Last weekend, Jeff Gordon
's championship hopes got off to a rough start as a stuck throttle turned what was likely a top-five run in a disastrous opener to the Chase. In qualifying at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Friday, the four-time champ took a big first step in getting his postseason back on track by grabbing the pole for Sunday's race. He already had a series-leading 7.5 average finish at NHMS
in the past 10 races, and considering three of the last four races at the track have been won by a driver starting on the front row, there is a lot for fantasy owners to love about Gordon this weekend.
Gordon wasn't the only intriguing fantasy option to qualify up front. Kyle Busch will join Gordon on the front row, defending race winner Tony Stewart qualified third, and Kasey Kahne qualified sixth. Stewart has to be considered the top option out of the bunch. He is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, and his 8.4 average finish at the track in the last 10 races is the second best in the series. Coming off a win in the July race, Kahne isn't far behind. Busch, on the other hand, is a bit of a wild card. However, he is a former winner at New Hampshire, and he showed last weekend at Chicagoland that he isn't going to collapse down the stretch just because he missed the Chase. With most fantasy owners likely to stick with the championship contenders, Busch could be an excellent option for anyone looking to gain ground in their league.
Of course, not all the big names had success in qualifying, and Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin are among the drivers starting 20th or worse Sunday. Hamlin's poor effort was particularly notable because it occurred after his team forgot to switch the tire pressure over to qualifying trim. Fortunately, history has shown that with a fast car and a good pit strategy, a driver can win from just about any starting spot. Johnson is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, and he has finished in the top 10 in eight of his last 10 races at the track. Hamlin is a former winner, as well, and he has finished third or better in three of his last four New Hampshire starts. Despite starting deeper in the field, owners should feel free to add both Johnson and Hamlin to their rosters this weekend.
Fantasy owners looking for a sleeper pick this weekend need to look no further than Brian Vickers. He qualified fourth for Sunday's race, he finished fifth at New Hampshire last fall, and he finished in the top 15 at the track earlier this year. Not to mention that Vickers has been rock solid in his six previous starts with Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012, posting three top-five finishes and a 14.8 average finish. Throw out an engine failure at Watkins Glen, and he would have an 8.1 average finish this season. Vickers has been getting it done all year in his part-time role, and a top-10 finish isn't out of the question this weekend.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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