Fantasy NASCAR: preseason driver rankings

by Brian Polking on February 20, 2013 @ 09:44:27 PDT

 


Kasey Kahne

Cars are already on the track at Daytona International Speedway as preseason testing begins for the 2013 Sprint Cup Season. After a 2012 season that featured several surprises, including the sudden rise of Brad Keselowski as champ and fantasy's top scorer, this year has the potential to be even more exciting. For one, the Gen-Six car will make its debut and will undoubtedly help certain drivers while hurting others. Meanwhile, big names Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch will all begin their first full seasons with new teams. Throw in a Rookie of the Year battle between media-darling Danica Patrick and two-time defending Nationwide Series champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and there are plenty storylines to follow.

For fantasy owners, the new car, the driver movement and the first relevant rookie class since 2009 pose their own sets of challenges. Not to mention the fact that hierarchy of NASCAR's powerhouse organizations seems to shuffle each season anyway. That being said, the one constant always seems to be Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 team. Even though a pair of mechanical issues cost him a sixth championship last year, his strong overall numbers and domination of almost every significant loop date category are more than enough to land him on top of the fantasy driver rankings for the 2013 season. Here is a look at how the top 30 fantasy options stack up for the upcoming year.

Rank
Driver
2012 Driver Rating
Stock
1
Jimmie Johnson
109.5
Coming off a year when he led or was tied for the lead in wins, poles, driver rating, top-fives, top-10s and laps led
2
Denny Hamlin
100.9
One of just three drivers to lead more than 1,000 laps and post a rating of more than 100 last year
3
Kasey Kahne
96.3
Strong second half likely a sign of things to come for Kahne at Hendrick Motorpsorts
4
Kyle Busch
101.5
Missed the Chase but still a fantasy stud, ranking in the top five in driver rating, laps led, top-fives and top-10s
5
Brad Keselowski
99.0
Even if he doesn't repeat as champ, BK's overall numbers could improve in 2013
6
Matt Kenseth
99.9
In the middle of arguably the best two-year stretch of his career and headed to a potent JGR organization
7
Clint Bowyer
96.5
Runner-up curse could spell a regression for Bowyer but has managed at least 16 top-10s in six straight seasons
8
Jeff Gordon
98.0
Even in his supposed down years, Gordon is still a lock for 10-plus top-fives and around 20 top-10s
9
Carl Edwards
84.2
Will likely rebound in 2012 but his status as an elite option is definitely in doubt
10
Tony Stewart
86.1
Don't be surprised if getting Danica up and running and the Harvick saga takes a big of a toll on his production
11
Greg Biffle
99.5
Quietly tallied the second-most points in the series in 2012
12
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
95.9
Has been offsetting his lack of wins and top-fives with a solid 12.8 average finish in the past two seasons
13
Kevin Harvick
91.0
Tough to be too optimistic about a lame duck driver coming off a down year by his standards
14
Martin Truex Jr.
95.6
Coming off his best year at the Cup level but still has more career DNFs than top-fives
15
Joey Logano
79.4
Could thrive at Penske now that pressure and hype of his JGR days had faded
16
Ryan Newman
82.0
Days as an elite option are gone, but pencil him in for around 15 top-10s and 15.0 average finish
17
Paul Menard
78.0
Plenty of value as a No. 3 driver on a fantasy roster if he can duplicate career-best 15.5 average finish from 2012
18
Mark Martin
93.2
The veteran finished 26th in points last year in just 24 starts
19
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
62.2
The two-time Nationwide champ has a ton of upside as he prepares to go full-time Cup racing in 2013
20
Kurt Busch
71.0
Three straight top-10s to close 2012 points to a rebound year with Furniture Row Racing
21
Marcos Ambrose
79.9
Is the year the road course king puts it all together?
22
Aric Almirola
73.6
Almirola could surprise in 2012 after posting eight top-20s during last year's Chase.
23
Brian Vickers
89.1
Value depends on the format, but he had as many top-fives last year in eight starts as Carl Edwards did all season
24
Jamie McMurray
73.0
Has just two total top-fives since magical three-win season in 2010
25
Jeff Burton
72.3
Burton's numbers have slipped in three straight seasons, and the trend isn't likely to stop
26
Juan Pablo Montoya
67.4
His run-in with a jet dryer at Daytona was his most noteworthy accomplishment last year
27
David Ragan
49.2
Ragan stands to benefit the most if rumors about Front Row Motorsports strong offseason are true
28
Bobby Labonte
59.7
In deeper leagues, you can at least count on Labonte being in the field each weekend
29
Danica Patrick
46.3
Unless media hype and popularity are categories in your league, Patrick's value is minimal
30
Regan Smith
67.1
Most upside of the three-headed monster set to driver the No. 51 this year

 

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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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