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ADAM ANSELL'S TOP 25 FOR PHOENIX
1. Jimmie Johnson: In 15 starts at the site, Johnson has four wins, 10 Top Fives, 13 Top 10s and one pole. He's recorded nine consecutive Top Fives with an Average Finish of 2.4 in that span. He's led at least one lap in six of his last seven starts at the site. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Johnson leads all competitors in Driver Rating (122.6), Average Running Position (5.1), Laps Led (772), Laps in the Top 15 (3,661), Fastest Laps Run (415) and Average Green Flag Speed (123.548 mph). Don't worry about saving Johnson's Tiered/Grouping format starts this weekend. He's dominant at Phoenix and will come up big for Fantasy owners.
2. Carl Edwards: In 13 starts at Phoenix International Raceway, Edwards has one win (2010), five Top Fives, nine Top 10s and two poles. In his last three Cup starts dating back to 2010, Edwards' Average Finish is 1.3 with two wins. One of those wins came at Phoenix, a race in which Edwards posted a 135.2 DR, 2.0 ARP, 93 Laps Led and 40 Fastest Laps Run. He ranks second in DR (101.7) and ninth in ARP (12.5). Few drivers are running as hot as Edwards right now. He's a must start in all formats.
3. Denny Hamlin: In 11 starts at the site, Hamlin has five Top Fives, six Top 10s and one pole. He led a career-high 190 laps at the November event in 2010, but finished in 12th due to poor fuel strategy. Prior to last season, Hamlin put up five Top Fives in his previous seven starts at the site. Hamlin ranks sixth in DR (98.6) and seventh in ARP (11.9). This is the site that represents the beginning of the end of Hamlin's 2010 title run, and Fantasy owners can be sure he's out to avenge that. He's a lock for a Top-Five finish.
4. Ryan Newman: In 17 starts at the site, Newman has one win (2010), five Top 10s and four poles. He finished in first and second-place in last season's Phoenix events. He's led at least one lap in three of his last four starts at PIR, but never more than four in any single race in that span. Aside from getting caught up in an unavoidable wreck last week at Daytona, Newman looked great posting a 100.9 DR and leading 37 laps. Newman ranks 12th in DR (88.0) and 13th in ARP (15.0). He'll provide Fantasy owners very nice value in Tiered/Grouping formats.
5. Kyle Busch: In 12 starts at the site, Busch has one win (2005), seven Top 10s and one pole. He led 113 laps in the April event last season. Busch ranks seventh in DR (96.3) and fifth in ARP (11.3). He leads all drivers with 345 Quality Passes and ranks second with 3,246 Laps in the Top 15. Busch is a feast or famine pick this weekend. As much potential as he has, there are safer A-List options in Tiered/Grouping formats to choose from. If you're in the mood to gamble, Rowdy's your guy.
6. Mark Martin: In 28 starts at the site, Martin has two wins, 12 Top Fives, 19 Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 8.6. His Average Finish in his last four starts at the site is 4.3, never lower than eighth place. In his April 2009 victory at PIR, Martin started from the pole and posted a 145.6 DR (150 is perfect), 2.1 ARP and led 157 laps. He ranks third in DR (100.8) and sixth in ARP (11.6). He'll come at an excellent value on the B List this weekend.
7. Jeff Gordon: In 24 starts at the site, Gordon has one win (2007), nine Top Fives, 17 Top 10s and three poles. He's led laps in just one of his last seven starts at the site, an unusual drought for Gordon. His 66-race winless streak still looms large, and won't be snapped at Phoenix, though a solid finish can always be expected. Gordon ranks fourth in DR (99.8) and second in ARP (10.1).
8. Kevin Harvick: In 16 starts at the site, Harvick has two wins, three Top Fives and seven Top 10s. His Average Finish in his last five starts at the site is an unimpressive 16th. Harvick ranks 10th in DR (95.2) and eighth in ARP (11.9). After a nightmare start to the season at Daytona, Harvick will be extra focused on cashing in a quality finish. He's a solid start in all formats.
9. Jeff Burton: In 23 starts at the site, Burton has two wins, six Top Fives and 12 Top 10s. He hasn't led a single lap since his last win at the site in 2001. Burton is typically up and down at Phoenix, and considering he's coming off of 19th and 25th-place finishes at PIR last season, he's due for a Top 10. Burton ranks 13th in DR (86.3) and 12th in ARP (14.9). He's worth a look on the B List.
10. Tony Stewart: In 18 starts at the site, Stewart has one win (1999), seven Top Fives and nine Top 10s with an Average Finish of 12th. He's led at least 15 laps in two of his last four starts at the site. Stewart ranks ninth in DR (96.2) and fourth in ARP (10.9). He's a safe start in all formats, but doesn't provide enough upside to start over some other A-List drivers at Phoenix.
11. Kurt Busch: In 16 starts at the site, Busch has one win (2005), four Top Fives and nine Top 10s. 99.3 DR.
12. Matt Kenseth: In 17 starts at the site, Kenseth has one win (2002), five Top Fives and eight Top 10s. 84.2 DR.
13. Greg Biffle: In 14 starts at the site, Biffle has four Top Fives and five Top 10s. 96.2 DR.
14. Joey Logano: Logano finished third in the 2010 November event at the site. 78.1 DR.
15. Clint Bowyer: In 11 starts at the site, Bowyer has two Top Fives and four Top 10s. 83.3 DR.
16. Juan Pablo Montoya: 81.6 DR.
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 85.2.
18. Kasey Kahne: 70.3.
19. Jamie McMurray: 76.2.
20. Martin Truex Jr.: 89.0.
21. A.J. Allmendinger
22. David Reutimann
23. Brian Vickers
24. David Ragan
25. Paul Menard
Adam was a 2010 Fantasy Sports Writers Awards Association nominee for Racing Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him @RotoExpertsAA.
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