He opened the week atop the driver rankings, and after setting a new track record on his way to the pole in qualifying Friday, Jimmie Johnson easily retains the top spot heading into Sunday's GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway. Of course, his dominating performance at the track a couple of months ago doesn't hurt his stock either. Meanwhile, Johnson's 8.7 average finish at Pocono is the best in the series, and as he goes for the season sweep at the track, he deserves to be considered the top fantasy option in all formats.
While Johnson hangs on to the No. 1 spot, Kurt Busch moves up and joins him in the top five. Busch paced the lone practice session of the weekend, and with two wins and four second-place finishes under his belt at Pocono, he is no stranger to running up front at the track. Busch will roll off fifth Sunday, and considering he was able to climb from the 20th starting spot to finish seventh at Pocono in June, an even better result could be on tap this weekend thanks to the top-five starting spot.
Another driver that qualified in the top five and deserves the attention of fantasy owners is Ryan Newman. Fresh off a win at Indianapolis last weekend, Newman cracks the top 10 in the final driver rankings for Pocono. He delivered a strong fourth-place effort in qualifying, and his reliability at the track is undeniable. Newman has reeled of 10 straight top-15 finishes at Pocono and has finished sixth or better three times in his last four starts at the track. He also finished fifth at Pocono earlier this year and will be driving the same car that helped him kiss the bricks at Indy. Back-to-back victories isn't out of the question, and at the very least, Newman should deliver a solid top-15.
Landing just outside the top 10 in the final rankings is Joey Logano. The former Pocono winner qualified in the top 10 for Sunday's race, and his recent results at the track have been rock solid. He has four top-15s in his last five races at Pocono, including three straight. Logano also finished 10th at the track earlier this year, and based on the lap times he has been turning in all weekend, a similar performance should be on tap for Sunday.
Fantasy owners looking for a sleeper option this weekend may want to take a chance on veteran Jeff Burton. He qualified a solid 13th, and while he hasn't been great at Pocono lately, he has been consistent. Since the start of the 2006 season, Burton has finished in the top 15 in 10 of his 14 starts at Pocono. During the stretch, he hasn't finished worse than 22nd. He finished 11th in the June race at the track earlier this year, and there is a good chance he can provide another top-15 effort this weekend.
In deeper leagues, Richard Petty Motorsports drivers Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose might be worth a look. Both drivers qualified in the top 10 for Sunday's race, and both have shown signs of improvement at Pocono recently. Ambrose has a 22.6 average finish at the track, but he owns a 13.3 average finish in his last three Pocono starts. Meanwhile, Almirola has followed a 28th-place run in his Pocono debut with finishes of 18th and 21st. Fantasy owners might be able to sneak a top-20 finish out of one or both of them 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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