For fantasy owners, it is always a bonus when the drivers that are supposed to do well at a particular track perform up to expectations, and it appears that could happen this weekend at Charlotte. In fact, the top five drivers in the initial rankings remained unchanged heading into race day, and why not? Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin all have excellent numbers at Charlotte, and all five qualified in the top 12 Thursday and ranked in the top 10 during practice Saturday. It is probably going to be tough to find space for all five on fantasy rosters this weekend, but owners will definitely want to make room for at least a couple.
Of course, not every driver remained stagnant in the rankings, and Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick are two drivers that moved up into the top 10. Biffle is coming off a year when he finished fourth in both races at Charlotte and led more than 200 laps in the Coca-Cola 600. He also qualified in the top 10 and ranked in the top 10 during practice. Meanwhile, Harvick's 15th-place effort in qualifying is very solid by his standards, and he was consistently practicing in the top 15, as well. More importantly, he has been productive at Charlotte lately, finishing eighth or better in four of his last five starts and winning the Coca-Cola 600 in 2011 with a little help from fuel mileage.
Two other drivers that have worked their way into the top 15 of the rankings and into fantasy consideration are Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray. Busch dominated the first four segments of the All-Star Race at Charlotte last weekend, qualified second for Sunday night's race and ranked in the top five in practice Saturday. Not to mention the fact that he won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2010 and finished fourth in 2011. For his part, McMurray qualified eighth and posted top-10 speeds in race trim during practice. He is also a two-time winner at Charlotte during the regular season, and just last weekend, he won the Sprint Showdown en route to a top-10 finish in the All-Star Race. Both drivers could make solid additions to fantasy rosters, and Busch seems to have top-five upside.
As far as sleeper options are concerned, Paul Menard was one driver that stood out. His 22nd-place effort in qualifying was lackluster, but he climbed into the top 20 in the final rankings thanks to top-10 speeds in practice once teams switched over to race trim. Menard has also finished in the top 15 in the Coca-Cola 600 in two of the last three years. A top-15 finish isn't out of the question for Menard, and a solid showing seems very reasonable for a driver that has only finished outside the top 20 at the two plate races in 2013.
Last but not least, the slumping Tony Stewart should remain in the doghouse. It is bad enough that he has underperformed all year, but now he must deal with a track where he has managed just one top-10 in his last 10 starts and hasn't finished in the top five since 2003. More concerning is the fact that Stewart qualified outside the top 20 and couldn't crack the top 20 in either practice Saturday. His team recently admitted to being behind with the new car in part because of the organization expanding to three cars in 2013 so while Stewart and company work out the kinks, fantasy owners should probably leave him out of their lineups.
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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