to do is stay out of trouble with a finish of 23rd or better guaranteeing him the title, no matter what Kenseth does.
So, with that mind, Johnson will likely be in safe mode for much of this race, which means his chances of winning the race aren’t good. So due to a rare alignment of events, Johnson probably isn’t the best pick this week because he’s going to be more concerned about staying out of trouble and winning a title rather than winning the race.
So with that in mind, here’s a look at this week’s top picks.
LOOKING FOR SOME ACES
That being said, by suggesting to not pick Jimmie Johnson, just who can we look to? For one, you can look to Johnson’s Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon. The four-time champion won this race last year and of the 14 races at Homestead, he has finished in the top five seven times, and in the top 10 four other times. Gordon, having been a late addition to the Chase because of SpinGate, has proved himself worthy, and if not for a blown tire, may well have been challenging Kenseth and Kevin Harvick for second.
And speaking of Kevin Harvick, while he has yet to win at Homestead, he has had some success there. Harvick has five top fives and five other top 10 finishes in 12 races at Homestead. He’s also never finished worse than 20th. And he’ll be going for the win Sunday in his final outing in the No. 29 RCR Chevrolet, so he’s certainly worth a look here.
If you’re wondering if Matt Kenseth is a possibility here, he most certainly is. Kenseth does have one win at Homestead in 13 races and has four other top 10 finishes. What also sticks out among his numbers there is that he has led 305 laps, the third most of any driver. So it would not be a surprise to see Kenseth run up front. You have to think that he and his team would like to gain some type of redemption after not being competitive at Phoenix.
MIDDLE OF THE ROADSTERS
First from this group is Carl Edwards, who has had a nice rebound season after last year’s disaster. Edwards has two wins, five top fives and two other top 10 finishes there in nine races. Edwards has led a series high 560 laps at Homestead, with his worst finish there being a 14th. Since he fell just over a lap short of winning at Phoenix before running out of gas, you know he’ll want to end the season on a high note, as this Chase has by and large been a bust.
The second possibility on this list is Edwards’ teammate Greg Biffle, who has three wins at Homestead. Biffle has one other top five finish and another top 10 finish in in 13 races at Homestead. He’s also led 175 laps there, so he’s been up front with some frequency as well.
A driver in his last race with a team, and moving to Stewart-Haas Racing next year with Kevin Harvick, is Kurt Busch. He has one win in 12 races, with three other top five finishes and a top 10 finish at Homestead. Busch’s average finish there is 19.75, but that is skewed by two DNFs, including a last place finish — the now ubiquitous YouTube non-interview with ESPN’s Jerry Punch.
Another driver who has plenty of laps in his eight career races at Homestead, but has yet to come away with a win is Kyle Busch. He has led 237 laps there, but has just one top five and one top 10 finish to show for it. Busch’s Chase woes have continued this year, so you know he would like to have one good lasting memory from it by finishing with a win.
And just in case you’re wondering if the only Hendrick Sprint Cup driver without a win can get one this year, that’s pretty much up in the air. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has an average finish of 22.08 with just one top 10 finish in 13 races. So it’s a pick at your own risk type of situation.
We’re down to the end here, so no reason to save any drivers for the future if you’re on pick limits. But if you are out of what you consider your usual good picks here, there are some options this week.
First, if you’ve got any room in your budget or picks left for him, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. is the obvious pick. He was 39th in his only start at Homestead, but the Rookie of the Year in waiting has been easily the most consistent and respectable driver for this category lately and for the season.
Another good option here is AJ Allmendinger in the No. 47. He has a top five and a top 10 finish in his four races at Homestead and his worst finish has been 15th, so he’s a pretty good option here as well.
But that’s not all.
Also, there is Kyle Larson in the No. 51. He seems to run well, but there have been engine issues when he’s been in the No. 51 this year, so buyer beware there. Also, you’ve got Parker Kligerman in the Swann Racing No. 30, who finished a respectable 18th in his first Sprint Cup race at Texas two weeks ago.
Don’t forget that Elliott Sadler is in the No. 55, but he’s not been very competitive since he took over that ride, while Brian Vickers is sidelined due to issues with blood clots
Finally there is Trevor Bayne is in the No. 21 for Homestead. It was a bit disturbing to hear the news regarding his diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis, however luckily it’s apparently not keeping him out of a racecar. We’ll all be glad to see him racing Sunday, and for strictly fantasy information purposes, he has finished 23rd and 25th in his two starts there.
Much like Jimmie Johnson put some distance between himself and second place at Phoenix Sunday, so it was with the overall standings in the two Frontstretch Fantasy leagues on Yahoo! The overall leader is Nobody Rides for Free with 9,169 points followed by SiLo Sounds Racing at 9,071, Bomb Squad at 9,018 and RWO Motoring at 9,013.
Nobody Rides for Free extended what had been a close race by scoring a league-high 347 points at Phoenix, tied for the best mark with Bomb Squad. Each of the teams had race winner Jimmie Johnson, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fourth, Kyle Busch in seventh, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 12th.
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