*Kyle Busch* made a statement with his win Sunday at Michigan. It wasn’t surprising that he was able to gain his series-leading fourth victory of the season. The manner and place in which Busch was able to perform the feat did speak volumes, however. Rowdy started the race with a mediocre car, but worked with crew chief Dave Rogers to get to the front for his first Michigan victory. In thirteen previous starts at the track, Busch had just four top-10 finishes.
Michigan had been a weak point in the schedule for the No. 18 team. In 2011, there have been no weak points. As of late, there have only been strong performances. Busch has recorded top-5 finishes in seven of the last ten races, making him a dependable fantasy pick anywhere. As the Chase for the Sprint Cup approaches, *Denny Hamlin* and *Carl Edwards* are fading and Busch has looked like the driver capable of knocking off *Jimmie Johnson*.
It’s not going to get any easier for Busch’s competition this week as the series heads to Bristol. Busch has won four of the last five events at the half-mile bullring. In his last 10 starts, he has seven finishes of second or better. In the spring, he led 153 laps on the way to the win. Fantasy picks don’t get any easier than this. Busch has everything fantasy owners look for in a driver: consistency over the course of the season, momentum in recent races and a solid track record. Check, check and check.
Last Sunday, Johnson just about crossed Michigan off the short list of tracks he hasn’t won at in his career. This weekend, he heads to a track where he has only one career victory. However, since the track was repaved the No. 48 has been a contender consistently. Johnson has top-10s in four of his last five races. In three of those races, he finished third or better. He has also led laps in six of the last seven races at Bristol. If Busch is going to be upset on Saturday, Johnson has as good of a shot as anybody.
*Ryan Newman* is quietly putting together a solid season. He is seventh in the standings and has recorded 11 top-10 finishes so far. He has been the most consistent mid-level driver available in 2011. Newman usually doesn’t contend for wins at Bristol, but he is almost always in the top-10. He has top-10 finishes in five of the last six races at the half-mile.
*Dale Earnhardt Jr.* has one top-10 finish in his last nine races. *Clint Bowyer* (11th in the standings) is only 30 points back. Earnhardt Jr. needs to run well at what is statistically his best race track (average finish of 11.48). A good run could definitely turn things around for the No. 88 team right before the Chase. Earnhardt Jr. was 11th at Bristol in the spring.
At this point last season, *David Reutimann* was in contention for a Chase spot. Now, he finds himself mired back 26th in the standings with two top-10 finishes. Reutimann’s track record at Bristol isn’t outstanding, but it is hard to forget that second-place run he had last fall. A wreck took him out of contention in the spring before he even had a chance to prove himself. Reutimann might be worth taking a risk on Saturday.
Before finishing fifth at Bristol in the spring, *Paul Menard* had two top-20 finishes at the track. That has been the story of the year for Menard. He has been a much more reliable fantasy pick with Richard Childress Racing. Menard’s fifth-place finish in the spring was not the result of late pit strategy either. He ran in the top-five for most of the race and even led 35 laps.
Much like Earnhardt Jr., *Tony Stewart* needs a solid run with Bowyer lurking right outside the top-10. If Stewart performs anything like he has recently at Bristol on Saturday, he may be in trouble. Stewart was 19th in the spring and 27th last fall. He has three top-10 finishes in his last 11 starts in Tennessee. His career average finish of 17th is his worst average at any track.
Before a dismal performance at Michigan, *Joey Logano* had put together a number of solid finishes in the mid-part of the season. There are still several tracks, however, that the young driver hasn’t figured out yet. Logano’s 18th-place finish last fall was his best finish in five career starts at the track.
Until next week, good luck my friends!
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