The Cup Series is heading to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, and the first short track race of 2014 means a little lineup shuffling is likely necessary if fantasy owners want to field a competitive roster and have a solid showing in Thunder Valley.
I will be looking to continue my own solid start to the 2014 fantasy racing season: Last weekend at Las Vegas, I placed all four Yahoo! drivers in the top 20, including race-winner Brad Keselowski. I also placed all five Fox Fantasy Racing drivers in the top 15. My NASCAR.com Fantasy Live team has room to improve after my high-priced picks of Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne had solid showings but not the dominant performances needed to pile up serious points in the format. But overall, I'm happy with where I stand after the first three races of the year.
For this weekend's race, I will be focusing heavily on the drivers that have a lot of success at Bristol in recent years. The half-mile bullring has always been kind of its own animal, and while some drivers are comfortable with the unique brand of racing at the track, others struggle. Things have been further complicated by the recent changes to Bristol's layout that were really just an attempt to undo the original changes that took away the track's signature single-lane, bottom-groove racing. With the track continuing to evolve, I will be placing a lot of emphasis on recent results at the track when I set my fantasy lineups.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing
Bristol right up Larson's alley
Kyle Busch (A): Although he hasn't gotten off to the best start in 2014, I've learned over the years that overthinking selections can be a bad thing. Busch is a five-time winner at Bristol, and since he has joined the series, he leads all drivers in laps led and fastest laps run at the track. Plain and simple, he delivers big-time results at Bristol.
Brian Vickers (B): Vickers has been on a tear at Bristol since joining Michael Waltrip Racing. He has finished eighth or better in all four starts at the track with the team, logging three top-five finishes. There aren't a ton of tracks where I feel confident that Vickers could get me a top-five finish, but Bristol is on the list.
Brad Keselowski (B): Keselowski has finished third and first in the last two March races at Bristol. Meanwhile, he has opened the 2014 season with three straight top-three finishes. Momentum and history are on his side so I like my chances with this pick.
Kyle Larson (C): There aren't any part-time options available this week so I am going to have to burn a start from one of the top regulars in the C List grouping. Larson has never made a Cup start at Bristol, but he did finish second and fifth in two Nationwide starts at the track last year. The kid has made a name for himself by driving any car on any type of surface, and short track racing is right up his alley.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Brad Keselowski ($26.00): I've already mentioned his strong start to the season, and I also don't mind the fact that he is the only driver with multiple wins at Bristol in the last five races at the track. I'm also hoping that his qualifying success continues so that he can start up front and grab a lot of bonus points for leading laps.
Paul Menard ($22.50): This is on the heels of an impressive third-place run at Las Vegas, and I like Menard's chances of sustaining the momentum this weekend. He has four straight top-10s at Bristol, including finishes of ninth and sixth last year. At his current price, he will be a bargain if he can extend his streak of top-10 finishes.
Brian Vickers ($20.00): Vickers has been a new man at Bristol since joining Michael Waltrip Racing. He has a 5.3 average finish in four starts at the track with MWR, and there really isn't another driver in his price range that has legit top-five potential.
Kyle Larson ($18.75): I'm paying for potential, but the price tag is modest. Meanwhile, Larson's Nationwide debut at Bristol nearly ended with a trip to Victory Lane after he almost outdueled Kyle Busch. I'm not expecting quite that type of performance Sunday, but a top-15 isn't out of the question.
David Ragan ($12.00): I like to keep at least one high-priced driver on my roster to try to soak up some points for laps led and fastest laps run, and Ragan allows me to make the number work while maintaining a chance at a solid showing. He has finished as high as 12th at Bristol since joining Front Row Motorsports two years ago, but I'll settle for a fourth straight top-25 finish at the track.
NASCAR.com Streak to the Finish
Brian Vickers: My streak now stands at two after Carl Edwards got the job done at Vegas, but to really build something special, I am going to have to save a few of the big names. I think I have an opportunity to do just that and keep my streak alive with Vickers, who has finished eighth or better in all four starts at the track with Michael Waltrip Racing.
FOX Fantasy Auto Racing
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (captain): After becoming just the fifth driver to start a season with three straight top-two finishes, Junior is worth a roster spot based on momentum alone. Throw in the fact that his 9.4 average finish at Bristol is the best in the series over the past 20 races, and another strong showing seems like a safe bet.
Brian Vickers: He has been one of the best drivers in the series at Bristol the past two years. Vickers has three top-five finishes in his last four starts at the track, and hasn't finished outside the top 10 during the stretch. It's all about trying to maximize each start, and Bristol has probably been Vickers' best track lately.
Jeff Gordon: Gordon has six top-15s in his last eight starts at Bristol, including three finishes of seventh or better in his last five starts. Meanwhile, Gordon actually leads the series in average running position and laps in the top 15 at Bristol since 2005 and ranks in the top four in driver rating, fastest laps and green flag speed.
Clint Bowyer: His move to Michael Waltrip Racing has turned Bowyer into a short track ace. In 12 short track starts with MWR, he has 10 top-10s to go along with a 7.1 average finish. At Bristol specifically, he has four top-15s and three finishes of seventh or better.
Ryan Newman: Newman has been quietly consistent at Bristol, and I'm hoping for another solid showing out of him this weekend. He has eight top-12s in his last 11 starts at the track, including five finishes of seventh or better. Newman should be a safe addition to my roster this weekend.
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.