Welcome back, one and all, to Frontstretch’s Fantasy Insider. With the final off-week of the season behind us, it’s time to look ahead to Sunday night’s race in Atlanta, the highlight of Labor Day weekend – and the track where they used to give out the coolest trophy in auto racing to the winner of the Bass Pro Shops 500. Too bad this Sunday it’s the Emory Healthcare 500 instead! Oh, well; maybe there’ll be a stethoscope or something on the trophy. Anyways, with the Chase around the corner now’s the perfect time to fine-tune your own fantasy roster for the homestretch. Here’s your lineup of drivers you are going to want and the one you really are going to need to avoid for this weekend’s race…
The duo you want leading your team into battle down in Georgia is Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne, respectively. Busch, at times, has completely dominated this place to the tune of three career wins, including pulling out the victory during two green-white-checkered restarts in the Spring. The problem with picking his Blue Deuce here is he’s a feast or famine type of guy; if not a top-10 finisher, Busch owns seven career disasters of 30th or worse at AMS. The last four races of this season have been a bit of a roller coaster ride as it is: runs of 33rd, second, 40th and ninth leave consistency a concern heading into September. This close to the Chase, though, I’ll say he’s top 10 on Sunday.
Like Busch, Kahne is typically one of two extremes at Atlanta: really, really good or really, really bad. He has finished either in the top 10 or worse than 28th in every race he’s run at Atlanta, dating all the way back to the start of his Cup career in 2004. However, since Kahne’s got seven straight top 20s coming into this weekend and has finished with a top 10 and win in the last three events at Atlanta, I’ll say he’s primed to finish well inside the top 10 again.
Who Will Carry You
AJ Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski are your unlikely underdogs for the week. The ‘Dinger doesn’t have a lot of history at Atlanta, but what he does have is pretty good for what he’s valued at in most fantasy leagues. His worst career finish at the track is 20th, and he’s coming off a career best sixth-place run in the spring with an organization, Richard Petty Motorsports, whose strength has been the 1.5-mile intermediates like this one.
Further back we find Earnhardt, having a dismal season but also one of your best bets to do well down south. Junior has a career average Atlanta finish of 12th, with five top-fives and a win to his credit since 2000. He posted a respectable 15th-place effort here this spring and comes to AMS armed with a pair of consecutive top-20 runs. Look for another solid top 15 out of Junior.
Keselowski had what probably would had a top 10, if not a top five well in hand in the spring before Carl Edwards took a cheap shot and turned him into the fence, sending Brad tumbling down the frontstretch. He’s failed to sniff the top 10 since, but has earned five top 20s in the last six races driving his No. 12 Dodge. Back at the scene of this season’s big crime, I’d look for more success this weekend out of the young Penske driver desperate to straighten his Sprint Cup season out.
Who Will Bury You
In three races down in Atlanta, Joey Logano has never finished better than 22nd, and that was earned in his first attempt back in 2009. Since then, he’s run 30th and 35th – yawn. Throw in an average finish of 19th at intermediate tracks, and you’ll really want to avoid young Mr. Logano for this weekend.
Well, there you have it: enough stats and numbers to go out and fill your rosters with top-20 drivers, poised to win your league for the week yet again. And don’t forget to come pick your team for the Frontstretch Game of Tomorrow! Be sure to get those lineups set in time for Sunday night’s race.
Time for me to go; best of luck this weekend! We’ll see y’all back here next Thursday for Richmond, Jamie McMurray’s last chance to catch Clint Bowyer for the final spot in the Chase for this year’s Sprint Cup.