Don't neglect Keselowski
Heading into the weekend, Jeff Gordon was already second in the driver rankings thanks to one of the most consistent records at New Hampshire of any driver. After qualifying third and turning solid laps in practice Saturday, the veteran slides into the No. 1 spot in the final rankings for Sunday's Sylvania 300. Keep in mind that in the last 10 races at New Hampshire, Gordon's 7.5 average finish is the best in the series. Meanwhile, he has finished in the top 15 in his last 16 starts at the track and has four straight top-10s. Fantasy owners won't find a safer pick this weekend.
Gordon's teammates Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne claim the next two spots in the final driver rankings, giving Hendrick Motorsports a clean sweep of the top three. Both drivers were stout in practice Saturday, and Kahne also qualified on the outside of the front row. Meanwhile, Johnson is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, and he has 16 top-10s in 23 starts at the track, including three straight finishes of seventh or better. Kahne, on the other hand, has posted a 5.7 average finish at New Hampshire since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, picking up his first win at the track during the stretch.
While they don't land in the top five of the final rankings, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. do vault into the top 10. Busch qualified fourth and was one of the more impressive drivers - he was also fast in practice Saturday. He is a three-time winner at the New Hampshire track. Meanwhile, Junior followed a mediocre qualifying effort with a strong showing in practice Saturday. He has also finished in the top 15 in six of his last seven starts at New Hampshire, including three straight.
Outside of the top 10, Denny Hamlin remains the driver with the most upside. He qualified a respectable 14th, and he was solid in practice Saturday. Hamlin also has one of the more impressive resumes at New Hampshire, including a series-leading 8.8 average finish at the track. Hamlin also has five top-three finishes in his last eight starts at New Hampshire, and while he has been absolutely horrible for the past few weeks, his upside is undeniable. For fantasy owners that need to take some risks to gain ground in their leagues, he is the perfect option this weekend.
Another non-Chaser that is worth a look this weekend is Brad Keselowski. Like Hamlin, he just missed the top 10 in the final rankings, but he did follow a lackluster qualifying effort with top-10 times in both practices Saturday. Keselowski has also reeled off four straight finishes of sixth or better at New Hampshire.
As for sleeper picks, Paul Menard may be the way to go. While he has never finished in the top 10 at New Hampshire, he does sneak into the top 20 in the final rankings thanks to a seventh-place effort in qualifying and solid practice times. He has also cracked the top 20 in his last four starts at the track, including a career-best 12th-place run last September. At the very least, Menard seems poised to extend his streak of top-20 finishes at New Hampshire, and a top-15 isn't out of the question.
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.
Don't miss these great reports....